The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: LAPD

'The Chinese Murder,' April 29, 1891

  April 28, 1891, Wong Ark      

  April 29, 1891, Chinese Murder  

April 29, 1891: The Times reports the death of a Chinese woman named Ah Gue/Goot Gue, who was shot in the abdomen by her husband, Wong Ark/Gam Duck, outside a brothel on Apablasa Street. Ark allegedly killed Gue because she didn't give him all the money he wanted for gambling. The Times covered this case extensively, and said that because the Chinese witnesses were “heathens,” they were unconcerned about telling the truth under oath.

The first jury deadlocked. In his second trial, Ark was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, but the conviction was overturned on appeal because the dying woman’s statements were inadmissible. (The Times reported that she said "him killee me.") Ark was convicted of manslaughter at his third trial and served six years at San Quentin.

Bonus factoid: Apablasa Street vanished during construction of Union Station, which was built on the old Chinatown.

Continue reading »

Last Showing of 'Heaven Is Here!'


Google has announced that it will be removing its uploaded videos on April 29. I made this little movie about the Black Dahlia case four years ago and at 21 minutes, it's too long to upload anywhere else.


Architectural Ramblings -- The Sowden House

  Oct. 3, 1938, Sowden House  
  Drawing by Charles Owens/Los Angeles Times  

The Sowden House by architect Lloyd Wright at 5121 Franklin Ave. is on the market for $4.2 million.

You may recall that this was the purported murder HQ of Dr. George “Evil Genius” Hodel during his supposedly bloody rampage across the city, in which he killed with impunity (the Black Dahlia, Jeanne French and the Red Cars) after coercing authorities into silence by threatening to reveal which prominent Angelenos had (gasp!) VD. 

Yes, venereal disease is a far worse crime than murder, at least according to “Black Dahlia Avenger,” “Most Evil” and  whatever may be next (Jimmy Hoffa? Judge Crater?) in the “Evil Genius”  franchise.   


 A virtual tour of the home.

The Nuestro Pueblo feature on the home.

Dr. George “Evil Genius” Hodel on the Daily Mirror

Voices: Warren Christopher, 1925 -- 2011


Warren M. Christopher, who died Friday, was an occasional contributor to The Times. I’m posting two pieces from 1977, when he was deputy secretary of State. One essay, adapted from a commencement speech, deals with  the actions of a Foreign Service officer evacuating the U.S. diplomatic post in Ethiopia.

The other essay takes a look at the Carter administration’s campaign for human rights:

"When human beings are forcibly abducted from their homes, interrogated incessantly at the pleasure of their captors and prodded with electrodes or held under water to the point of drowning -- when such things are happening around the world, as they are, all who truly value human rights must speak out."

Continue reading »

Another Good Story Ruined -- The Black Dahlia

Mady Comfort I received a news alert the other day about an upcoming play titled “The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse” in which Daniele Watts will portray Mady Comfort, at left, purportedly “Elizabeth Short's best friend.”

I honestly don’t know how such nonsense gets started.

Mady Comfort was not Short’s “best friend.” There is nothing in any original newspaper accounts or in any official documents to show they ever met.  Comfort did nothing more than pose for photos for Dr. George Hodel, according to “Black Dahlia Avenger.”     Any attempt to link Comfort and Short is nothing but lunacy.

Paul Coates, Feb. 27, 1961


  Feb. 27, 1961, Mirror Cover  

Feb. 27, 1961: “The Apartment” gets 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture. The other nominees are "The Alamo," "Elmer Gantry," "Sons and Lovers" and "The Sundowners."

Paul Coates has an interview with  Herman Abrams, who became known as the most ticketed man in the U.S. with 430 citations.


Motorist Gains Dubious Victory
Continue reading »

Another Good Story Ruined -- The Black Dahlia

  Medford Map  

This item comes from the Atlantic:

by Mark Bernstein

“My morning drive to Eastgate, our software workshop, is literary.

“In the car this morning, I listened to the estimable Katherine Kellgren reading  Connie Willis' new historical fiction, Blackout. This is fun (and better for my blood pressure than talk radio), but it's also work: Eastgate has always been very interested in interlinked electronic narrative and for years I've been trying to interest hypertext writers in  historical fiction. I've not always been convincing. If the argument doesn't go better soon, I may try my hand.

“My morning drive takes me past the former site of the Fannie Farmer School, deeply influential in popular American cookery and in American technical writing. Next comes the the house from which the Black Dahlia embarked for Hollywood and a different narrative than she'd contemplated.”



Sorry, no. I haven’t been to Medford, Mass., for years so I’m not sure what is being pointed out as Elizabeth Short’s house these days. In fact the triple-decker home at 115 Salem where her family was living when she was killed was torn down years ago. I have combined a 1920 map of Medford, with a red dot showing the approximate location of 115 Salem, and a Google map. Note the location of Fifield Court, where the Pacios family lived.

