Will the Real Charles Lindbergh Please Stand Up?

Lindbergh Reaches Paris

May 21, 1927
Le Bourget Field, France

You have may have heard songstress Sophie Tucker, the last of the red hot mammas, belting out “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong”.

Maybe 50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong, but in smaller numbers they are capable of making humiliating blunders.

In the midst of the frenzy surrounding Capt. Charles A. Lindbergh’s successful landing today at Le Bourget Field outside of Paris, a horde of ecstatic French revelers hoisted a young American man to their shoulders. Believing that the man who had fallen and been trampled on was the famed transatlantic aviator, they triumphantly bore him to the American Ambassador to France, Myron Herrick, chanting “C’est lui!” (It is he!) Lindbergh Sketch

Held aloft by the cheering mob, the frightened man repeatedly screamed “Let me go! I am not Lindbergh!” But his entreaties fell upon ears fluent only in French. Squirming and shouting, he was carried for quite a distance and finally up a flight of stairs in the Administration Building, where he was to be welcomed by a delegation of dignitaries.

Ambassador Herrick took one look at the man’s disheveled business suit, wilted collar and torn necktie and immediately realized the crowd’s error. Members of the crowd could be heard muttering “mon dieu” and “merde” as news of their embarrassing faux pas made its way to the outer perimeters of the group. The throng of people then unceremoniously dumped the counterfeit Lindbergh at the Ambassador’s feet, and dashed off in search of the real flying ace.

Meanwhile, the genuine and more nattily attired Capt. Lindbergh had been rescued from the mob by several French pilots. The pilots had taken Lindbergh to a waiting automobile and were well on their way to Paris as multitudes of French citizens sought “Lucky Lindy” in vain.

History has recorded neither the name nor the fate of the man who was mistaken for Lindbergh.

Hakuna Matata My Ass

standingdeadMay 20, 1927
Lincoln Heights

Cinema actor Gordon Standing, of noble acting stock, had played Horatio in the “Modern Hamlet” on the East Coast stage.  Back East he’d starred in Lasky, Vitagraph, Inspiration and D.W. Griffith film productions.   But then he got it into his head to come Out West.  Though he’d been wounded several times in the Marine Corps during the Big Scrap, nothing could have prepared him for the horrors of Hollywood.

At first, all was well at Selig Zoo Studio.  Standing’d been working alongside his old buddy Elmo “First Tarzan” Lincoln and a new buddy, one giant lion, in the cheapie serial “King of the Jungle.”  Apparently Standing had been getting along peachy-like with his new feline friend, until Standing changed his make-up, putting on a beard, and old Leo didn’t recognize him.  The maned one attacked!  It took fifteen men to pull the animal off Standing, who was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital with severe bites and slashes about the neck and shoulders.  King of the Jungle was no match for King of the Beasts.  (Interestingly, allmovie.com would have us believe Standing was trampled by a "rampaging elephant;" perhaps they were thinking of the elephants that graced the entrance to the zoo.)


The Selig Studio had a "jungle area" in which to film, but their lions weren’t of the perfoming type; the question stands, then, was the rent-a-lion that killed Standing none other than famous snarling L. B. Mayer sidekick Slats, denizen of Gay’s Lion Farm (where lions would run amok a mere sixteen months later)?



Insert Lawyer Joke Here

lawsuitsMay 19, 1927
Santa Ana

W. F. Linder is an unfortunate man.  To begin with, he crashed his car.  Into another car.  Driven by a lawyer.  

That other-car-drivin’ Los Angeles attorney, J. Irving McKenna, sued Linder for $12,000 ($142,542USD 2007) in damages.  That was Wednesday.  Today, two more damage suits were brought—seems passenger Mrs. Catherine McKenna is also a lawyer, and is counsel for her husband, who appears as her attorney; she demands $20,000 ($237,570USD 2007).  Oh, yes, and Anna C. McKenna, another member of the family, is also demanding $20,000, and aforementioned Catherine is as well asking for $300 in medical expenses and $5000 in loss of earnings.

Drive carefully, folks.  

