To Do: Prune Your Roses in Memory of Beth Short

Gentle reader,

Today is a terrible day in Los Angeles history, the 61st anniversary of the morning when Elizabeth Short, soon to be infamous as the Black Dahlia, was discovered dead and cut in two in a vacant lot in Leimert Park. Each January 15, our friend and Dahlia-ologist Larry Harnisch likes to prune his roses and think of Beth. Richard already pruned our roses this morning, and as they come back to lovely life we will remember this little lost girl. She would have been 83 years old, had she lived.

On Sunday, the Esotouric bus rolled south from Vroman’s Bookstore with a full bus of charming people for the debut of Richard’s new manifestation of our flagship tour THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA. We were seen off by the delightful Queen Mickie, taking a break from her Doodah Parade preparations to christen the bus with champagne… bubblebath! Then we headed downtown, to explore the psychology and deep mysteries of Beth Short’s last hours, visiting the places she frequented, examining the characters who touched her, in life and in death and coming to some understanding of who this strange girl was and what brought her to Los Angeles and her early death.

See photos from this tour here:

And see Queen Mickie in the Doodah Parade next Sunday:

This Saturday, 1/19, we offer my personal favorite of our true crime tours, BLOOD AND DUMPLINGS, a criminal and gastronomical excursion into the deeply bizarre criminal and cultural history of the San Gabriel Valley. Meet lions and nazis and hypodermic-jabbing lesbians, religious zealots obsessed with pyramid power, a lesser-known Manson Family victim, James Ellroy’s iconic murdered mother Geneva, Phil Spector and his hillside castle, deadly trailer parks and actual sea monsters, who will keep you company as you gobble down a dumpling feast from 101 Noodle Express, one of Jonathan Gold’s top LA restaurants. Join us do, and reserve your spot today by emailing me or buying online at

As always, we offer 15% off for KCRW members, and a $30 discount when you purchase a 4-tour Season Pass, which can be applied retroactively for folks who have ridden a recent tour. Email for more info or visit the website to reserve your spot on the unpredictable floating LA think tank that is the Esotouric bus.  


Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule (new tours starred):
Sat Jan 19- Blood & Dumplings San Gabriel Valley Crime Bus Tour
San Jan 26- Weird West Adams Crime Bus Tour
Sat Feb 2- Where the Action Was Hollywood Rock and Roll Tour
*Sat Feb 16- Wild Wild West Side Crime Bus Tour
*Sat Feb 23- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: The Many Downtowns
*Sat Mar 1- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: Route 66 (on Banham’s birthday weekend)
*Sat Mar 8- Raymond Chandler’s Bay City (West Los Angeles Chandler tour)
Sun Mar 9- Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles (on the anniversary of his death)
Sat Mar 15- Vroman’s Bookstore presents Pasadena Confidential

The Ballroom Blitz downtown swap debuts on Beth Short’s birthday 7/29

Gentle reader,

I’m writing to pull your sleeve to a wonderful event organized by Nico Bella, co-host of our upcoming Charles Bukowski tour and collaborator on many Esotouric projects. It’s the Ballroom Blitz, an indie swap meet and art fair in the exquisite Palm Court at the Alexandria Hotel on Sunday, 7/29… which just happens to be Elizabeth Short’s birthday. Hard to believe the Black Dahlia would only be 83 had she lived. Anyhoo, Richard and I will have a table of gewgaws, and I’ll be DJing a set, so let’s hope that nutty bubblegum music doesn’t bring the Tiffany ceiling down. It’s free and promises to be a ball, and we hope to see you there.

yrs, etc.,

Bargain Hunters of Los Angeles…

Fleur De Lethal Productions
in co-operation with
The Alexandria
is delighted to announce the launch of
"The Ballroom Blitz"
an indie swap meet and art mart in the historic
Palm Court Ballroom of The Alexandria

We will have DJs (including Teenacide Records mogul Jim Freek, Scram and 1947project’s Kim Cooper, Greg Belson and Andy Cobb of The Hogwash Jump Joint @ Bordello, Jason 71 – Downtown Luminary & member of the band Eskimohunter, DJ Alexander Lawrence – Music is My Boyfriend @ Bar 107 & Safari Sams, Disc Jockey Full of Bourbon – Raindogs and Bluebirds ) spinning under the Tiffany glass ceiling and our in-building bar Charlie O’s will open at 12pm, providing deluxe Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas to limber up your shopping tendencies!

