Belshazzar only had a Thousand

January 26, 1927
Los Angeles

Scientists and composers
, having long toiled in vain to produce color symphonies, have been bested by, of course, an ingenious Angeleno.  

tomorrowtheworldLeo Geasland, an electrician at the El Patio Ballroom, has finally perfected the synchronization of color and music.  

Geasland’s invention consists of a ten-key keyboard on his right, and a switchboard on his left.  These he operate in rhythm to the orchtestra, throwing changing rhythmic combinations to 6,000 incandescent bulbs.  With an unlimited combination of 280 major colors, he controls 1,800 rose, 1,500 red, 1,000 amber and 2,000 blue lights.  (Green was omitted from Geasland’s color scheme because of its effect on the complexion; this we applaud.)  The contraption’s 1,400 wires and 100 circuits is about adequate to light a city of 30,000.  Writes the Times, “As the fingers of Geasland move over the keys, the colors flash and dance on the walls, ceiling and pillars of the ballroom in perfect synchronization to the music, producing an effect of beauty and harmony that is unusual.”

Because there were no contemporary accounts of what it was like to witness the spectacle of the “color piano,” I’m just going to go ahead and make one up:

Woodrow Harrelson, an employee at Imperial Valley Hemp, waxed rhapsodic about the new process.  “It was swell, I’ll tell you.  We heard—saw?—‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ and ‘Breezin’ Along with the Breeze’ and such, and some zorchy new rags like the ‘Kinkajou.’  But when they banged out that new Jelly Roll Morton jazz, we said, hotcha!  Even the long-hair stuff was the berries, and how!  Who woulda thought Busoni would make you all nutty?”  Judging from Mr. Harrelson, it is apparent that a peculiar side-effect of the Color Piano is a glassy quality and "bloodshottedness" of the eye.

ElPatio1927In a 1933 article about Geasland’s apparatus, it’s noted that the blind and deaf are admitted for free every Monday evening to the Rainbow Gardens (the El Patio became the Rainbow in 1930, and thereafter the Palomar Ballroom).  The deaf would dance to the base and time beats of the music in rhythm to the lights, as other lights would carry on the harmony.  The blind could just dance to the music, but Geasland declared that they, too, were noticeably affected by the lights they could not see.  “They seem to feel them,” said Geasland.  “Often a blind couple will get right under a circle of the base lights and keep dancing around and around right there.  I have watched them many times, and feel sure they feel they rhythm of the lights they cannot see.”

Geasland goes on to say that in time, big orchestras everywhere will have light players as well as instrument players.  “They make rhythm visible…so they help people feel and appreciate the music.”

Sadly, on October 2, 1939, the bass viol player dropped his resin rag on a 150-watt floodlight during Lionel Kaye’s “daffy auction,” and the Patio/Rainbow/Palomar burned to the ground, Gaesland’s invention therein.

The Case of the Twisted Wrist

January 25, 1927
Los Angeles

"Wanna make some easy money? Come over here. Hang on a sec, let me just fix my coat, and now… here we go, will ya look at that! Looks like my wrist’s broken, eh? Naw, I just popped it out of the joint. It’s easy if you know how, especially if it’s been broken as many times as mine has. Now about that money. See, I’ll get a ride in your taxi, and while we’re riding, I’ll yell and come up with the broken wrist. Your boss’ll pay me to go away! You do the talking, and I’ll do the yelling. I can make my face look green, too, if I concentrate. And what we make, I’ll split with you. I’ll take nothing less than $2500. It can’t lose!"

Alas, poor Calaway Rice and his gal Ruth Richardson, they thought Yellow Cab driver Paul C. Alexander had a dishonest face, but they were very wrong. Alexander took the scheme straight from Rice’s downtown hotel room to his boss, who told him to go through with the charade. It went on under the scrutiny of a police escort, who broke in on the Main Street doctor’s splinting party to put ol’ Popped Joints Rice and Miss Richardson in irons.

The charge was conspiracy to commit fraud. And while Rice would be convicted of this crime, the lady was acquitted, which gave Rice’s attorney the opportunity to appeal to the judge—how could a man conspire alone? It was a good point, and on May 9, our loose-limbed hero was turned loose to scam again.

Demon Liquor

January 23, 1927
Pasadena, CA 
 
latourW.H. Latour, a 71-year-old night watchman at the Lamanda Park Citrus Packing Plant in Pasadena, was propped up with a bottle of white lightning when he caught Tom Clark working on his car on the plant grounds.  When Latour told him to leave, Clark nodded, and prepared to set off on his way.

