In case you just tuned in, I am using the Wikipedia entry on Wallace Beery — alleging that he was involved in the death of Ted Healy — as a way to explore Wikipedia’s fundamental problems with accuracy and delve into Hollywood myths.
We have been backtracking the source for the Wikipedia entries (the ones that cited a source, anyway), E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers.” From there, we went to one of Fleming’s sources, Jeff and Tom Forrester’s “The Three Stooges.” In “The Three Stooges,” we found that Sammy Wolfe, an alleged eyewitness in the “Wallace Beery beat Ted Healy to death” yarn, was an unreliable informant. Wolfe claimed to have been at the Trocadero on the night the alleged beating occurred, but was “guessing” about many details.
We have already found that the three informants in this paragraph from the Forresters’ “The Three Stooges” died years ago: Shemp Howard in 1955, his widow, Gertrude “Babe” Howard in 1982 and Richard “Dick” Hakins in 1990, so there’s no way to ask them about their statements.
Instead, let’s look at the historical record. What we are going to find is that this account — that Healy called various people to say that he had been attacked by Wallace Beery — is impossible. Not just unlikely, but impossible. For one simple reason.
If you’re in a hurry, you can skip to the bottom, but I hope you won’t.
Here’s a timeline of the events, compiled mostly from the Los Angeles Examiner and The Times, with bits from the wire services. For most of the time after he left the Trocadero until he died, Healy was incoherent or delirious. Let’s see if there’s any period in which he might have been lucid enough to make a lot of phone calls describing his attack:
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 1937: Healy’s sister, Marcia, begins supervising him constantly until Sunday, Dec. 19. (Examiner, Dec. 26, 1937)
Friday, Dec. 17, 1937: A son (John Jacob Healy) is born to to Ted Healy and Betty Hickman, 11 pounds 2 ounces at University Hospital in Culver City. The doctor is Wyant Lamonte, whose name is misspelled in various news accounts. (L.A. Times, Dec. 18, 1937)
Saturday, Dec. 18, 1937: Healy sees his ex-wife, Betty Braun Healy. She says her ex-husband never looked better. “He told me he had never felt better in his life.” (Examiner, Dec. 25, 1937)
Sunday, Dec. 19, 1937: Healy is ill and spends most of the day in bed, according to manager Jack Marcus, who was with Healy for nearly all of the day. Marcus leaves that evening, telling bodyguard Hymie Marx “not to let Ted out of his sight.” (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
11 p.m. Healy eludes Marx and calls a taxi to take him to the Club Trocadero, 8610 Sunset Blvd.
Sometime after 11 p.m. Healy arrives at the Trocadero, but he is already so drunk that the management refuses to serve him liquor. (Examiner, Dec. 23, 1937)
Healy encounters Albert Broccoli, 29, who is standing at the bar. (Examiner, Dec. 23, 1937) Broccoli says he congratulated Healy as he entered. Healy asks an attendant “who is this fellow?” and punches Broccoli in the nose, then in the mouth and finally a gives him a stiff uppercut “which nearly knocked me out,” Broccoli says.
Broccoli says he shoved Healy away because he didn’t want to hurt him and the attendants led Healy to an anteroom.
They come back and say Healy wants to see Broccoli. “I walked in and shook hands,” Broccoli says. “Then Ted went out and got in a taxicab and that’s the last I saw of him. As I recall, he wasn’t marked up when I last saw him.” (Examiner, Dec. 23, 1937)
Sometime later: Healy “through a ruse,” returns to the Trocadero. (Examiner, Dec. 23, 1937)
Second version: After the Broccoli incident, Healy goes to a table at which two men and two women are seated. “One of the men objected to Healy’s remarks. Healy apparently was very drunk.” An attendant “observed the disturbance” and “led Healy out.” (Examiner, Dec. 25, 1937)
One of the men at the table follows. He “was gone for a few minutes” then returns and tells his companions that he “took a poke” at Healy and “knocked him down but he got back up smiling and we shook hands and said he was sorry for what happened and asked if we were still friends. I told him sure.” (Examiner, Dec. 25, 1937)
This individual is described in the Dec. 26, 1936, Los Angeles Examiner as “a well-known Hollywood figure.”
This individual says: “I didn’t hurt him – just knocked him down, but another fellow IS BEATING HIM UP – GIVING HIM A WHALE OF A BEATING.” (Examiner, Dec. 25, 1937)
Later: Healy takes a cab to Ray Haller’s Seven Seas and borrows $50, Marcus says. [The Seven Seas was a favorite Hollywood watering hole in the 1930s but I haven’t been able to locate an address yet.] (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
Monday, Dec. 20, 1937
2:15 a.m.: Healy, who is bleeding and incoherent, arrives at the Hollywood Brown Derby, 1628 N. Vine St. He encounters Joseph E. “Doc” Stone, Jack Antler and Joe Frisco. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
Stone telephones Healy’s sister, Marcia, who calls Healy’s manager, Jack Marcus. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
Marcia Healy calls Dr. Sydney L. Weinberg, house physician at the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, half a block away at 1637 N. Vine St., to treat Healy. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
2:30 a.m. Stone, Antler and Frisco take Healy to the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, where they encounter Man Mountain Dean, who performed with Healy in the 1935 Jean Harlow movie “Reckless.”
“Comedian staggered out [of a taxicab] and was bleeding from a cut over one eye.” He blurts out an incoherent story. (Dec. 22, 1937 UP via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Weinberg closes the cut over Healy’s eye with two surgical clips. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
3 a.m. Healy telephones his sister, Marcia, from Clara Bow’s “It” Cafe, which adjoins the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, saying he had two stitches and asks her to come get him. Marcia Healy calls Marcus and tells him to go get Healy and take him home. “I know because I followed him in my car,” Marcia Healy says. (Examiner, Dec. 26, 1937) [Note: The Examiner interviewed Marcia Healy at the home of Moe Howard, in the presence of the Three Stooges’ wives.]
Monday, time undetermined: Healy is violently ill, racked by convulsions and frequently delirious, moaning about the fight, according to Marcus. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
Dr. Wyant Lamonte is summoned, administers a sedative and summons Dr. John Ruddock, “Los Angeles heart specialist.” (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937). [Note the presence of Ruddock, a member of the Board of City Health Commissioners].
Glucose is administered and oxygen is rushed from University Hospital, but Healy’s condition deteriorates. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
3 a.m.: Healy suffers an attack “which was to prove fatal.” (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
About 6 :30 a.m. “Shortly before dawn.” Healy lapses into a coma without regaining consciousness. Present are Marcia Healy, Marcus and his wife. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937) Other accounts say both doctors were still present.
11:30 a.m. Healy dies. (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
And that’s the end of Ted Healy.
According to Man Mountain Dean, Dr. Sydney L. Weinberg and manager Jack Marcus, Healy was drunk, incoherent or moaning deliriously in the final hours of his life. It certainly seems unlikely that he made several phone calls saying that he was attacked by Wallace Beery. The news accounts say he called his sister from Clara Bow’s “It” Cafe to come get him. But that’s all.
But remember I said it was impossible? There is one simple reason.
Healy did not know who attacked him.
Los Angeles Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937.
To be continued.