The Daily Mirror

Los Angeles history

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

Aug. 15, 1957
Los Angeles

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Paul Coates

Paul_coates Aug. 13, 1957

SUBJECT'S NAME--Jack Pearson.

SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION--Age, 41. Height, approximately 6 feet. Probably husky build. Blue eyes. Dark, possibly graying hair. Fingers of both hands, once frozen during childhood, have slight twist.

Any person with information as to subject's whereabouts is requested to contact Walter Pearson, 14720 Strathern St., Van Nuys.

Twenty-five years ago, Jack Pearson shot his 7-year-old brother.

It was an accident.

But Jack, then 16, panicked and ran away.

He thought, apparently, that his brother would die.

Yesterday, I detailed the events which led up to the shooting, the shooting itself, and Jack's disappearance a few hours afterward.

The accident occurred on their father's farm in Central Canada. After the younger brother was bundled onto a sleigh by his parents for the nine-mile trip to a doctor, Jack stood in silence at the door of the farmhouse, awaiting their return.

Then, without speaking to his other brothers and sisters, he walked out into a growing blizzard and disappeared.

I talked this week with the victim of the accident--Walter Pearson.

He's 32 now. He arrived in Southern California a few months ago with his wife and two children. He had been shot in the mouth, but no scar remains. 

The lasting scar, he fears, may have remained with his brother.

Plenty of confused 16-year-old kids have tried to meet the world with a bundle on the end of a broomstick--but few carried the extra burden of guilt which Jack took along.

1957_0809_ads And that's what bothers Walter most.

"I guess, to this day, he thinks I'm dead," he told me.

"And that he was the one who killed me."

How such a belief might have twisted Jack down a wrong path was pretty obvious to both of us.

"The whole family was aware of it," he said. Then quietly, he added:

"We've tried very, very hard, to find him."

The search, Walter told me, was started by the youth's parents when they returned from Grandview the day after the shooting.

"They went back to town immediately, and checked all the farms along the way."

They asked and received assistance from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the police.

There were theories (the main one being that Jack hopped a freight to Winnipeg, 250 miles distant) but that was all.

Walter's personal theory was--and still is--that his brother went to sea.

"It's been a lot of years, but I can still remember how enthused he used to be with the little boats he'd carve for me."

The theory, however, was almost exploded a year ago--by a set of startling coincidences

Or maybe they weren't coincidences.

Jim, another of the eight grown Pearson children, wrote Walter about them.

In his letter, Jim--9 years old when Jack disappeared--related that he was watching television one night when a vaguely familiar face came on camera.

The man was being interviewed.

He said his name was Joe. He said he came from a large family. And he said that years ago, as a boy, he had run away from home. When asked where, he replied:

"From a farm in Central Canada."

He was one of several men interviewed, and that's about all he said.

The man conducting the interviews was a Vancouver (British Columbia) minister.

And the interviewees were the floaters and bums of that city's Skid Row.




The want ads

Aug. 13, 1957
Los Angeles

Swedish massages, photo models (they even provide the camera) and lots of lonely people. Take a look at the Daily Mirror's personals (click on the image for the full listings):


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The saga of Long Sam

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1957_0812_brown02 Aug. 4-12, 1957
Mooresville, N.C.

A reporter and a photographer from a small North Carolina weekly were hacking their way through the woods along the Catawba River for a story about a hydroelectric project when they came to a clearing and saw her. In that moment, Dorothy Brown's life was changed forever.

Writer Tom McKnight and photographer Fletcher Davis of the Mooresville Tribune found the 16-year-old drawing water from a well outside her family's two-room cabin.* She was barefoot, wearing a cotton shirt tied at the waist and her father's cutoff jeans.

"She is tall and lithe and willowy and very beautiful," McKnight wrote. He called her a "statuesque young girl carved from the classical pattern of a Greek goddess.... Her hair is deep brown like the rich earth and her eyes blue like the sea and her teeth are even and shine in the sun."

