The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Suicide

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 12, 1959

Dec. 12, 1959, Lawrence Tierney

Mash Notes and Comment

Paul Coates    "Dear Paul--

    "Re your column in which you became confused over the use of the words 'lay' and 'lie' and settled by saying 'get prone.'
" 'Lie' would have been the correct word.  Intransitive, you know.

    "But it would be difficult to 'get prone and read my column' -- as you suggested.
"Perhaps you meant 'supine.'

    "Look them up in the dictionary.  Undoubtedly some friend of yours has one.

    "But do not worry about split infinitives.

    "Only a pedant would insist that, because the Latin infinitive is one word, the two-word English form must not be separated.

    "In fact, juxtaposition adds strength to the adverb." (signed) Leonard E. Miller, Montrose.
Dec. 12, 1959, Lawrence Tierney --Listen, Lenny, why don't you just let sleeping dogs lay?


    (Press Release) "It had to happen -- and, of course, it could only happen to KMPC's Johnny Grant.

    "Grant reports with all the chatter going around town about disc jockey 'payola' -- that the first Christmas gift he received was a wallet.

    "It came from a record company."  (signed) Publicity Dept., KMPC, Hollywood.


    "Mr. Coates:

    "Apparently there is no escape for anyone from you or your spies and espionage system.

    "I was having a bowl of soup in the cafeteria on Vine St. off Hollywood Blvd. today when this spy of yours at the next table asked me if I had seen you recently.

    "We became quite chatty in moments and I found myself being closely questioned as to my opinions about you.

    "In brief, I confided that the last time I'd seen you, there was considerable panther-like pacing of the floor on your part.  I said you had aged quite a bit and had quite a waistline.

    "Your spy asked if I was aware that you helped many persons.

    "I retorted that the only person you helped was yourself, in fact, quite conceited.

    "He has yet to find his SELF, I explained.

    "I explained that he shouldn't conclude that I dislike you because of my criticism of you.

Here's How It Is

    "If I did not like you, I would ignore you.

    "But what I can't understand is why don't you face up and admit to yourself that you've been ruthlessly using other people for your own devices.

    "If you can admit that, you'll be a better man for it.  Anyway, Merry Christmas."  (signed) Memphis Harry Lee Ward, P.O. Box 1963, Hollywood.

    --Bah! Humbug!

Dec. 12, 1959, Poison

    "To Paul,
"I am a little mad at my friend Memphis Ward of Hollywood.  He wrote me a letter saying Parkey if you have to have $200 to get your book published, quit buying beer.  Go to the grocery and buy canned beans, drink milk, and quit playing the horses.

    "Paul that's one thing I never do even if I knew the jockey.

    "He also told me to buy canned fish.  Paul you can't go on a bean diet when you weigh 230 pounds like I do.

    "Tell Memphis Ward I don't need his advice Paul."

(signed) Parkey Sharkey, Bay Road, East Palo Alto.

    --Tell him yourself.  I'm not speaking to him.



Publicist Dies in Fall From Alexandria Hotel

Dec. 12, 1919, Briggs

“Somebody Is Always Taking the Joy Out of Life” by Clare Briggs.

Dec. 12, 1919: Publicist Albee Smith had a big story, but nobody ever found out what it was.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 11, 1959

Dec. 11, 1959, Mirror Cover

Youth Bought Death for Nickel a Game

Paul Coates    I have never met a man who dropped $4,000 pitching pennies, but I guess it's possible.  Because last week I talked to one who estimates that he has lost, in the past four years, nearly $20,000 -- on nickel pinball machines . . .
       from this column, Nov. 12, 1957

    Today I met a man who lost even more.  He lost a son.
The man's name is George Bergeman.  He lives in Montebello, where he owns a glass and mirror company.

    The week end before last, he and his wife went out of town.  When they returned a week ago Monday, they found a note from their son, George Jr., 24, a student at East Los Angeles Junior College, indicating that the boy had left home.

