Let Me Rephrase That, Officer …

August 21, 1927
Los Angeles

The voice on the phone was breathless. "Help! Murder! Police!! He’s killing me, come quick!" (All dialogue, however fanciful, comes verbatim from today’s Los Angeles Times.) "Be right over," responded the dispatcher, as he sent two of his "star murder squad officers" to the scene of the crime.

They were met at the door of 1618 East 27th Street by Mrs. Georgia Brown, who quickly assured them there was nothing out of order at her house. "Must be something wrong somewhere [else], everything’s running according to Hoyle here," she told the officers.

Then Mrs. Brown made an error, a grievous one, the kind for which you’ll forever after kick yourself, even if you live to be 100. "Just walk in and see for yourselves," she said.

The cops didn’t need to be asked twice. A five-minute investigation of Mrs. Brown’s house turned up five bottles of home brew. Called before the judge on a charge of possessing alcohol, Mrs. Brown was given the choice of a $100 fine or ten days in jail. She chose the former—though she still believes the police came to the wrong house.

The Killer Slide of Long Beach

August 14, 1927
Long Beach

There was the sun’s blinding reflection on the water and the smell of burnt sugar and salt on the air today at the Silver Spray Pier amusement park in Long Beach. Summer is on the wane, and what should have been just one more seaside frolic before coeds return to campus and office girls to their typewriters ended in tragedy for 19-year-old Annie Navarro of 2805-1/2 North Main Street, Los Angeles. Along with a group of friends, the young woman visited a concession which featured a hardwood slide with a polished surface. When she was about halfway down the slide, however, Annie stopped dead—literally. Upon close inspection, it was discovered that she was impaled upon a foot-long sliver of wood. The makeshift dagger pierced several vital organs, and must have killed her instantly, said Dr. W.R. Palmer.

Silver Spray Pier survived another 21 years before it was torn down in 1948.

Exclusive! Flapper Fashions Lead to Arrest, Disease

August 7, 1927

Bathing Beauty of 1927

Grandma knew better than to show her ankles on the street, but today’s young Jezebels think nothing of flaunting bare knees, backs, and arms in the public square. In a pair of exclusives to the Los Angeles Times, reporters covered the scourge of flapper fashions.

In woodsy Ellenville, New York, Chief of Police Ross bluntly described the problem facing his village. "They really don’t wear enough clothes, the girls who come here for the summer," he said today. Not that the town fathers objected to "short dresses and low-necked gowns, or even bathing suits" as long as the wearer appeared "to have at least a vague interest in swimming." Herein lay the problem. "Somehow a fad got started . . .," Chief Ross explained, "and now half of the girls are running around the streets dressed only in swimming trunks and blouses." On the streets, mind you, where children and the good town fathers might see them—and where no swimming ever took place. "Others wear some little jumpers that look like men’s track pants, sweaters and sandals," the law man continued, perhaps evidencing a more than professional interest in the topic. But woe to these sun-worshippers and their fans: Mayor Wells plans to call a meeting of city trustees next week to pass an ordinance compelling "the girls to wear more clothes."

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Hoye E. Dearholt today announced that "[s]cantiness in women’s dress is primarily responsible" for a rise in "the white plague" of tuberculosis among young women. According to Dr. Dearholt (chief of staff at the Wisconsin Tuberculosis Association), girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25 who diet to attain fashionably boyish figures and then dress in revealing clothing lower their resistance and set themselves up as easy prey for the disease. "There is a point in the race for scanty clothing at which a girl must stop, lest the body be chilled too much and weakened," the doctor noted before calling for "dress reform." Fashions "somewhere between the petticoat days of two decades ago and the extreme flimsiness of the present day dress would be ideal," he noted.

One only hopes Mayor Wells, Chief Ross, and Dr. Dearholt didn’t live to see the advent of the miniskirt and monokini in the 1960s.

A Never-Ending Story

July 31, 1927
Los Angeles

Florence C. Schuchart

A terrible scene greeted the eyes of sisters Florence and Thelma Schuchart (ages 18 and 23, respectively) when they returned home to 158 W. 52nd Place from the beach about 4:30 p.m. today. There, in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor, lay their mother, Florence C. Schuchart , 44, stabbed to death by the man who lay next to her with a butcher knife clutched in his hand, John C. Bowers, 45. Bowers, most recently of the Fair Hotel, 525-1/2 S. Main Street, apparently cut his own throat. (The Times referred to Bowers as "a friend of Mrs. Schuchart" but given he’d just killed her, I think we’ll skip that locution.)

According to detectives, Schuchart had been dead longer than Bowers and based on the disarray and bloodstains throughout the house, she struggled mightily for her life. Family members said that Schuchart recently tried to cut off a relationship with Bowers of several months’ standing. Neighbors reported that Bowers, a traveling salesman who was reportedly "hard up and out of work," had previously threatened to shoot Schuchart.

A brief note addressed to Mary V. Busy of Riverside was found in a sealed envelope on the kitchen table. In it, Bowers declared his suicidal intentions.