The third of nine children, Dorothy had dropped out after seventh grade to help take care of her younger brothers and sisters, and because she had no clothes to wear to school, the papers said.

"I want an education," she said, "because you have to have an education to be somebody. Knowin' leads to living."

Kays Gary, a columnist at the Charlotte Observer, read McKnight's story and visited Dorothy. On Aug. 4, 1957, his column, headlined "Will Long Sam Become Cinderella?," touched off a wildfire among American newspapers, fed by the Associated Press with stories datelined Mooresville, N.C.   

Nicknamed "the Backwoods Beauty," "Nature Girl" and "Long Sam," Dorothy became an overnight sensation.

"For six days now the area has been combed by promoters, wildly competing disc jockeys, moonstruck college boys and hundreds of others who just want to see her," The Times said. "She has been sought by professional baseball teams, by modeling agencies, a sweater manufacturer, fashion show directors and press agents for items ranging from an encyclopedia to pizza pies. She's received stacks of mail from Canada to the Bahamas."

For the first time in her life, Dorothy saw the ocean in a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. An anonymous benefactor--identified many years later as Ross Puette, a Charlotte paperboard manufacturer--offered to  put Dorothy through high school and college.

By the middle of August, Dorothy was on a train to New York with Kays, McKnight and their wives for an appearance on Ed Sullivan's TV show.

To Steve Allen, Dorothy said: "No." To "The $64,000 Question," Dorothy said: "No." To a part in the Broadway musical "Li'l Abner," Dorothy said: "No." In fact, to everything except an education, Dorothy said: "No."

It was hard for Dorothy to leave home, one observer said. "She was crying when she left her parents, but she said she had to get out,"  according to a friend of the McKnights. Dorothy said: "I will never go back to my parents' home. You see, my mother and I were never close. I had two older sisters she was closer with. I guess I was always different."


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In less than a year, Dorothy was making up for lost schooling at a junior college in Wingate, N.C., getting A's in English, math and French, a B in American history and a B-plus in biology. As a sophomore, she told one interviewer: "People seem surprised when they meet me for the first time. They look as though they expected me to be wearing a tiger skin and swinging across the room, screaming like Tarzan."

"If it hadn't been for the pictures and all, I never would have gotten to go back to school. I'd probably be babysitting and hoping and dreaming," she said. "I definitely want to further my education more than just high school. I don't think I'd be satisfied just being a secretary and sitting somewhere and typing."

And with that, Dorothy, "the Backwoods Beauty," vanished from the national news for almost 40 years.

In the intervening years, Dorothy graduated with a teaching degree. She moved to Charlotte and taught at an elementary school until she quit to raise the McKnights' daughter after the death of Tom McKnight and his wife, Marie.

She eventually married a salesman and when local reporters occasionally checked in on her, she seemed like any other Charlotte housewife.

Then in the early 1990s, Observer columnist Gary saw the Jodie Foster movie "Nell" and was reminded of Dorothy. He had lost touch with her over the years, according to a 1995 story by  Dannye Romine Powell.

Powell found Dorothy, then 54 years old, divorced and out of a job. She was surviving on part-time clerical work and severance pay from a rehab center where she was program secretary.

Dorothy told Powell: "I was the third girl of a family that wanted a boy. I don't why but I knew from the beginning I wasn't wanted." She added: "I thought my daddy drank because we were poor and, of course, I found out that because my daddy drank we were poor."

But she had no regrets about turning down the offers from TV shows, Broadway and product endorsements.

"I wanted the education. Had I chosen fame or fortune or whatever I could have and would have lost that," she told Powell. "The education--that's mine. Nobody can rob my house and take it. No matter what, it's mine."

In 2003, the Observer's Jim Morrill found Dorothy, by then 62, living on disability in a modest home in northwest Mecklenburg with a poodle named Daisy. Today, she would be 66. Let's hope that she's well.