But then, Latour became convinced that the car was trying to attack him, and pulled a gun on it.  After firing two shots at Clark’s car, Latour raised his arm to wave off the terrifying apparition and fired again — directly into his own hand.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles today, another man paid a less gory price for intemperance.

soberEarlier this month, police were called to Mt. Washington Dr. following reports of a dead body slumped in a car along the side of the road.  But James Proffit wasn’t dead — only dead drunk, and "there were several dead soldiers around him in the form of empty bottles from which the spirits had fled."

Today in court, Proffit had some interesting things to say for himself.  "It’s the holidays and festivities that get me in trouble," Proffit told Municipal Judge Turney.  "I was in jail at Thanksgiving for being drunk, and it was the same thing at Christmas and New Year’s.  I wouldn’t be here now, but my brother got married, and of course, I was there as a guest."

Turns out, Proffit had forgotten his duty to drive the newlyweds home from the reception.  When he swerved off the road and got them all stuck in the mud, the bride and groom decided to walk the rest of the way home, leaving Proffit to fend for himself.  Proffit was fined $200.

Drunken Geezer Shoots Pal, Self

January 22, 1927
Altadena

Mayhem ruled the backyard at 1795 Beverly Drive in Aladena this morning, when two 70-year-old pals ended a friendship of almost two decades with a gun. It all started when little Jimmie Jamison, 8-year-old grandson of George Ehret, heard noises from the cellar. The youngster investigated, and discovered Nicholas Tuck drunkenly stumbling around a pile of boxes in the basement. Tuck usually occupied a cottage at the rear of the lot, but for reasons unknown (but probably having to do with his alcohol-soaked condition) climbed through a small side window into the cellar at the main house. He then discovered all the doors were locked—and he couldn’t get back through window. “Let me out and I won’t hurt you,” he told Jimmie, who obligingly opened the cellar door for grandpa’s drunken buddy.

Meanwhile, George Ehret, armed with a heavy cane, was headed to the backyard to see about all the commotion. When Tuck, climbing out of the cellar, saw Ehret, he pulled a gun (or so Ehret says). As the two men scuffled, “the gun exploded,” lodging a bullet in Ehret’s thigh. Tuck then fired a shot at Ehret, but missed. He ran a few steps, placed the muzzle against his own head and pulled the trigger. He is close to death.

Ehret told police that Tuck was a mean drunk, and had on more than one occasion threatened him with a gun. He is expected to make a full recovery.

1947project nominated for a Capote Award

I grew up with a big ol’ hopeless crush on Tru, so it’s a thrill to see that the In Cold Blog community has nominated 1947project for a Capote Award for Best True Crime Blog of 2007. The voting is a little odd in that they are asking people to vote daily until the polls close.

There are a bunch of fine blogs in the running, so I’ll just send you to that page and suggest you vote early and often if inclined. Thanks, ICB! 

Bad, Bad Bert Best

Bad Bert HeadlineBad Bert

January 21, 1927
Los Angeles

Edward W. Xanders (aka Bert Best) was extradited from Portland, Oregon today to be tried for a series of robberies and burglaries committed in Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays.

Lindley mansionXanders spent most of the day with sheriffs, trading quips and calmly confessing to a litany of misdeeds. He admitted to burglarizing the home of John Lindley near Azusa (see photo), and he has also said that he and his crime buddy, Ray E. McCoy, robbed famed boxing manager Jack Kearns.

It was through his confession that police learned that Xanders and McCoy had stopped Kearns’ car on a lonely road near the beach. While the stick-up was in progress, a policeman had approached the car to see if the men needed assistance. McCoy jabbed a gun into Kearns’ ribs and told him to keep quiet, or die. Always the glib talker, Xanders chatted with the cop, offered him a cigar, and sent him on his way.

Xanders admitted to police that he had been in court a few times during 1926. He stated that he had been granted probation on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. It was during that case that he had told the court that a childhood head injury had led him to a life of crime. According to his story, ever since he had received the blow to his noggin, he has had an irresistible urge to commit crime. Based on an alienist’s report, the judge recommended that Xanders, if willing, should undergo an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. Xanders declined to have the surgery.