Virginia Tech’s Got Nothing on 1927

May 18, 1927
Bath Township, Michigan

Maddened by a property tax increase for school construction on which he blamed his financial problems, Bath Township School Board member Andrew Kehoe plotted for months to exact his revenge against the very tykes whose need for an education had precipitated the mess. (Nathan, dear Nathan, much as you rail against the LAUSD and their anti-preservationist mania for pulling down whole city blocks, we hope it never comes to this for you.)

Over some months, while in his capacity as handyman, Kehoe stashed a huge cache of explosives inside the local elementary school. On his farm, he experimented with timers and bombs. And then finally, the great day came. This day. Kehoe beat his wife to death (you know, to spare her the shame, and so forth), tied his animals into their stalls, and set fire to his mortgaged farm. He had previously filled the back seat of his car with all the metal objects he could find, topping it off with a seasoning of dynamite. As all local fire crews raced to deal with this decoy fire, off Kehoe toddled, towards the school that he knew was about to blow.  

The massive explosion that racked the Bath Township elementary school around 9:45 that morning caused the entire north wing of the building to collapse, and felt like an earthquake throughout the community. Dozens of children lay dead beneath the debris, while others moaned and shrieked. Parents and firemen came running to attempt rescue. But Kehoe wasn’t finished yet.

He arrived at the site of the disaster, looked upon his work for a moment, and then noticed School Superintendent Emory Huyck nearby. Kehoe crooked his finger, and as Huyck walked toward the car, Kehoe took a rifle and sent a shot into the center of the explosives in the back seat. The car exploded in a flurry of shrapnel, instantly killing Kehoe, Hyuck and several others, and further wounding many of the already-injured people on the scene.

Kehoe left one cryptic message at his farm: a stenciled wooden sign reading "CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN."

The final death toll was 45. At Virginia Tech last month, 32. Something to ponder, the next time you hear the TV talking heads proclaiming Cho’s act "the worst school massacre in American history," as many did last month.

For more info, see the Bath School Disaster Wikipedia entry

Never Trust A Guy Called “Happy”

May 17, 1927

Druggist W.G. Ferrel, manager of the store at Windward and Ocean Front, was not pleased with the quality of work performed by Negro janitor Claude "Happy" Douglas, and so he took a moment this morning to rebuke his employee of six years for latest poor mop job.

"Happy" must have had a bad night, for instead of shuffling his feet and "yessir"-ing the boss man in the time-honored tradition, he pulled out a huge blade and stabbed Ferrel in the back. The metal bent against bone, and "Happy" pulled it out again, twisted and useless.

Then he made a run for the door, but he obviously hadn’t noticed Patrolman French, who was in the telephone booth. Hearing the commotion, French stepped out with revolver drawn and stopped the would-be slayer at the scene. Farrel was rushed to Loamshire Hospital, Santa Monica, in serious condition, and "Happy" held on charges of attempted murder.

Of course, all this might have been avoided, had Farrel checked his employee’s references. For "Happy" is almost certainly the same Claude Douglas, then 30, who in July 1920 savagely assaulted his employer Mrs. Emma Davy, manageress of the Atlas Hotel at 10th and Figueroa, when she discovered him in the basement with a cache of stolen fabric from the Patsy Frock and Romper Company next door. Mrs. Davy, whose shoulder was dislocated, eye injured and arm sprained, was only saved by the intervention of her adult sons George and Allen, who held Douglas until police arrived. Later, in Douglas’ rooms at 1326 East Fourteenth Street, they found a great quantity of good stolen from the Atlas.

Mrs. Davy seems to have taken this as a sign, and in October leased the Atlas to the YWCA, which transformed it into a dormatory for transient women, at which point "Happy" might have wished he’d controlled his temper.

