Sunday, February 19, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Uncle Vern

Page 24-25

I was breezing along (“breezing” being a relative term in reading a book at the molecular level) when I came across this little bon mot tucked into a sentence:

“Angry about the threats she was receiving if she didn’t cooperate with Bugsy Siegel and his pals, on December 11, Thelma made the mistake of going to District Attorney Buron Fitts’s office and lodging a complaint against the mobster who had muscled in on her café. She had no knowledge, of course, that the District Attorney of Los Angeles was on the mob payroll and that word would soon get back to the very people who had threatened her.”

Oh? And who might be the source for this little nugget of information? Quick, Watson, to the end notes.

Humph: “Hot Toddy,” Pages 171-172, 184. Now it doesn’t take much skill to find quibbles with Andy Edmonds’ book, even without buying it, nor to discover other accounts that Todd went to the police rather than the district attorney (recall that Wolfe has the annoying little problem of mixing up city and county government).

I’m going to take a rain check for now, but it’s terribly irresponsible to make such accusations without attribution, even if it’s to a potboiler on Hollywood scandals.

Time to trot out Uncle Vern again, the disgraced prosecutor who never was.

Aha! And it is Uncle Vern who tells young Donald his tales about Thelma Todd. Oh I see, Bugsy Siegel killed Thelma Todd, did he? Uncle Vern was working in the D.A.’s office, eh? I didn’t realize the district attorney was operating out of 405 Subway Terminal Building (MU-3790) in the 1930s. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 1934).

Hm. Hamilton represented Esther M. Jones in her divorce suit against her husband? (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 10, 1935). I guess we can conclusively write off any notion that Uncle Vern was ever a prosecutor.

But what’s this? On Aug. 5, 1942, Uncle Vern (attorney Vernon R. Hamilton) was bombed with tear gas by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department because he had barricaded himself in his home and wouldn’t come out? He was put in jail? And where was this house? 407 N. Normandie? That would be nearly seven miles from South Camden Drive. Oh my! Looks like Judge Edward R. Brand found Uncle Vern in contempt for appearing in the court while he was drunk. And sent Uncle Vern to … jail?

And Uncle Vern was supposedly an attorney for the mob? Getting into the newspapers for showing up tanked in court, being gassed by the police and thrown into the graybar hotel by the judge? For the record, Jerry Giesler was Siegel’s defense attorney in the 1942 trial on charges of killing Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg and I doubt very much if Giesler would let Uncle Vern as much as carry his briefcase.

Hm. Now Wolfe gives his address as 803 N. Roxbury, a bit of a drive for Uncle Vern if he’s in his cups.

“…Bugsy Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia “Sugar” Hill, lived just behind us at 810 Linden Drive.”

The wonders of Google Earth. Notice the generous definition of "just behind."

Now Wolfe builds to Uncle Vern the disgraced prosecutor who never was, the mob mouthpiece who never was, having a key to the home on North Linden Drive and taking care of it in 1946 while Siegel and Hill were off in Las Vegas building the Flamingo.

Except for one problem. Siegel didn’t move into the home on Linden until January 1947. How do we know? Because the FBI had him under surveillance.

Her new home? Jan. 10, 1947? And just whom was Uncle Vern house-sitting for in 1946?

Uh-oh.

ps. I'm quite serious about blogging this in real time. Well-intentioned people have tried to clue me in about what's coming up next. I appreciate your concern, but please don't spoil the fun, thanks.

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