Here's another amazing discovery from the good folks at the Internet Archive. This May 1946 night time process shot through Downtown Los Angeles was filmed by Columbia for the Rita Hayworth vehicle Down to Earth. In the picture, the actress portrays the ancient Greek Muse Terpsichore, who visits 20th century America to torment the Broadway producer who dares put on a show portraying the muses as man-crazy sluts, and Terpsichore herself as "just an ordinary dame." Sacrilege!
It's a fitting theme for us here at 1947project. For while perturbed Terpsichore was no human female, we think she'd sympathize with the posthumous plight of Beth Short, Black Dahlia murder victim, brutalized before death by unknown assailants, and ever after subject to vile, false rumors. (No, she wasn't a prostitute. Our offshoot Esotouric offers a bus tour explaining who she really was.)
Now thanks to Down to Earth, we have this gorgeous footage of the heart of Beth Short's post-war city, a bright, populated and thriving Downtown that is as lost to us as the cultures of the Inca or the Toltec. Click "play" and enter a place that positively thrums with energy. Marvel at the neon lights, the late-night coffee houses, the fur shops, the airline offices, the swimsuit-clad manikins, the drug stores, the theaters of Broadway (some open all night), the street life. Gasp at Clifton's Pacific Seas (demolished 1960, now a parking lot) and Clifton's Brookdale (still with us, but indefinitely closed for renovations), boggle at Alexander & Oviatt's bright-lit windows packed with the hautest of gentleman's couture, and laugh when you spy unmistakeable evidence of just how huge a star Miss Rita Hayworth was in the spring of 1946.
Beth Short spent the last half of 1946 living in Los Angeles, bouncing from cheap hotel to friends' couch and back again. Her social life centered on the nightspots of Hollywood and Downtown. This process footage contains a near-exact recreation of her final steps on the night she vanished: south along Olive Street away from the Biltmore Hotel, then left on Eighth Street, where we are rewarded with two astonishingly rare views of the Crown Grill, the last place she was seen alive.
Knowing what we do, the stylized crown above the bar's entrance looks an awful lot like a death's head, doesn't it?
As a time travel portal, this clip rates among the finest. Blow it up big on your screen, sit back with a cup of something soothing, and be transported.
On March 6, 2012, social historians, bloggers and tour guides Nathan Marsak and Richard Schave spoke to students in Dr. J.B.C. Axelrod's History 395 course "Reading and Writing L.A." at Occidental College about their work on the 1947project time travel blogs, including On Bunker Hill, and the many ways of telling the many stories of Los Angeles.
March 15, 1927
Traditionally, the term greengrocer refers to a retail tradesperson who sells fresh fruits and vegetables. Should you be down on Temple Street, you might find grocer Edith Green to be a greengrocer of the green meat variety. Mmmm. Heck, even her Temple Street neighbor Abraham Margolis purveys criminally suspect comestibles.
Edith, at 922 Temple, and Abraham, at 937, were both charged with selling adulterated and contaminated foodstuffs. Stock amounting to $2,500 ($29,055 currentUSD) were ordered destroyed, she given thirty and he 180 days in the hoosegow, suspended on the condition that they clean up their act. And their stores.
As much fun as it would be to venture in to those structures now to see what eighty year-old smells lingered from the putrid pigs feet and bad borscht, we’ll have to content ourselves with visualizing such while whizzing under the one-ten:
Event: Weds, Jun 13 2007, 6:30-8:00pm
In anticipation of our upcoming Esotouric bus adventure John Fante: Dreams of Bunker Hill, we will be hosting the inaugural meeting of the Nobody Reads In L.A. book club at Lost Souls Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. The book under discussion: John Fante's classic tale of a downtown writer's struggles, Ask The Dust. Buy your copy at Metropolis Books around the corner from Los Souls, say you are a friend of Bandini's, and get 10% off the cover price.
Crack that spine, and we'll see you there!
On a trip from Utah to visit his daughter, H.E. Gibson keeps getting lost as he wanders around Los Angeles. No, it’s not because Gibson is 80, for his mind is still sharp. It’s because he hasn’t been back since 1848 and things have changed just a bit.
Even the old familiar landmark of Ft. Hill is covered with homes, he says. About the only spot in town he recognizes is the Plaza, where he keeps returning to get his bearings.
Gibson came to California with the “Flash Emigrant Colony” to establish Mormon settlements. The group couldn’t raise the money to buy Rancho Cucamonga, so they bought a parcel of land in San Bernardino, The Times says.
Land was “dirt cheap” in 1848, with entire blocks selling for $500 to $1,000, ($9,910.34-$19,820.69 USD 2005), Gibson said. But instead of becoming a real estate speculator, he left for Utah to bring the news (published in a New York newspaper that came around the Horn) proclaiming that Brigham Young had been appointed governor of the Utah Territory.
Note: Today presented a difficult decision, but I passed on some incredibly offensive caricatures of an African American who had been arrested, accompanied by quotes in dialect: “Ah dunno nothin’ about no stolen chickens” indeed.
