Saturday, March 11, 2006

Here We Go!

Spring Street, Los Angeles, California

Check back often!

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Location Sleuth, "A Mighty Wind"

Hey look! That’s the Orpheum Theater on Broadway in Los Angeles, not Carnegie Hall.

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Blogging the Wolfe Book, Slasher Flick

I have my search engines set to scour the Internet for material related to the Black Dahlia and this morning discovered yet another slasher version of the Elizabeth Short case. Think nudity and blood. It is a shame to see such talent wasted, but proves my contention that Hollywood is incapable of telling the story of Elizabeth Short without reducing it to sex and gore.

Where was I? Ah yes. I am blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.” Wolfe is using the “Laura” format in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the story is told through flashbacks. We’re at the point where we are exploring Elizabeth Short’s mid- to late teens, and have found a particularly nasty bit of fiction in which Wolfe has identified Mary Pacios, author of “Childhood Shadows” as “Mary Hernon.”

I had to take a day off to process the memorial to Otis Chandler and am in the middle of taking a poll to decide whether I should continue this time-consuming little project. So far, nobody is begging me to quit.

Page 56

This book is such junk.

OK, here we go:

“Elizabeth found that the sunshine in Vallejo, California, was often obscured by fog and the Bay area was a long way from the glittering glamour of movieland. She tried to persuade her father to take her south to Los Angeles for a visit, but Cleo thought her movie star dreams were foolish.”

Now there is absolutely no basis in reality for this. Obviously Wolfe is building up Elizabeth Short as a star-struck young woman (no shortage of them in the 1940s—or now, for that matter). Let’s see where he got it.

My dear Holmes, not the end notes again!

Watson, don’t complain. Research is rarely pretty.

Ha! Not attributed to anyone. Wolfe is simply making things up. Even John Gilmore’s “Severed” (25% mistakes and 50% fiction) doesn’t have the nerve to channel this fabricated scene—or maybe it just didn’t occur to him.

Page 57

Well, now this is an interesting blend of fact and fiction. Wolfe says that according to the district attorney’s files on the Black Dahlia case, Detectives Harry Hansen and Finis Brown called on Cleo Short after Elizabeth was killed and found him in a drunken stupor. That’s true

But what’s next is totally wrong. So wrong that I won’t entirely untangle it.

Wolfe says Cleo and Elizabeth stayed in Vallejo for a few days (he gets the people wrong) before they (so far, true)—accompanied by “a Mrs. Yanke” went to Los Angeles. In reality, Mrs. Yanke stayed in Vallejo and lent her apartment to Cleo and Elizabeth Short.

Not the end notes again!

Watson, the end notes are our friends.

Ha. Attributed to Harry Hansen’s grand jury statement in the district attorney’s files. Some of it is there. But much more isn’t. For example, Harry Hansen never discussed Mrs. Yanke in his grand jury testimony. Of course, the only people who would know that are the few of us who have seen the files.

Did I mention I inventoried and catalogued the Black Dahlia files?

So where does Wolfe find this business about Mrs. Yanke if it isn’t where he says it is? Hmmmm. Could it be in the document that Wolfe doesn’t want to acknowledge “Movements of Elizabeth Short Prior to June 1, 1946” because it trashes his Bugsy Siegel scenario. And if that gets trashed, he has no book?

Oh let’s check.

Holmes! Why are you never wrong?!

Here’s the beginning of

Prior to June 1, 1946

Sometime in 1942 E. and her mother, Phoebe Short (1) saw the father, Cleo Short (19) on the street in Medford, Mass., at which time Cleo Short (19) had a conversation with E., according to Mr. Short (19). Later, E. corresponded with him and wrote to him that she would like to come out to California and live with him and care for him. E. did come in December of 1942 and stayed with him for a few days when he was living on Nebraska Street with Mrs. Yankee (20) [note that this document was dictated and transcribed, so many names are spelled phonetically—quite annoying for a researcher] in Vallejo, Calif. E. then went with her father to 1028½ W. 36th St., Los Angeles, and there lived at Mrs. Yankee’s place for approximately three weeks. Mrs. Monte (21) who lived in the rear of this address saw E. there at the time.

In other words, Wolfe knows without question that what he’s putting forth is nonsense because he has the evidence in his hand of where Elizabeth Short really was. But like the three card monte swindler, he’s going to keep it hidden, figuring that nobody will ever know the difference.

Busted again.