Rest in peace, Florence C. Schuchart.

The Continuing Saga of Aimee Semple McPherson

Aimee Semple McPherson

July 24, 1927
Echo Park

Relations between evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and her mother, Mrs. Minnie "Ma" Kennedy, are reported to be on the mend today after a recent dust-up concerning the management of McPherson’s Angelus Temple. Kennedy had been acting as business manager while Sister Aimee was off on a preaching tour, but a series of burglaries (whispers said embezzlements) caused some church members—her daughter apparently among them—to lose confidence in Kennedy’s abilities. Sister Aimee cut her trip short earlier this week and returned to Los Angeles, where yesterday she announced that her mother was going to take a "long needed" vacation to the Holy Land.

Today, however, Sister Aimee presented her mother with three options by way of a peace pact. Mrs. Kennedy could either (1) remain at the church but not in a managerial position; (2) take control of the entire organization while Sister Aimee founded a new and separate church; or (3) retire from all active participation in the church and receive "a substantial income from Angelus Temple" for the rest of her life.

Mrs. Kennedy declined comment (though reporters noted her tearful visage). It is anticipated she will choose the first option. Sister Aimee meanwhile emphatically denied any personal animosity between the women (seen here reunited, along with Aimee’s children, after last year’s "kidnapping") or even that anyone had tried to oust her mother from the church in the first place.

In another blow to the scandal-plagued evangelist, former Angelus Temple band leader Gladwyn Nichols today announced his reasons for leaving McPhersons’s church to found his own, chief among them being Sister Aimee’s "sensational" alleged abduction of last May. Nichols also pointed to alleged financial improprieties at Angelus Temple, and condemned Sister Aimee’s "flagrant … activities in obtaining publicity" including "posing before the news camera in stylish and expensive dresses" and "being photographed with bobbed hair."

Ice Cream: It’s What’s For Dinner.

July 17, 1927

Health and Diet Advice

In an effort to redeem a luscious dairy treat’s good name after being caught in a bootlegging scandal last week—-or perhaps because it was a slow news day—-Dr. Frank McCoy today announced that “ICE CREAM IS A REAL FOOD.â€Â

This is the good news we’ve been waiting for, folks. According to Dr. McCoy (author of the Los Angeles Times’s “Health and Diet Adviceâ€Â column), ice cream “should at all times be considered a real food and not a delicacy.â€Â Besides being rich in vitamin A and calcium, a half-pint of ice cream has as much lime as a half-pound of butter, four pounds of meat, or three-and-a-half pounds of potatoes. Never heard about the importance of lime in your diet? Me either—-but if we eat enough ice cream, we’ll never have to worry about it again.

Dr. McCoy also has a word or two for those who criticize manufacturers for adding gelatin to their ice creams. “… I would suggest that the laws be changed to admit the use of even more gelatin, as this is an excellent food product which makes the ice cream still more palatable and delicious.â€Â

Packed with all that lime and gelatin, ice cream is a veritable superfood. Dr. McCoy “suggest[s] that you try some summer lunches with ice cream as the principal part of the meal, using with it any one kind of the acid fruits … or … cooked and raw nonstarchy vegetables.â€Â Ice cream salad, anyone?

Should you find your pants getting a little tight after all that healthfulness, you might want to take a look at Dr. McCoy’s book, The Fast Way to Health.

Is Nothing Sacred?

July 10, 1927
Los Angeles

Is nothing sacred?

First peanuts and now the All-American ice cream cone. Is there no treat safe from the bootlegger’s evil maw? Assistant Federal prohibition administrator Frank E. Benedict today announced the discovery of what was called "one of the most completely equipped distilleries" ever found in Los Angeles, hidden in the innocent guise of an ice cream cone factory.

A curious fact brought the plant (located at 354-1/2 West Manchester Avenue) to the attention of eagle-eyed prohibition agents: business appeared to be flourishing, yet no deliveries were seen leaving the building. Further investigation ensued. When proprietor James Kanich was informed that the interior measurements of the shop matched those he previously provided to agents, his response was "a flippant remark" that led Benedict to measure the building’s exterior as well. A twenty-three foot discrepancy was thus discovered. Benedict returned inside, sounded the wall with a hammer, found a weak spot, and chopped into the wallboard. Behind it stood a 500-gallon still in full operation. Four thousand gallons of mash were ready for use at the top of a nearby stairway, and forty five-gallon cans of grain alcohol were packed in heavy paper cartons ostensibly used for freshly baked ice cream cones. The distilling room was accessible only through a narrow closet door which, when closed, appeared to be a solid wall. Meanwhile, a thorough check of the main building yielded stale ice cream cones and cone-making machinery filled with cobwebs.

Both Kanich and his wife, Mary, denied knowledge of the still. Mrs. Kanich told agents that she and her husband were the innocent victims of a group who financed the cone factory, led by a man she could identify only as "Harry."

The Kaniches were arrested for violation of the Volstead Act. Benedict promised further arrests would be made.