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com
November 17, 1907
Mashers are at work across Los Angeles, although those at Levy’s Café certainly don’t have the cachet of a Caruso (or even of a Cazauran, I suspect) as reported on in Larry’s post below.
This time it was the work of ruffians, an all-too infrequently used word, which we at 1947project implore our readers to use at least thrice weekly henceforth.
In any course, Eugene Harrison, a “gentleman” by occupation, of 612 Figueroa Street, had taken his friends Mr. and Mrs. George Walters of 714 Figueroa, and one Miss Margaret de Baugh, a guest at the Hotel Ohio, 1104 East Seventh, off to Levy’s Café for some late-night comestibles and libations.
All was well until Harrison and Mr. Walters went off in search of a waiter so as to procure the group’s nightcaps, when in strolled a couple of rowdies. When Harrison and Walters returned they found their lady companions engaged in a struggle for some deep lip-lock with the burly intruders. Walters bravely ran off to find a policeman, whereas Harrison jumped upon the brutes, and by all accounts, put up a sturdy fight.
When Walters returned with a constable in tow, they found a supine Harrison, having received a broken nose and two black eyes for his trouble. The smooch-mad barbarians had fled.
The Walters’, and Harrison, recent and monied émigrés from Pittsburgh, are anxious to have the whole sordid affair hushed, but stated they were willing to testify against the mashers if the pair were ever arrested.
The former site of Levy's Café now looks like this--
....could this be an Edwardian-era building, remuddled into unrecognizability? Well, it’s late on a Friday night, or early on a Saturday morning, and I’m not about to go out investigating. But if it is an old building, I can conjecture with certitude that its interior no longer looks like this.
Nov. 15, 1907
Architect Charles Mulford Robinson has drafted a proposal for downtown Los Angeles that is stunning in its ambition. One portion calls for broad boulevard leading from a proposed Union Station at Central and 5th Street toward Grand, ending at a new public library and art gallery. The other, equally elaborate, calls for a grouping of civic buildings and terraced gardens around North Spring Street, including a new City Hall.
November 6, 1907
When Mrs. Jenevieve Van Lakum, a well-to-do and refined 35 year-old widow from Manitou, Colorado checked into an apartment at 803 East Fifth Street with her four children and a black gentleman, it was assumed by the proprietor that the gentleman was her porter.
But a certain Patrolman C. H. Jones espied Jenevieve and the black gentleman about town, and made an investigation. It came to light that the man, William Seay, was occupying the same apartment.
Humane Officer Reynolds took the children into custody and the two adults face arrest.
After Mrs. Van Lakum was taken to Central Station and interrogated, she broke down and admitted that she loved the man, and “could not explain her affection for the negro.” They came from the east to Los Angeles with the express purpose of becoming husband and wife, but the LA Powers That Be put the kibosh on that. Police suspected that Seay held some “uncanny” influence over her, but Jeneivieve denied that she had been hypnotized. Seay further stated that he maintained his relations with her only for the money she gave him, which to this point had amounted to about $500 ($10,261 USD 2005).
Postscript – on November 10, “Humane Officer” Reynolds confessed that the sextet had given him the slip. After having secured Seay’s promise to stay away from the woman, Reynolds allowed Van Lakum to take the children in search of a cottage to rent—and disappeared.
Says Reynolds: “I believe that she has found a cottage somewhere in the suburbs and is living quietly. Whether the negro visits her or not, I have no positive knowledge, but I am inclined to believe that he does.
“Information from the East states that Mrs. Van Lakum is the member of a prominent family in Chicago. I think that she is irresponsible. I believe she is mentally deranged.”
Let’s hope they found happiness somewhere, though where in 1907 Los Angeles that would be, I do not know. Certainly not in Edendale.
October 3, 1907
During tonight’s dinnertime—the fashionable hour for society at the Hotel Van Nuys at Fourth and Main (Morgan & Walls, 1896) a furry friend decided to hobnob with the upper crust. Strolling in through the Fourth Street entrance like the most gracious of chaps, of which there were many in the lobby, came a great husky sewer rat.
Pandemonium ensued: “Dainty Parisian lingerie and open-work stockings appeared on view. Gallant gentlemen dropped their cigars and ladies jumped on chairs, but still the rat stood his ground.”
Porters and elevator boys descended, and Mr. Rattus fled the scene through a hole in some missing wainscoting (the Van Nuys undergoing some changes to the lobby). Immediately the house ferret, kept in the engine room for just this sort of affair, was thrust into the opening.
A loud, chilling three-round bout ensued inside the wall, and the ferret emerged bloody and beaten. The rat stuck his nose out his hiding place as if to challenge all comers, and another ferret, this one less soft and over-weight, was sent in to dispatch the venturesome intruder.
The story headline says the rat was killed, but the actual tale makes no such mention. Without a body, I’d say Mr. Ferret merely bragged about besting his opponent, and Mr. Rat went off to the Rosslyn, or perhaps the King Edward.
