Saturday, April 15, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, The Old Spuriousity Shoppe

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. Yesterday, we examined how the document on Page 198 was faked. Today, we’ll examine Pages 213-215 at the request of Regular Anonymous Correspondent (who e-mailed me with some more pages. I hope I haven’t lost track of them).

About yesterday—faking documents is a serious charge and I did e-mail Wolfe to see if he’d care to comment. Well, I haven’t heard from him as yet and that e-mail address is the only way I have to contact him. So I rooted around ReganBooks’ website to see if I might contact someone there for a response.

And you know, I’m starting to feel sorry for them. I mean here’s a big company and they can’t even spell the name of their own senior vice president in his own press release. I mean, it’s sad, don’t you think?

I’m going to give Wolfe a few more days to respond and then I’ll see if someone at ReganBooks cares to comment.

I mean, it’s not like these pages cut themselves apart and pasted themselves together all on their own. They had to get a little help from somebody, don’t you know.

Pages 213-215

The title of this chapter is “The Control Question” and I haven’t a clue what it means. Maybe I’ll find out.

Hm. Margaret Hamilton handed out diplomas at Beverly Hills High. Gosh I hope Wolfe isn’t going to accuse HER of killing the Black Dahlia.

Ah no. Time to dredge up another CDP (conveniently dead person) or two.

Wolfe is talking about his old amigo Manny Robinson, son of actor Edward G. Robinson.

“It was through Manny that I met Arthur James at the Holiday House in Malibu. Owned by prominent artist Gerald Murphy and his wife Sara, the Holiday House stood on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and became a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities who didn’t want to be seen in public with the wrong woman—or the wrong man. Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato used to stay there, as did Marilyn Monroe, upon occasion, with a young congressman from Boston named Jack Kennedy.

“One evening in the early fifties, at a Murphy Holiday House party, Manny Robinson, Arthur James and I were discussing ephemeral Hollywood lore, when James casually mentioned that he had known Elizabeth Short. What James had to say brought back flash-frames of ‘Werewolf Killer’ headlines, Uncle Vern and Bugsy’s trunk.”

Let’s get rid of some easy stuff. I dispense with Uncle Vern and Bugsy Siegel’s trunk way back near the beginning. I won’t rehash it all now. I’ll just mention that records show Wolfe wasn’t even living near Bugsy Siegel when he says he was. If you really want to get into all the Uncle Vern nonsense, use the freefind search feature on my blog. There’s more than you’ll ever want to know about Uncle Vern, the prosecutor who never was.


I wonder if the Murphys’ romantic little getaway ever got written up in The Times. Oh let’s check just for fun. (Fun being a relative term for a total research drudge).

Hm. Poor old Edward G. Robinson Jr. died in 1974 at the age of 40 after a very messy life. His poor dad. But nothing about the Murphys’ celebrity crash pad and tryst joint in The Times.

Let’s try Google.

Hmmmm. Gerald and Sara Murphy seem to be the couple that inspired “Tender Is the Night,” well at least if you can believe anything on the Internet.

Hmmmmmmmm. Well, there is this New York Times review of a joint biography. What’s this? “In 1937 the Murphys returned to New York for good.”

“As an elderly man he lived the life he had fled as a youth, going to an office and lunching every day at Schrafft's. He never spoke about his painting or about his dead sons. Sara threw herself into volunteer work with children.”

Is this the same Gerald and Sara Murphy whom Wolfe is talking about? The ones with tryst central in Malibu? Except they returned to New York? Because I’m a simple man and I’m starting to get a headache.

Let’s keep digging. Apparently the Murphys lived at 1737 Angelo Drive in Beverly Hills, but it was when their children were still alive (they died quite young, sadly, in the 1930s). Not the 1950s.

OK,’s “search inside” feature for “Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy” turns up nothing for Edward G. Robinson Jr. Just someone’s dog named Robinson. Hm. Don’t find any reference to “Holiday House” either. No Wolfe except “Elsie De Wolfe.” Nothing about Malibu, except the Murphys going to a party given by Marion Davies.

And nothing about Arthur James.

Now my head is really starting to hurt. Apparently the Murphys bought a home in Rockland County, N.Y., that had been built in 1700 by the mayor of New York. Looks like they called it Cheer Hall.

A summer home in the Hamptons

Where is the stupid Malibu party pad Wolfe is talking about!? I’m getting annoyed!

You think it gets better?


The next two pages have to do with crackpot Arthur James, who came forward after Elizabeth Short was killed and claimed she posed for a couple of his paintings. He was featured in a Page 1 story in Herald-Express on Jan. 27, 1947, and was never heard from again. He never appeared in any other newspapers, just the Herald.

James, who was 56 and awaiting sentencing on a forgery charge, told the Herald he knew Elizabeth Short for three months after meeting her in a Hollywood cocktail lounge in 1944. Recall that in truth, Elizabeth Short wasn’t even in Los Angeles in 1944, so we know none of this is true.

The Herald notes: “Their friendship ended abruptly in November 1944 when he was arrested in Tucson, Ariz., for violation of the Mann act under the name of Charles B. Smith, James said.”

“For this offense, James commented, he drew a two-year sentence to Leavenworth.

“His present difficulty grows out of a bad check cashed in November 1944 to purchase luggage for ‘the Black Dahlia,’ the artist admitted. He was arrested in September 1946 and later convicted.”

What’s this?