There will also be raffles every hour for gift certificates, goods and goodies from swap-o-riffic vendors and
downtown businesses. Raffle tickets will sell for $1 with all
proceeds going to support The National Night Out on August 7th
The Ballroom Blitz launches
On Beth Short’s birthday
Sunday July 29th
The Alexandria (in The Palm Court off the main lobby)
501. S. Spring, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Doors open @ Noon and we will be
shoppin’, swappin’, sippin’ and rockin’ til 7pm!

For more information on The Ballroom Blitz or to book a table (just $10) please contact event organizer Nico Bella
213.325.0907 or via email


A large (20×30) reproduction of Elizabeth Short’s mug shot has appeared on EBay at a starting price of $250, or $400 under “buy it now” in an auction by mermaidfx. The word “rare” is ridiculously common on EBay, surpassed only by “MIB” and “L@@K.” This is not a rare image, but is widely copied. And folks, the asking price is absurd.

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Kim and Nathan on the radio Friday, candlelit vigil Thursday night

Early risers can hear 1947project’s Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak talking about the 60th anniversary of the Black Dahlia case on Joe Escalante’s show around 7am Friday on Indie 103.1-FM. That’s on your radio dial in old Los Angeles, or on the interwebs at

And don’t forget, tonight at 9pm, we lead a candlelit vigil in memory of Elizabeth Short. It begins at the Regent Galleries at 446-450 S. Main, where the "Her Name Was Elizabeth" exhibition is opening, continuing on to the Biltmore Hotel. Along the way we’ll provide information about the crime and its connection with the downtown L.A. neighborhood, sort of a mini, walking Crime Bus tour as a preview to the Real Black Dahlia tours this weekend and Tuesday. Seats are still available for all three tours, so please click over/
to reserve if interested.

Find The Dahlia, Win A Crime Bus Ticket

The 60th Anniversary Lost Weekend of the Black Dahlia is nearly upon us, and we have two new events to announce.

On Friday, January 12, from 6-9pm, a woman dressed as the Black Dahlia will glide eerily along Hollywood Boulevard between Argyle and Cherokee, the old stomping grounds of Elizabeth Short. Perhaps she will be found in the Frolic Room or Pig and Whistle, or just cruising the boulevard. This spectral figure carries a basket of flowers, and will give one to anyone who calls her by her true name, Elizabeth. One of these lucky flowers is valid as one free ticket on the Sunday morning January 14 Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour, or for half off one seat on the VIP midnight tour and film premiere on Tuesday January 16.

And on Thursday, January 11 at 9pm, a candlelit vigil will leave Regent Galleries, 446-450 South Main Street downtown, site of the Black Dahlia-inspired art exhibition "Her Name Was Elizabeth." Those wishing to show their respect for Elizabeth Short and other souls lost to violence will walk from Main Street to the Biltmore Hotel, the last place she was seen alive, then continue south for a few blocks along the route that police believe she took before being abducted. The vigil will be led by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak, hosts of 1947project’s Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour, and true facts and myths of the case will be shared along the way. The group
will then return to Regent Galleries for a 10:30pm screening of Ramzi Abed’s "Black Dahlia Movie."

The Lost Weekend is six days of art exhibitions, readings, film screenings, live cabaret and Crime Bus tours celebrating the life, myth and legend of Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia. For a full schedule, visit

We have some openings on the Saturday 1/13 Real Black Dahlia tour. To reserve your seat on Saturday, Sunday 1/14 or the Tuesday 1/16 VIP night, please visit

And in Black Dahlia news…

You may think you’re up on your Black Dahlia lore, but you might have missed two recent books that take very different approaches to the case. First, there’s the memoir from Jacque Daniel, "The Curse of the Black Dahlia." Daniel was daughter and secretary to police psychiatrist Paul de River, whose involvement in the case was tinged with controversy. See her site for ordering info and her rebuttal of the claims in Donald Wolfe’s recent, worthless contribution to the genre.