And even worse:

“According to Mrs. Monte, Cleo was an alcoholic and was drunk most of the time, and he and his daughter had many arguments over money and his drinking.”

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Wolfe just say that Cleo was a churchgoing Baptist who berated Elizabeth about her trampy lifestyle? Are we supposed to have forgotten that little nugget? From way back on Page 51:

“It was said that Elizabeth had begun dating a number of servicemen, and Cleo complained that she was seeing a different boyfriend every evening and staying out very late—sometimes all night. A churchgoing Baptist, Cleo admonished Elizabeth for living a licentious life.”

So how did Cleo go from being an abstemious Baptist to total sot in five pages? And here’s an even bigger laugh:

“While in Los Angeles, Elizabeth had met “Chuck,” a sergeant in the Sixth Armored Division stationed at Camp Cooke, north of Santa Barbara. Mrs. Monte recalled that on January 29, 1943, following an argument over her father’s drunkenness, Elizabeth had left word that she was heading north to Camp Cooke with the sergeant.”

There’s lots of ways to disprove this: Mrs. Monte never said a word about “Sgt. Chuck.” In fact, police were never even able to locate “Sgt. Chuck,” although he appears rather prominently in “Severed.”

But let’s have more fun. How much do you want to bet that the 6th Armored Division wasn’t at Camp Cooke in January 1943?

Why Holmes! The 6th Armored Division didn’t arrive at Camp Cooke until March 1943!

Watson, some people can do research and some people cannot. It’s that simple. If our “Sgt. Chuck” even existed, he would have been in balmy, beautiful Freda, Calif., in early 1943. (Here’s a satellite picture of Rice Army Air Field, which was nearby).

And for even more fun (OK fun for a total research drudge) let’s see how Steve Hodel handled this phase of the story in “Black Dahlia Avenger.” Oh my, it’s even worse.

“Black Dahlia Avenger,” Page 18.

“In January 1943, Elizabeth traveled to Santa Barbara, California, where she applied for and was hired at the post exchange at the Camp Cooke military base. [California geography certainly puzzles some people doesn’t it?] Her employment there was brief, after which she left to seek her father, who, she discovered, was living close by in Vallejo, California. She stayed with her father briefly, but both were uncomfortable with the living arrangements and she returned to Santa Barbara in September 1943.”

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Argyle, Texas (

Inktomi Corp. (

O/S breakdown:

Some flavor of Windows: 84%
Mac OSX: 14%
Unknown: 2%

Hurry back!

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Otis Chandler Tribute

These are audio files I made of the in-house memorial to Otis Chandler (at right with his 1937 V-12 Packard, originally owned by Bette Davis), conducted March 7, 2006. These are field recordings and the audio quality isn’t great. But I am offering them for their historic value. Tom Johnson, the moderator, spoke throughout the ceremony. Each segment lasts an hour.

Part 1:

Speakers are Jeff Johnson; Tom Johnson; Harry Chandler; Cathleen and Michael Chandler; Bill Thomas; Anthony Day; Paul Conrad; and Jean Sharley Taylor.

Part 2:

David Laventhol; Richard Schlossberg III; Francis O’Toole; William Niese; Shelby Coffey III; Bill Boyarsky; John Carroll; and Bettina Chandler.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

embedded media player coding

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Mystery Woman

I’m 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 has begun with the butchered, anonymous body and is telling the story in flashbacks—at this point, we’re at Elizabeth Short’s mid- to late teens and she’s about to be reunited with her father, Cleo, who abandoned the family years earlier.

So far, the vote on continuing the blog is entirely favorable, with one request for information about my theory (sorry, I don’t want to mix that with the Wolfe material) and one suggestion for an ad revenue stream. Thanks crime buddy!

I’ve made a podcast of this session just to give the idea of what it’s like doing this in real time. The audio quality is lousy and there’s an annoying hum. And mostly it’s the sound of me typing. Feel free to ignore it. I would. The music playing in the background is Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony under Mark Wigglesworth.

The image, by the way, is the young Dorothy L. Sayers, mystery novelist and Christian dramatist, who could write circles around Agatha Christie on the best day Christie ever had. I would gladly trade every Hercule Poirot story ever written for one Peter Whimsey.

Page 56

“A dozen years after Cleo had vanished and was presumed dead, Phoebe received a letter from him. She was shocked to learn that Cleo was alive and working in the shipyards in Northern California.”

Very well, Watson, to the end notes.

Why my dear Holmes, it’s from John Gilmore’s “Severed,” Page 26.