Page 215

“In John Gilmore’s book, “Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder (Amok Books, CA, 1998), Gilmore discusses Arthur James’s relationship with Elizabeth Short and his trip to Phoenix, Arizona, with her in November 1944, where he was arrested for transporting a minor across the border and spent time in jail. Elizabeth avoided arrest and briefly returned to Hollywood before heading back to Medford in mid-November.”

As I say with tedious regularity: Proof once again that “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.

And note that James was in Tucson not Phoenix. I swear Wolfe can’t read what’s in front of him.

Oh it gets much, much worse.

Wolfe says Arthur James, the struggling artist, managed rooming houses for Florentine Gardens business manager Mark Hansen. And where does Wolfe get that nugget of information? Because it certainly isn’t in the district attorney’s files.

To the end notes, Watson!

My dear Holmes! No attribution whatsoever!

What else do you expect? Wolfe also claims Hansen had some downtown dance halls. False—he just owned movie theaters.

Aha. Now here’s what Regular Anonymous Commenter had in mind:

“Recalling that Elizabeth had suddenly left town toward the end of 1944, James said that he totally lost track of her until the summer of 1946, when she returned to Hollywood and stayed at Hansen’s place on Carlos.”

OK, now remember, James’ story is completely false because Elizabeth Short wasn’t in Los Angeles.

But according to his story, he and Elizabeth Short were in Arizona in November 1944, because that’s where he got arrested. Not Los Angeles.

Also according to his story, he didn’t lose track of her—he was in prison for two years.

Gosh, isn’t it hard to keep track of stories when they’re not true?

And then we get:

“James said some ‘big shot’ had taken a fancy to Elizabeth and gotten her pregnant, and Hansen had tried to set her up with an abortionist. Instead, she fled to San Diego. The last time James said he saw her was several days before she left the city, and he had heard that the ‘big shot’ was Norman Chandler, heir to the Chandler dynasty. James recalled that he hadn’t heard from Elizabeth again or known what had happened to her until he recognized her picture in the paper and read the gruesome stories.”

Now here is Arthur James, the soul of veracity: a convicted check forger whom we’ve caught lying that he knows Elizabeth Short and further caught in a lie that he bought her luggage. Now we’re to believe that he knows about Norman Chandler?


I may take another crack at the second part of this tomorrow, as it’s a rather foul bit of work.

Time for my walk. I need to air out my poor brain cells after this one.

Shout out to:

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, The Mailbox

----- Forwarded Message ----

From: Larry Harnisch
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 8:51:13 AM

Subject: The "D" Memorandum

Hi Don old pal,
Long time no see....
Say, the "D" memorandum on Page 198 of your book appears to be a fake that was pasted together from two other reports. Would you care to defend yourself?
Have a great day,
Larry Harnisch

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Blogging the Wolfe Book, How to Fake a Document

I 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.

As we discovered yesterday, the alleged memo on Page 198 of Wolfe’s book is a fake, pasted together from two unrelated documents.

Today, let’s see how it was done.

First, here’s a scan of the book, just to show Wolfe’s handiwork.

Now, our raw material.

First, a memo from the district attorney’s office dated Oct. 28, 1949.

We snip off the top here:

But it's tricky to delete the date as Wolfe does, so I'm leaving it. Note the raised "t" in the word "Attorney" on the third line. A sure giveaway that this is our source.

Next we take Pages 13-14 of the Nov. 23, 1949, document “Evidence and Declarations Tending to Connect or Disconnect Leslie Dillon to the Murders of Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French and Gladys Kern.”

Page 13

Page 14

And here’s our snippage, except I've intentionally done a clumsy job.


Paste it together and it looks very much like this:

Now to be fair, I think Donald H. Wolfe should get a chance to defend himself, so I’m going to write him an e-mail and see what he has to say.

Time for my walk….

Shout out to:

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Los Angeles AOL subscriber ( 19 hours.

My pals at Dark Horse Comics (

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line IX

I 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.

Yesterday, we looked at a particularly foul and nasty installment, Page 167, at the request of Mary Pacios. Today we’ll do Pages 197-198 at Mary’s request. I hope you are ready for a shocker. Even for Donald H. Wolfe, this is nasty, nasty work. A ruthless, conniving, calculating and cynical attempt to pull off a fraud.

You are so busted, Donald H. Wolfe.

To the haz-mat pile of Dahlia books….

This chapter is titled. Hm. Well Page 196 is labeled “Inside an Enigma” and Page 197 is “Sunshine and Shadow.” OK, Part II is “Inside an Enigma,” echoing Will Fowler’s favorite comment on the case. Of course, Wolfe doesn’t actually credit Will, but you’ll find it on Page 92 of “Reporters.” The chapter is titled “Sunshine and Shadow.”

Page 196 is about organized crime in Los Angeles: Jack Dragna and Bugsy Siegel. And there’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo and Brenda Allen, Mickey Cohen, the mob assassination of Paul “Paulie” Biggons, blah blah blah.

Oh “a hail of bullets.” Now there’s an original phrase. The only thing missing is “shots rang out.”

OK, well here’s an untrue statement:

“The gangland killings and attempted assassinations made headlines for days but remained unsolved. Although neither Homicide nor the press seemed to have a clue about who was responsible, the average cop on the beat and the below-average man on the street knew it was the Mafia Capo of Los Angeles, Jack Dragna.”