Then there’s "Exquisite Corpse" by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss, which takes as gospel the Steve Hodel theory of mutilation murder as homage a l’art moderne, and digs into the notion of the posing and abuses of Beth Short’s body as a Surrealist art piece. While not quite as loopy as Gareth Penn’s "Times 17" (Zodiac Killer as earthworks artist), it does sound rather outré.

Medium Image

Wheels of misfortune: Bus tours Dahlia haunts

By Norma Meyer

September 15, 2006

LOS ANGELES – The most notorious body dumpsite in L.A. history is now the manicured front lawn of a post-World War II home on a quiet street lined with similar one-story stucco houses.

There’s no memorial plaque or hint this is it – the macabre magnet where, nearly 60 years ago, the Black Dahlia’s naked corpse was discarded in two cleanly cut hunks in a weed-choked vacant lot.

“She was very deliberately posed to be seen,” says crime connoisseur Kim Cooper.

The 39-year-old Angeleno lingers on the same Norton Avenue sidewalk where a stroller-pushing young mom discovered the blood-drained Dahlia, her mouth sliced on each side to form a deranged clown grin.

In Brian De Palma’s “The Black Dahlia,” this horror landmark, along with most of 1940s Los Angeles, is actually Bulgaria, where the movie was mainly shot. Noir hipsters Cooper and Nathan Marsak bring luxury buses to the real thing: This weekend they will launch the expanded Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour, a doomed heebie-jeebies journey that includes Hollywood flophouses and hangouts frequented by 22-year-old cash-strapped Elizabeth Short.

It’s a cold, cold case. In that vein, bus-traveling groupies will gorge at a Hollywood gelato shop debuting 12 unique Black Dahlia flavors. One is Vanilla and Whiskey.

As it’s been said before: The Dahlia is to Los Angeles what Jack the Ripper is to London.

Massachusetts-bred Betty Short was a transient unemployed ex-waitress who hit town in mid-1946, left for a while to live in San Diego, and returned here six days before her mutilated body turned up in the Leimert Park neighborhood on the clear morning of Jan. 15, 1947.

An aspiring starlet, she was among the wannabes who flocked to a Hollywood still in its heyday. Around the time, a homegrown ingénue named Norma Jeane changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. “The Big Sleep” star Humphrey Bogart immortalized his handprints and footprints in the famous forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The poignant classic about WWII vets, “The Best Years of Our Lives,” was about to sweep the Oscars.

And singing cowboy Gene Autry rode Champion in a parade down Hollywood Boulevard, the nightclub-dotted street that a roommate said Short often prowled.

But the social climate was changing in the City of Angels.

“A lot of women who had worked and been independent during the war were in the process of being pushed out by servicemen returning home,” says Cooper, who with Marsak and Dahlia expert Larry Harnisch deftly blog the city’s bygone murders and mayhem on the Web site

“There was a lot of conflict. There was also a huge housing crisis and people were forced to move in with their family and rent rooms.”

Back then, a pimento cheese sandwich cost 20 cents. A top sirloin steak dinner was $1.65. A glass of port, 17 cents. Short didn’t have much money for any of it: Friends told police she sponged off men for meals.

The flower-fond brunette – she dyed her brown hair jet-black – was last seen alive Jan. 9, 1947, in the marbled and chandeliered lobby of the downtown Biltmore Hotel. She had been dropped off by Robert Manley, a married traveling salesman who drove her up from San Diego and, along with hundreds of suspects and crazed confessors, would be cleared in the case.

Detectives, after finding two votive candles in Short’s checked bags at a nearby bus station, questioned Biltmore bathroom attendants to see if she was seen fixing her bad teeth. The Dahlia used candle wax to plug cavities.

