Of weeds, critters, beards and burning

November 15, 1927
Los Angeles

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!

A Mysterious Suicide in Elysian Park

October 16, 1927
Los Angeles

His body was propped against a tree with a shotgun’s muzzle placed against what remained of his head. He had pulled the trigger with his toe. The note was terse: “Suicide. No dependents. No estate. No heirs. Please notice in New York World on Oct. 30th to print. $2 inclosed [sic]. Body to science, in reserve, or cremate.” It was signed “Anton K. Windsor.”

But who was the man found by police in Elysian Park shortly after daybreak this morning? Despite the carefully printed signature on the note, police doubted his name was Anton Windsor. If it was, why had he cut all the laundry marks and labels out of his clothing? A shears and razor blade used to do the job were still in his pocket. Identification had also been removed from a Masonic apron neatly folded in an inside pocket.

He was rich, according to detectives who cited his expensive gray business suit and outing cap, his soft hands with their careful manicure, and his face—”that of a man accustomed to easy living.” They speculated that his request to have his death noticed in the New York World two weeks from now was a message to someone “arriving from Europe shortly before that date” or perhaps he wanted to announce his death “in connection with some public event, possibly the settling of an estate.”

Another clue to his identity (the Times referred to it as the “only clew”; they apparently didn’t count his Masonic affiliation) was the “ancient” J. Manton & Co. shotgun he used.

Who were you, Anton K. Windsor?

High Times

 

high times headline

October 15, 1927 Hunter S Thompson
Los Angeles

When you can’t legally purchase a fifth of Jack Daniels, what can you do to get a buzz and have a little fun? Well, if you are Mr. Raymond Rice, 40, of 1935 Orchard Avenue, you will get higher than a kite by guzzling significant quantities of products loaded with ether such as hair tonic, shellac, and canned heat, and then you’ll go for a drive. Maybe the next time Raymond gets hammered on ether he’ll stay at home. Officers Meyers and McClellan spotted him blocking traffic with his automobile and cited him for being intoxicated.

Forty-five years from now gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson will say it best in his remarkable novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”: “There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge.”

Cupid’s Arrows Bent

October 9, 1927
Ventura County and Beverly Hills

Two stories from today’s paper prove yet again that the course of true love rarely runs smoothly. The first comes from Las Turas Lake (now Lake Sherwood) at Las Turas Country Club, where W.T. Verry, Jr. narrowly escaped death this afternoon when his friends finally figured out that what they thought were flirtatious gestures between Verry and a pretty miss on the pier were actually "frantic signals for aid" from a drowning man. Verry was pulled from the lake by J.E. Bower and revived by artificial respiration.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Grace Dawson today resumed planning her Tia Juana wedding, cancelled because the bride was in County Jail when she was scheduled to walk down the aisle. Several days ago, detectives searching the Beverly Hills residence of bootlegger and narcotics kingpin "Black Tony" Parmagini turned up an address. A squad under Chief George Contreras then proceeded to 201 South McCarthy Drive where they found Miss Dawson, 25-year-old Alice Gray, and another young woman (who jumped out of Contreras’s automobile at a traffic light on Sunset Boulevard), along with sixty-five cases of mixed whiskies and other liquors. Dawson and Gray were booked for violation of the Wright Act before being released on bail of $1000 each.

Lunch Lady, Give Me a Scotch!

October 2, 1927
Bell

To twenty-first century eyes, the headlines make it sound like a retro-ironic hipster bar for postmodern cocktail sippers: "Liquor ‘Cafeteria’ Found. Raiders Say Drinks Made to Order in Bell House." Anybody feel a spree coming on?

Well, before you round up the gang and head on over, there’s one thing you should know about the house raided under the direction of Chief George Contreras this weekend: the top-shelf booze it poured was fake. That’s right, the "’Scotch’ whiskies of aristocratic highland brands, ‘fine old Kentucky Bourbons,’ ‘Gordon’ gin and other rare liquors of ancient lineage" were mixed up in the back room out of cut alcohol and glycerin—as the customer waited, no less.

Dry raiders found a complete bottling plant on the premises as well as printing plant where labels mimicking those of famous brands were created. Fifty gallons of the alcohol used as a base were secreted underground in the yard.

Razors Pain You, Rivers Are Damp

vannuysDorothy Parker’s well-known verse, published in her 1926 collection Enough Rope, assured readers that they "might as well live."  However, this admonition proved impossible for many today in the Southland, as three men turned blades upon themselves in a veritable rash of unrelated suicides.

Despondent over poor health and unemployment, Martin Phillips, 42, of 421 W. Second St. slashed his wrists and throat.  He was discovered in his house by a fellow boarder, and taken to the hospital; however, Phillips was not expected to live.

