Above, a Jack Smith piece on religious figure Daddy Grace. Click at the bottom of the post to read the entire column. Below, a very dull news day in The Times. So dull, in fact, that I'm adding the Mirror just to contrast the story play.
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Above, a Jack Smith piece on religious figure Daddy Grace. Click at the bottom of the post to read the entire column. Below, a very dull news day in The Times. So dull, in fact, that I'm adding the Mirror just to contrast the story play.
Jan. 16, 1958
Before we call in the United Nations, let's give it a brief rundown.
Plans have been going ahead, more or less quietly, for the California Brewers Festival, April 7-12. Nothing fancy. That is, no dancing in the streets. Maybe proclamations by the governor and mayor. And some editorials and store displays pointing out that California breweries have an annual payroll of $44,000,000, that 70,000 persons depend on the industry for their livelihood, that the per capita annual consumption is 14.1 gallons. Stuff like that.
And then the agonizing word filtered through a few days ago that a temperance outfit was more or less quietly planning to call attention to the virtues of abstinence that same week, April 7-12.
Oh, I tell you, the brewery people are agulp.
But there need be no alarm. After all, it's the era of compromise. Why
not combine the two, with the beer people reminding the temperance
people that eerbay is the beverage of moderation.
BETWEEN EDITIONS the boys on the copy desk came up with a provocative thought. What is Sir Winston himself took a plane and appeared at Malibu Justice Court at 2 p.m. today to defend his daughter Sarah on a charge of intoxication.
After all, Winnie has not only been known to sip a little brandy but also has uttered that imperishable line, "There'll always be an England," so eloquently declaimed by Sarah when she got jammed up.
Furthermore, Winnie speaks real good as (like) a former prime minister should.
ONLY IN L.A.--Someone broke the streetlight in front of artist Julie Byrne's home and she reported it to someone at City Hall. That afternoon a truck with two men appeared and installed a new globe. But when darkness came, no light.
Around 10 p.m., however, another city truck stopped, two more men got out, hoisted a ladder and screwed in a bulb. Julie asked how come.
Maybe he was joking but the bulb screwer inner said, "Oh, the fellows who put in the globes aren't supposed to put in the bulbs."
THE PARENTS of David John Irwin, 2, have been trying to teach him the importance of keeping his word. The other day his mother, Peggy, sharply called his attention to a promise he'd broken. He remained thoughtfully silent so she repeated, "Did you understand me? -- I said you broke your promise."
"Okay," he shrugged, "fix it, mommy."
THE GARDENA Valley News, in an editorial on the election in April which will decide whether the card clubs will be outlawed, had this enchanting line, "We appeal to both sides in the controversy to keep the fight honest and fair, not confuse the voters any more than possible...."
AROUND TOWN -- As a woman driver in front of him put out her hand, the driver of an Olympic Boulevard bus said to a passenger, "The only thing I'm sure of when a woman makes a hand signal is that the window is open"... In discussing newly married friends, William Miranda was overheard malapropping that they were so happy they were in a "transom" ... The fear that has haunted Marjean Haven as she drives over desolate Chevy Chase Drive after dark was realized the other night at 11:30 p.m.--a flat tire. Panicky, she started climbing the grade in her high heels when a motorist stopped and offered help. This sweet guy drove her back to her car, put on the spare, then, in answer to her inquiry, gave his name --Sour. Or more likely, Sauer.
Early next year, the Huntington Library will open "Smith on Wry: Jack Smith, Columnist for Our Times," drawn from his papers and other materials donated to the San Marino museum. Exhibits will will include "string books," letters, photos, awards and, yes, his columns. I was quite impressed by the large turnout for a 2005 panel discussion at the museum with Curt and Doug Smith, and columnist Al Martinez. Nearly 10 years after his death, Jack Smith still filled the room. Not many columnists can make a claim like that.
"Smith on Wry" will be on display Feb. 15 through May 12 in the Library's West Hall.
BY JACK SMITH
Actress Maureen O'Hara's alleged love scene with a Latin in three rear seats of Grauman's Chinese Theater was re-enacted before a spellbound audience here yesterday at the Confidential libel trial.
A witness and a buxom newspaperwoman, who volunteered her services, entwined themselves in three courtroom seats while judge, jury and spectators watched in fascination.