Now this is just Wolfe being nasty for the sake of being nasty. I would say that for the vast majority of gangland murders in Los Angeles of the 1940s, there was no mystery as to the killers or their motivation. The problem for the police is locating cooperative witnesses, because oddly enough, most people find it unhealthy to testify in court about mob murders. And although publishing capricious and unverified murder accusations against conveniently dead people (oh, say Bugsy Siegel or Dr. George “Evil Genius” Hodel) may sell lots of books, allegations against living people will get you sued.

Well let’s see, Page 197 is mostly boilerplate about innocent, wide-eyed Elizabeth Short returning to bad old Los Angeles in July 1946 with “little comprehension of the dark side of the movieland maze, where the studios, the nightclubs, the unions and many of the major talent agencies had been infiltrated by the mob.”

The only thing missing is: “Run, innocent little girl, run like the wind back to home and hearth in safe old Boston as fast as your shapely milk-white legs and trademark black suede pumps can carry you!!!”

Now I am skipping around so I may have missed the bogus stuff from “Severed” about Elizabeth Short being at the Hollywood Canteen in 1944 and all that rot (note: she was actually in Florida and Boston). And doesn’t Wolfe have her being a prostitute at some point? And then he turns around and makes her into a lazy tramp. I mean Wolfe really doesn’t have a handle on who she was, does he?

“When her bisected body was found on Norton Avenue in Leimert Park, it wasn’t mentioned by Capt. Jack Donahoe or the press that her remains were found in the weeds approximately 250 yards from the backyard of Jack Dragna’s house at 3927 Hubert Street, near the corner of Thirty-Ninth and Norton.

Nor was it ever mentioned that the letter “D” had been carved by a knife into the pubic area of the victim’s flesh. The D is clearly visible in police photographs held today in the Black Dahlia files of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Did the D stand for Dahlia—or could the D have stood for Dragna? Whatever the meaning of the psychopath’s message, the silent scream from the sacred setting was certainly heart at the nearby home of the Mafia Capo, Jack Dragna—and La Famiglia.”

And then there’s the this memo. Mary asked if Wolfe cut off something important in reproducing it.

But first. It’s true the police and the press didn’t mention the proximity of Jack Dragna’s house to the crime scene. As I recall, it’s about five blocks. Dragna’s house, by the way, is still there and fairly modest for a mob chieftain.

Luckily, we have Google Earth and Google Maps. So let’s see. Isn’t it weird that Wolfe talks about the distance to Dragna’s backyard? Hm.

More like 6½ blocks. Google Maps says it’s 0.6 of a mile. Now look. This is really important. Out of consideration for the people who own the house, I absolutely never give out the actual address of the crime scene. I always say 54 feet north of the fire hydrant in the middle of the block. I have made up an address for Google purposes that’s fairly close to where Elizabeth Short’s body was found.

How about a little math? Hm. 1,760 yards in a mile, makes it more like 1,056 yards. So Wolfe owe us 806 yards—nearly half a mile off.

This is really funny. Page 375: “Dragna’s address in the 1946 telephone directory place him three short blocks from Thirty-Ninth and Norton [forgetting, of course, that the body wasn’t found there]. Isn’t it interesting that Dragna’s HQ of evil is listed in the phone book? Like maybe people could call him up ask about the latest mob hits or something.

Of course, those of use who have a 1946 L.A. phone book can check. (Thank you, Ebay). Guess who’s not listed.

Go ahead and guess.

Maybe I should check under Evil, H.Q.


Whew. Nothing like wrestling with the technology to get the satellite picture I need. Again, note that I have intentionally fed Google the wrong address for the crime scene. IGNORE it.

Now while we’re at it, who else isn’t mentioned by police or the press. Who is it that lives at 3944 S. McClung?

Would you believe it? Detective Lt. Paul W. Freestone, the University Division watch commander who was actually at the crime scene.


A coincidence? I think not.


So the following are lies:

Jack Dragna’s house wasn’t 250 yards or three short blocks from the crime scene.

Jack Dragna’s address is not listed in the 1946 Los Angeles telephone directory.

Not exactly a good showing is it? Not a real confidence-builder.

Now for Part II.

“Nor was it ever mentioned that the letter “D” had been carved by a knife into the pubic area of the victim’s flesh.”

You know what I like about this paragraph?

Did the D stand for Dahlia—or could the D have stood for Dragna?

Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe it stood for Donald Duck or Donald H. Wolfe.

Wolfe is having fun here because the district attorney’s office won’t let anybody copy the body photographs. I’ve seen them all and I don’t recall anything like that, but then I wasn’t looking for the letter “D” either.

So let’s check this memo Mary was asking about. Because I do have that.

Gosh, this is kind of hard to find.

Weird that it’s not dated. It should be.


I’m starting to get a really, really bad feeling about this document.

My spider-sense is tingling.

Now the text is found on Page 13 of “Evidence and Declarations Tending to Connect or Disconnect Leslie Dillon to the Murders of Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French and Gladys Kern.”

The full text is:


SOME PEOPLE BELIEVED that the “D” cut in the shaved pubic region of Elizabeth Short is of the same type as found on the body of the French woman. [Aha. That explains the reference. Jeanne French].

Facts reveal that the pubic region of Elizabeth Short’s body was not shaved.

Experts in handwriting have stated that it would be impossible

[page break]

to determine any type of handwriting from the so-called “D” cut into the pubic region of Elizabeth Short’s body.


The really bizarre thing is the header Wolfe shows:


To: H.L. Stanley, Chief of the Bureau of Investigation

ATTENTION: Arthur L. Veitch, Deputy District Attorney

IN RE: Elizabeth Short Murder—Los Angeles Police Department Records, Reports, Statements, Correspondence, Evidence and Information

FROM: Frank B. Jemison, Lieutenant—Bureau of Investigation

Because it’s not there.