Back in the News: Fred Otash

  Feb. 15, 1961, Comics  

  Feb. 15, 1961, Fred Otash  

Feb. 15, 1961: Remember Fred Otash’s alleged involvement in the doping of racehorses? The private detective (and former LAPD officer) got probation. 


Fred Otash on the Daily Mirror

Pages of History -- Morrow Mayo's 'Los Angeles'

  Los Angeles, Morrow Mayo  

For many people, this will be an exercise in tedium. But I’m hopeful that the research fanatics among the Daily Mirror readers will find it engaging.

I’m going to spend some time on Morrow Mayo’s “Los Angeles” to examine its reliability. In other words, I’m going to fact-check portions of the book, mostly against reports from The Times.

Mayo often quotes The Times   in his book, so we know he referred to it for some details, but we may find ourselves on a treasure hunt to unearth his other source material, so I expect to examine other period newspapers along the way, depending on just how far it’s worth carrying the whole matter. 

I’m starting with “Los Angeles” because this is where most contemporary historians begin. To be sure, there are earlier works on the subject, but where they are dry, dusty and plodding recitations of the past, “Los Angeles” is a jaunty dash through history with a guide who gives readers a wink and a sly look as he promises to tell “the real story.” Mayo is an entertaining and engaging author,  but (spoiler alert) he’s not especially accurate, and his errors, combined with his caustic commentary, have influenced generations of writers – even those who may not be aware that they are following in his footsteps.

Where to begin? I’ve decided to start in the last section of the book, rather than at the beginning, (the Portola expedition discovers the future metropolis is inhabited by “a tribe of circus freaks,” Page 6) or at the end, with Mayo’s bibliography, although it will be fun to examine his source material in another post, depending on one’s idea of fun.

In a brief biography on the book jacket, Mayo says that he spent six years in California working for various newspapers before he began “Los Angeles” in 1931, so I’m starting with an event that he observed first-hand: the sensational coverage of the 1927 abduction and killing of Marion Parker by William Edward Hickman. One would expect that a newsman would be fairly accurate in writing about an event that occurred a few years earlier and was still fresh in his memory. But is he? Let’s put him to the acid test.

Before going further I should note that the Hickman case involves a particularly gruesome  killing of a 12-year-old girl and the original accounts in The Times are extremely graphic. I’m not much on ghoulish sensationalism so I don’t plan to recount everything that was done to Marion Parker unless it’s necessary to contrast it with Mayo’s version of the crime.  

Here’s Page 293 of the chapter titled “Strange Interlude.”

Continue reading »

Another Good Story Ruined – The Black Dahlia

Elizabeth Short fake picture
Here we have another popular faked picture of Elizabeth Short. The image on the left is genuine, as far as I know. The bizarre image on the right has been flopped and retouched. 


Another Good Story Ruined – The Black Dahlia

In Remembrance, Elizabeth Short

The Daily Mirror is dark today.

Black Politics in L.A.

  Police Commission, Aug. 28, 1946  

Charles H. Matthews, African American member of the Police Commission, at a 1946 meeting.

I was intrigued by the remark on L.A. Observed, quoting the Root, “According to historian Raphael J. Sonenshein, ‘No African-American, Latino or Jewish person held elected office in the city of Los Angeles between 1900 and 1949, when a Latino, Edward Roybal, was elected to the City Council.’ ”

Not quite.

April 2, 1941, Fay E. Allen Without looking too far into the historic record for this era, we find Fay E. Allen, an African American music teacher at Jefferson High who after an unsuccessful attempt in 1937, was  elected to the Board of Education in 1939. In 1943, Allen was opposed by The Times, which alleged that she had communist support (although she was a registered Democrat), and she was defeated by Marie M. Adams. She ran for Board of Education in 1945 but was defeated again. That year, she became a labor organizer to unionize nonteaching employees in Los Angeles.

As might be expected, The Times wrote very little about Allen and I can’t find an obituary for her, so further digging is required. 

And although he was appointed rather than elected, one of the most notable African American figures in Los Angeles city government in this era is Charles H. Matthews (d. 1985), a deputy district attorney from 1931 to 1945, who was appointed to the Police Commission in 1946.  As far as I can determine, Matthews was the first African American on the commission and was followed by  John Somerville, Herbert Greenwood and Everette M. Porter.

According to Matthews' obituary, he was the only African American in his law class at UC Berkeley, the only black in the district attorney's office and the first African American on the California State Law Review Commission. He was twice denied membership in the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. because he was black and refused to join when it became desegregated, although he accepted an honorary membership.


Edward R. Roybal on the Daily Mirror

Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent Posts
The Daily Mirror Is Moving |  June 16, 2011, 2:42 am »
Movieland Mystery Photo |  June 11, 2011, 9:26 am »
Movieland Mystery Photo [Updated] |  June 11, 2011, 8:06 am »
Found on EBay 1909 Mayor's Race |  June 9, 2011, 2:33 pm »