When Ora's mother died in 1920, the girl was left in the custody of Obetz, who spent the next few years traveling around the Ozarks in a wagon with her. When she turned 13, he gave her the choice of being placed in juvenile home, a convent, or becoming his wife. After a month of convent living, Ora finally consented to marry him in Kansas.
A year later, Ora gave birth to a son, and the Obetzs moved to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, Louis threatened Ora at gunpoint, at which point, the brave girl picked up her infant son, marched out the door, and left Obetz for good. That was two years ago.
Since then, Obetz filed a $100,000 "alienation of affection" suit against 83-year-old A.F. Christianson, a wealthy Angeleno whom Obetz claimed had influenced Ora's decision to leave him. But before that case was heard, Ora had her day in Superior Court. The issue at hand was not whether Ora was coerced into marriage, due to the fact that Kansas had no laws mandating the age at which girls could marry. However, the legality of the marriage was called into question by Ora's testimony that a friend of Obetz's had posed as her dead father in order to obtain the marriage license.
On December 7, 1927, Obetz's suit against Christianson was dismissed when the former failed to appear in court. He didn't show his face on the 9th either, when Ora Obetz was granted her annulment and full custody of her son.
November 27, 1927
Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer's daughter? Well, this time she wasn't a farmer's daughter—and the salesman ended up dead. Eleven days ago, 17-year-old Marie Hull went for a ride with Gordon J. Waters, 29, the salesman in question. When she returned home to 840 West 43rd Place, Marie tearfully told her mother that Waters had attacked her.
When Hazel Hull discovered Waters at her boarding house tonight, presumably to call on Marie, she was ready. When the salesman left the house, Hull rushed after him and pressed a .38 caliber revolver to his left side. She fired a single shot, then fled to her mother's. Waters staggered to the intersection of Hoover Street and Vernon Avenue, where he collapsed. He died on the way to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital without making a statement.
Days of juicy reading followed. Booked into County Jail prior to the coroner's inquest, Hazel Hull told reporters, "I am glad I killed him even though I hang for it. My little girl was sweet and good. I did the only thing I could to avenge her." Her ex-husband proclaimed his willingness to stand by his former wife's side, and Marie asserted that if her mother "had not shot him I would have done so myself."
Meanwhile, Waters's widowed wife of six months ("heavily veiled in a great pink chiffon drape that completely covered her head and shoulders," according to the Times) took issue with the Hulls' insistence that her husband had been "a sheik" and "a rounder." She preferred to blame the other victim: "Marie Hull led my husband on. She knew he was married." This was a minority view, however; when the coroner's jury announced their finding that Hazel Hull was justified in shooting her daughter's attacker, applause broke out in the court room, and spectators rushed to shake Hull's hand. The following day, Hull escaped a murder charge when the grand jury refused to indict her.
Despite the column inches it devoted to the case, the Times editorialized that "If Waters's conduct was indefensible, there seems even less defense for that of Mrs. Hull" and likened the juries' refusal to indict as an "indorsement [sic] of lynch law."
November 26, 1927
A thief entered Alex Succetti’s home on Moorpark Street while Alex and his family were away. Behaving more like Goldilocks in the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” than a modern thief, the stranger made himself right at home. He pulled open the door to the ice box, stuck his head in, and poked around until he found a chicken cut up and ready for cooking. He lit the gas stove and fried the bird until it was crispy and golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside – in other words, just right. Then the bandit sat down at the dining table with his entrée and a few yummy (and just right) side dishes that he had found while rummaging about in the kitchen, and ate his fill.
Rather than heading off to one of the bedrooms to take a nap following his hearty chicken dinner, the crook decided to pack up and head for home. He stole the family phonograph, as well as twenty five hens and twenty baby chicks from the henhouse in the backyard. But he wasn’t finished yet. The bandit loaded his car with the loot, then returned and disconnected the gas stove and took it away with the rest of the plunder!
A word of caution to the unknown bandit -- in Roald Dahl’s retelling of the “Goldilocks” tale in “Revolting Rhymes”, the criminally minded little girl meets a cruel end. The little blonde fiend breaks into the home of the bear family and trashes it. Displaying an utter lack of regard for their belongings, she destroys their valuable antique furniture, gobbles up their food, and soils their freshly made beds with her muddy shoes. Thoroughly ticked off by the wanton destruction of their home, the bears administer a bit of rough justice and devour the little brat.