Opposing counsel hovered beside the players, giving conflicting directions.
"Her feet are on the floor!" protested one.
"We never said her feet were off the floor!" exclaimed the other.
Miss Lee Belser (at right in 1958 photo with Otto the clown), a blond reporter for a wire service, played the part of the flaming-haired actress, cuddling into the arms of the witness, James Craig, a former assistant manager of the Chinese Theater.
Superior Judge Herbert V. Walker glowered sternly over the courtroom, his ears attuned to the titters, ready to rap down with his gavel. He had warned that he would let the show go on, but let no one think it was a comedy.
Charges of blackmail, an emotional outburst by a defendant, and an eyewitness account of Miss O'Hara's alleged night of skylarking in the theater brought the slow-starting trial to a racy pitch earlier yesterday.
As the conflict shifted from the prosecution to the defense, the multiple conspiracy trial was enlivened by a series of surprises.
Craig, flown here from London to testify for the defense, admitted he told the O'Hara story to a Confidential agent for a mere 70 pounds (about $200) [$1,433.06 USD 2006].
Hollywood producer Paul Gregory, appearing as a final and surprise witness for the state, leveled a charge of blackmail against one of the defendants, Mrs. Marjorie Meade, alleged queen of Confidential magazine's Hollywood scandal mill.
Red-haired Mrs. Meade broke up the proceedings with a convulsion of tears and sobbing, but after a two-hour rest swept serenely back to take the stand as first witness for the defense.
"I have never seen Mr. Paul Gregory before in my life," she testified.
"I have never had a conversation with Mr. Paul Gregory in my life," she concluded and then stepped down.
This attempt to impeach the producer's testimony out of the way, defense attorney Arthur J. Crowley showed his pattern of strategy by setting about to prove the truth of one of Confidential magazine's most sensational yarns.
The witness was Craig, neat and crisp of manner after a long air trip from London. Craig left Hollywood in 1954 to return to his native England.
Craig said he was on duty at the Chinese Theater on a November night in 1953 when the green-eyed Miss O'Hara, according to Confidential, "heated up the rear of the theater" with a Latino whose name remains unknown.
Craig said he investigated and found Miss O'Hara "leaning across three seats" in the Latin's arms.
"She looked to be very disheveled, very untidy. I didn't want to be indiscreet," Craig recalled, so he got his flashlight and walked up and down the aisle. Miss O'Hara then "took her own seat" he said, and he assumed the incident was over.
At the usher's second appeal, Craig said, he went forth again and found "the gentleman sitting in a seat and Miss O'Hara sitting in his lap."
"I told them I thought it was best if they left the theater. The gentleman said they were leaving anyway."
Miss O'Hara soon came out alone to the foyer, Craig said, and asked to borrow his flashlight, explaining that her friend had lost a cuff link. Craig said he returned and found the missing article.
"It was definitely a diamond cuff link," he recalled.
Craig said he told the story to an old friend, Michael M. Smith, Confidential's London agent, and after its publication, received a check for 70 pounds.
On cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. William Ritzi assaulted Craig's version of the O'Hara story piecemeal. Perhaps never has a bout of spooning been so thoroughly dissected four years after its occurrence.
Ritzi even asked the witness to take chalk and draw a diagram of the part of the theater which allegedly was the arena of the episode and prosecutor and witness jousted back and forth in effort to place each arm, leg, trunk and foot in its proper place according to Craig's memory.
At one point, the exasperated prosecutor--a Sunday school teacher--blurted out:
"To put it bluntly, sir, where was her rear end?"
"Her rear end," the solemn witness answered, "was on the edge of Seat No. 2."
Also present as a witness for the defense was Smith, to whom Craig gave his story. Smith was flown in from London with Craig.
Until Craig entered with his recitation of the O'Hara incident, Mrs. Meade and Gregory had played front and center in the trial, the producer naming her as the woman who kept a rendezvous with him two years ago and offered to kill a scandalous story for $800 to $1,000.
He said she told him the proposed story was "scandalously injurious" and could be ruinous to him and his associates, including Charles Laughton and Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester.
The prominent producer was brought forth at the last moment as a surprise witness of the state in the jury trial of Confidential and Whisper magazines and Mrs. Meade and her husband, Fred.
Shortly after Gregory stepped down from the witness stand in the courtroom, the state rested.
