Why Can’t Anybody Get L.A. History Right?



The Times magazine magically transports San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel  to Los Angeles!

Ignorance about Los Angeles history is, alas, all around us. But imagine my dismay to discover this gaffe by The Times magazine –a separate publication by the ad folks that had no input from the The Times editorial staff.

This little gem from 2009 (humorously referred to as “edited” by Cary Georges with Avram Kosasky with what is amusingly described as “additional research” by A. Moret and Michelle Miranda”) notes that the Fatty Arbuckle case occurred in 1921.

Which it did. But in San Francisco. Nice going, guys. I’m not even going to look for more mistakes. Life is too short.

Of course, former LAPD Detective Steve Hodel makes the same mistake in “Black Dahlia Avenger”  (Page 3), which tells you something about the caliber of his research.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1921, Crime and Courts, Hollywood, LAPD, San Francisco and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Why Can’t Anybody Get L.A. History Right?

  1. There used to be “fact-checkers.” When I was writing my Greta Garbo bio for Abrams, I wrote (admittedly in the wee hours of the morning) that she walked apprehensively onto the soundstage of her first film. I had the number of the stage right, the date, even the hyphenation of M-G-M. The only error was that “The Torrent” was being made in November 1925. It was a silent movie. There were no soundstages, only glass stages or “dark” stages. Guess who caught the boo-boo in my manuscript. Kevin Brownlow. Was my face red!


  2. J'aime Rubio says:

    Larry, I’ve got to hand it to you, I love the way you call everyone out on their posts and do the research to prove people wrong. I too am tired of people posting stories online and even in books, that actually get historical recognition, and then when I research the real documents and records, I find that their info is way off. I am currently working on a story that took place in Northern California (San Francisco and Stockton area, mid to late 1800s) and it seems that there are so many books and sites that speak of the same story, stating pure speculation as fact because NO ONE FACT CHECKS ANYMORE!! It makes me physically ill.— Love your posts!!! You are great.


  3. aryedirect says:

    Why Can’t Anybody Get L.A. History Right? Probably because L.A.is inextricably linked with the manufacturing of dreams and all the hype that goes along with popular arts as a business. History is just another vision to be re-written, exploited, promoted, and played for pay. And yes, there is something oddly wonderful about that.


  4. Charlie says:

    Wait a second…wasn’t George Hodel in San Francisco in 1921?


  5. E. Yarber says:

    Dashiell Hammett, the quintessential San Francisco detective writer, claimed that the Arbuckle case was one of his last jobs for the Pinkerton Agency. In his words:

    “I sat in the lobby of the Plaza, in San Francisco. It was the day before the opening of the second absurd attempt to convict Roscoe Arbuckle of something. He came into the lobby. He looked at me and I at him. His eyes were the eyes of a man who expected to be regarded as a monster but was not yet inured to it. I made my gaze as contemptuous as I could. He glared at me, went on to his elevator still glaring. It was amusing. I was working for his attorneys at the time, gathering information for his defense.”


    • aryedirect says:

      Did not expect such intense cynicism from Hammett. Ink stained wretch, made hard by the Pinkerton boys. His horizons would soon broaden.


      • E. Yarber says:

        There’s no doubt that Hammett was deeply jaded by his Pinkerton experiences. In 1917, he refused an Agency demand that he participate in the lynching of IWW activist Frank Little, an incident that inspired “Red Harvest.”

        His biographer Richard Layman feels Hammett probably exaggerated his role in the Arbuckle case, though he could have spent a day or two working for the Agency as a stringer. By the time of the second trial, Hammett was definitely out of the sleuthing business. His insistence on his place in the story may have been either a way to later play up a sort of insider status in his Hollywood years or hindsight of what Hammett himself would eventually experience as a blacklisted, publicly denounced artist.

        Hammett’s daughters remembered him talking about the scandal almost obsessively years after the fact, though dwelling on lurid media inventions like the infamous coke bottle. That’s an odd course for a supposed member of the defense team to take, though he may have intended it as a seedy sort of moral education.


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