    To them, it was a real shocker.  There'd been no trouble, no arguments, no problems of any kind.

Dec. 11, 1959, George Bergeman Jr.      Then, last Friday, police found the boy's body and, alongside of it, the note:

    "Dear Mom & Dad,

    "I know I was weak and this is the coward's way, but I guess I am a coward . . .

    "My biggest weakness was gambling and those lousy pinball machines.  I couldn't leave them alone, even when it wasn't my own money.

    "That's what happened to your hundred dollars, and the reason I lost everything worthwhile I ever had.

    "I ruined my life, so ending it doesn't matter.  I'm sorry it had to be like this . . ."

    The dead boy's father brought the letter along when he talked to me.

image    "I don't know what it was about the pinball games," he said, "but my boy has been hooked on them since he got out of high school.  He was playing them before he was 18.

    "They let him play them," he added bitterly.

    "They" were some of the 40 owners of the so-called "amusement" pinball games in the town of Montebello.

    "The boy was brilliant -- a top student," Bergeman continued.  "When he graduated from high school they announced over the loud-speaker that he was among the top 2% in the nation in math.  He loved math."

    The boy's father said he knew that his son was pouring money into the machines, trying to beat the percentages, hoping for the big pay-off.

    "I got reports," he said.  "One time, a neighbor who owns a restaurant told me about George hanging around in there.  He promised to keep him away from the machine and he did.

     "But," Bergeman sighed, "there are machines all over town.  I'd go around to other places -- bars, liquor stores, cafes -- asking them to stop making pay-offs.  I took it up with some of the responsible people in town.

    "They'd just laugh at me.  They'd say, 'Those machines don't make pay-offs.  They're just for amusement.' "

image    George Bergeman Sr. slumped back into his chair.  "Amusement," he repeated.  "My son lost $100 into those machines in the two days before his death."

    The amount didn't startle me.  Nor did the fact that allegedly respectable merchants permitted minors to gamble in their establishments.  The machines are geared to swallow nickels as fast as you can pump them in.  Anybody's nickels.

    They're outlawed in the unincorporated areas of the county, but the guiding fathers of several small towns within the county saw fit to legalize them, in spite of the fact that they're almost impossible to police for pay-offs.

    And in spite of the claim by El Monte Police Chief Jay Sherman (who recently won an eight-year fight with City Hall to get them out of his town) that the machines are definitely syndicate-controlled.

    Maybe It'll Help

    George Bergeman told me that now he's going to see what he can do about the machines in Montebello.

    "It's too late to help my son," he said.  "And maybe it's true, he was weak.  But maybe there are some other weak kids in town.  Maybe I'll help them."

    If I were the so-called respectable businessman who turned $100 into nickels for George Bergeman Jr. the other week end and then counted them into my day's profits, I don't think I'd sleep too well tonight.



Matt Weinstock, Dec. 7, 1959

Dec. 7, 1959, Murder-Suicide

The Rainbow's End

Matt Weinstock     One by one the old landmarks are disappearing.  Last week the Rainbow, with its old-fashioned mahogany bar, folded.

    The shabby Rainbow was known in bat cave circles as the saloon that cared.  Great men drank there, or at least they thought they were great while drinking there.

    Now the plaintive cry is heard around 2nd and Hill Sts., "Where will we cash our checks?  Where else can we run up a tab?  Where can we find bartenders who will find a clean shirt for a patron so he may go to work looking presentable, or raise the bail money when a customer makes the jailhouse?"

    Of course, there's another side to the passing of the Rainbow.  Dapper Abe Stein, the owner, puts it simply, "Too many headaches."


Dec. 7, 1959, Murder-Suicide     "ONE PICTURE is worth 10,000 words," some obscure Chinese philosopher is supposed to have once stated.  Ever since there has been sharp disagreement as to the relative impact of the written word, the spoken word and the picture.

