The unrecommended reading list. Not shown: Donald Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files,” Scotty Bowers’ “Full Service,” Howard Blum’s “American Lightning,” Wikipedia, etc.
These are curious times to be a diligent researcher in Los Angeles history.
There is more of Los Angeles history around us, mostly in cyberspace, which may be the result of the downtown renaissance, where derelict and long-vacant buildings are being repopulated with young hipsters who are naturally curious about their still-gritty surroundings.
Unfortunately for the diligent researcher, very little of the history being put forth today is any good and some of it is ghastly.
Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31
Georgette Bauerdorf in the Binghamton Press, Oct. 16, 1944, via Fultonhistory.com.
And although all of this may seem unrelated to the 1944 killing of Georgette Bauerdorf, it is essential from the outset to discard the nonsense that has been written about this case, most of which can be traced to John Gilmore’s “Severed,” which is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction. This is especially true of Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger,” which relies heavily on “Severed” in its treatment of the Bauerdorf case.
To cite one of the uncountable errors in “Severed,” the book says that Georgette Bauerdorf knew Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, from their days at the Hollywood Canteen, utterly ignoring the fact that the Bauerdorf was killed in 1944, the canteen closed in 1945 and Elizabeth Short didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until the middle of 1946. The fact that “Black Dahlia Avenger” doesn’t catch this blunder speaks volumes about the caliber of its research. But this is no surprise for a book that claims on Page 3 that the LAPD investigated the Fatty Arbuckle case, which occurred in San Francisco.
But it isn’t merely “Severed” and “Black Dahlia Avenger” that are problematic. It’s fair to say that such “true” crime books trade in lurid sensationalism (or in the case of “Black Dahlia Avenger” a bizarre “daddy did it” fixation) and are held to a standard for accuracy that is low to nonexistent.
The problem is that research, as everyone learns it in middle school, usually consists of going to the library, shoveling a shelf full of books into a wheelbarrow, running the whole thing through a literary blender and coming up with a book that appears to be more reliable, such as the treatment of the Black Dahlia case in John Douglas’ “The Cases That Haunt Us.” Granted, “The Cases That Haunt Us” is still a “true” crime book, but we find this same flawed approach to research in such highly regarded books Otto Friedrich’s “City of Nets” and even in Kevin Starr’s “Embattled Dreams.”
I say all of this now for the benefit of those folks who will undoubtedly wonder at some point: “But ‘Severed’ says … ” or “ ‘Black Dahlia Avenger’ says” or “Wikipedia says …” It is too complex to delve into the problems with these sources (indeed, debunking “Severed” could be a life’s work). The bottom line is that before we go any further, you have to discard anything you might have read about the Bauerdorf case in any of these awful books or in Wikipedia.
To be continued.