I’m starting to think Photoshop, folks. Let’s hope I’m wrong.


Gosh, it looks like someone lifted the header off an unrelated Oct. 29, 1949, memo from Frank Jemison to H.L. Stanley. Snipped off the inconvenient date and pasted on the material about Leslie Dillon.

I’m short on time so I won’t scan in the material today, but you can rest assured, the document produced on Page 198 of “The Black Dahlia Files” is fraudulent and pasted together from two unrelated reports.

Would someone please remind me again what a well-researched book this is? I keep forgetting.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line VIII

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.

Yesterday, I explored the history of “courtesy cards,” which are a key element of Vincent A. Carter’s book: “LAPD’s Rogue Cops Cover Ups and the Cookie Jar.” Today, we’ll look at Page 167 at the request of Mary Pacios.

Holy smokes! Thanks a lot, Mary.

“Although Hansen
[that is presumably Detective Harry Hansen] discovered that Finis and Donahoe were in league with Gangster Squad in derailing the Black Dahlia case, he continued pursuing his own avenues of investigation, and he had begun deciphering the silent scream. Harry Hansen knew that a man with advanced medical knowledge had methodically bisected the body. He knew the approximate location of the murder site. He knew the dark secret of the autopsy. He knew there had been more than one person in attendance at the sacred setting. And he suspected that one of them was the short, dark-complexioned man who drove the old black Ford sedan—Brenda Allen’s procurer, Maurice Clement.”

OK, let’s tear this apart. First of all, is there anything truthful in it? Well, a bit—but only a bit.

I’m going to break this down into individual sentences.

  1. “Although Hansen discovered that Finis and Donahoe were in league with Gangster Squad in derailing the Black Dahlia case, he continued pursuing his own avenues of investigation, and he had begun deciphering the silent scream.

  1. Harry Hansen knew that a man with advanced medical knowledge had methodically bisected the body.

  1. He knew the approximate location of the murder site.

  1. He knew the dark secret of the autopsy.

  1. He knew there had been more than one person in attendance at the sacred setting.

  1. And he suspected that one of them was the short, dark-complexioned man who drove the old black Ford sedan—Brenda Allen’s procurer, Maurice Clement.”

Large ImageLet’s get rid of the easy stuff.

Harry Hansen knew that a man with advanced medical knowledge had methodically bisected the body.

True. That was the prevailing belief among investigators, including Hansen, Police Chemist Ray Pinker and autopsy surgeon Dr. Frederick Newbarr. Harry Hansen testified to this belief before the Los Angeles County Grand Jury.

He knew the approximate location of the murder site.

False. Investigators suspected several locations but never found any evidence at any of them. Police still have no idea where Elizabeth Short was killed.

He knew there had been more than one person in attendance at the sacred setting.

False. Way back, Wolfe makes up some mumbo-jumbo about Elizabeth Short’s body displaying two types of knife work, one controlled and the other angry and frenzied. This is ridiculous.

And he suspected that one of them was the short, dark-complexioned man who drove the old black Ford sedan—Brenda Allen’s procurer, Maurice Clement.”

Again, this is ridiculous. Hansen never suspected Maurice Clement of anything. Nobody did. And let me emphasize that Maurice Clement was never “Brenda Allen’s procurer.” Wolfe has tied himself in knots to manipulate material in the district attorney’s files to implicate poor old Maurice, to the point of altering testimony that actually refers to another person named Otero.

OK, that leaves us with:

“Although Hansen discovered that Finis and Donahoe were in league with Gangster Squad in derailing the Black Dahlia case, he continued pursuing his own avenues of investigation, and he had begun deciphering the silent scream.

Let’s strangle this little monster in its cradle. As I noted earlier, there were few more respected men in the Los Angeles Police Department of the 1940s than Jack Donahoe. In fact, one never hears a bad word about him from anyone, certainly not anyone who knew him. The only people with a bad thing to say about Donahoe are the authors of sleazy Black Dahlia books.

Large ImageLet me elaborate on that. I had a phone conversation with retired Police Capt. Ed Jokisch the other night, a fine man who is in his 90s and still sharp as a tack. Ed worked homicide in the 1940s, and yes, he did play an extremely minor role in the Black Dahlia case although he mainly worked other cases. Ed has nothing but praise for Donahoe as a respected, honored man, an inspiring leader and as straight as they come. It grieves him terribly to read scurrilous nonsense in these Dahlia books about a man whom he describes as “like a father and like a brother to me.”

Now the idea that Finis Brown was “in league” with anybody is equally absurd. Finis was a fairly bland, introspective man, a complete contrast with his more outgoing brother, Thad, who was chief of detectives for many years and served as acting police chief after the death of William H. Parker. Finis was, in the words of Ed Jokisch, “a bulldog,” And Ed has absolutely no question about Finis Brown’s honesty.

Let me be blunt. Finis Brown and Jack Donahoe were two scrupulously honest men and diligent investigators. It is insulting to their memory to tar them with ridiculous accusations of corruption.


I just turned back to Page 165 to find more trash.