With the nasty pressure still on his brain, it wasn’t long before Xanders was in court again. In making his plea for probation, he said that he’d been offered employment for two years on a ship headed for the South Seas. The judge felt compassion for the youthful crook and gave him four years of probation, on the condition that he would accept the job and sail off into the sunset (and out of this jurisdiction) for at least two years. Of course Edward never boarded the ship; he stayed in Los Angeles and continued his crime spree.

Edward is still a young man, and his penchant for crime may easily lead to another crack on the cranium. Maybe a second smack upside the head will put him on the straight and narrow.

Local Man Sets Record

January 20, 1927
Los Angeles

A short notice in the paper today about Sidney (or Sydney) Adams who, on August 2, 1925 (most likely) mortally shot his wife Annie in their home at 1234 East Twenty-First Street.

august25Despite there being a chance for a difference—Adams steadily asserted that the woman committed suicide—on October 12, 1925 it took a Los Angeles jury a record twenty-five minutes to send him to the gallows.  (This being in part or wholly dependent on Adams’ race seems obvious—writ large as he’s routinely described as the “giant negro,” a term of which Times seems unusually fond.)

Hangings were on the mind of all Californians as executions ushered in C. C. Young’s gubernatorial regime. The previous four years of Friend Richardson’s governorship were marked by constant rejections of eleventh-hour appeals for executive clemency; in a show of consistency Young had five executions in the first five weeks of his stewardship and saw that each one went through unchallenged.  

payspenalty

There were six sitting in San Quentin’s death row when S. C. Stone  joined the bunch on January 6, 1927—making it lucky number seven.  Adams’ departure today took it back down to six.

Mysteries of the Road

accidents
January 19, 1927
Santa Monica, Venice

A drained, shamefaced whisky bottle and wrecked car were all officers found tonight at Colorado Blvd and Twenty-Third Street.

A thorough check of the hospitals and morgues revealed nothing further.

In nearby Venice, at Washington and Brooks, an ambulance was summoned when excited folk in the vicinity witnessed an auto turn turtle.  In true 1920s fashion, the two young male occupants righted the thing and drove off, presumably in a crazy zigzag with zany piano accompaniment.  

Of felines, gas grates and tipsy transit

January 18, 1927
Los Angeles

Lovers of the purring class will be down at 720-32 South Main Street this weekend to tour the 23rd annual Los Angeles Cat Club exhibition, which this year highlights the pug-nosed Persian and water-lovin’ Angora breeds. But we reckon the biggest draw is San Francisco champion Princess Zenina, who recently escaped death when a salmon can became stuck on her head, cutting off her air supply. Happily her mistress discovered the distressed puss and cut an air hole in the can before carefully cutting it away. That leaves Princess Z with eight lives, in case anyone’s counting.

Just one block south at #856, the one-man taxi business of ex-cop Emil N. Scott has been shuttered after Scott was branded in Municipal Court as a bootlegger. It seems he sold hooch to passengers who knew to hail his cab when thirsty.

In less sunny news of L.A.’s animal citizens, casting director Hugh S. Jeffreys, 46, was found dead in his breakfast nook at 1475 Wenzel Avenue, Palms, along with his little dog and a caged canary. A gasping parrot was saved by the negro maid, who had served Jeffreys’ breakfast just an hour before. The room was poorly ventilated, and the gas fire that burned in the grate had somehow filled the room with carbon monoxide.

Silence is golden, and so’s the shooter’s hair

January 17, 1927
Hollywood

When the doc refused to keep things quiet after treating oilman Grover Lawler’s (happily superficial) bullet wounds at his home in the Dickerson apartments at Berendo and Beverly, Lawler told visiting cops that he’d shot himself. No, he would not produce the weapon. Damn, won’t you flatfoots let a guy recuperate in peace?

Grauman Court apartments, Melrose & Kenmore

Not so fast, Grover. You wouldn’t know anything about reports that a hysterical blond woman armed with a .38 had fired wildly at a car bearing two men and a woman tonight, just six blocks from your place, at the Grauman Court apartments at 4428 Melrose? No? Because G.A. Hessman, resident, has described the incident thoroughly, and turned over the gun that the woman threw into the grass at his feet when she was finished.

Grover reconsidered, and admitted some dizzy dame had shot at him as his party left a dinner engagement at the Melrose address, but refused the identify his assailant. Perhaps recognizing that Mrs. Lawler, now playing nurse, would provide better punishment than the law allowed, the officers went on their way.