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This postcard of female impersonator Julian Eltinge advertising his appearance at Los Angeles’ Mason Opera House in October 1913 has been listed on EBay. The photo shows him in “The Fascinating Widow,” one of his most famous roles. Bidding on the item, which is in the UK, starts at 4.99 GBP.
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Category: March 2010
|The case of Edwin Estrada never made the news. No one heard about him on the radio or TV and he wasn't even worth a few lines on City News Service, which feeds tips to all the L.A. news outlets like the drip IV of a hospital patient. |
Estrada, a small, physically fit young man with a beard, is the maintenance man at one of those two-story apartment houses they used to build in Hollywood in the 1920s, a down-at-the-heels place on Garfield just off Hollywood Boulevard with burglar bars on the windows and a little Spanish tile on the roof as a reminder that things used to be better.
We would never have crossed paths except that late one night last September he got into a fight with one his ex-girlfriends in the parking lot of the Burger King at Sunset and St. Andrews. Six months later, he was sitting at the defense table of Department 124 on the 13th floor of the Criminal Courts Building.
I figured I would be excused from the jury almost immediately because of my previous experience with domestic violence -- several years ago, I saved a woman who was being beaten by her ex-husband outside the Pasadena police station. But the attorneys had more pressing objections to other people in the jury pool. Nearly everyone's life had been touched by domestic violence and there were a surprising number of folks who couldn't accept a defendant's right not to testify. Then there were the people with limited English skills ... and the schizophrenic.
What played out was a true story, but an incomplete one, limited by rules of evidence and courtroom strategies. For example, we never found out what the victim did for a living, but one day she showed up in court with a T-shirt advertising "fight night" at a bar, so someone suggested she was a waitress--not that it mattered except for sending an odd message to the jury.
The short story we got was that Estrada rotated among girlfriends at the apartment house where he was the maintenance man. He and the victim had a volatile relationship, which was portrayed in a video of them made with a hidden camera in a friend's apartment (and yes, Estrada even wore a "wife-beater" shirt when he was roughing her up).
We heard the recording of the 911 call and testimony from the police and a couple of people who saw the incident -- including one surly, arrogant young man who left everybody wondering what his problem was.
Then we retreated to the jury room to review the judge’s instructions and hash over the precise definition of "great bodily injury."
I don't imagine Estrada was happy our two guilty verdicts, but he can be assured that we took his case seriously and discussed it thoroughly. He got a fair deal from us and has no one to blame but himself for the outcome. We were one speck on the court's calendar and one tiny group in the vast number of jurors passing through the courthouse. In the small case of the state of California vs. Edwin Estrada, the system was slow and sometimes tedious, but it worked.
And now that jury duty is over I can get back to the Daily Mirror.
The Ditched Duck
Easter is nigh and again doting parents will buy livestock for their children. Let them take heed.
Last Easter a man named Norm, who lives in Palos Verdes, bought his son, 4, a duck. The older it grew the meaner it became.
Recently Norm bought the boy a puppy. The duck disapproved and constantly nipped both the boy and the dog. Norm decided it had to go and one day he took it to MacWestlake Park and turned it loose.
The duck quacked its objection and when Norm, who works nearby, started to walk away it followed him. It seemed to be saying, "Don't leave me here with all these strange ducks." He led it back toward the lake and swept it into the water with his foot. As he sneaked away he couldn't help noticing it had a hurt, reproachful look.
A Condemned Man Wants to Give an Eye
The question now before the California Supreme Court is an eerie one, with no easy answer.
How much control -- it asks -- does the state have over a condemned man's body, mind and soul?
The written appeal on which the court must act is a stilted, dull, highly technical legal document.
But, with the conscience of a condemned killer and the sight of a young missionary at stake, the story behind it can hardly be discarded as uninteresting.
Yesterday, the Rev. Floyd K. Gressett -- the man to whom Luis Moya confessed his part in the slaying of Olga Duncan -- told me the beginning of that story.
After Moya's conviction in Ventura, Rev. Gressett requested and was granted permission to accompany the 21-year-old killer on the trip to San Quentin.
Photograph by Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times
Nov. 1, 1961: Mickey Cohen reports to court on a murder indictment, accompanied by bail bondsman Abe Phillips, left, and attorney A.L. Wirin, center.
|Note: Jury duty is over but it's taking me a while to get caught up. Thanks for your patience. |
Here's Unsqueezed Juice
The moans are low and constant from the civic Center. Our leaders have squeezed every drop of juice out of the turnips, oops, I mean taxpayers, and still there isn't enough. Unless new sources of revenue are found, the city could go broke -- that is, operate under a deficit. This would be awful, I'm told, although it's doubtful if most people could tell the difference. They're broke too.
Well, let us give our leaders another chance to face reality and not try to tax parked cars, the beds of innocently sleeping apartment dwellers, or the clear blue sky. It happens there's a red hot revenue-producing idea kicking around.
Why not, some people are asking, use some or all of the closed or rarely used movie theaters as an extension of the racetrack setup? The actual running of the races can be shown over TV with Joe Hernandez calling them. There could be pari-mutuel machines in the lobby and track odds could be paid. Admission $1.
Dollar-Down Crowd Gangs Up on Kiddies
Yesterday, I got the latest pitch on "friendly credit buying."
By mail, I received a circular from a jewelry store chain which is spread across Southern California.
It had a switch to it. It didn't lull us oldsters, over 21, with a feeling of false financial security with its claims of no money down, easy payments. No one questions our susceptibility to this kind of soft talk anymore.
Instead -- alongside its specials on watches, diamond rings, transistor radios and stereo phonographs -- it carried the notice in bold, black type:
"YOUNG ADULTS . . .
"TEEN-AGERS . . .
"WE GIVE YOU CREDIT!
"We believe you are trustworthy and will honor your obligations," the ad continued. "Therefore, if you have a part-time job or an allowance, come in and open a confidential account on your own honor pledge card and signature alone. Pay on the same terms as your parents."
Jan. 5, 1981: “This is what I wanted since I was 3,” June Havoc says of her home in Connecticut.
Photograph by Dan McCormack / Los Angeles Times
Nov. 23, 1957: Caryl Chessman appears in court in a hearing to determine whether the state of California owned the manuscript of his unpublished book "The Kid Was a Killer," which was seized under the theory that it was “prison labor.” From left, Deputy Atty. Gen. William Bennett; San Quentin Warden Fred Dickson, who confiscated the manuscript in 1955; attorney A.L. Wirin of the American Civil Liberties Union; and attorney Paul N. Posner. Leaning on the counter at right is Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. William B. McKesson.
|Note: Jury duty is over but because I work several days in advance, it will take me a while to get caught up. One of my most unusual jury experiences was having a deputy slip one of his ammunition magazines into my belongings as they were going through the courthouse scanner. Evidently he was testing one of the screeners to see if she would find it. I understand the need for vigilance but it was a bit unsettling to be a guinea pig. |