“One of Hansen’s problems was that he was an honest cop devoted to his calling. He always defended the Force, yet had to deal with the corruption that surrounded him. He had an intense dislike for his boss, ‘Big Jack’ Donahoe, but kept his silence. The secret of the sealed autopsy established a motive in the pathological murder and provided avenues of investigation that Hansen believed Donahoe and the Gangster Squad were blocking. When Hansen discovered that Finis was reporting everything he was investigating to Gangster Squad commander Willie Burns, he began to suspect that Finis was a Gangster Squad operative, and they had a falling out; Hansen stopped confiding in Finis and locked up his private Dahlia files.

“ ‘I was personally concerned that Harry kept saying he was going to yank the papers from the morgue,’ Finis recalled. ‘I said “Harry, you can’t monkey with the coroner.’
[actual quote, as we’ll see, is ‘you can’t monkey with the county’—I swear the man can’t read what’s in front of him] He said I was a fine one to talk about ethics, and I was lucky I wasn’t in jail, or off the Force… Then he laughed, but he was serious.’ ”

Now it will be extremely interesting to see Wolfe’s source on this—I can’t imagine anyone getting Finis Brown to say such things.

Quick, Watson, to the end notes!

Holmes! No attribution!

Well wait, Watson. True, there’s nothing about the Gangster Squad trying to derail the investigation or Hansen disliking Donahoe. A bit of this is from John Gilmore’s “Severed.” But how much?

To the haz-mat pile of Dahlia books!

OK, “Severed,” Page 142.

As we’re finding the page, remind me again why this book is called “The Black Dahlia Files” and not the more appropriate “Severed: 2006.”

Well this is relatively interesting. In “Severed,” Finis Brown allegedly suspects Harry Hansen of shifting the Dahlia files and reports him to Thad Brown.

In other words, Finis suspected Hansen of misconduct. Now in Wolfe’s book this gets turned around so that Hansen suspects Finis of misconduct.

My head is spinning—because it’s all nonsense. Every word of it. As we have seen many times and as I keep saying “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.

How do I know? Well most people haven’t had a chance to read Finis Brown’s statement to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, and while the material is far too long to reproduce here, let me emphasize that he was extremely careful with his words and almost indescribably thorough—to the point of being painfully tedious.

Finis was not a stupid man by any means, but he was deliberate, painstakingly precise and not particularly charismatic, which many people mistook for being dim. Having read the real words of Finis Brown, the quotes attributed to him in “Severed” are howlingly funny.

Like this from “Severed”:

“I said, ‘Harry you can’t monkey with the county. The coroner runs this whole thing.’ He looked at me as if to tell me to keep my mouth shut or I’d be off the case, and that would make Harry and me enemies because I knew almost as much as he and Willis [oh yes, don’t forget my favorite fictional detective Herman Willis!] did. He said I was a fine one to talk about ethics, and I was lucky I wasn’t in jail or off the force. I said, ‘Up to you, Harry.’ Then he laughed, but he was serious.”

In fact, I’m so sure that this quote is fictitious I will never believe it is true unless I either hear a tape of John Gilmore’s alleged interview with Finis Brown or see his notes.

Oh…. Did I mention there are absolutely no notes in the Gilmore archives at UCLA aside from the transcript of one interview with Jack Wilson? Did I mention that there are no tapes in the Gilmore archives at UCLA? In fact, there is scant raw material for writing any sort of book in the Gilmore archives aside from quite a few rejection notes, a rough draft or two, and some newspaper clippings.

But don’t take my word for it. Go to UCLA yourself. Go through the Gilmore archives—all of them, not just the pictures. Let me know after going through them whether you could write a book based on the raw material there (not counting the rough drafts).

Let me settle one more thing about the Wolfe book. There’s some material on Pages 166-167 allegedly from the Dec. 1, 1949, grand jury statement of Conwell L. Keller.

Oh good grief, this is worse than I thought. Wolfe has investigator Frank Jemison interrogating Keller before the grand jury! Boy, not only does Wolfe have trouble separating city and county agencies, he has trouble with basic governmental procedures. In fact, the questions were posed by Deputy Dist. Atty. Arthur L. Veitch.

Veitch is interrogating Keller about the Leslie Dillon affair, a long story in itself. Basically, department psychiatrist Dr. Paul De River launched a separate investigation of the Black Dahlia case, bypassing the Homicide Division and using the Gangster Squad. Their conduct and treatment of poor old Leslie Dillon is what triggered the grand jury investigation in the first place.

What Keller is talking about before the grand jury is that in preparation for its investigation, the district attorney’s office assembled all the paperwork on the Elizabeth Short case, drawing reports from the University Division (where the body was discovered), Central Division (location of the crime lab) and possibly the Hollywood Division (I’m trusting my memory here) to a central location at City Hall where they were indexed and cross-referenced. Nothing more, folks.

In fact, the material was gathered in a specially secured room to which only Jemison and Finis had keys—even the custodial staff was barred. Until it could be indexed.

Nothing malicious or unsavory. It was actually a good thing all the material was collected and preserved.

There’s more, but that’s enough. I have to get these books off my desk; they’re starting to leave nasty little grease spots.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Pity the blind

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Blogging the Wolfe Book, Courtesy Card

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.

I am taking a few requests before wrapping up the project as it’s extremely time-consuming. Yesterday we looked at Will Fowler’s tall tale about Elizabeth Short’s supposed physical abnormality at the request of Regular Anonymous Commenter.

Let me elaborate on the question of courtesy cards. Vincent Carter’s book “Rogue Cops” makes a great issue of them.

Whew. Now how am I going to boil down all this nonsense to a few simple paragraphs?

“Rogue Cops,” Page 3.