*The Browns' home is described elsewhere as a dilapidated, five-room house with no indoor plumbing. The number of siblings also varies between stories. Such are the vexations of research.

 

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Jean Spangler

 

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I was listening to the prayers of the people during today's church service and was shocked to hear "Jean Spangler"  among the names. I told myself it could be a coincidence. Maybe it was someone else named Jean Spangler, or for all I know, it could have been Gene Spangler, not necessarily the actress who vanished without a trace.

It's not near the anniversary of her disappearance (Oct. 7, 1949) or her birthday (Sept. 2, 1923), so I'm at a bit of a loss.  But whatever the reason, I've added the Spangler family to my list.

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Four-time loser

 

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1957_0812_janet02 Aug. 12, 1957
Los Angeles

John Gordon Fawcett, 42, had enough. His last three marriages had ended with his wives getting boyfriends and so when he found his fourth wife in the bedroom with another man....

"This happens every time," he said. "I got just a little tired of it."

At 28, Janet Fawcett was 14 years younger than her husband. I suppose if she'd been more mature she could have asked John a few questions before marrying him. Something like, "Have you been married before?" or more to the point: "Do you keep a loaded .45 semiautomatic around the apartment?" (The answer to both those questions was: Yes).

But from what she told police about the shooting, she doesn't sound all that bright--or at least she didn't think through what might happen if her husband found her with another man in their bedroom.

John and Janet, who had been married six months,  moved out of their old apartment at 12835 Burbank Blvd. and into a new apartment at 13737 Oxnard St. There was a pool party that night for new residents and their guests, The Times said. During the evening, John discovered that Janet had disappeared. He went into their apartment and left a note on his pillow telling her that he was upset because he couldn't find her and that he was spending the night at their old apartment.

But John couldn't get to sleep, The Times said. And so he returned.

With the .45.

John went into the bedroom with his pistol and found Janet with Louis C. Spichtig, 25, 15635 Colbalt St., so John shot him in left shoulder. John called the police and when two officers arrived, he handed them the .45 and told them what happened.

1957_0812_johnSpichtig was taken to General Hospital after being treated at Van Nuys Receiving Hospital and apparently recovered as he can't be found in the California Death Index. In fact, The Times never published a follow-up on this case, so we don't know what happened unless we go to the Mirror for these details:

Spichtig told police: "I didn't know she was married."

And Janet asked John: "Why did you shoot him? It was all just innocent fun."

As bad as this is, it could have easily turned into a double murder or a double murder and a suicide.  With luck, these three people sorted out their lives and moved on. Maybe all of them learned something. Spichtig, by the way, refused to press charges, the Mirror said.

The real mystery, at least to me, is how Jerome Voelker, 23, who was lying on the sofa, managed to sleep through the entire incident. If you have ever been around a .45 when it's fired, you'll know it's loud.  I suspect, and this in only a hunch, that alcohol was somehow involved.

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Literary diversions

Aldous Huxley, July 20, 1952
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King/Drew--1975

"Horror stories implying neglect and incompetence, especially by nursing personnel, are heard regularly."

"We all came with such high hopes. Can we provide high-quality healthcare in the ghetto? I'm not sure. It's very spotty so far."

"I have never seen so many sick people. We never catch up."

"We've got difficulties, but nothing we can't handle. We've come a long way."

Times staff writer Harry Nelson did a terrific job with this story. He captures the challenges, the hopes and the incredible frustrations of King/Drew. And this was 32 years before it lost federal funding. Take the time to read this story. It's worth the effort.

The Times, March 23, 1975.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Inklings of Camelot

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1957_kennedy_lawford Aug. 11, 1957
Princeton, N.J.

I've intentionally avoided politics so far, but hindsight is a wonderful way to judge 50-year-old attempts to forecast the future, in this case, the 1960 presidential election.

Let's see how George Gallup did with the Democrats.