November 25, 1927
Those of you who have taken a club to an elderly woman know, that’s six months in County. Everybody knows that. And just as those of us who have wielded a pool cue at a mother-in-law are looking at the ol’ six mos and that $500 ($5,515 USD2007) fine, that's what shoulda faced Anaheim’s Walter J. Jewell—except in his case there were extenuating circumstances.
You see, he’s a man who loves his children. He wuvs them. In that bloodlusty kinda way.
Seems that Jewell arrived at wifey’s house (they’re separated) to pick up the kids for the customary week-end visit. But despite his being a prominent citizen, he just doesn’t see fit to pay his alimony, which sent wifey’s mother—the aforementioned mother-in-law—into a huff. Crone in question, Mrs. Marion Blake, also of Anaheim, refused to allow Jewell possession of the youngsters. Enraged, Jewell rushed back to his auto and retrieved his trusty billiard cue. Back in the house he did, though, stop short at cracking her skull open like a soft-boiled egg.
The court informed Mrs. Blake that it was “inadvisable” to take the law into her own hands—that would be apparent. Mr. Jewell was scolded that he was “old enough to know better” than to “assault an aged woman with a club.” That may be. In any event, because everyone loves children so durn much, Judge Ames decided to knock Jewell’s punishment down to ninety days and nix the fine. Awwwww.
November 24, 1927
Frank E. Foster once stared down the blazing Enfields and Richmonds of Johnny Reb, Bragg’s cannons and Forrest’s cavalry, but it took some punk kid from Long Beach to put him down for good.
That punk kid is Richard Robert Haver, 16, whose penchant for driving other people’s cars landed him in Chino, where police interviewed him today about a spate of Long Beach robberies last September. Sure, during one robbery he pushed an old man. Haver hasn’t been told that the old man died.
“I saw him coming, although it was dark,” Haver told Detective Sergeants Smith and Alyes. “At first I tried to avoid him by slinking back against the wall, hoping the man wouldn’t see me. But he grabbed me by the coat with both hands.” (Apparently the 85 y.o. Foster figured the whippersnapper wouldn’t be reconstructed.) “I kept pushing him into the screen porch where he slept. The door was open as I rushed for it and I pushed the man out of the way. He tripped on the steps and fell outdoors onto the sidewalk. Then I ran toward the front of the house and headed for the ocean. I’m sorry I pushed him so hard, now that I know he is an old man.” Haver’ll be sorrier once the authorities inform him that, on top of being popped for the eight homes he ransacked while the occupants slept (earning him the sobriquet "The Pants Burglar", in that he stole away with trousers in the night and emptied their pockets), he’s a murderer.
(Haver was sent to the State Reform School to remain until he turned 21, at which point the courts would again pass upon his case; the papers make no mention of that event or its outcome.)
In further news of the Boys in Blue, another Damn’d Yankee, this one in Spokane, has problems of another variety. “I’m living on borrowed time,” said Enoch A. Sears, 84, “far past my allotted three score and ten, and I only want peace and quiet.” He has filed for divorce from his wife of one year, and has departed his home, leaving it to his wife, 59, and her mother, 79. Enoch simply stated he was “too old to become accustomed to living with a mother-in-law.”
A brief history of the Angelino man known as the Poet Laureate of Skid Row, who pulled poetry out from beneath itself in the 20th century. We’ll take a look at his life as partially told by the Esotouric bus tour, rolling through the neighborhoods in which he lived and created his greatest works, stopping by a bar or two in which he drank. Have a seat and bring a beer.
November 20, 1927
There are criminal masterminds, and then there are men like William E. McLane. Around 2 o'clock this afternoon, McLane walked in the back door of his home at 901 Palm View Drive. "I came back to the house today to see how she was getting along," he told the police swarming his house. "She" was his wife, Ada May, and she wasn't getting along very well at all—in fact, she was dead. While they were less than impressed with his display of husbandly solicitude, detectives were happy to take McLane into custody after he confessed to Ada May's murder. Ever the helpful suspect, McLane then explained that, contrary to police speculation, the bloody pair of scissors found next to his wife's body was not in fact the murder weapon: he had used a Barlow knife, which he tossed into the night as he ran from the scene of the crime. The couple had been separated for about five months, and McLane recently received divorce papers from his wife. This, he told detectives, inspired him to attempt a reconciliation—an attempt which led not to the revival of their marriage but to a quarrel that resulted in the death of Mrs. McLane.