Carter is talking about two detectives named Jerry McGhee and Frank Bain. We’re told it is January, but not what year. Whether there were actually two detectives named McGhee and Bain or whether they are fictional has not been verified.

Let’s check Proquest. Hm. I find a Lt. McGhee of the Beverly Hills Police Department, 1931. That’s the only one. No Jerry or Gerald McGhee in the 1946 Los Angeles phone book. I do find a J.E. McGhee in 1947—a motorman on a streetcar.

How about his alleged partner, Bain?

Hm. Officer H.L. Bain testifies in the Harry Raymond bombing, May 1938. He’s also identified as Howard (Jerry) Bain. Sgt. A.W. Bain of the Beverly Hills Police Department, 1949. Hm. Again, not in the 1946 Los Angeles phone book. Patrolman R.L. Bain is mentioned in The Times, 1946. Not a detective.

Well this isn’t a good start, is it?

Large ImageOK… they pull up to some place in Hollywood and lock their car. “Lock the car,” Bain said. “We don’t want to wind up walking home because some moron car thief doesn’t recognize this as an unmarked police car.”

This is puzzling. In the 1940s, most LAPD cars were unmarked (at least I assume Carter is talking about the 1940s). If you check the photos of the Black Dahlia crime scene you won’t find a single marked black-and-white. The old-time officers tell me “we drove whatever we could get.”

They head for Room 201 but can’t find the man they are seeking. They cruise Hollywood, passing Lucey’s at 5444 Melrose.

They head back “home.” We’re not told where that is, but the implication is that it’s a heavily minority division.

They take Crenshaw Boulevard south. “The streets were empty as they approached Eighth Street. Ahead, a grey Mercedes sedan blasted the signal, going north at a high rate of speed. There were four men in the car.”

Recall that Crenshaw dead-ends at Wilshire Boulevard, and 8th and Crenshaw is the first intersection south of Wilshire. Hm. Google Earth makes it look like there are traffic lights there now but I don’t know if there were signals there then.

Our friends McGhee and Bain peel rubber in a U-turn as the gray Mercedes turns right on Wilshire, then goes into Hancock Park. OK, that generally fits with the handy Thomas Bros. Guide.

“The Mercedes, lights out, pulled to the curb and parked in front of a luxurious bungalow court. McGhee parked a half block down the street. [Not named, unfortunately, and that would help, especially if one is writing factually]. Bain and McGhee both bailed out on the passenger side, closing the door quietly.”

“Three of the men in the Mercedes got out of the car and walked to the Court where they entered a corner bungalow, leaving the door open behind them. The fourth man, the driver, got out, locked the door and walked around the car to the sidewalk where he followed his three passengers toward the bungalow court, bringing up the rear about twenty feet behind. Bain and McGhee, who had remained undetected, intercepted him at the entrance to the bungalow. They both shoved their badges toward his face and Bain said, ‘Police. You’re under arrest.’ Taken totally by surprise, the Mercedes driver fled through the open door to the middle of the living room, where the other three men were standing. Bain and McGhee were right behind him.”

Bain tells the driver that he ran a traffic light [note: Los Angeles had traffic semaphores in the 1940s, when I assume this occurred].

Large ImageAnd here we go:

“The man said ‘oh,’ and almost, Bain thought, with a sense of relief. Bain was right. The man reached into his left breast coat pocket, pulled out his wallet and unhurriedly began to sort through the contents. It was not a driver’s license that he handed over to Bain, but a small business card. The two detectives immediately recognized the card as an ‘LAPD courtesy card.’ Bain and McGhee knew that somehow, ‘innocently’ and unwittingly, they may have bitten off more than they could chew. It was only a matter of a few minutes before they began to suspect just how much they may have bitten off.

“If a person was a holder of one of these ‘courtesy cards’ as both of the detectives were well aware, it had been presented by a high ranking police officer, Captain and/or above, to a Very Important Person who carried a lot of clout. The courtesy card had evolved from a former practice by Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, Inspectors and Captains of handing out duplicates of their badges to business men, politicians and mob bosses from whom they expected favors in return for the insulation the badges provided from annoyance and unwanted attention from rank and file police officers who might be encountered in the routine performance….”

Blah blah blah. Jeez this is boring. What a windbag.

Anyway, our pals Bain and McGhee discover a bloody room at this bungalow.

The detective captain who supposedly wrote the courtesy card shows up and talks to the driver of the Mercedes. After about 10 minutes, the captain tells our two intrepid detectives to go home.

Aha. NOW we find out the date: Jan. 15, 1947.

OK. Anybody see anything wrong with this story?

Beside the fact that McGhee and Bain appear to be fictitious names? And that the police captain isn’t identified? And we don’t find out the exact location of the bungalow?

How about the fact that our author, Vincent A. Carter, doesn’t explain how he knows any of this. Did he get it from McGhee? Did he get it from Bain? What’s the deal?

And what about our pals the two Irish cops, the young, aggressive detective and the salty old veteran?

These two guys are detectives, right? That means they have some smarts, presumably. They’re headed home at the end of their shift and they arrest a guy for running a red light? Without getting his ID? And they’re both right there with the supposed suspect instead of one hanging back to cover the other one in case something goes down?

Granted, I’m not a police officer, but I think they might have, oh, I don’t know, at least run a field sobriety test just to see if they could nail the guy on something more than a traffic violation. At least if the guy is tanked they won’t look quite so stupid hauling him down to jail for a minor traffic violation.

Now about the courtesy cards.