Then Mrs. Meade collapsed. Tears gushed from her wide eyes and sobs filled the courtroom as Judge Walker left the bench and strode to his chambers.
The red-haired defendant stood, stumbled and fell back into her chair as her strapping husband rushed forward to her aid. Her weeping apparently uncontrollable, she was led into an anteroom by her husband and a bailiff.
A medical attendant, summoned from the County Jail Hospital in the Hall of Justice, examined Mrs. Meade and said she was "emotionally upset."
When the 15-minute recess ended, defense attorney Crowley advised Judge Walker his client was unable to appear. Judge Walker then recessed the morning session.
Mrs. Meade earlier had expressed outrage and disbelief when Gregory gazed at her and said he was "absolutely positive" she was the woman who called herself "Mrs. Dee" and offered to stop publication of a Confidential story if he would pay the "author's commitment" of $800 to $1,000.
Gregory said he told "Mrs. Dee" he regarded it as "character assassination and blackmail" she was up to and refused to go along with her. Nevertheless, he testified, the threatened story never appeared.
The producer said the woman known to him as Mrs. Dee first made contact with him, by telephone on Aug. 22, 1955. He flipped the pages of a large red leather date book for a page that had a note of the date.
He said the woman proposed a meeting with him which could help him "avoid injurious scandal to me and my associates." He was then associated in a producing venture with Laughton, he added.
Asked by prosecutor Ritzi if he later met the woman whose voice he heard on the telephone, Gregory answered that he had, and that woman, he said evenly, "was Mrs. Meade."
At this Mrs. Meade whipped off her horn-rimmed spectacles and registered horror.
Gregory went on to testify that Mrs. Dee telephoned again on Sept. 16 and he agreed to meet her in a Beverly Hills cafe at 2:15 p.m. that day.
When he entered the cafe he saw a man and two women sitting in a booth, Gregory testified.
"A woman approached me and said, 'Are you Paul Gregory?' I said I was and she said, 'I'm Miss Dee.' "
"Now," asked the prosecutor, "do you recognize here in this court the woman who introduced herself to you as Miss Dee?"
Gregory fixed steely eyes on the red-haired woman at the counsel table.
"Absolutely," he said.
"Mrs. Meade?" asked the prosecutor.
"It is indeed," said Gregory.
He and the woman then sat apart from her friends in another booth, the producer said, and after he declined a drink he asked her to get on with her business.
"She said she could stop this story if I would pay the author's commitment. I asked how much that involved and she said $800 to $1,000.
"I asked her what the story was about. She said it was scandalously injurious and could very well put me out of business if it were allowed to be published."
It was then, Gregory said, that he accused Mrs. Meade of character assassination and blackmail and terminated the interview.
Gregory also testified that before his contact with Mrs. Dee his secretary was harassed by numerous telephone calls from a "Miss Ann Smith" who warned that "something terrible was going to happen to my business associates if I didn't do certain things."
Gregory said he finally had a recorder plugged into his telephone and made a recording of one of Miss Smith's calls. It was placed in the hands of the court yesterday. Gregory said he was certain, however, that Miss Smith was not the same woman as Miss Dee.
Attorney Crowley struck back bitingly when he took the producer on cross-examination, trying to shake his identification of Mrs. Meade and impeach his testimony as a product of bias.
Pointing to Mrs. Meade, the attorney asked Gregory if he were "positive" she was the same woman he met in the restaurant Sept. 16.
"I am most assuredly positive," said the witness.
"You don't like Confidential magazine, do you?" the lawyer demanded in an earlier attack.
"Oh," answered Gregory, "I don't dislike it."
Crowley took up a copy of the magazine, opened it to a splashy spread titled "The Lowdown on Paul Gregory," Yes, Gregory said, he had read the story.
"Is one of the reasons you are testifying here because of this article?" demanded Crowley.
"Not at all, sir."
Under cross-examination, Gregory also explained that the story mentioned by Miss Dee was not one already listed in the trial record as "The Robert Mitchum Story."
It was in this Confidential tale that Mitchum allegedly masqueraded as a hamburger--naked and catsup drenched--at a dinner party given by Gregory. Laughton also was among those present.
The story had already been published, he explained, when he met Mrs. Dee. Outside the courtroom, however, Gregory took the opportunity to brand the earlier story a complete fiction.