A former employee of the Los Angeles Water Department drove to an apricot orchard in Van Nuys and cut his own throat with a straight razor.  Frank A. Howard of 2125 Allesandro Street had been missing since Sept. 3, and was reported to have been upset over his sick child who was confined to a sanatorium.

More difficult to understand was the suicide attempt of a young bank clerk, one Donald W. Fraser of Brea.  Fraser was employed at the First National Bank there, and on the same night that he slashed his wrists, his boss, M.J. Wolfe, was charged with misappropriation of funds in the amount of $1000.  It is unknown whether the incidents were related; however, a bank manager reported that Fraser’s accounts were in good order and that he was on vacation at the time he attempted suicide.

It’s All Fun Until Somebody Gets Shot

September 18, 1927
Inglewood

“A huge bowl of punch made from high-proof bootleg whisky” stood at the center of a drunken brawl that left one man near death and another on the lam early this morning. When an employee of the automobile wrecking plant located at 10636 Hawthorne Boulevard arrived for work around 8:00 a.m. today, he found Inglewood real estate developer H.C. Mitchell lying in a pool of blood at the back of the garage. Though badly wounded, Mitchell identified plant owner A.H. Van der Mark as his assailant. Officers have yet to verify that Mitchell, who remains in critical condition at Milton Hospital with gunshot wounds to his right lung and leg, is a former official of the Ku Klux Klan. Meanwhile, Van der Mark has disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told different stories, but all agree the shooting occurred after a long night of heavy drinking at Van der Mark’s home (also the site of the wrecking plant). Mr. and Mrs. Charles Proctor told police the party was in full swing when they arrived, with guests freely partaking of the whisky punch. By 3:00 a.m., only the couple, Mitchell, Van der Mark, and Grace Haynes (a widow and the “asserted sweetheart of Van der Mark”) remained. Everything was rosy until Van der Mark allegedly told Mitchell that the latter’s habit of reporting bootleggers to the authorities “would make no difference in their regard for each other.” Apparently these were fighting words, for a scuffle began shortly thereafter. The combatants were separated, but Van der Mark returned with a .22 caliber rifle. The fight recommenced, three shots rang out, Mitchell fell to the kitchen floor, and the Proctors skedaddled. Police believe Mitchell then walked from the kitchen to where he was found in wrecking plant. Neither of the Proctors was held after making their statements.

Grace Haynes, on the other hand, is being held in County Hospital as a material witness. She claims the severe bruising about her head and body was caused by Mitchell, who she says arrived at the party looking for trouble. He had several fistfights with partygoers smaller than himself, including Van der Mark, who wound up knocked out—and presumably unable to avenge his lady’s honor. Haynes’s brother (he wasn’t there, but the Times was happy to interview him anyway) says his sister told him Van der Mark was passed out, not knocked out, but either way, “He was cold when Mitchell pitched into another member of the party and this man got a rifle and shot him.” And who was this man with the rifle? Why, none other than Mr. Charles Proctor. Haynes also told her brother that while everybody else at the party was more or less blotto, she herself was completely—totally!—sober.

To recap, of the five people present at the end of last night’s wild party, three claim Van der Mark shot Mitchell, one claims Proctor did the deed, and the fifth hasn’t been seen since the incident occurred.

In perhaps not unrelated news, the Times reports that the state now holds sixth-place in the nation for the number of “feeble-minded” persons admitted to institutions this year—or, as a headline summed up: “CALIFORNIA IDIOTS GAIN IN NUMBERS.”

Suicide by Car

Suicide Headline

September 16, 1927 Laguna Beach

Jerome Shaffer, 35, may have been the first case of suicide by car ever reported in California. A resident of Laguna Beach and professional entertainer, Shaffer had been ill and in financial difficulties when he drove his car to Laguna Beach Grammar School to end his life.

Jerome parked his car on the playground of the school and crawled underneath leaving the engine running. He then wrapped himself in a blanket and held one end of a rubber hose in the self-made shroud with him, and thrust the other end into the car’s exhaust pipe so that the deadly gas would propel him into oblivion. His body was found by the school principal, George K. Bingham.

According to his roommate, Jack West, Jerome had slipped quietly from their shared dwelling sometime during the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Shaffer and West had performed at the Masonic Hall in South Pasadena and returned home at 1 am. Jack told police that he hadn’t heard Jerome leave and only learned of his roommate’s fate when he found the letter which had been left for him.

Shaffer also left a letter addressed to Judge Raymond Thompson of Pasadena. In that letter he gave instructions for the disposition of his automobile and said that he regretted that he had no money to bequeath West. He asked that his body be cremated by the Charles Lamb Company of Pasadena, and requested that his ashes be given a public funeral in the Laguna Beach open air theater. His final wish was that his remains be scattered over the Pacific by his longtime friend and pilot, Joe Skidmore.