Now according to Los Angeles County district attorney’s files (“Movements of Elizabeth Short”) Phoebe Short and Elizabeth were walking in Medford and ran into Cleo. Remember that this book is titled “The Black Dahlia Files.”

Oh, but we’re not going to actually use the Black Dahlia files. Why not?

This is actually pretty funny. Wolfe can’t reveal this document because it completely contradicts his nonsense theory about where Elizabeth Short was in the 1940s (remember “Very little is known about Elizabeth’s time in Miami”?) so he’s stuck with “Severed.” It’s much easier to be honest, isn’t it?

Oh dear, oh dear. Wolfe says:

“Mary Hernon, a girl who lived next door to the Shorts, remembered that all Elizabeth could talk about during the week before she left for California was Hollywood. “I asked her if she was going to be a movie star,” Mary recalled. “she laughed and told me that’s what she hoped to do, and if you wanted to be a movie star, it wasn’t going to happen to you in Medford. She’d have to go to Hollywood.” An so, on an icy day in December 1942, Elizabeth Short boarded a train in Boston and departed for the land of sunshine—and shadow.”

Now for our source material in “Severed”:

Mary, the little girl next door to the Shorts, remembers the week Betty left. “She was all dressed up in something light blue, and she took my hand as we crossed Salem Street and headed toward the gas station. I remember the station manager stopping his work to come over and talk to her. I guess I stood there shifting from one foot to the other as they chit-chatted and he made a date to see her before she left for California. She said something about Hollywood and as we walked to United Farmers, I asked her if she was going to be a movie star. She laughed and told me that’s what she hoped to do and if you wanted to be a movie star, it wasn’t going to happen to you in Medford. She’d have to go to Hollywood.”

(Oops, I owe Donald H. Wolfe an apology. He got the item about Elizabeth Short replacing a Tremont theater usher who had been drafted from “Severed,” Page 24. Of course it’s not true but then that’s the case for most of “Severed.” And also note that “Severed” doesn’t identify the theater as the Tremont.)

Here we go. I found our mystery girl: “Severed,” Page 25

“Betty would often take long walks by herself, or she would walk and talk with Muriel or the neighbor’s little girl, Mary.”

Now for fun, let’s look at “Childhood Shadows.”

Uh-oh. Mary Hernon is really Mary Pacios!

Don’t tell me you’re surprised.

“Childhood Shadows,” Page 20

On one of our walks, we stopped at the gas station that had replaced the vacant field across Salem Street. The manager stopped what he was doing and came right over to Bette [Pacios’ version of Elizabeth Short’s name]. I can remember standing there and shifting from one foot to the other as the two grownups exchanged a few words, laughing and planning to meet later that night.

Afterward, Bette told me she wasn’t going to Florida. “This year I’m going to California.”

I figured that Bette was going there to be a movie star.

“Well, that’s what I am hoping,” she said. “Not right away. It takes time. But if you want to break into the movies it can’t happen in Florida… or in Medford.”

Now making up names for people is veering dangerously close to “Severed,” which is full of people who don’t exist and things that never happened. I can’t imagine where Wolfe got the name Hernon or why he didn’t identify the woman as Mary Pacios, since he is clearly basing this on “Severed” and “Childhood Shadows.” This is foul work, folks. Did Wolfe honestly think nobody would check this?

I guess he did. Oops.

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Sydney, Australia (

Los Angeles Public Library ( Librarians rule! Windows 2000? Upgrade!

Leavenworth, Kans. ( Windows 98? Upgrade!

Brea, Calif. ( One of my most loyal visitors.

Reston, Va. ( Windows ME and IE 5.5 Upgrade!

Hurry back!

Note: I am experimenting with Amazon ads. The first one is supposed to be for Dorothy Sayers items. However it appears to be defaulting to other items.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Comments, Please

Large ImageI'm waiting.

The vote so far:

Keep going: 10 (1 via e-mail).

Stop the insanity! 0

Disclaimer: I'm not a Susan Powter fan. In fact, she drives me crazy.

Special note: Comments are moderated. In other words, nothing gets posted without my prior approval. Anything off-point or extraneous isn't making the cut.

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Blogging the Wolfe Book, Bust of a Man

I have been 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.”

At this point in the story we are deeply mired in Elizabeth Short’s childhood and have just caught Wolfe in an incredible lie:

“Very little is known about Elizabeth’s time in Miami.”