(The Van Nuys became the Hotel Barclay in the 1930s [adding a magnificent art deco neon blade sign]. The Barclay is now one of the many “28-day-shuffle” transient hotels in the area, where monthly rent is $360.)
September 22, 1907
A few days ago I posted about the Vance family who, having lost their young son, responded to their grief with solemnity and rectitude, though in a manner unusual to the dictates of the age. More appropriate to the workings of 1907, perhaps, is the mayhem that ensued after the Musitelles of 812 Howard Street lost their little John.
Mr. and Mrs. John Musitelle have five children; four daughters, and their favorite, youngest child John Jr. Musitelle, a fruit merchant, often took little John on the wagon ride between their ranch in Fernando and the fruit markets east of Chinatown. The mother had admonished John Sr. to never let the boy out of his sight, but today, Musitelle entrusted the task to an employee, one Pete Gotelli. Musitelli had to stay in Fernando on business, and the boy, who was exhausted from playing, pleaded with his father to allow Gottelli to take him home. Musitelle consented.
Mrs. Musitelli waited at the corner of Macy and Howard for the arrival of her husband; when the Gottelli-driven fruit wagon arrived, Gottelli left the horses unhitched and fled (questioned later, Gottelli stated that he didn’t want to face the mother). There, in the carriage, little John appeared to be sleeping. It would be a long sleep—at the west end of the East Main Street bridge over the Los Angeles River, John had fallen from the wagon as it crossed the railroad tracks, and was crushed under its wheels. Mrs. Musitelle carried John to the couch inside, where he passed away.
“They have killed my Johnnie!” screamed Mrs. Musitelle, who in her rage became violent at all who came near. Neighbors had called the undertaker’s wagon from Pierce Brother’s, and as the boy was being loaded in, Mrs. Musitelle broke free from those restraining her and grabbed the boy back.
At that point Mr. Musitelle arrived home, and despite a desperate struggle, managed to stab himself in the chest, though without doing serious damage. Mr. and Mrs. were taken to another house, where Mrs. Musitelle insisted she did not recognize Mr. Musitelle. When she finally realized who he was, she accused him of killing the boy. Mr. Musitelle has stated that he will end his life at the earliest given opportunity.
We can only assume that, unlike the Vance family, the Musitelles will imbue their son’s funeral with every possible trapping of black-clad mourning.
August 31, 1907
William Bradley, the “Singing Negro,” was arrested three times yesterday before performing an act of singular bravery today.
Everyone likes the religious fanatic, and because there is no law prohibiting a man from singing religious songs on the street, he’s been busting out camp-meetin’ aubades downtown in a voice “that would make the steam whistle on a New Orleans cotton-boat turn green with envy.”
When some motorman on the Temple-street car finally had had enough, and after his strenuous objection to authorities, a warrant was sworn out on Bradley for Disturbing the Peace. Friends quickly put up bail and Bradley burst into spirituals on the steps of the station. Arrested again as he marched down Spring, he was released and promptly arrested again as he belted out canticles on South Broadway. He finally agreed to hold in his gospel long enough to reach home, though said he guessed he’d “might near burst open.”
Today, Bradley was walking along Temple, singing at top strength, when a runaway horse charged down the hill, bearing straight for two women and a little girl. Men did not care to step off the sidewalk, but Bradley never stopped singing, his voice in fact rising higher in song, as he dashed into the street to throw himself upon and pinion the mad animal.
Without waiting for thanks, he lifted his voice and trudged away.
June 23, 1907
What can one say about pretty young Eva Pulva? She lived in a lonely cottage on West Fifty-Fourth, and though her mother and sister lived on East Fifty-Seventh, she told people she had no kin. Her gentleman friends knew little of her. The police knew her best of all—watching as she, a ward of the probation department, came to the verge of trouble via men of low character. But she’d secured her nice little cottage, and things seemed to be going well…
…until she shaved her head and disappeared. The cops looked for her to offer her protection from whatever trouble she was in, but didn’t find her until she had a self-inflicted bullet in her chest.
Her note read “Dearest Sister: You will find my trunk at 2739 Budlong avenue. Please don’t tell the lady you are a relative of mine. I told her I had no relation. So let me go knowing that one person on your Sunny Earth don’t think me a liar. I am sorry I don’t leave espense money but (I belong to a gang that have my money) and when they hear I am goine most likely you will get it. Don’t tell mother. I wrote anything. Put me anywhere sister. I do don’t care where. I know you understand and my dear I am no good here…I am a coward to live but not a coward to die.”
Won't you please join us on Saturday June 10th, for our second tour of the downtown area to explore some of the weirdest criminal and spectral happenings of the past century?
Each ticket costs $47, and entitles the bearer to a 5-hour guided tour on a n air-conditioned luxury coach, snacks, beverages and the fascinating company of fifty-some fellow crime and social history buffs.
Tickets may be purchased here, via paypal:
Or if you prefer to pay by check, just get in touch and we will hold your seat.