The Black Dahlia: Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel


Photo 1: Biltmore Hotel, Jan. 9, 2012, 6:30 p.m. Credit: Larry Harnisch
Photo 2: Biltmore Hotel, 1940s

The top photo shows the old lobby of the Biltmore on Monday as it was on the anniversary of the night Elizabeth Short disappeared. This is how the lobby looks after being remodeled in the 1980s and the way it’s described in John Gilmore’s “Severed.” At least “Severed” doesn’t make the mistake of Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger” in describing the current lobby, which didn’t even exist in 1947.

The bottom photo shows the old lobby as it was in the 1940s.

If the Dahlia books blunder on these elementary facts, you can expect the rest of their claims to be even more ridiculous. People simply do not want to do the pick and shovel work of true research.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Architecture, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Donald Wolfe, Downtown, Film, Hollywood, Interior Design, LAPD and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Black Dahlia: Biltmore Hotel

  1. Robert Howe says:

    I am so excited Larry. I can’t wait!!!

  2. Eve says:

    Now, Larry, you know the “make shit up” school of scholarship is so much easier and more rewarding!

    • Robert Howe says:

      LOL Eve. Larry has done his research and it is fascinating. It is the most plausible conclusion to this case. Larry should get and honorary detectives badge from LAPD

  3. d.w. says:

    John Gilmore does the research and is an excellent writer. He I believe in my opinion is the BEST book about the Black Dahlia!

    • lmharnisch says:

      @DW: “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction. I invite anyone who thinks otherwise to pick a chapter at random and fact-check it line by line…. So far nobody has ever taken me up….

      • Dan says:

        Not true! Noir Falcon has and proved you wrong about Mrs. Christenia Salisbury(Princess Nightwing) she was a real person, a former dancer and Beth’s boss while living in Florida. She is also one of several, very credible eye witness accounts placing Beth in Hollywood during her missing week. There is nothing “half baked” about Princess Nightwing.

      • lmharnisch says:

        @Dan: The woman is identified in the Jan. 29, 1947, Los Angeles Examiner as “Princess Whitewing” not “Princess Nightwing.” As I said, real research is hard to do well.

      • Dan says:

        Larry, you are nitpicking on a minor detail and mistake I made as I have never read Severed, BD Files or several other books, primarily due to your advice that mentions Mrs. Salisbury by her stage name. Christenia Salisbury aka “Princess WHITEWING” was Beth’s boss in 1945-1946 while living in Miami Beach. She, by chance, ran into Beth on Hollywood Blvd a night or two after Beth walked out of the Biltmore Hotel Jan 9, 1947. Your denial of her existence is absurd, as she is named in several newspaper articles(unrelated to Elizabeth Short’s case I might add) by her real, married name and her stage name, “Princess Whitewing” Your dismissal of her as a real person and of her first hand, eye witness account means you deal with the facts when it is convenient for you but completely ignore them when it is not. Much like your malicious treatment and maligning of Ms. Daniel’s father coupled with your vanilla, simplified explanations of Leslie Dillon and Jeff Connors controversial roles in the case.

      • lmharnisch says:

        @Dan: It’s really quite simple. “Princess Whitewing” said Elizabeth Short worked for her in Miami Beach in 1945. However, we know that Elizabeth Short was only in Miami Beach from January to March 1945 and during that time she didn’t work for “Princess Whitewing” or anyone else. She was unemployed, according to “Movements of Elizabeth Short” in the district attorney’s files. Chasing the story any further is a distraction and a waste of time.

      • Dan says:

        Larry, it looks like we are both wrong. According to Mary Pacios’ timeline Beth wasn’t in Florida much in 1945, she was in Florida in 1944, which is when she met Gordon Fickling(something Mary’s and your own research lines up with), from April all the way through mid Jan, 1945, taking a brief trip back home for Thansgiving 1945. She met Matt Gordon in Florida on New Year’s Eve 1944-1945. She moved back to Medford in mid Jan 1945. Sometime between April 1944-Dec 1944 is when she worked at Mammy’s, which is where Mrs. Salisbury was her boss. Mammy’s was located just a few blocks away from the same establishment(Wolfie’s) where Leslie Dillon’s wife, Georgia worked at the time. According to Mary’s site, Beth was back in the Medford/Boston area for most of 1945 until Dec when she took a trip to Jacksonville.

        On the contrary, Mrs. Salisbury is one of the few things that isn’t a ghost in this whole sad story. Mrs. Salisbury places Beth on Hollywood Blvd on the night of Jan 10, 1947 coming out of the Tabu Club with two other girls. Beth’s roommate, Lynn Martin worked at the Tabu Club, Beth told Mrs. Salisbury that she was living with the two girls over the hill in the San Fernando Valley at an motel. Lynn Martin was living at the M&M Motel located at 10822 Ventura Blvd at the time of the murder.