Of course the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files include a detailed list of where Elizabeth Short lived and worked, including her exact addresses, so this is a through-and-through lie.

Page 54

Let’s see where Wolfe goes with this. I expect the worst.


“A former Miami police officer
[note to ReganBooks proofreaders, Miami is not Miami Beach] believes Elizabeth may have initially stayed in the home of a relative of the Short family—Philip Short, who was a lieutenant in the Miami Police Department in the early 1940s and was said to be connected with Meyer Lansky and Syndicate in the Miami area.”

Oh, so, so, desperate for a mob connection, are we? And what is the source for this bit of fiction?

Lead on, Watson.

Not again, Holmes!

Hm. Retired Miami Officer James Newton, 2003. And who precisely is James Newton, a name with which I am not familiar? Let’s see if he is ever further identified.

OK, now before I even start digging, look at all the things we don’t know about James Newton. He’s only introduced as “a retired Miami police officer,” so we don’t know when he retired, his rank, what his assignments were or anything else. For that matter, we only get his name if we go to the end notes. Otherwise he could be another Herman Willis, the fictional detective in John Gilmore’s “Severed.” He could have served from 1970 to 1995, for instance, and not know anything more about Elizabeth Short than Joe Six-Pack.

Any bets before I look as to whether we get any of this crucial information?

To Amazon’s “search inside” feature.

Just as I thought. Not a single word. There are times when I hate being right. This is bad work, folks.

Hm. Wolfe says Elizabeth Short had modeling jobs in Florida. Attributed to an interview with Mary Pacios. I’ve never read anything about that in the original sources.

Page 55

Man, Wolfe is a bold as they come:

“Returning to Medford in the spring of 1942, Elizabeth worked as an usherette at the Tremont, one of her favorite Boston movie palaces, where she replaced a young man who had been drafted.”

First of all, even most superficial research reveals that the Tremont was an old, second-run movie house and there’s nothing to indicate she replaced a man who had been drafted. This is just blue skying some details that nobody will ever check—OK, almost nobody.

In fact, Elizabeth Short worked at the Tremont in 1940. Very poor work on the part of Mr. Wolfe.

Time to smear some conveniently dead people: Elizabeth Short and Donald Griffin, who apparently owned a cafe in Medford, Mass., in a story attributed to Eleanor Kurz.

Oh Holmes, not again!

Watson, research is not pretty.

Pacios’ “Childhood Shadows,” Page 53. Gilmore’s “Severed,” Page 22

Ready for some torture?


“Eleanor Kurz, a friend of Dottie’s [Elizabeth Short’s older sister] saw Betty often before the war, usually in the restaurant on Salem Street across from City Hall. Mr. Griffin, the owner, was in his fifties, short and stocky, with thinning grey hair, and he wore gold-rimmed glasses.

The restaurant had only a counter with stools. “I remember I hadn’t seen Betty in a while,” Eleanor says, “and she was sitting very straight on the stool farthest from the door, dressed to the minute in a leopard fur coat and hat. She made me feel like a country bumpkin. I thought to myself, Dottie’s kid sister sure has grown up!"

Eleanor said something about not recognizing Betty and how great she looked. “Some people said that Mr. Griffin was Betty’s boyfriend, but I think it was just that he wanted to help her in a fatherly way.”

“Betty had her legs crossed, and she wore dark stockings and suede pumps and a lot of makeup by Medford standards. She was in her teens but looked older—sophisticated.”

Next, “Childhood Shadows”: (Quoting Eleanor).

“Last time I saw Bette [remember, this is how Pacios refers to Elizabeth Short] was in 1941, just before the war, at Griffin’s across Salem Street from our house. Do you remember it? A small square ice cream parlor, it later became a fried chicken place. When you walked in, the stools and counter were to the right. I remember Bette sitting at the stool wearing a leopard fur coat and hat. Dressed to the minute. Sophisticated. I was very impressed! She was so striking! And I thought ‘Dottie’s kid sister has sure grown up! I felt like a country bumpkin. Bette had just come back from a trip. She was very up. Looked like she could have been a movie star.”

“I thought she might be going with Mr. Griffin,” my [Pacios’] mother said. “Bette was in a restaurant across the street all the time. I think she had a father complex. I never saw her with a man, except once on the trolley, coming home from work. She was with an older man.”

Note: Mrs. Pacios only saw Elizabeth Short with a man one time. But thought she was going with Mr. Griffin. Isn't that rather a leap?