    I happen to be partial to the written word although the emphasis these days seems to be on the spoken word and the picture.  The written word requires thought, as does reading.  This is not always true of the other two. 

    Anyway, it's always nice to hear one's feelings echoed.  In the quarterly journal, Arizona and the West, editor John Alexander Carroll offers this perhaps prophetic "dash of candor":

    "First and last, it is a journal for readers; the mere lookers will do better to look elsewhere.  We realize that mere looking has been in vogue in the United States for  a generation and more, that the Pulitzer Prize for the best photograph of the year is twice as much in cash as the award for the winning book in history.  Nonetheless we are convinced that ultimately the law of supply and demand will right the scales.  A good paragraph today is worth a hundred ordinary pictures.  Ten years from now, if American cameras are still clicking so much faster than the typewriters of talented authors, a good sentence may be worth a thousand of them."


    SHORTLY AFTER noon the other day newsman Joe Laitin, in pursuit of a story, phoned Mt. Wilson observatory.  The man who answered said he was sorry but he'd have to call back after 1 p.m.  "Nobody's ever here during the lunar hour," he explained.   Twitching slightly from the "lunar hour" bit, Joe asked, "Who's this?"

    "The janitor," was the reply.


Dec. 7, 1959, Murder-Suicide     BRACE yourselves, we seem to have another plateau.  The woman next door came to the home of a Beverly Hills matron and said, "My husband just called and said he'd invited a Russian engineer for dinner and I wondered if you had any caviar I could borrow."


    IT'S ONLY natural that the crew at Lou MacKenzie's electronics firm in Inglewood should be closely following television's agonizing self-scrutiny, particularly of synthetic and rehearsed phases of its output.  Their work is creating automatic audio systems.  For one thing, they create applause and laugh tracks for TV programs.  They also did the jungle and cave noises for some of the Disneyland rides.
Out of curiosity, Phil Worth, shop foreman, looked up the word "quiz" in the dictionary.  You, too, may be surprised to learn that in addition to the definition, "to examine or instruct by close questioning," it can mean "hoax."


The topic for debate in a Muir High School speech class was whether this country should provide birth control information to foreign nations -- until a mother objected.  The new topic:  The Mike McKeever incident.


On the main floor of the County Museum there is a marble statue of Hercules resting his arm on a club.  A small boy studied it a moment as Russell J. Smith, chief of the education division, happened by, then asked his dad, "Is he the father of baseball?"  At that, old Herc looks as if he had the "take" sign . . . A lady named Mary Louise heard a newscaster say, "Widespread to moderate eye irritation is expected tomorrow" and asks, "What's that?"  It means you cry bitter tears.



Hole in Brain Doesn’t Kill

“That Guiltiest Feeling” by Clare Briggs

Dec.4, 1919, Free Love

A man of mystery tries to kill himself … and a husband tries to divorce a wife who believes in free love. 

Dec. 4, 1919: Movie star William Stowell and Dr. Joseph R. Armstrong are killed in a train accident in the Belgian Congo while on an expedition by the Smithsonian Institution and Universal Film Manufacturing Co. Stowell appeared in “Hearts of Humanity.”

Former Nixon Aide Kills Family, Self

Nov. 12, 1959, Times Cover  

Lifeguard Duffie Fryling pries his arm out of a shark's jaws while swimming near Paradise Cove. Fryling, who was treated for cuts on his wrist, says he eluded several other sharks in rushing to the beach.

Nov. 12, 1959, The Lovers

The Lovers” is opening at the Beverly Canon.

Nov. 12, 1959, Jeane Hoffman

Jeane Hoffman takes a look at Rocky Marciano’s future. 
Nov. 12, 1959: Charles Richard Gardner, 38, is found dead at his Pebble Peach home next to the bodies of his wife and two children in an apparent triple murder and suicide. Unfortunately, we don’t have the rest of the story, so there’s no explanation of Gardner’s connection to Richard Nixon.

