Black Dahlia: 5 Songs for a Famous Murder Victim by “Jef With One F.”
The anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s 1947 disappearance from the Biltmore has provoked the usual outpouring of mistakes and nonsense, much of it swiped from Wikipedia (see: “Me vs. Wikipedia”). Let’s see if I can untangle this.
Mistake 1: Elizabeth Short wasn’t murdered in Hollywood. Nobody knows exactly where she was killed. Her body was found in Leimert Park, not Hollywood.
Mistake 2: She wasn’t nicknamed by the papers. The Herald-Express tried mightily, but unsuccessfully, to name it “the Werewolf Murder.” She acquired the nickname the Black Dahlia when she was living in Long Beach in 1946, as a riff on the then-current film “The Blue Dahlia,” at the lunch counter of a drugstore near her apartment.
Mistake No. 3: She was 22.
Mistake No. 4: The original newspaper accounts never portrayed her as a “midnight-party prowler.” That came much later in books like “Severed,” which is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction, and all the books that followed.
Mistake No. 5: None of the original accounts called her “victim material.”
Mistake No. 6: Since it surfaced in the Wikipedia article on the Black Dahlia, the “Glasgow smile” virus has spread all over the Internet.
This term is relatively new and I’ve only seen it applied to the Black Dahlia case, where writers use it with ghoulish delight. It was certainly never used in the original coverage. Research on Google shows that the term emerged about 1995 in the UK. Another early occurrence is Jan. 24, 1998, “Saturday Story — The Thugs From Suburbia” by Kim Sengupta in The Independent.
Searches of the Google Books corpus of American English and the corpus of British English reveal no usage. “Glasgow smile” is a misleading description when applied to the Black Dahlia case and imparts a false sense of easy expertise, the way Agent Mulder used to casually dispense strange facts on “The X-Files,” for anyone old enough to remember the TV show.