The front-runner for most of 1957 was Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, followed by Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the eventual winner. Although Kennedy had a slight lead in June, Kefauver began and ended the year as the top Democratic candidate, according to Gallup.

In February, Kefauver led Kennedy among all Democratic voters 49% to 38%, Gallup said. (Among Republicans, Vice President Richard Nixon outpolled Sen. William F. Knowland of California 63% to 23%). The problem with Kennedy, Gallup found, was that he did not have national prominence--26% of Democrats said they didn't know who he was.

In June, the two men traded places, with Kennedy over Kefauver 50% to 39%. Gallup again found that Kennedy lacked national recognition--among Democrats, 28% didn't know who Kennedy was.

By August, however, Kefauver was back on top, although by a closer margin (Kefauver 29% to Kennedy's 23%). The remaining six candidates were:

More important, Kennedy and Kefauver were almost evenly matched among independent voters (25% vs. 24%), Gallup found.

Although Kefauver led Kennedy 26% to 19% in November, the ultimate tests, at least for our purposes, came in August 1957.

Kennedy easily defeated Knowland in a hypothetical presidential race, 51% to 37%, Gallup found.

As for a hypothetical race against Nixon, Kennedy was the winner 48% to 43%, Gallup found. And as Gallup noted, Nixon prevailed slightly in every part of the country except the South, which handed Kennedy a huge margin of 64% to 25%.

The popular vote, as reported by The Times on Nov. 11, 1960: 50.2% for Kennedy, 49.8% for Nixon. It was the closest election since 1888, The Times said.

To be continued...

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The Nielsens--add 1

What was "Gunsmoke?"

Oh don't do this to me.

OK, kids. "Gunsmoke" was an incredibly popular TV show that went off the air in . . . 1975. (What? Could this be right?  Surely it wasn't that long ago). It was something called a "Western," which was the staple of TV programming in the 1950s and what we had before "Star Trek" was invented. In fact "Star Trek" was originally conceived as a knockoff of another Western and was pitched as (Lord help me) " 'Wagon Train' to the stars."

No, I'm serious.

"Gunsmoke" was set in Dodge City and based on a radio show (Don't ask. We're not going there.)  and starred James Arness. He was "the giant carrot" in "The Thing."  No, the original in glorious black and white, not John Carpenter's "The Thing." (Who is John Carpenter? Oh we're never going to get through this. You know, John "Halloween" and "Escape From L.A." Carpenter?). Arness is also in "Them!" That's the movie about giant ants attacking L.A. Make that giant flying ants.
 
The main characters were Marshal Matt Dillon (Arness), Doc (Milburn Stone) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who ran the Long Branch Saloon. For a while, Dillon had a deputy named Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, who limped and for many years anybody who limped was nicknamed Chester.
 
True confession, kids. I never liked "Gunsmoke" and quit watching when Weaver left the show because he was replaced by Festus (Ken Curtis), an incredibly annoying, obnoxious hillbilly who was apparently intended to provide comic relief. By that time I'd already switched to "Maverick." 

What was "Maverick?"
 
Oh you kids these days.

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Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names

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1957_0810_rushmore Aug. 10-15, 1957
Los Angeles


In testimony that was at times as colorful as its red and yellow covers, the Confidential magazine trial continued with an appearance by its former editor in proceedings that were all the more interesting because of celebrities who were trying to avoid appearing.

One of the more prominent reluctant witnesses was Tab Hunter, who ultimately did not testify but earned his way into the headlines by trying to escape publicity.

Hunter was the subject of a September 1955 article implying that he was gay. His plea was that because the article was not part of the prosecution's case against Confidential his testimony was unnecessary. Defense attorney Arthur J. Crowley's strategy was to subpoena as many stars as possible to prove that Confidential's stories were accurate and said he needed Hunter because he wouldn't know until the trial got underway whose testimony might be required.

