Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line XIII



Large ImageI have ceased blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.” Wolfe uses the “Laura” format, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks. Now, I am taking a few requests before wrapping up the project. Today, we’ll continue with our examination of Page 218 at the request of Mary Pacios.

Recall that we were dissecting this paragraph. (I notice that blogger renumbered the paragraphs in transferring it from Microsoft Word. How weird. There are times when Word’s automatic formatting causes more trouble than it’s worth when it can’t guess what you want to do).

1. Otash “had been ensconced at the California Club, where he kept the distinguished residents and power brokers of the city under surveillance for Ray Pinker and the Gangster Squad. According to Otash, it was at his California Club suite that Norman Chandler rendezvoused with women who were often brought there by his playboy friend, actor Arthur Lake, who was on Brenda Allen’s “A” list. Although Dorothy Chandler did not care for Lake because of his licentious lifestyle, Lake was one of the few people Norman was close to. They had been best friends for many years, and Norman had been best man at Arthur Lake’s wedding to Patricia Davies Van Clive [Cleve], who was said to be the niece of actress Marion Davies.

2. Arthur Lake had first met Elizabeth Short in 1944 at the Hollywood Canteen. Both their names had been found in the Bauerdorf diary, and Lake admitted that he knew Elizabeth when he was brought in by the Sheriff’s Department for questioning.


3. If Arthur James was correct—that Elizabeth Short had been pregnant when she was murdered, and the father of the unborn child was Norman Chandler—it would explain the extraordinary efforts by the Chandler faction at City Hall to cover up the secret circumstances of the horrendous crime

Recall that we dumped Paragraph 3, because we have already dealt with James’ claims. We also dumped Paragraph 2 because Elizabeth Short wasn’t in Los Angeles in 1944.




Large ImageThat leaves us with:

Private detective Fred Otash “had been ensconced at the California Club, where he kept the distinguished residents and power brokers of the city under surveillance for Ray Pinker and the Gangster Squad. According to Otash, it was at his California Club suite that Norman Chandler rendezvoused with women who were often brought there by his playboy friend, actor Arthur Lake, who was on Brenda Allen’s “A” list. Although Dorothy Chandler did not care for Lake because of his licentious lifestyle, Lake was one of the few people Norman was close to. They had been best friends for many years, and Norman had been best man at Arthur Lake’s wedding to Patricia Davies Van Clive [Cleve], who was said to be the niece of actress Marion Davies.

Let’s break this down to sentences. This is what I’m talking about when I say this book has to be checked at the molecular level.

1. Private detective Fred Otash “had been ensconced at the California Club, where he kept the distinguished residents and power brokers of the city under surveillance for Ray Pinker and the Gangster Squad.

2. According to Otash, it was at his California Club suite that Norman Chandler rendezvoused with women who were often brought there by his playboy friend, actor Arthur Lake, who was on Brenda Allen’s “A” list.

3. Although Dorothy Chandler did not care for Lake because of his licentious lifestyle, Lake was one of the few people Norman was close to.

4. They had been best friends for many years, and Norman had been best man at Arthur Lake’s wedding to Patricia Davies Van Clive [Cleve], who was said to be the niece of actress Marion Davies.


All right.

Sentence 1, Otash was ensconced at the California Club. I think Wolfe’s favorite adjectives are “illustrious” (which is how he describes Otash) or “prominent,” which is how he describes everybody else). Well, no. Otash was still in uniform. How do we know?

The Times refers to Patrolman F. Otash and his partner H.A. Clark on Nov. 23, 1945, “Penny Fishing in Wishing Well Turns Out All Wet.”




Large ImageA Feb. 16, 1946, story headlined “Attorney Killed by Bludgeon in Terrific Fight” refers to Otash and partner E.R. Barrett. This is a famous case, by the way, involving the vicious murder of a gay attorney named William H. Bonsall, who was found naked in his driveway, beaten to death with a six-foot pipe and a brass desk calendar.

And on June 17, 1947, The Times reported that Officer Otash recognized a neighbor’s pistol as one that had been stolen after he gave it to a friend. At that time, Otash was not ensconced at the California Club, but near Patricia Cox’s home at 1617 N. Cahuenga. Note, Dahlia fans, that this is after the murder of Elizabeth Short.

Finally, on Sept. 1, 1949, The Times reports that Officer Otash arrested a man after seeing him shoplift a spoon in Hollywood and discovered the man was a heroin addict.

So much for any truthfulness about Officer Otash. And Otash’s claim that he and a partner beat up Johnny Stompanato, took his clothes and dumped him in the Hollywood Hills? Show me the pictures, Freddy. I don’t believe a word of it.

But we’re not done with Sentence 1. This mumbo-jumbo about Ray Pinker and the Gangster Squad is nonsense. Ray Pinker was head of the crime lab and wouldn’t be assigning anybody to perform surveillance and he certainly wouldn’t have been working with the Gangster Squad unless they called him out for some reason on a case.

Well, if Otash wasn’t doing surveillance at the California Club, I don’t suppose he could have seen Arthur Lake bringing Brenda Allen’s finest to rendezvous with Norman Chandler. So much for Sentence 2.