The Other Hilton Sisters

July 3, 1927
Los Angeles

The other Hilton sisters

Violet and Daisy Hilton are not hotel heiresses. They must work for a living, which is why you will find them at the Pantages theater this week. Nor do they resort to flashing their lady parts for attention. In fact, it may be physically difficult for them to do so: this set of Hilton sisters has been joined at the hips and buttocks since their birth nineteen years ago.

Armed with the latest novels and a Pekinese dog named Boy, Violet and Daisy arrived in Los Angeles tonight from San Antonio, Texas. The twins were accompanied by their aunt, Mrs. Myer Myers, who noted that their conjoined condition does not hinder their performance of the Black Bottom. When not thus engaged onstage, she told reporters, the girls study with a private tutor.

The twins profess to be a happy pair. "We never quarrel," Violet told reporters waiting at the train station. "What’s the use?"

* * * * *

What was the use, indeed? Especially when reality was so much harsher than the Hilton twins let on to reporters in 1927. Myers, for example, was not their aunt. Two weeks after their birth in Brighton, England, in 1908, Violet and Daisy were "adopted" by their unwed mother’s landlady, Mary Hilton, who immediately put them on display. When Hilton died, the twins were "willed" to Edith Myers, the wife of a carnival balloon salesman. Myers and her husband physically abused Violet and Daisy at the same time they exploited them on stage—and kept their earnings.

In 1915, Violet, Daisy, and the Myerses moved to the United States. By the 1920s, the pretty pair of conjoined twins were a sensation on the vaudeville circuit, where they danced, sang, and played the clarinet and saxophone. They were also implicated in their advance man’s divorce action. Dean Jensen’s recent biography suggests that both Violet and Daisy had in fact slept with William Oliver at the time his wife sued to dissolve their marriage.

By 1931, Violet and Daisy had had enough of the Myerses. They found an attorney who helped them break their contract, and took their career into their own hands. They appeared in Tod Browning’s classic movie, Freaks, in 1932.

The following year, twenty-one states refused to issue a wedding license to Violet and her fiancé. That relationship collapsed, but Violet eventually married her dance partner in 1936 (on the 50-yard line at the Cotton Bowl during the Texas Centennial Exposition, no less). Daisy wed in 1941, but the marriage lasted only two weeks.

After the failure of their second film, Chained for Life (1950), in which they played vaudeville performers Dorothy and Vivian Hamilton, Daisy and Violet opened The Hilton Twins’ Snack Bar in Miami. The venture was not a success. An attempt to cash in on the revival of Freaks in 1962 ended when an unscrupulous agent absconded with their money.

At the end, Violet and Daisy Hilton worked in a Charlotte, North Carolina supermarket. When they didn’t show up for work one day in 1969, the police found them dead of the "Hong Kong flu" in the small trailer they called home. Penniless and in debt at the time of their demise, they were buried in a donated cemetery plot.

A Woman of Many Names—And Almost A New Face

June 26, 2007
Los Angeles

O! What a tangled web some weave when first they practice to deceive their spouses. A few days ago, Theodore A. Kocotis returned home to an empty house—his wife, Carrie, was missing. Five long days later, there came a telephone call:  Carrie Kocotis was desperately ill in a Santa Monica sanatorium, the result of a “face-lifting” operation. Kocotis made haste, but his wife died before he arrived.

The grieving widower hired Attorney Earl S. Wakeman to start probate proceedings. But instead of a few pennies’ worth of pin money squirreled away here and there, Wakeman discovered $10,000 in chattel (almost $120,000 in 2007 dollars). And then there were the aliases. As Carrie L. Brody, Mrs. Kocotis acted as a housemother in a sorority; she conducted other business under the names of Carrie Sullivan and Carrie L. Williams. Her safety deposit box was rented in the name of Carrie Wright, and it was there she stored her jewels and securities.

Wakeman announced today that he intends to see that the events surrounding Mrs. Kocotis’s untimely demise are fully investigated by the District Attorney.

Calling All Mediums!

Hardeen

Los Angeles
June 19, 1927

The magician Hardeen has issued a $10,000 challenge to the local spiritualist community: all they need to do is produce a single genuine message from his brother, Harry Houdini, the internationally renowned exposer of fake mediums who passed away last October 31st. Hardeen, who appears this week at the Hillstreet Theatre, told reporters that about a year ago he and Houdini made a pact with a third brother, William, as the latter lay dying. Four secret words (or six; today’s reports varied) would be communicated from the beyond by the first brother to cross over the great divide. Thereafter nary a peep was heard from William, and while Houdini’s great and mysterious powers might have been expected to aid him in drawing back the curtain between life and death, no message from him has yet been received. This contradicts a recent claim by the Egyptian fakir Hamid Bey; apparently this message contained none of the secret words agreed upon by the brothers. Indeed, Hardeen says he will award the $10,000 to anyone who can produce a communiqué containing only one or two of these. Not that Hardeen is expecting to hear from either Houdini or William any time soon: "None of us believe[d] in spiritualism," he confided.