No one knows for sure what happened to Short after she left the Biltmore. “She may have gone to the Crown Grill. Some people said they saw her there,” Marsak says. The long-gone downtown bar is now Club Galaxy – “100 Beautiful Girls,” the sign outside beckons.

Short did stay at the nearby Figueroa Hotel in September 1946, when she met a uniformed Army soldier on a street corner, according to FBI files. The serviceman said he took the “very friendly” and “very well-dressed” Short to see Tony Martin’s broadcast at the CBS studios in Hollywood, and to dinner at Tom Breneman’s restaurant, the home of a popular morning radio show. At Breneman’s, the headwaiter recognized Short and waved her through a line of waiting patrons.

The soldier said he spent the night at the hotel with Short and she mentioned “Los Angeles was a tough city and that it was dangerous for a girl to be alone on the streets at night.”

In Hollywood, Short bunked at several places until she landed at the still-standing, then $1-a-night Chancellor Apartments, where she shared a room with five women. The manager once held Short’s suitcase as collateral when she tried to skip on the rent.

In early December 1946, Short left for San Diego. Dorothy French, an usher at the downtown Aztec Theater, took pity on the sad soul she saw hanging around and invited her to stay with her family at the Bayview Terrace housing project in Pacific Beach, according to news reports. The Frenches were about to boot the jobless, partying Short when on Jan. 8 she checked into a Pacific Beach motel with Manley, whom she’d met a few weeks before. He told police they spent a platonic night together and then he drove her up to the Biltmore, ostensibly to meet her sister.

When Manley left her that evening, she was a pretty black-clad drifter who got her nickname from a Veronica Lake movie of the time, “The Blue Dahlia.” Today, the morbid icon is a cottage industry: There are Internet sites, a TV movie, a coffee-table book that connects her killing to surrealist art, and a tome that implicates Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler and mobster Bugsy Siegel in her sadistic slaying.

The 1947 Project online offers Dahlia T-shirts and beer steins and a baby bib for snookums that reads, “Elizabeth Short Got A Ride to 39th & Norton – and all I got is this dumb bib.”

The Dahlia bus will drive by the site of the trash dump – several miles from the crime scene – where Short’s black shoe and patent leather purse that smelled of her perfume were found (it’s now a parking lot next to a commercial building).

And it’ll ferry by homes of men fingered as the murderer in some of the umpteen Black Dahlia books and essays. There’s the Mayan-like Hollywood mansion of venereal disease physician George Hodel, who was posthumously branded the butcherer by his former cop son; the house a block away from where the body was found that was inhabited by Walter Bayley, a now-dead surgeon whom Dahlia-whiz Harnisch theorizes did it; and the south Los Angeles ‘hood where alcoholic lowlife Jack Anderson Wilson may have drained his prey’s blood in a bathtub, according to John Gilmore, who authored “Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder.”

Gilmore says Wilson provided details to him only the killer would know shortly before he died in a 1982 hotel room fire. But now the true-crime writer isn’t convinced the case is solved.

“It will always be one of L.A.’s darkest mysteries,” Gilmore says. Then he compares the Dahlia’s haunting legacy to the movie-star handprints and footprints she surely ogled on Hollywood Boulevard.

“It’s like Grauman’s Chinese. Her name is carved in the concrete of L.A.”


Seats now available on The Halloween Horrors Crime Bus Tour

Join us, gentle rider, on the Crime Bus!

NEW TOUR: Saturday 10/21, 1pm-6pm, Hallowe’en Horrors, a five hour guided luxury coach tour to the most grisly, weird, horrific and unintentionally hilarious crime scenes of old Los Angeles. This tour is not recommended for children, and we suggest you BYOBB (bring your own barf bag). More info here.

UPDATE: The October 21 tour has nearly sold out, so we have added a second bus on Sunday October 22, 1pm-6pm. If interested in tickets for Sunday or Saturday , please contact us to reserve, then you may either send a check or pay with Paypal here. Seats are $47/person, which includes Halloween-flavored Scoops gelato. Departure location – a metro station near downtown LA, provided to all passengers close to tour time.

AND YES: Passengers are welcome to wear costumes!