But wait. Where exactly does Wolfe get this purported connection between Norman Chandler and Arthur Lake?

Note Sentence 3: Although Dorothy Chandler did not care for Lake because of his licentious lifestyle, Lake was one of the few people Norman was close to.

To the end notes, Watson, and hurry!

Holmes! An interview with Fred Otash in 1990.

Well, Watson, the California Death Index says he was still alive, so theoretically possible, at least. Although given Otash’s track record and his claim that he beat up Johnny Stompanato, I wouldn’t take anything he said without a fair amount of checking.

Just for fun (fun being a relative term for a total research drudge), let’s pull two of the main secondary sources on The Times and the Chandlers: David Halberstam’s “The Powers That Be” and “Thinking Big,” by Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolf.

How much do you want to bet Halberstam doesn’t say a word about Norman Chandler’s best amigo and skirt-chasing compadre Arthur Lake?

Gosh. Somehow Halberstam, no slouch as an investigative reporter, seems to have missed this goodie. I know, let’s see if Halberstam mentions Elizabeth Short and how she was carrying Norman Chandler’s love child.

You want to guess how much Halberstam says about the Black Dahlia?

Zero.

OK, Let’s go to “Thinking Big.” I would expect this to be a little more fertile territory, since it’s fairly antagonistic toward The Times. This 603-page book is a little hard to find—in fact Wolfe didn’t consult it, oddly enough—but it is exhaustively researched. The bibliography runs 33 pages, and the authors say that it’s abridged!

Want to bet how much they say about Arthur Lake?

Nada.

Elizabeth Short?

Nada.

Black Dahlia?

Nada.

Fred Otash?

Nada.

OK, now I’ll really get into really dicey territory, William G. Bonelli’s “Billion-Dollar Blackjack.” Bonelli was the Vincent A. Carter of the 1950s, with this self-published (note: the Civic Research Press) attack on the Los Angeles Times. Wolfe at least lists this book in his bibliography, unlike “Thinking Big.”

In turning through “Blackjack” at random, we find on Page 206 that Bonelli is complaining that the Chandlers hated Fletcher Bowron, the mayor from 1938 to 1953, because they couldn’t control him. Quite the opposite view of the grand Chandler conspiracy outlined in “Black Dahlia Files,” isn’t it?

Oh my! We find the Bonelli book most unhelpful in Wolfe’s attempt to tar the Chandlers and the LAPD with corruption. Get this:

Page 208:

“Bowron put an end to police-hoodlum deals. The bookies went to jail or out of business. The gambling houses were closed. The slot machines were driven beyond the city limits. The brothels disappeared.

“Bowron reformed the civil service administration which had been turned into a job-selling agency by the previous administration. He put an end to the sale of zoning exceptions and variations.

“In fifteen years in office, Bowron met the day-to-day problems that arose. He kept the city government clean. He increased city services to meet the needs of a constantly growing city.”

I have to say, most authors would find it a challenge to make a portrait of pervasive vice and corruption out of that.

Let’s dig through this some more to see if there’s anything about Brenda Allen. Or Elizabeth Short. Or Arthur Lake.

Any bets on what’s in Bonelli’s index?

On Arthur Lake?

Nothing.

On Elizabeth Short?

Nothing.

On Brenda Allen?

Zilch.

Now I just took a few minutes and scanned every page of Bonelli’s book. There is no shortage of derogatory material about the Chandlers and an abundance of attacks on Norman Chandler. But as far as womanizing? Knowing Arthur Lake? Brenda Allen? Elizabeth Short?

Not a single word.

As far as I know, this is the most vicious, personal and vindictive attack ever made on The Times, And yes, it’s terribly biased, in a league with Carter’s “Rogue Cops” or Charles Stoker’s “Thicker ‘n’ Thieves.” But there’s nothing about the Black Dahlia, Arthur Lake, Brenda Allen, etc. etc. Believe me, Bonelli wouldn’t have held it back, either.

Let me wrap up by contrasting this

Page 218

“If Arthur James was correct—that Elizabeth Short had been pregnant when she was murdered, and the father of the unborn child was Norman Chandler—it would explain the extraordinary efforts by the Chandler faction at City Hall to cover up the secret circumstances of the horrendous crime.”

With this, by the Chandlers' most ardent enemy in print:

“Blackjack,” Page 208

“In fifteen years in office, Bowron met the day-to-day problems that arose. He kept the city government clean. He increased city services to meet the needs of a constantly growing city.”

“They [the Chandlers] wanted Bowron to act in their interest. He was congenitally unable to do so.”

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Softbank bb Corp. of Japan (219.13.121.103)

Jones Day Reavis & Pogue (168.98.32.42)

Bartlesville, Okla., Public Library (164.58.98.14)

I’ll bet you thought I forgot about Sentence 4, Norman Chandler being best man at Arthur Lake’s wedding.

What’s this? Arthur Lake married Patricia Van Cleve at Hearst Castle? Gee, I’m sure rival publisher Norman Chandler felt so welcome there!

Oops!

Hurry back!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home