"No such thing ever happened," he said. "There were 10 guests who will come down here and testify to that."
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
April 24, 1957
Note: Bylined stories were rare in the 1940s and 1950s. Here's the handiwork of Jack Smith, doing rewrite on a celebrity brawl involving Yma Sumac and Fred Otash, former police officer, private detective and one of James Ellroy's inspirations.
By Jack Smith
Singer Yma Sumac's home yesterday was the scene of the champion brawl in
fighting Hollywood's history--featuring the Peruvian beauty herself,
her estranged husband, two hot-blooded Inca dancers, three private
detectives, a male Peruvian harpist and a collie dog named Prince.
The head-thumping, hair-pulling Donnybrook took place in the entry hall of the Cheviot Hills home as the tension in the Sumac household finally snapped into a shrieking extravaganza with sound effects in two languages, not to mention the barking of the dog.
The spark that touched off the swirling free-for-all was the strained relationship between the exotic songbird from the Andes and her high-strung Peruvian husband, Moises Vivanco, 38, whom she sued for divorce only a week ago.
The luxurious house shook from the piercing screams from Miss Sumac's celebrated five-octave voice as clothes ripped, flesh and bone struck flesh, blood flowed and at least one 220-pound private detective hit the deck under a tangle of assorted Peruvians.
Flashbulbs and television lights bathed the colossal action in an eerie glare and photographers and reporters scrambled to the walls for points of vantage as the struggle unfolded before them like the climax of a high-budget Western.
Miss Sumac herself was credited with one of the most telling strokes of the con [text missing here--lrh]
after Miss Sumac and [private detective Fred] Otash, accompanied by one of Otash's operators, Norman Placey, 37, drove up to her home at 3065 McConnell Drive in Otash's blue Cadillac.
Miss Sumac was wearing a long fur coat and her almond-shaped eyes with their arched eyebrows were hidden behind the dark glasses.
She went there with Otash, explaining that she wanted to pick up some of her her personal things and also to look for her 1957 Cadillac Fleetwood, which she said Vivanco had hidden from her.
Vivanco opened the door and beckoned to eight newsmen waiting outside.
"Please come in," he invited. "I want you to see this."
Miss Sumac swept regally through the large living room and into the den. There she found Farfan playing the alpa, an ancient Incan harp that stands on three legs.
Miss [Esmila] Zevallos was singing.
Farfan had arrived from Peru only yesterday morning, just in time for the festivities. He speaks no English, which turned out to be of little disadvantage in the events to follow.
Miss Sumac began questioning Zevallos about the night before--a preliminary skirmish in which, Vivanco charged, he was strong-armed and threatened with a gun by two of Otash's detectives.
Miss Sumac asked Miss Zevallos if she had seen the gun. Otash has said his men carried none. Miss Zevallos said she saw it.
Miss Sumac, said witnesses, slapped her.
Miss Zevallos called Miss Sumac a "bad woman" and the battle was engaged.
"I have work for you like a servant," cried Miss Zevallos. "Me and your cousin, Yola. You're going to throw me and your cousin out. I work for you. I washed your...your... your many things. You are bad woman!"
Otash glided in from the living room, sensing trouble, to help keep the peace.
Farfan leaped up from his harp and helped Otash--for the time being.
The action subsided temporarily.
Peace was restored. Miss Sumac and Vivanco stood at the front door to pose for pictures.
"She knows how to pose," he said gallantly. "She has many years of practicing."
"Yes," said Miss Sumac, smiling. "He taught me."
Those were the last pleasant words spoken.
Vivanco spotted Otash and brought up the incident of the night before and the gun.
Otash said his man didn't have a gun.
"If you say he didn't have a gun," cried Vivanco, his temper rising,"you are a big, fat liar!"
He exploded into Spanish and struggled back into English.
"You get out of this house!" he roared.
At this critical point,Vivanco noticed Private Detective Placey, who was standing mildly against the wall.
"There is the man," he accused, "who had the gun!"
Vivanco lunged for Placey.
Another private detective, Bill Lowe, who had been staked out across the street, looking for the missing car, slipped up behind the irate Peruvian and grabbed his arms.
Otash moved in to separate the men.
Miss Rivero grabbed Otash from behind--by the hair--and yanked downward.