Ada May apparently held no such illusions of renewed connubial bliss; her body was found by a friend who came to check on her after she told him her husband had threatened her life on several recent occasions.
November 18, 1927
Readers may recall my last dispatch from South Main. My goodness, what a cesspool of vice. Wouldn’t something cultural make the place a little more high-hat? Like a museum, perhaps? A mvsevm, even.
Well, they tried a mvsevm down on South Main, and it just didn’t work out. In fact, Mrs. Mary Fraser is downright peeved.
It seems she was shown the Roma Hotel by agents who described it as “a nice quiet place,” and she signed a $33,602, eight-year lease with an eye toward running a rooming-house. And today she’s in court, refusing to pay rental after occupying the place seven months.
It seems she takes issue with the museum that occupies the structure's ground floor: The World Museum of Freaks.
Defendant Fraser contends that she’s lost more than $1,260 in her new venture because of the museum’s effects on her health—her weight has dropped from 125 to eighty pounds. Apparently, the persistent demand for liquor every fifteen minutes, coupled with the screams, shouts and howls from the museum below, are not only deleterious to her health but cause roomers to abandon the establishment before they’d even tried out their beds. Her house and the show beneath being repeatedly raided doesn’t help much, either.
A few years from now, we doubt she’ll be first in line to see a certain Tod Browning picture.
November 17, 1927
Charley Chase received a sentence of fifty days—suspended—from Judge Baird today, for while Chase admitted to taking a sip of whisky before crashing his auto into the back of a taxicab on Hollywood Boulevard last Monday morning, the magistrate judged Charley to be only reckless, not drunk.
Chase is today best known for his work in promoting the exclamation-mark’d picture. Long before 1947, the year which saw two noir exclamation-mark’d masterpieces—Railroaded! and Boomerang!—and long before little girls screamed Them! and everyone shouted Oklahoma! and then we all yelled Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Chase starred in Nurse to You!, Okay Toots!, You Said a Hatful!, What a Bozo!, Skip the Maloo!, and of course ¡Huye, Faldas!, to name but a few. He also asked the cinematic questions Are Brunettes Safe? and Is Everybody Happy? and Isn’t Life Terrible? and What Price Goofy? and Is Marriage the Bunk? and Should Husbands Be Watched? and Why Go Home? and while these aren’t exactly What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (or What’s the Matter With Helen? or Who Ever Slew Auntie Roo? for that matter) they sure beat the stuffing out of Where’s Poppa? and What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?
Anyway. The judge should have thrown the book at Chase for his whisky-sippin’, because his alcoholism killed him at the age of 47, in 1940. But then, what was Judge Baird to do? Send Chase to meetings? Bill Wilson wouldn’t get hot flashes for another seven years.
UPDATE: 12/22 has sold out, 12/29 tour was added and sold out within a day... but you can still get on the waiting lists!
We are giddy to announce that our Christmas week tour will be a very special event: "James Ellroy Digs L.A."
Our host on the tour will be the acclaimed crime novelist and memoirist whose highly personal take on L.A.'s underworld from the 1940s through the 1960s is as captivating as it's horrifying.
Passengers will gather on Saturday 12/22 at Arnie Morton's downtown (which is opening specially for our group at noon, with a limited snack and bar menu), then get on the bus at 1pm sharp for James Ellroy's personal guided tour through the city that haunts his dreams and inspires his art.
We'll accompany the author on an uncensored time travel journey to tony Hancock Park, where he stalked his teenage classmates and later broke into houses. . . to the Hollywood flats to explore some of the heinous 1950s murder cases that fascinated him as a youth and continue to feed his obsessions. . . and out to El Monte, where his mother Geneva was murdered, the unsolved crime that runs through all his work, from "The Black Dahlia" to "My Dark Places."
When asked what passengers could expect on this tour, James Ellroy said, "I dig L.A. because I'm from here. My parents hatched me in a cool locale. I'm desperate to impress people, I'm a good talker, I know a shitload about L.A. and I want to share it. On this tour, you'll get L.A. crime and social history on an unparalleled AND intimate scale."
So get on the bus at Arnie Morton's in downtown LA on December 22 and spend your holidays with the demon dog of American literature, on what's sure to be the coolest ticket in town.
Tickets are $60/person, available from http://www.esotouric.com/ellroy or by emailing to reserve and then sending a check. Seats are extremely limited on this special event tour; and sorry, no discounts or Esotouric season pass tickets will be honored.