Now what does Wolfe do with all of this?

“When Elizabeth returned to Medford, she was no longer the innocent schoolgirl who had reminded Mary Pacios of Snow White. Eleanor Kurz, a friend of Elizabeth’s older sisters, Dottie and Ginnie, remembered that when Elizabeth returned from Miami, she wore heavy makeup and would often hang around a popular cafeteria on Salem Street owned by Donald Griffin. Elizabeth had only recently returned from Florida in 1942 when Eleanor spotted her in Mr. Griffin’s cafeteria.

“I remember I hadn’t seen Betty in a while and she was sitting very straight on a corner stool furthest [note to ReganBooks, it’s farthest. Even “Severed” has it right] from the door, dressed to the minute in a leopard fur coat and hat,” Eleanor recalled. “Betty had her legs crossed and she wore dark stockings and suede pumps and a lot of makeup by Medford standards. She was in her teens, but she looked older—sophisticated. She made me feel like a country bumpkin. I thought to myself, Dottie’s kid sister sure has grown up!”

Although Mr. Griffin was quite a bit older than Elizabeth, Eleanor recalled there were rumors circulating in Medford that Mr. Griffin and Elizabeth were having an affair. “Some people said that Mr. Griffin was Betty’s boyfriend,” Eleanor stated, “but I think it was just that he wanted to help her in a fatherly way.”

Notice that Wolfe has transposed this incident to after the beginning of World War II. I don’t know if this is accidental or intentional. And of course, Griffin’s little cafe, which didn’t even have tables, gets expanded into a cafeteria. Most of all, Wolfe dives for the bait on Elizabeth and Griffin having an affair.

And of course he doesn’t tell us that Eleanor Kurz is Mary Pacios’ sister.

Oh, oops.

It would be nice to know more about poor old Mr. Griffin, but my archives are a bit thin on Medford city directories and I’d have to check them at the Los Angeles Public Library. Out of the question for this little exercise.

Here’s the bottom line. Everybody’s talking about how sophisticated Elizabeth Short looked when she came home from Florida. OK, here’s one of the pictures from Miami Beach that’s all over the Net. You tell me if this is the image of a femme fatale.

Nope, this is what everybody imagines when they think of the Black Dahlia: Stephen Peringer’s illustration for James Ellroy’s novel.

Now here’s the deal. This blog is incredibly time-consuming. I don’t really need to go any further to prove my point. I’ve caught Wolfe in any number of fabrications and distortions. I have passed the number of pages that correspond to my age, so I’m in fair territory. I’m going to throw this blog open for comments for a week to see if there is enough interest in continuing. I have lots of other irons in the fire, like the upcoming rollout of the successor to the 1947 Project, that are much more fun—and more satisfying.

So, if there’s interest in continuing, I will. Otherwise I’m going to hang it up. I guarantee you, the book is not going to suddenly improve.

Shot out to:

Schifferstadt, Germany (

Intercontinental Fragrance, Houston (

Bexar County Information Services, San Antonio, Texas (

Hollywood Production Center (

Let me know!

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Location Sleuth, "Day of the Locust"

Hey look who’s in “Day of the Locust”: What’s his face from “Ghost Busters.”

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Blogging the Wolfe Book, Paint by Numbers

I’m 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.”

Page 52

Wolfe is using the “Laura” format and we’re at the point in the story where we learn about Elizabeth Short’s childhood. Wolfe has dispensed with her father, Cleo Short, at least for now, and is dealing with Elizabeth Short’s childhood illnesses. The narrative about the murder investigation has gone into hibernation as the book introduces buckets of background material.

Page 53

Mary Pacios, author of “Childhood Shadows,” is described as one of Elizabeth Short’s schoolmates, but that’s not really true as Elizabeth was quite a bit older and in fact was Mary’s babysitter.

Good grief. Bob Pacios is introduced as Mary’s younger brother. He’s an older brother and served in World War II. Well, Wolfe had a 50% chance of getting that right and still goofed it up.

Page 54

Now why on earth does Wolfe do this:

“…when Elizabeth was sixteen, Phoebe made an arrangement for her to stay with ‘friends’ in Miami Beach during the winter.”

There’s absolutely no reason to set off “friends” in quote marks unless he’s trying to make some point, although I can’t imagine what it is.

Not the end notes again, Holmes!

Lead on, my dear Dr. Watson.

Hm. “Childhood Shadows,” Page 16.