Don’t Make Us Use Machine Guns

Tear Gas Headline

September 15, 1927
Long Beach

When members of the Long Beach vice squad got wind of a dice game going on in a pool hall at 1240 California Avenue, they swooped down on the place with tear gas. They hurled a few gas bombs into the building, and then watched as the pool hall belched forth men of color from every door and window as they fled the noxious cloud of gas.

The vice squad thought that employing modern weapons such as those previously used in battle, would be an efficient way to combat criminals. Heck, tear gas worked on the Hun. Alas, gas bombs may be fine for driving a barricaded gangster out of his hidey-hole, but they are not the best weapon for busting a dice game.

It took a very long time for the pool hall to clear of the blinding fumes. When cops were finally able to enter the room they discovered dice and money on the table, but the tear gas had destroyed all evidence of guilt on the part of the suspected gamblers.

The police had several shady characters lined up outside of the reeking building, but with no way of proving their guilt they were released. The only person to roll snake eyes was the establishment’s proprietress, Edith Gilmore. There were still “galloping cubes” and money on the table, and this was sufficient enough for Judge Cook to fine her $5 and give her a suspended sentence of ten days in jail for permitting gambling in her place of business.

Wrightwatch ’27

flwAugust 26, 1927
Madison, Wisc.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a favorite son of Los Angeles, where he threw off the Prairie mantle and began creating his kooky indigenous-flavored block houses (e.g., Storer, Millard, Ennis, Freeman) in contrast to the Spanish Colonial (or, say, Egyptoid Tudor Chateauxesque) prevalent in the Southland’s early 20s, before he said to hell with LA and lit out for his cursed home, Taliesin.  

There was much architectural buzz about Mr. Wright in 1927, as he’d already designed a theater model for Aline Barnsdall, who announced in January that she’d build the structure as part of her eight-acre “city cultural center” gift to Los Angeles of her own FLW Hollyhock House and property.

barnsdall

When the Smart People of to-day tour FLW’s block houses and consider his play of light over form, and gauge its relationship between the zig of Meiji woodblock prints and the zag of Walter Burley Griffin’s green thumb, they probably aren’t informed that ol’ FLW had a lurid past fit for any tabloid-worthy favorite son of Los Angeles.

For example, while married to Catherine Wright, he fell in love with another woman, one Mamah Borthwick.  Catherine wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright abandoned her and the six kids and went galavanting around Europe with Mamah.  On his return, Catherine still wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright brought scandal to Spring Green, Wisc. by shacking up with Mamah.  This was sorted out in short order when one of his domestics decided to utilize a Wrightian architectural principal—one door for all purposes—which made it easy to axe-murder seven people trying to flee a Taliesin you’d just set on fire.  And Mamah was one of those so axed.   

Catherine finally divorced Frank in 1922 on charges of desertion, so he could marry his new love, a morphine addict named Miriam Noel.  They married in 1923, separated in 1924; Wright began seeing Petrograd Ballet dancer Olgivanna Lazovich Milanov (thirty-three years his junior) in 1925 and was thereafter arrested in 1926 for violating the Mann (White-Slave Traffic) Act.  Oh, and Taliesin burned again, though this time without anybody being hacked to bits.

frankgettingpopped
Frank getting popped by the feds, 1926 

divorceThe lucky Wright-drama followers of 1927 were treated to tales of Frank and Miriam’s divorce.  Today, Miriam was awarded $6,000 ($66,179 USD2006) immediately, $30,000 (330,889) in trust, and $250 (2,757) a month for life.  The cash settlement and Wright’s promise that he "would lead a moral life" preceded the court decree.

With a cushy settlement like that, you’d think that’s the last we hear of Miss Miriam.  You’d be wrong.  She spends the next few years loudly proclaiming Wright’s brutality and repellant morals, with much effort expended in Washington attempting to get Olga deported.  In a typical Miriam moment, July 14, 1928, she is arrested on a charge of malicious mischief after breaking miriaminto FLW’s rented La Jolla home while he’s up in Los Angeles:  “So thorough was the wrecking that the colored maid in charge of the house in Wright’s absence collapsed from the shock and was taken to the Scripps Memorial Hospital.  ‘About fifteen minutes more and I would have leveled the place,’  Mrs. Wright is said to have told police when arrested…damage to the La Jolla home is estimated at about $1000…Mrs. Wright smiling pleaded guilty and following the court action, swore out complaints against her husband and Olga Hinzenberg, also known as Olga Milanoff, charging them with being lewd and dissolute persons.”

Miriam finally expires in 1930.

We’ll keep you posted on all breaking FLW news. 

I’d keep an eye on that Schindler character if I were you.