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Nov 17 – Pasadena Confidential tour
Sat Dec 8 - Raymond Chandler's LA
Sat Dec 15 - James M. Cain's So California Nightmare
Sat Dec 22 – James Ellroy Digs L.A.
Sun Jan 15 - Vroman's edition, The Real Black Dahlia
November 15, 1927
All around town, the news is notable.
Off in Owensmouth (Canoga Park to you crazy modernists), the citizens complain there are so many stray dogs in the streets, it's worse than Constantinople. Consider the deep valley as your next exotic vacation spot.
Mrs. Andria Reyes, 34, has eleven children and a husband who won't work, and they all have the munchies. That's more or less the excuse she gave Judge Westover for her small marijuana farming operation.
1120 East 32nd Street was burning, and Mrs. Frankie Weaver, 64, escaped unharmed. But once on the street, she realized she'd forgotten her canary Dickey. Back into the flaming second floor she charged, only to fall back, burned, inconsolable, without her little pet. They found her on the neighbors' porch, badly injured but unaware of herself, gazing mournfully into the fire, and took her to Georgia Street for treatment.
And in Wahperton, North Dakota, comes the passing of Hans Langseth, who had not cut his beard since July 14, 1875. It measured 17 feet when he breathed his last, and he could not only wear it round his neck like a muffler (mmm, sexy!), but traveled the world as a circus exhibition and won the 1922 world's longest competition at the Days of '49 celebration in Sacramento. We hear these things grow posthumously, so let's call Hans' crowning glory 17 feet, 1 inch. Huzzah!
November 13, 1927
A dead dancer,her restaurateur ex-husband, and a World War I flying ace: it was a cast of characters that wouldn't be out of place in the pulpiest fiction. La Monte McGinnis, currently a Major in the Army Reserve and
"one of the earliest American aviators to see service with a famous French Flying squadron," was arrested today on suspicion of forgery and mail fraud.
At some point in the past (detectives
didn't say just when), McGinnis met Mr. and Mrs. S.S. Schwartz in New York. Schwartz owned a restaurant; his wife, Tommasine Fabri, was a "French dancer." After the Schwartzes divorced, Fabri moved to Los Angeles where she seems to have become reacquainted with McGinnis. The change of climate was supposed to help her regain her
health, but Fabri died in August. She had been receiving payments from her ex-husband. McGinnis apparently saw no reason to chase this cash cow away by telling Schwartz of his ex-wife's death. Instead, he signed Fabri's name to "numerous requests" for money sent to Schwartz. According to detectives, Schwartz in turn mailed his dead
ex-wife $1800 (approximately $22,000 in 2007 dollars).
Several weeks ago, friends stopped into Schwartz's New York eatery and informed him
of Fabri's death. Schwartz hightailed it to Los Angeles, where he initiated the search that ended with McGinnis's arrest.
McGinnis admitted writing the letters to Schwartz, but said it was at Fabri's
request. "Before Miss Fabri died she asked me to look after her little girl until such time as I could get in touch with her
grandparents in Paris, France." Fabri apparently left no address for them; McGinnis claimed to have contacted the "prefecture of police in Paris" concerning their whereabouts but received no
reply. "The money I received from Schwartz for Renee's living and school expenses were due Miss Fabri anyway," he claimed. "She told me that she had loaned Schwartz money to start the restaurant business in New York. When they were divorced Miss Fabri asked for her money but agreed to accept a certain amount each month. . . . Miss Fabri told me this shortly before she died and asked me to send for the money and use it for Renee."
In case his sterling qualities as a protector of little girls failed to move police, McGinnis then stated he was a disabled war veteran, who contracted tuberculosis as a result of being gassed overseas. The case was turned over to Federal authorities for further investigation.
November 11, 1927
Mrs. Marie Steen was minding her own beeswax tonight in her home at 8619 Grape Street, when a short, heavy-set man appeared at her door. He informed her that her husband had been in an accident, and that she’d better board the eastbound R car, go to the end of the line and meet the man who’d take her to her husband. Marie did as she was told, and at the end of the car line was met by a man in a new automobile who took her north on Eastern Avenue. When they reached an isolated spot, he, for reasons unknown, ripped her dress open at the neck, struck her over the head, and threw iodine in her face.
She was treated at Gardens Hospital and returned home.
Mrs. Steen certainly looks like she can take care of herself. On the other hand, Grape Street can be a pretty rough place.