Otash backed against the wall, squirming to get free from the determined Inca woman.
Miss Sumac grabbed at Vivanco. Miss Zevallos danced onto the scene and grabbed Miss Sumac.
Miss Sumac's dark glasses flew to the floor. Somebody tramped on them.
Prince, the collie, loped into the ring, threading among the struggling legs, tossing his head and barking joyously.
Miss Sumac flipped a smart backhand across Miss Zevallos' mouth.
Farfan slithered in from the den, still speaking no English. He flung his medium-sized figure at the bull-like Otash, trying to shove him through the door.
Vivanco fell into a wrought iron planter.
Then, suddenly, the storm subsided.
Hair was patted and stroked back into place by the panting gladiators. Yanked clothing was rearranged. Otash hunted on the floor for a missing coat button. Miss Rivero dabbed at blood from a gash on the back of her neck and assorted scratches on her arms.
But tempers still were on edge.
Miss Sumac slipped her mink coat down over her left shoulder and displayed a bruise the size of a dollar.
"How did I get this mark," she demanded of Miss Rivero.
Haltingly, Miss Rivero recounted an incident of Thursday night, the import of which was that Vivanco had inflicted the bruise.
Vivanco smiled scornfully.
"This is your lover's marking," he said.
About this time, a district attorney's car hove up on the curved driveway and three investigators spilled out.
In a few moments Sgt. V.A. Peterson and Det. Merle Pagh, who had investigated the incident of the night before, joined the show.
They had hardly taken charge before a patrol car raced up--somewhat belatedly--in response to an alarm that a brawl was going on.
In the resulting powwow today's meeting in Santa Monica was scheduled.
Otash later gave a stirring version of his own involvement, with comic overtones.
"This Vivanco grabbed my arm and his buddy grabbed my coat. Vivanco took a couple of shots at me with his fists. I was afraid to hit him back. I was afraid he'd go into another world.
"Then one of the maids jumped in and started pulling my hair. The other maid came up behind me and grabbed me by the coat.
"One minute I'm up--the next I'm down.
"They were pulling me and pushing me. I was spread-eagled. I couldn't hit anybody. The whole pack of them wouldn't weigh in at more than 225 pounds.
"Miss Sumac let one of the maids have it in the mouth--backhand. I told her to be quiet and take it easy. Boy, it was a ball there for a while!"
The Monday night affair that roughened tempers for the main event of yesterday began when Miss Sumac called at the house to pick up some things. She was accompanied by two Otash operators, Placey and Henry P. Cohen. Also with her was her son by Vivanco, Charles, 8.
Vivanco said he tried to talk to the boy and the two detectives manhandled him and threatened to shoot him, one of them drawing an automatic. He later signed a complaint against the two men charging assault with intent to commit great bodily harm.
Otash scoffed at the charge, insisting "none of my men have a gun permit and none of them even own a gun." Police who were called to the house Monday night said they searched the two private detectives and their car and found no weapon.
Miss Sumac left her son without bothering to pick up any of her belongings but the detectives did accomplish something. They served Vivanco a Santa Monica Superior Court order to show cause why Miss Sumac should not retain custody of the boy, and a second paper advancing the hearing into the matter next Friday.
Troubles between Miss Sumac and Vivanco, who has been her musical director for years, began when he lost a paternity suit filed by her former secretary, Maureen Shea, 24.
Miss Shea charged that Vivanco was the father of twin girls born to her
in 1954 as the result of a backstage romance carried on while Miss
Sumac and her troupe were on tour. Her claim was upheld here in
Superior Court last January after a three-week trial.
Otash said yesterday that he will demand his detectives and Vivanco take lie detector tests to determine the truth of their stories on Monday's incident.
"I told Vivanco he's going to get in trouble for making false crime reports," the detective said.
Before the situation boiled over into violence yesterday, Vivanco talked reminiscently of his long career with Miss Sumac, which he described as a Pygmalion and Galatea relationship.
"Yma was nothing--musically and artistically," he told reporters. "I made her. Like you make an image from clay--a puppet."
Miss Sumac was born 35 years ago in the Andean village of Ichocan. She was given her professional name by Vivanco. It is the name of a legendary daughter of an Inca ruler. Miss Sumac's voice, which is said to range over five octaves, has electrified audiences the world over.