      • lmharnisch says:

        @Dan: I’ll have to examine my files in more detail tomorrow to make sure, but what you’ve got here looks wrong, judging by my notes on 1944.

      • Dan says:


        “taking a brief trip back home for Thansgiving 1945”

        This should read “Thanksgiving 1944” see, typos are an easy mistake, as are getting times, dates and alias, stage names and pseudonyms mixed up.

      • Briar says:

        Aside from Larry’s invitation to fact check a chapter, I’m going to say that perhaps we need to do our own research on the facts as to whether or not Beth worked for Princess Whitewing and whether there is any proof that Princess Whitewing was a part of the Ziegfeld Follies. His research says no at this time but rather than argue about it, let’s look for our own proof. In the meantime, I ask Larry for help knowing he HAS done research. I am unwilling to contradict him without proof that he’s mistaken. I won’t be a party to this confrontation on something that I asked for help on because Larry has always been more than fair with me and I am also unwilling to lose his trust.

      • Dan says:

        Briar, I am going on things based on Mary Pacios’ own website. This is directly from her timeline on her site

        – She work’s at Mammy’s Restaurant until the latter part of 1944
        – March: She took a trip to Atlanta, Georgia to visit Matt Gordon
        – April: She went to Miami Beach, Florida.
        • September: Bette meets Gordon Fickling in Miami Beach Florida
        • November: Bette back in Medford for a visit Thanksgiving
        • December: Bette in Miami Beach, Florida: meets Matt Gordon New Year’s Eve; living with Mrs. Devaul

        • Mid-January: Bette back in Medford waiting for fiancé Matt Gordan’s retum.
        – March 30: Begins working at St. Claire’s Restaurant, Boston
        • May 7: V-E Day
        • August 14: V-J Day—war is over
        • August 22: Bette receives telegram Matt Gordon killed after war ended
        – September 1: She ends work at St. Claire’s Restaurant
        • September: Bette working in Belmont, Massachusetts at Schraff’s
        – December: She went to Jacksonville, Florida.

        This timeline has Beth in Florida and working for practically all of 1944 as you can see, and his her living in Miami Beach from April of that year through New Year’s, only taking a trip in March to see Matt Gordon in Atlanta and going home briefly to Medford for Thanksgiving holiday. She was back in the Medford/Boston area for most of 1945.

        I appreciate Larry double checking his notes but if Larry’s notes contradict Mary’s research, that won’t be good because that will make everything even more confusing. I apologize if I came off hostile in this blog but Larry is the one that put out that challenge, and it’s been proven that Mrs. Salisbury was Princess Whitewing. I re-read through my comments and don’t feel I came off that hostile in this blog with the exception of my comments on Larry’s views of Dr. de River, Leslie Dillon and Jeff Connors. I would like to apologize to you Larry, for maybe not handling it with a little more tact but I stand by my feelings that you unfairly marginalize de River’s work and greatly over simplify Leslie Dillon’s role as a suspect. I have read up a lot on both de River and Dillon and I guess will just have to have a much different opinion about them than you do.

      • lmharnisch says:

        @Dan: I’ve never consulted Mary’s timeline. I have made my own, and frankly, the case is so complicated that I only trust my own work. I see at least one more problem with it and that’s the notion that Elizabeth Short went to Atlanta in March 1944 to see Matt “Charlie” Gordon. In fact, he and the rest of the Air Commandos didn’t arrive in Florida until May 1944, so she couldn’t have known him in March.

        Leslie Dillon was conclusively eliminated as a suspect after a great deal of investigation. As I recall from the district attorney’s files, Dillon had a garage sale about the time Elizabeth Short was killed and after an incredible amount of digging, police found a receipt from the sale, showing he was in San Francisco.

        De River is an interesting fellow. He was absolutely sincere, but his methods were questionable and some of his ideas, like the shape of a person’s face as an indicator of criminal tendencies, are laughable. Dillon did get a settlement from the city of Los Angeles for his trouble, although it was not published in the newspapers.

  4. Psshh all you have to do is go to the hotel and you get the history, how the current lobby used to be a special VIP area (note the frescoes on the ceiling) but due to the street changes they moved the lobby there. The old lobby is now an amazing place to have High Tea, I highly recommend it!

  5. I love picking & shoveling for old stuff. Never satisfied with just a few specks.
    And 2012 seems to have less people compared to the 1940’s!

  6. William Desmond Taylor says:

    Agree with Cafe Pasadena. Thanks as always Larry! Love the posts and appreciate and encourage all discussions about LA’s dark and shabby past.

    Did you ever notice that making sense of the past seems to be even more difficult and subjective as predicting the future? But how else can we understand today?

  7. sherry smith says:

    What ever happened to Maurice Clement? I can’t find any info. Thanks!

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