Although Errol Flynn, below right, came to Los Angeles in hopes of testifying against the magazine, many celebrities left town to avoid being called.  "We've been covering certain nightclubs and premieres," in hopes of serving subpoenas, said former LAPD Officer Fred Otash, a private detective often employed by Confidential. "Some of these people are lying pretty low."

The main witness for the prosecution was Howard Rushmore, a former staffer of the Communist Daily Worker and onetime member of the Communist Party who became editor of Confidential in October 1954.

Rushmore testified that Confidential publisher Robert Harrison hired him out of frustration because the magazine's stories weren't racy enough.

"Mr. Harrison told me our stories were too tame," Rushmore testified. "He said we needed stories that would make our readers whistle and say: 'I never knew that before.' "

1957_08_15_confidential_flynn The first task was to get scandalous material. Rushmore said Harrison didn't like the stories submitted by Los Angeles newspaper reporters because they were too tame. Instead, Rushmore was to develop a stable of informants who could provide a higher caliber of dirt. I've already looked at Ronnie Quillan's checkered career as a Confidential informant, but the main source of information was Francesca de Scaffa, an actress who was briefly the third wife of actor Bruce Cabot. Rushmore described De Scaffa as "our chief Hollywood source."   

"She said she had access to almost every home in Hollywood and she could get a lot of stories," Rushmore testified. "She said she would get material even if it involved affairs for her with male subjects."

However, De Scaffa proved unreliable, Rushmore said. "When an article based on her information resulted in a lawsuit, she changed her original story and admitted that she had not been present," he testified. "This gave me concern as to her reliability."

(To complicate matters, De Scaffa attempted suicide in May 1957 while hiding in Mexico City to avoid the Confidential trial. She was eventually deported to Cuba as "an undesirable visitor," The Times said).

In many cases, the details were unimportant, Rushmore said. "Harrison often overruled his attorneys on the matter of whether articles were too dangerous to print and expressed the opinion that in the case of film people articles could be printed without documentary proof," The Times said.

To be continued.

Note: According to Who's Who in France, De Scaffa married French envoy and politician Raymond Offroy, who died in 2003.

(I suppose you are wondering why The Times used Marilyn Monroe in a Page 1 headline on a story that barely mentioned her. So am I. Like many articles in Proquest, this story is incomplete because it changed between editions. Sometimes the jump from Page 1 is lost or in other cases all that remains is the jump of a story. In this case, Monroe is mentioned in the lede and nowhere else. Such are the mixed rewards of research. Bonus fact: On Aug. 1, 1957, Monroe, who was married to playwright Arthur Miller, was rushed to Doctors Hospital in New York, where she suffered a miscarriage.)

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The Nielsens

1957_gunsmoke Aug. 9, 1957
Los Angeles

Top shows for the first two weeks of July 1957:

  1. "Gunsmoke"
  2. "The Ed Sullivan Show"
  3. "The $64,000 Question"
  4. "I've Got a Secret"
  5. "Playhouse 90"
  6. "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (reruns)
  7. "The Lineup" (reruns)
  8. "20th Century-Fox Hour"
  9. "What's My Line"
  10. "Twenty-One"

The All-Star baseball game (American League 6, National League 5 ) was the top-rated show for the period, with 12,896,000 TV sets tuned in, The Times said.

TV writer Cecil Smith noted that only one NBC program--the game show "Twenty-One"--was in the top 10. He attributed the poor showing to the fact that the network had recently announced 55% of its fall shows would be new, including programs starring Eddie Fisher, George Gobel, Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, Jane Wyman and Gisele MacKenzie, plus "The Court of Last Resort" based on a series by Erle Stanley Gardner, a sitcom starring Joan Caulfield titled "Sally" and three unidentified westerns.

I have to admit, even I don't recognize all of these shows. "The Lineup," for example, is nothing I recall, nor do I remember the "20th Century-Fox Hour."

About "Twenty-One." In early 1957, the shows featured a bright fellow named Charles Van Doren. Maybe you've heard of him.

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