Still, It’s a Better Excuse Than a Burger Run

 May 16, 1927
Beverly Hills, CA 
rosabelleheadlineRosabelle Laemmle, only daughter of Carl Sr., was arrested for speeding in Beverly Hills today.  When Officer McBane asked where she was headed in such a big hurry on this Saturday night, she replied, "To the dentist."  Unfortunately for Rosabelle, she’d already used that excuse on McBane twice before.  Tired of playing the chump, McBane said, "I advise you to have all your teeth pulled out and to present this speeding ticket to Justice of the Peace Etrelinger on the 23rd."rosabellelaemmle

While it’s tempting to call this story just another example of heiresses behaving badly, Rosabelle was really a fairly good egg.  After her mother’s death in 1918, Rosabelle, then a teenager, took over management of all household duties.  As her father’s success grew, so did her responsibilities, and she became known in Los Angeles society as a terrific hostess.  In her late teens, she flirted first with the idea of becoming an actress, and then with her father’s protege, Irving Thalberg.  However, Rosabelle’s interest in the limelight eventually faded, as did the romance (Thalberg is thought to have left Universal, in part, because of this).

Rosabelle wedded businessman Stanley Bergerman in 1929, settled down, and had two children.  Presumably, her driving settled down as well.

Did she or didn’t she?

England has her Ripper, but in America, there is just one supreme Victorian true crime mystery: did Lizzie Borden really take an axe and apply numerous wacks to the persons of her father and stepmother… or was it the maid… a mysterious neighbor… or Bad Lizzie, who only came out when the lady was visited by Aunt Flo?

Should you find yourself in Fall River, MA next August, you can explore these and other theories with fellow Borden-ologists at The Lizzie Borden Conference 2008.

There’s even a call for papers, so if you have a theory of your own you’ve been polishing (much like one might sharpen a favorite axe), now’s the time to share. For more info, click here.

These Birds Don’t Sing

May 15, 1927
Los Angeles

Nobody ever said making a living in the arts was easy, but G. Leavitt Browne got more than he bargained for shortly after noon today when two young men showed up at his vocal studio located on the sixth floor of the Majestic Theater Building, 845 S. Broadway.

Browne told police the youths had come in response to his newspaper advertisement. Indeed, the three discussed the possibility of taking vocal lessons with Browne. But when the voice teacher turned away for a moment, his would-be students revealed their true natures: one grabbed him by the arm and the other threatened to strike the flustered music man with a heavy candlestick if he offered any resistance.

The young Philistines made off with $2.00 in cash and a wristwatch worth $20.00. No word on whether Browne cancelled his newspaper ad.

The Fiend in Human Form


May 14, 1927
Long Beach

Miss Madeline Lindsley was on her way home from a party when shortly before midnight, the pretty 19 year old encountered a man who abruptly grabbed her by the neck, and threw her violently to the pavement. The attack occurred in front of 434 Pacific Avenue, one block from the victim’s home and two blocks from police headquarters.

Summoned by Madeline’s screams, four local men: H.K. Klingraef, 111 West Fifth Street; E.E. Peterson, 634 Cedar Avenue; Larry Moore, a Kress Store employee, and M.R. Hodges of 3117 Wilton Street rushed to her aid. The girl’s cowardly assailant fled when he heard her rescuers approach.

The posse gave chase through several streets and unlit alleyways until they nabbed their man. Neighbors telephoned police and the suspect was taken into custody by two detective sergeants, Wright and Dixon.

“He acted like an insane man”, Miss Lindsley told police, following the ferocious assault.

The accused, Mr. Walter S. Pawling, lives with his wife and two children. He confessed to police that he is employed as a professional rum runner, and told them that he had just completed a trip delivering illegal hooch from Catalina Island to San Pedro.

Police discovered two ounces of chloroform and two eighteen inch lengths of rope concealed in Mr. Pawling’s pocket. Accustomed as they are to the various tools of illicit trades, even police were bewildered by his peculiar choice of equipment. Without missing a beat, Pawling glibly explained that he uses the chloroform and rope to defend himself against hijackers while on his late night coastal runs. Police were evidently so stunned by his story that they failed to request a demonstration of the weapons.

Fleeing an angry mob or thwarting an attack by hijackers is a dangerous business, so Mr. Pawling may wish to reconsider the effectiveness of his arsenal. Packing a concealed bottle of chloroform and two flaccid lengths of rope is no way for a grown man to defend himself.

In the future he might consider hurling a snappy bon mot, wielding a rapier-like wit, or brandishing a snub-nosed .38.