Well, this is far worse than I thought. Here’s the whole quote from “Mogul”:
“Elizabeth began having asthma attacks shortly after the family moved to the walkup on Salem Street. Muriel remembered that sometimes the attacks were so bad that their mother would have to call the doctor in the middle of the night to give Elizabeth an adrenalin [note to ReganBooks’ proofreaders, that should be capitalized as it’s a trademark] shot. In February 1939, she had to be sent to Boston Hospital for an operation to clear her lungs. The doctors told Phoebe that it would be better for her daughter to be in a milder climate during the wintry months; and in 1940, when Elizabeth was sixteen, Phoebe made an arrangement for her to stay with ‘friends’ in Miami Beach during the winter. In Miami [note: Miami and Miami Beach aren’t the same, as any resident will tell you], she obtained a part-time job at a beach resort and wrote that she hadn’t had an asthma attack or cold during the entire winter.”

And here’s Wolfe’s purported source material from “Childhood Shadows.”

“That same year, Bette Short [note that Mary Pacios refers to Elizabeth Short as Bette, one of several names Elizabeth used during her brief life] turned sixteen and started traveling. Her asthma and lung problems had worsened and she developed bronchitis. Mrs. Short thought Bette might be better off in a warmer climate, away from the coldness and the dampness. She arranged for Bette to stay with family friends in Miami Beach. Bette could spend the winter there earning money as a waitress, figured Mrs. Short, and come back in the spring.”

So where on Earth did Wolfe get this stuff about the doctor making a midnight call to administer an adrenaline shot?

Let’s take a wild guess and try John Gilmore’s “Severed.” Because if it isn’t there, I can’t imagine where he got it.

Holmes! Why are you never wrong! [You know, I’m sure that’s in one of the Sherlock Holmes stories but I’ll be darned if I can find it. One of my favorite quotes, too].

What we have here, Watson, is a brief, unattributed appearance from “Severed,” Page 20.

“Says Muriel, ‘She had asthma like me and Ginnie, but sometimes she had it worse than we did. Sometimes the three of us would be sitting up all night struggling to breathe. We’d take turns sitting in the rocking chair, but when it got really bad Mama would have to call the doctor. He’d come even in the middle of the night and give us a shot of adrenaline.’ ”

Still, nothing about Boston Hospital or an operation in February 1939. I haven’t a clue where Wolfe got that; it’s certainly not in his alleged source material. This is poor, poor works, folks. Obviously, these end notes are merely window dressing that Wolfe never imagined would be verified by a research drudge.

Oh let’s have some fun and check Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger” just for the heck of it. Buried at the bottom of the pile of Dahlia books. How symbolic. Then again, I won’t let Janice Knowlton’s “Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer” in the house or it would be at the bottom of the pile. Sheesh, Hodel doesn’t even have an index entry for Medford, Mass. Well, nothing about midnight shots of adrenaline, thanks to amazon’s online search.

And you know what’s really odd? To the best of my knowledge the Shorts were so poor they didn’t have a phone, which was a luxury in 1947. Remember that when Wain Sutton of the Examiner contacted Phoebe Short to give her the song and dance about Elizabeth winning a beauty contest, he called a neighbor.

Page 54

Ho-ho! I wish crime buddy Nathan Marsak were here to lead us all in a chorus of the SLA’s slogan. Donald H. Wolfe, you are so busted!


“Very little is known about Elizabeth’s time in Miami. The family did not reveal where she stayed, what she did, or who her acquaintances had been. There were only the photos found in Elizabeth’s memory book of unidentified companions and servicemen she met.”

OK, dear readers. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s files list Elizabeth Short’s precise whereabouts in Miami Beach; where she lived and where she worked. The documents in fact, are titled: “Movements of Elizabeth Short Prior to June, 1, 1946” and “After June 1, 1946.” And of course, the people in Elizabeth Short’s scrapbooks were identified. One needn’t look any further than Wolfe’s own book, Page 86.

I swear, the man is absolutely incapable of reading what’s in front of him.

There’s certainly a reason Wolfe doesn’t want to play fair with his readers, and although I’m not positive, I imagine it’s so he can concoct some nonsense about Elizabeth Short’s time in Los Angeles, lifted right from “Severed,” which has fabricated several years’ worth of imagined events such as Elizabeth Short being a junior hostess at the Hollywood Canteen and knowing murder victim Georgette Bauerdorf. (Did I mention that “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction?)

So Wolfe is just going to pretend that awkward little list of Elizabeth Short’s jobs and residences stays well hidden.