They existed mostly in the 1930s through the early 1950s and were nothing more than a police officer’s business card with a message on the back reading something like: “So and so, a good friend of mine. Any courtesy extended to him/her will be appreciated.” In fact we find just such cards in the possession of a dead, former burlesque dancer in 1949.

According to The Times of Oct. 26, 1949, Rena Lucille Hodge, whose body was found in hotel room on East 3rd Street, had two courtesy cards in her purse. One signed by Officer C.O. Smith and another signed by Officer R.E. Myers. According to The Times, “At the time the cards were issued, Smith was on the Central Division vice squad and Myers was on the administrative vice squad. Smith, now in charge of vice at University Division, said he could not remember the woman and doubted that the card was his. Myers, now a detective attached to the police business office, could not be reached for comment concerning the card that was allegedly his.”

A little more research reveals that the courtesy cards were frowned on even in the 1930s. On Aug. 11, 1935, a Times editorial praised their invalidation. And as the editorial notes, they carried no weight except in traffic offenses. In fact, in 1941, a state law enforcement agency warned of a fraudulent scheme involving the sale of courtesy cards.

And think about it. Since a courtesy card was nothing more than a business card with a signature on the back, they could be easily forged. If they existed at all in the LAPD they were banned by William H. Parker when he became chief in 1950, according to retired police officers.

The bottom line: Courtesy cards were frowned upon in the 1930s to the 1950s, were easily forged and even when they were in use, were intended for nothing more than traffic violations. They were certainly not a “get out of jail” card as portrayed in “Rogue Cops.”

Now I don’t know for sure, but I have a hunch this story is going to show up in Wolfe’s book down the line. I could be wrong, but I somehow don’t think so.

And by the way, did you notice our suspects were driving a Mercedes? In 1947? Uh. Let’s have some fun and see how many Mercedes were for sale in The Times in 1947.


OK, let’s check from 1940 to 1949.

A 1937 convertible for sale Jan. 1, 1940 (license 39M29).

A 1937 coupe (6X881) Feb. 24, 1940. Ha. The guy was still trying to unload it in March.

A 540 four-passenger coupe with a custom body (6C2688) or (6S2688) in June 1940. Still trying to unload it in October 1940.

Mercedes service and sales, 1352 Ivar, Jan. 2, 1941. (I wonder how long he’s going to stay in business?)

SS supercharged convertible coupe (14Z477) Feb. 28, 1941. Still trying to sell it in March.

A model 540 convertible club coupe, (37Q602) or (37Q6), Feb. 22, 1942. Still trying to sell it in March.

SS competition for road or track (65A138), March 31, 1942. Still for sale in April 1942.

Type S competition (54Y451), May 21, 1942.

Small, rear-engine Mercedes, (2C9281) Jan. 24, 1943. Still for sale in February 1943.

SSK speedster (5X4491) April 1943 (and the rear-engine model is also still for sale).

For 1944: A whopping zero.

September 1945: The Times classified ads list Floyd Clymer’s book about Mercedes. No cars, just the book.

A rear-engine model for sale (82A484) Jan. 9, 1946.

Not a single Mercedes listed in 1947.

1928 four-passenger sport model (7T5856) July 5, 1948.

1937 convertible (36P393) Aug. 29, 1948. Still for sale in September 1948.

1940 five-passenger sedan motor No. 427-568 Dec. 30, 1948. Still for sale in January 1949.

Something for sale Aug. 5, 1949, but I can’t find it in the listings.

A 1939 540 motor No. 10098243, Sept. 30, 1949. Still for sale in October 1949.

And that, folks, is every Mercedes listed in The Times classified from 1940 to 1949. All 15 of them. Gosh. Do you think people might have been uncomfortable driving a German car during World War II?

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Lithuania (

Hong Kong (

AOL user in Reston, Va. ( Windows 98? Upgrade!

Hurry back!

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line VII

I 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 discovered and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.

The two-minute executive summary:

I am taking a few requests before wrapping things up. We have found the usual reliance on John Gilmore’s “Severed,” (recall that the title of this book is “The Black Dahlia Files,” although “Severed: 2006” would be more appropriate) and extensive manipulation of the scant material that Wolfe actually takes from the district attorney’s materials. Wolfe also engages in a hearty and enthusiastic smear of Capt. Jack Donahoe, based mostly on Vincent Carter’s “Rogue Cops” with a healthy dose of embellishment.

Next, we tackle Page 162 at the request of Regular Anonymous Commenter. I was actually going to do this the other day and was so aghast at the nonsense about Donahoe that I had to defer it for a day.

Aha! Regular Anonymous Commenter is asking about the “infantile genitalia” yarn embraced so enthusiastically by “Severed” and all those who have followed. As we’re about to see, this is yet another of the tall tales by Will Fowler, author of “Reporters.” This was one of Will’s favorite stories in the whole world and he relished nothing better than trotting it out and setting it through its paces, like a trick pony.

(Picking up from Page 161).

“Part of Donahoe’s strategy in misleading the press and the public in the Black Dahlia case involved his references to Elizabeth Short as a suspected lesbian. Will Fowler and Herald Express reporter Bevo Means were told by a Donahoe underling and a deputy coroner that Elizabeth Short couldn’t have sex with men. ‘Something in the autopsy indicated lesbian pathology,’ they were told.”

Note a couple things here. The source of this story isn’t identified. It’s just “a Donahoe underling.”

To the end notes, Watson!

Holmes! The source is Will Fowler!

