Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line XV

Large ImageI have ceased blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.” Wolfe uses the “Laura” format, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.

Now, I am taking a few requests before wrapping up the project. Today, we’ll look at Pages 226-227 at the request of Regular Anonymous Correspondent.

This is about what’s left and with luck I’ll finish in the next week or so:
Pages 239-258 ColScott
Page 277-281 Mary Pacios
Page 284 Mary Pacios
Pages 293-296 Regular Anonymous Correspondent
Page 296 Mary Pacios
Page 311 Mary Pacios
Pages 345-357 Regular Anonymous Correspondent

Hold on here. “Mogul” fell open to Page 210 and I just can’t believe it. Wolfe cites a key source of information.

Are you ready for this??

His barber.

“Why did they kill Benny Siegel?” I politely inquired.

“Because he was crazy,” [Harry] Drucker replied.

“But wasn’t he always crazy?”

“Not like those last months,” Drucker said.

Explosive stuff, you’ll have to agree.

Large ImageNow as a researcher, I’d love to know how Wolfe cites this material in his end notes. Like the date his barber delivered this particular bombshell about the mob in Los Angeles.

Guess what.

Nothing.

Remind me again how well-researched this book is. I keep forgetting.

Pages 226-227

Oh, we kind of did this.

Let me recap: Wolfe is dealing with the bogus cruise on the Queen Mary he allegedly took in 1962 while he was “on hiatus” from “The Loretta Young Show.”

Except “The Loretta Young Show” went off the air in January 1961.

Oops.

Wolfe claims he ran into Herald City Editor Aggie Underwood on the ship and grilled her about the Black Dahlia case. Except in 1962 Underwood was helping resolve the demise of the morning Los Angeles Examiner and its merger with the Herald-Express to form the afternoon Herald Examiner. And then she was involved with the threat of a Guild strike and contract negotiations that lasted until May (she talks about this in her interview with Will Fowler, which is in the Fowler archives at Cal State Northridge’s Urban Archives. Don’t take my word for it. Check it yourself and see if I’m not right). And then she won a presswomen’s award in June in Denver.

And in the summer of 1962 Loretta Young began work on “The New Loretta Young Show” (clever name, eh?) for the fall season.

OK, so this conversation didn’t even occur.

Large ImageNow if I were Perry Mason, this is where I would smile and say “no further questions.” Because there is no point in addressing the content of a conversation that didn’t occur.

But just for fun (and fun is a relative term for a total research drudge), let’s look at exactly what Wolfe is claiming here. Remember, the conversation couldn’t have taken place because we have accounted for Underwood’s time from January through June 1962. And if Wolfe was working with Loretta Young, as he says, then her show was in preproduction by the summer of 1962 for the fall season.

Page 226

“Did you ever hear that Elizabeth Short was pregnant” Joe Friday asked.

“That was something I heard from the beginning down in the squad room,” Aggie said.

“Was that the control question?”

“It could have been. I knew Harry Hansen pretty well, but he wouldn’t talk about it. That was a ‘Yes’ as far as I was concerned.”

“Aggie recalled that another officer involved in the case told her there was a crazy underworld abortionist involved and Hansen brought him in for questioning several times and was pressing for an indictment, but Chief Horrall wanted to squash it. According to Aggie, the doctor died suddenly at his home in Pasadena.

“His death was said to be a suicide,” Aggie recalled.

“Do you think the cops killed him?” Joe Friday asked.

“I’m going to stick to my knitting on that one,” Aggie replied.

Now isn’t that putrid little pile of fiction?

Let’s rewind the tape.

“Did you ever hear that Elizabeth Short was pregnant” Joe Friday asked.

Real answer: No.

How do we know that? First of all, it’s not in her autobiography, “Newspaperwoman.” Or her letter about the case in the Medford, Mass., Historical Society.

Then there’s Underwood’s audiotaped interview with Will Fowler. She talks about being at the crime scene and many other details of the investigation. She even repeats the mistaken notion that Red Manley killed himself in an insane asylum.

But there’s not a word about Elizabeth Short being pregnant.

If you’re not wondering why Will taped his interview, you should be. The answer is simple. He did everything in his power to ensure that his phony story about being the first reporter at the crime scene would be preserved in as many places as possible. So on the tape, Will tells Aggie that he was the first one there. Of course, she was actually at the crime scene, so she knows better and argues with him about it.

Large ImageOK, how about the crazy underworld abortionist? Who committed suicide in Pasadena. Or was maybe killed by the cops. (Yeah, right, like the LOS ANGELES police are going to a neighboring jurisdiction where they have no authority, the CITY of PASADENA, and bump off some guy). Wolfe really hasn’t a clue about local government in Southern California, does he? Nor do his editors, Cal Morgan and Anna Bliss.

And Harry Hansen was pressing for an indictment of this guy? So who handles indictments? The Los Angeles County district attorney. And how do we get an indictment? The police bring their case to the prosecutor, who takes it to the grand jury, which returns the indictment. And guess what, all of that generates paperwork. Which—if it existed—would be in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files. Recall that this book is titled “The Black Dahlia Files.”

Do you think there’s anything in the district attorney’s files about a “crazy underworld abortionist.”

Uhhhh. Nope.

Total fiction by Wolfe.

Coming up next, Pages 239-258 a long section on poor old Leslie Dillon.

Shout out to:

City of Whittier (4.38.41.75)

The Hague (80.127.0.8)

Sweden (212.73.174.180)

Tucson, Ariz. (68.0.143.203)

Mac User (71.156.33.232) 1 hour and 19 seconds.

Hurry back!

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Another Good Story Ruined, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Donald Wolfe, History, Hollywood, Homicide, LAPD and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line XV

  1. Regular Anonymous Correspondent says:

    You’ll probably want to check whether this comes up again in any of the forthcoming requested pages, but the “crazy underworld abortionist” is none other that Steve Hodel’s next-favorite evil doctor, Leslie Audrain. He’s probably worth a blog entry himself. Is there even any truth to the idea that he killed himself? I believe Wolfe’s own book shows he was well into his 70s when he died.

  2. This is about Barbara Payton she was mentioned back on Part 62 Request Line II. I thought if I posted this back there it would be missed. On the IMDB.com site the mini biography says that she didn’t come to Holly Wood until 1948. The trivia section on the same page has some very interesting details listed.Author John O’Dowd has written a new Barbara Payton book (2006). Here is a new Barbara Payton website by that author http://www.hollywoodstarletbarbarapayton.com/It contains a comment written by John Lee Payton: Barbara’s son.

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