And this book calls itself “The Black Dahlia Files.”

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Manila, Philippines (, home of the other side of the George Hodel family.

Luxembourg (

Dark Horse Comics ( Usagi Yojimbo rocks!

Greenville, SC (

University of Michigan Medical Center (

Symantec (

East Kentucky University (

Hurry back!

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Limbo

I’m 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.” At the moment we’re enmeshed in the backstory on 1940s newspapers that hasn’t transfixed anyone.

The two-minute executive summary:

After spending several days slogging through Elizabeth Short’s autopsy and pondering the absence of John Gilmore’s key source on the Black Dahlia’s purported “infantile genitalia,” the nonexistent Detective Herman Willis, we've found the late Will Fowler, former Examiner reporter and Dahlia source, played several tricks on Wolfe. We also discovered some more ties between Wolfe’s stepfather and Joseph P. Kennedy, but a troubling disinterest in saying anything about Wolfe’s Great-Uncle Bernard Baruch, one of Kennedy’s close associates.

Worst of all, we have found some random smears against Elizabeth Short in which Wolfe cites a source and then embellishes it for no apparent purpose. There are times when I wonder if the man is capable reading what’s in front of him.

Wolfe is telling the story in “Laura” format, in which the discovery of the anonymous, butchered body sets off a series of flashbacks. We’re at the point where Wolfe introduces Elizabeth Short’s father, Cleo, who is going to say she’s no good. It’ll be interesting to see how Wolfe portrays him. And of course Elizabeth Short and the murder have gotten completely lost by now, which is the problem with the “Laura” format when it comes to history. Then again, I’m not sure we can call this book “history.”

Page 50

So far Wolfe picks up the standard newspaper quotes, citing, let’s see… the Herald-Express, Mary Pacios’ “Childhood Shadows” and John Gilmore’s “Severed,” the two former writing partners reunited again.

Page 51

But aha. Here’s another gratuitous smear thrown in for some effect or other:

“It was said that Elizabeth had begun dating a number of servicemen, and Cleo complained that she was seeing a different boyfriend every evening and staying out very late—sometimes all night. A churchgoing Baptist, Cleo admonished Elizabeth for living a licentious life.”

“It” was said? Who is “It?” And what’s the source for this little factual bonbon?

Not again, my dear Holmes!

You know where to take us, Watson.

Ha! Just as I thought. We’re meant to think this is from the Herald, but there’s nothing about her staying out all night. And while the Shorts certainly attended the Baptist Church in Medford, it was only after Cleo abandoned the family. There’s no evidence that he was a regular churchgoer, although being from the South, I’m sure he had been taken to church at some point in his life. (Bonus fact, St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island was the Navy’s first nondenominational church in the West. A very cool building).

Oh this is interesting. Wolfe quotes Elizabeth Short’s youngest sister, Muriel, but I doubt very much if she spoke with him. Hm. Let’s check “Severed,” Page 18, the purported source.

Quick, Watson, to the pile of Dahlia books!

Let’s hope it’s not JonBenet Ramsey
. Nope, a perfect word for word quote from “Severed.” I think that’s a first. Of course it’s good to be careful about people who are still alive.

Page 52

Ohhhh. I don’t remember this quote.

“Unlike her sisters, Elizabeth had mood swings, emotional ups and downs. ‘She was happy one moment—sad the next,’ Phoebe said.”

OK, now so far that’s seems to be one of the standard newspaper quotes that everybody uses. But Wolfe adds this:

“I guess she was what you would call a manic-depressive.”

Ooh. This is exciting (OK, “exciting” being a relative term; exciting at least to a research drudge). Source, please!

Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 19, 1947. Any bets on whether there’s a line about manic depression before I check?

To the file cabinet, Watson. (The first thing anybody should do in tackling the Dahlia case is buy a bunch of four-drawer file cabinets. I promise, if you do the job right they’ll be jammed before you’re done).

OK, Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 19, 1947.

“Trail New Suspect in Torture Slaying.”

Guess what.

Let’s go back and check the end notes, just to be sure. Yep. Jan. 19, 1947.

Fine. Here are Phoebe Short’s actual quotes (she was interviewed in Los Angeles en route to Berkeley to stay with her oldest daughter, Virginia, until the inquest):

“If I ever get my hands on him, I believe I’d kill him myself.”

Speaking of her return here later in the week, she added:

“The worst is to come.”

