I’m 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 is using the “Laura” format in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative is told through flashbacks.
At this point in the story, Wolfe is exploring Elizabeth Short’s time in Hollywood in late 1946, about a month before the murder.
After deftly handling the nebulous role of Sgt. Chuck, whom investigators and reporters could never locate—or even determine that he existed, Wolfe moves on to the apartment house on Cherokee where Elizabeth stayed briefly in late 1946.
Wolfe begins the next phase of the story: “Will Fowler recalled,” three words that make me shudder. I liked Will; he was charming, funny, outrageous and bright, and I considered him a friend. But he was also an incredible teller of tall tales. Wolfe refers to Will’s “Reporters,” Page 81, which says that an anonymous tip sent newsmen poking around Hollywood trying to sniff out anything about Elizabeth Short.
In fact, in the days after Elizabeth Short’s murder, an almost countless variety of sightings were reported; as if she had been a regular at every bar in Los Angeles. Of course, not a single person ever conclusively identified her as far as police were concerned—and even the more conscientious newspapers hedged their accounts:
The Daily News of Jan. 21, 1947, said of the reporters’ club crawling: “Other results of the nightlong canvass indicated that the Black Dahlia had lent her beauty to innumerable swank and tawdry night spots in the months before her death—that is if the eyes and memories of bartenders and waiters are sound.”
Note also the date: Nearly a week after the murder. It’s interesting to see how storytelling collapses time, erasing the intervals between events until they appear to be related.
Of course, Wolfe is going to treat this all as solidly established truth because that’s where this story is heading. Let’s see where he attributes this. Hm. Still using “Reporters.” But what’s this? Will drags in his old drinking buddy Paul Burke, a bartender and sometime actor who appeared in the TV show “Twelve O’Clock High.” (Sorry, amazon only has the movie, not the TV series). One time, many years ago, Will and Burke called me up absolutely snockered and talked to me about the Black Dahlia case. They were flying high and having a good old time.
Now I’ve talked to Burke, who according to “Reporters” says: “Years later, when I was with 20th Century-Fox, actor Paul Burke told me he’d known the Dahlia when he was a Hollywood bartender. He had corroborated the fact that lesbians had been interested in Elizabeth but she hadn’t responded to them.”
So does Burke appear in “Mogul”? Let’s just see for the fun of it. Nope, he doesn’t. I wonder why not. Maybe we’ll find out.
And now we enter very deep and troubling waters.
“Reporters found Elizabeth Short’s name still on the mailbox of Apartment 501. There were five other girls sharing the apartment, which was on the top floor overlooking the street below. The building was managed by Glenn Wolfe, a suspected narcotics dealer who recruited girls for the Syndicate brothels.”
Let’s dissect this little item (truncated, because it runs over to the next page).
Minor quibble, as the photograph shows, the name on the mailbox is “Betty Short.” One of the first decisions anybody has to make in writing about Elizabeth Short is what to call her: Elizabeth, Beth, Bette or Betty.
Also, estimates of the number of young women in the apartment vary, some sources say four, others say eight. Wolfe is the first as far as I know to say five.
But what we really need to look at is Glenn Wolfe. He’s called “a suspected narcotics dealer,” although we’re not told who suspected him.
Not the blasted end notes again, Holmes!
Forward, my dear Dr. Watson.
“Glenn Wolfe was also listed as a suspect within the Black Dahlia Case files, which profiled his narcotics and procuring activities. The files indicate that the Chancellor [was] owned and managed by the Syndicate.”
I suppose what Wolfe means by this is that if you dig through the two boxes of jumbled paper at the district attorney’s office you will eventually find Glenn Wolfe’s name. OK, well you’ll find that his name was really Glynn Wolfe.
Now usually in such a case, you might expect a line like “Glenn/Glynn Wolfe, no relation to the author,” so I’m not sure if this is an oversight or if Donald H. Wolfe is going to claim him as some sort of distant relative with mob ties. Recall that Donald H. Wolfe has been very circumspect about certain members of his family, namely his father, Sailing Wolfe, and great-uncle, Bernard Baruch.
For the benefit of those who don’t have the Examiner files on Glynn Wolfe, let me pull my material and see what we’ve got:
Yow! The Examiner and The Times had great fun with our friend. He had at least 17 different wives (no, that’s not a typographical error) and married a couple of them several times according to a March 18, 1969, story in The Times.
But the newspapers are curiously silent on his alleged drug dealing and procuring for the Syndicate.
As we found yesterday in exploring the story of Sgt. Chuck, we know that Frank Jemison summarized a list of about 22 suspects. And yes, Glenn/Glynn Wolfe is one of them.
What does the D.A. actually say? I’m referring specifically to Jemison’s Feb. 20, 1951, memo. Page 6.
“Glenn Wolfe is the owner of the Chancellor Apartments, 1842 Cherokee, Hollywood. It was the last place where victim resided in Los Angeles before she met Carl Balsiger and then left for San Diego. He was residing at 1617 North Las Palmas in an apartment house owned by Kate Harris at the time of the murder. He admitted knowing victim. She lived in a six bed apartment at the Chancellor Hotel and left there on December 6, 1946, as she did not like the place. Wolf is known as a sexual maniac by other women. Ray Pinker, LAPD Crime Laboratory chemist, checked the rooms in which he resided for blood and got no positive reaction. This was done upon request of the undersigned. Marvin Hart, now living at Lido Apartments, Hollywood, lived at the Chancellor Apartments at the time of the murder. He has not been questioned. Alyce Lebedeff, private investigator, 1967 Carmen Strett, HI llside 6279 states that a Miss Schell, who runs a hot dog stand on Santa Monica boardwalk, slept in the upper bunk of the bed occupied by victim on December 1, 1946, at the Chancellor Apartments. Further that Polly Blits, Hollywood real estate broker is a known queen queer and knows plenty. There is reliable information that some of the five girls in the room at the Chancellor living with victim were queers. Victim stated on several occasions, however, that she had no use whatsoever for queers.”
Hm. Note that I have preserved the wording exactly as it appears in the memo, down to the frequent use of “queer.” Nothing about Glynn Wolfe being a drug dealer. Nothing about Glynn Wolfe being a procurer for Syndicate brothels. Nothing about the Chancellor being owned by the mob. This is all fabricated by Donald H. Wofe, aided and abetted—according to his acknowledgements—by his agent, Alan Nevins of the Firm; and editors Cal Morgan and Anna Bliss. And ReganBooks, known as the publishing house without proofreaders.
Time for my walk.
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