Woman Driven Mad by Divorce Attempts Suicide

Nov. 9, 1909, Suicide 
Nov. 9, 1909: Emma Rogers divorced her husband, then began having hallucinations when she failed to reconcile with him and he remarried. She tried to kill herself in a restroom at the Chamber of Commerce, but her aim was bad and she only wounded herself. 

The Case of the Thankful Thief


Nov. 8, 1909: The yearly season of petty crimes opens in Los Angeles, according to The Times, with a burglar who ate half a loaf of bread, some peach preserves and helped himself to $3 in a savings bank. [Update: they were pear preserves, as a reader noted].

It’s hard to match “Blows Out His Brains” as a one-column headline.

Landmark Nightclub Modernized

Oct. 26, 1959, Arness
Virginia Arness attempts suicide in Hawaii.
Oct. 26, 1959, Biltmore Bowl

The Biltmore Bowl is heavily modernized so that is virtually unrecognizable.
Oct. 26, 1959, Chinatown

New and Old Chinatown, divided by Broadway.

Oct. 26, 1959, Chinatown "I don't belong to the tong. I am an American. I belong to the Kiwanis Club."

Oct. 26, 1959, Kodak Copier
Five copies a minute, only 2 1/2 cents each.

Oct. 26, 1959, Sports
The Lions beat the Rams, 17-7.

Jealousy Leads to Murder and Suicide

Oct. 22, 1919, Briggs

“Somebody Is Always Taking the Joy Out of Life” by Clare Briggs.

Oct. 22, 1919, Zola Schmidt

Oct. 22, 1919: Mrs. Zola Schmidt was  killed as she slept … while holding a letter from another man.

View Larger Map

916 W. 9th, the scene of the crime.

Oct. 22, 1919, Zola Schmidt

“I am anxious to be married with as little delay as possible…”

Oct. 22, 1919, Murder Suicide

George S. Crosman, a one-armed man wearing nothing but a Japanese kimono, kills Mrs. Zola Schmidt, who has been estranged from her husband for about a year. Numerous love letters and rose petals are strewn around the apartment, where a canary sang joyously in its cage.  On the Victrola, “Mammy O’ Mine.”

Man Convicted of Shooting Wife Fights a Team of Officers

Sept. 12, 1909, Little Nemo in Slumberland"
Sept. 12, 1909: Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland." McCay's drawings are a mixed blessing. He was a wonderful artist with a fabulous imagination -- and he drew this appalling character, Imp.

Sept. 12, 1909, Crash

A police automobile speeding on a call crashes into a buggy, injuring the driver, George W. Slaton, "an aged Negro" who was deaf and didn't hear the officers' warnings. 

Sept. 12, 1909, Struggle
Edward G. Martin, sentenced to two years in prison for a shooting that left his wife paralyzed, puts up an incredible fight against the officers of the court before being choked into submission. He yelled: "I'll not serve two years; I'll not serve one year; I'll not serve an hour; you can shoot as quick as you like."

Martin shot his wife three times and tried to commit suicide, but failed. The defense contended that the shooting was "justified in a measure because of the fact that Martin's wife had been untrue to him and that he was subject to spells that at times, for a series of years, made him mentally incompetent."

A Fallen Woman's Death Ride

Aug. 23, 1889, Sewer Map

Aug. 23, 1889: I always enjoy looking at old maps of Los Angeles. This one shows a proposed sewer system. Much of the lettering is upside-down, but flipping the map 180 degrees makes it  even more confusing. Many of the street names are different than what we know now. Note, for example Michel Torrance St., which I suspect became Rampart, although ProQuest doesn't shed light on the question.  


Aug. 23, 1889, Sewer Map

Aug. 23, 1889, Fallen Woman

The name of the woman in the above story is a little hard to make out. I believe it's Kitty Harris. I can't find anything further about her in ProQuest, so I don't know what became of her and her sister.


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