Of course. I mean who else would have the audacity to use a grand-sounding but empty phrase like “lesbian pathology?” What on Earth is that supposed to be?

And then three of the most frightening words in the English language: “Will Fowler recalled.”

“ ‘It was a leak,’ Will Fowler recalled, ‘and Bevo jumped on it, figuring if she couldn’t have sex with guys, she was having sex with women.’ Following Donahoe’s calculated plant of this sensational, misleading information, a number of stories appeared in the newspapers indicating that the autopsy report established that Elizabeth had infantile sex organs, and therefore could not have normal relationships with men. This misinformation initiated by Donahoe has been promulgated by a number of journalists for more than fifth years.”

Actually, no.

This is two questions masquerading as one, so let’s deal with them separately.

First, the theory that Elizabeth Short might have been a lesbian came about this way: Once Robert M. “Red” Manley was cleared of the murder, Donahoe and Detectives Harry Hansen and Finis Brown started the investigation all over again. They were baffled by the “missing week” between the time Elizabeth Short was left at the Biltmore on Jan. 9, 1947, and the day her body was discovered, Jan. 15.

They knew that Red Manley helped her check all her belongings at the bus station, leaving her with nothing but the clothes she was wearing. They couldn’t figure out how she survived for a week without a change of clothing or access to her cosmetics, so they got the idea that she might have been with another woman and used the woman’s clothes and makeup.

One of the detectives extended this theory to the idea that she had been with a lesbian and was killed in a lesbian love triangle. Granted, this is quite a leap and the notion that lesbians were murderous degenerates says much about the 1940s. Eventually, this scenario was discarded, but not before a variety of stories appeared in the newspapers of the day.

Today, this scenario is laughably wrong, but it’s also wrong to claim that police intentionally misled the newspapers. Yes, the detectives actually suspected this.

Now for the real meat of this paragraph:

“a number of stories appeared in the newspapers indicating that the autopsy report established that Elizabeth had infantile sex organs.”

This is a flat-out lie. There is absolutely nothing in the original newspaper accounts about the infantile sex organ yarn.

Nor is it in Aggie Underwood’s “Newspaperwoman” of 1949.

Or Jim Richardson’s “For the Life of Me” of 1954.

It’s not even in Jack Webb’s “The Badge,” 1958.

Or John Austin’s “Hollywood’s Unsolved Mysteries,” 1969-1970.

Or Todd Faulkner’s flawed but influential 1971 Los Angeles Times article “Farewell, My Black Dahlia.” (Recall that this is where Elizabeth Short accumulated the false middle name “Ann” that has even spread to her FBI file).

The first occurrence, in fact, is….

Are you ready?

Will Fowler!

“Reporters,” Page 86 (1991)

“The tone of the letters she never mailed reflected that Elizabeth had been deeply hurt many times as she almost desperately looked for one man after the other, seeking someone who would love her. I believe all these rejections came after she had gone to bed with her lovers and they discovered they were unable to have sexual intercourse with her… because of the infantile entrance to her vagina.”

Quickly followed by “Severed,” (1994)

Page 124:

“ ‘There might have been the possibility of spermatozoa traces from the laceration of the area below the navel down to the pubic area, if the attacker had some sexual usage of that area of the body. It would have been impossible for him to have inserted his penis into her vagina. ‘But,’ he said, ‘the body was then completely washed—removing all traces of semen or blood.’ [and yes, there is a missing quote mark in the original text someplace].

“ ‘Are you saying,’ Hansen asked, ‘that she could not have normal sex?’ ”

There’s more, but I don’t need to quote it. And from there, Will Fowler’s story spread far and wide. Of course what’s really interesting is that Wolfe cites a letter Will wrote to Mary Pacios, dated Feb. 5, 1988, in which Will says he made up the story.

Of course, he eventually recanted the story to me as well, claiming sheepishly that the coroner’s office has misled him.

Oh and by the way, the source for this story in “Severed” is my favorite fictitious detective, Herman Willis.

There’s a reason I keep saying “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Howell, N.J. (

Laguna Niguel, Calif. (

Seattle (

Hurry back!

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, A Mystery Solved

I 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 is using the “Laura” format, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks. Now I’m taking a few requests before I wrap it up.

On Friday, I raised the issue of Nina Blanchard’s appearance in Wolfe’s book. He doesn’t cite any source, so I couldn’t figure out where he got the material since she’s not listed in the district attorney’s files or any of the original newspaper accounts.

Here’s the quote from Page 130:

“George Bacos, an usher at CBS across the street, stated to police that he had often seen her there, as had Nina Blanchard, who later became a famous modeling agency executive. At that time, Nina Blanchard was a waitress at Brittingham’s, where many of the Columbia Studio executives and employees socialized. According to Blanchard, Elizabeth used to frequent Brittingham’s and was also seen with studio executive Max Arnow, who was in charge of the Talent Department.”

Mary Pacios writes that she spoke with Blanchard and quotes Blanchard as saying:

"People from Columbia and CBS came in all the time. Bigwigs sat in the booths and other movie/radio people would sit at the counter. Beth would come in often. We knew she wasn't a hooker. Not the type. She was a woman of mystery. People always noticed her and wondered about her. Soft, feminine and fragile. Pale face. Always wore black. About 5'5" tall. I spoke to her a few times in the powder room.... Rumors were that Beth was going with someone at Columbia Studios. Someone named Max or Mac."

And according to Mary, Blanchard said nothing about Max Arnow.

And there you have it.

Shout to:

Sympatico of New York (

Hurry back!

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