In a sidebar, she says:

“Thank goodness the Los Angeles Examiner made it possible for the FBI to identify my daughter in such a short time.”

“Your quick action perhaps saved me many weeks of anxiety and anguish. I prayed that it wouldn’t be she… but it was. I can do nothing more.”

Now isn’t that a fine kettle of fish? Nothing about mood swings, and certainly nothing about being a manic-depressive.

If I were an attorney in court, I’d say it’s not there (correctly) and be done with it. But since I’m taking a scholarly approach, let’s dig up the exact quote. It’s in the Herald-Express for Jan. 18, 1947.

“Elizabeth always wanted to be an actress,” she [Phoebe Short] said. “She was ambitious and beautiful and full of life, but she had her moments of despondency. Sometimes, she would be gay and carefree one moment—then in the depths of despair another.”

That still isn’t Wolfe’s quote, but it’s what you might recall if you were trying to summarize it. Poor work all the same and there’s nothing about manic depression. That’s strictly Wolfe’s embellishment.

Here’s something really cool: A concordance to the Sherlock Holmes stories.

And a cool view from somebody's office:

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Pied Type

I’m 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.”

At this point in the story, Elizabeth Short’s body has been discovered in Leimert Park, and it has been taken to the morgue and identified. However Elizabeth Short has virtually disappeared as Wolfe bogs down in an explanation of competition between the Los Angeles newspapers in the 1940s.

Page 47

Good grief. It’s hard to believe anybody could make such a major error and state it with utter confidence:

“However, many Angelenos were aware that the identification story had already appeared in the Examiner on the previous day, and Richardson had his revenge by running an interview with FBI Bureau Chief J. Edgar Hoover the following day, congratulating the Examiner for assisting the FBI in the “spectacular identification achieved under extraordinary circumstance.”

The Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 17:


Los Angeles Times, Jan. 17:

Sex Fiend Slaying Victim Identified
by Fingerprint Records of FBI

Does Wolfe give any citation for this incredible error or did he make it on his own?

Not in the end notes. He did it on his own. I really wonder if the man is capable of reading what is put in front of him.

And while we’re on the subject, one thing that’s revealed in Elizabeth Short’s FBI files (don’t buy them for $23 on ebay; they’re free from the FBI’s website) is the bureau’s sophistication in dealing with the news media.

Hm. This looks worse than I thought.

Now here is what’s in the Examiner, Jan. 17, 1947:

“Praising the Examiner’s enterprise and the clarity of the INP [International News Photo] Soundphotos, the FBI said it considered the identification ‘an outstanding achievement.’ ”

But Elizabeth Short’s FBI file, (uncatalogued, but probably part of document 62-82627-39) includes a tear sheet of the Examiner’s story by Ray Richards, Jan. 17, 1947, that indeed quotes Hoover:

“The action of the Los Angeles Examiner in transmitting to the FBI the fingerprints of the unidentified murder victim was an excellent illustration of cooperation of the press with law enforcement.

“It is such cooperation that aids law enforcement in curbing the increase in crime.”

The article concludes: “In the FBI’s Washington records the case was [illegible] as a ‘spectacular identification’ meaning one [made] under extraordinary circumstances.’ ”

Note: That quote isn’t attributed to Hoover. Now what’s really curious is why this story ran somewhere in the Hearst empire, (we know that because we have the tear sheet) but not in the final, microfilmed edition of the Los Angeles Examiner. How incredibly odd.

Let’s press ahead. Wolfe’s talking about Aggie Underwood. The big thing in the Dahlia case is that as told in her autobiography “Newspaperwoman,” Underwood was pulled off reporting partway through the coverage to work on the city desk and then put back on the story. Let’s see of Wolfe mentions that.

Page 48

Aha, the Black Dahlia nickname. It’s about time. Wolfe gets Aggie’s version from “Newspaperwoman,” (she said she got it from homicide Detective Ray Giese), but misses Jack Smith learning the name from the drugstore in Long Beach and even worse says Underwood sent Bevo Means down to Long Beach to investigate. She was a fellow reporter at that point and wouldn’t have been sending Means anywhere.

For the record, Underwood, Means and Smith got the nickname and both afternoon papers, the Herald Express and the Daily News, used it Jan. 17, 1947.

The important thing, missing in “Mogul,” is that the Herald had come up with its own nickname, “the Werewolf Murder,” and continued favoring “Werewolf” over “the Black Dahlia,” although it used both.

End of the chapter, time for my walk.

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