I have ceased 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 discovered and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.
Now, I’m taking a few requests before I wrap it up. Last time, we looked at Pages 108-111. Today we are looking at Page 119, at the request of Mary Pacios.
The title of this chapter is “Persons Unknown” and I couldn’t help but notice an unfortunately familiar name on Page 118: Robert Slatzer. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Will Fowler of “Reporters” fame used to claim that he was the ghostwriter on Slatzer’s “memoir” of being married to Marilyn Monroe for three days until the studios scotched the deal. In conversations, Will used to trash Slatzer every chance he got and worked Slatzer over on Pages 286-288 of “Reporters.”
“After the book was published, I found it to be filled with fantasies. It has turned into a type of unliterary work that gives Hollywood history a hernia.” “Reporters,” Page 287.
Note also that Wolfe claims the late Slatzer as a friend.
Now this is the funny part:
“Robert Slatzer, a young man from Columbus, Ohio, who had traveled to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, often went to the Florentine Gardens and dated Ann Toth several times before becoming the boyfriend of another Hollywood wannabe, Norma Jeane Dougherty.”
Of course, this is absolutely absurd. Have you ever seen a picture of Robert Slatzer? I imagine Wolfe credits it to an interview with his conveniently dead friend.
Oh! This is better than I even imagined. Wolfe credits it as a joint interview with Slatzer and “Severed” author John Gilmore. Now I have trouble imagining those guys in the same room, but here’s the citation:
“Marilyn liked going to the Florentine Gardens and ….” int. Gilmore/Slatzer, 1989. int. Wolfe/Slatzer 2004.
Of course, the unpublished draft of “Severed” in the Gilmore archives at UCLA uses Slatzer as the source for a story about a purported lesbian affair between—oh guess—Elizabeth Short and Marilyn Monroe. Apparently this was too much even for the publishers of “Severed.”
In fact, according to the district attorney’s files (recall that this book is titled “The Black Dahlia Files” rather than the more appropriate “Severed: 2006”) Ann Toth had a regular boyfriend named Leo Hymes and didn’t date at all.
“Slatzer remembered….” Boy, that’s a phrase almost as frightening as “Will Fowler recalls.”
OK. Wolfe is talking about Ann Toth, one of Elizabeth Short’s roommates.
“According to Ann Toth, Elizabeth had been promised extra work in the movies and a role in NTG’s [Nils T. Granlund’s] next Florentine Gardens revue. It was inferred in the press that Elizabeth had become one of [Florentine Gardens business manager] Mark Hansen’s many girlfriends, but he adamantly denied to the police that he had ever been intimate with her. ‘She dated many different men while she was living here,’ Hansen said, ‘mostly hoodlums whom I wouldn’t even let in my house.’ ”
The quotes are fairly routine and lifted from the newspapers, rather than the district attorney’s files. But this stuff about Elizabeth Short being promised work in the Florentine Gardens revues is a new one on me. Let’s check the end notes. Nope, nothing. Figures.
Wolfe seems to be setting up poor old Maurice Clement as a mob torpedo and made man. Like all those mob guys were driving 10-year-old Fords as Wolfe implies:
“He drove an older model black Ford sedan. Beth called him ‘Maurice’ and he had promised to ‘setup’ [note to ReganBooks, the publishing house without proofreaders or fact-checkers, that is ‘set up’] Elizabeth in an apartment in Beverly Hills.’ Ann Toth had put a name to the mysterious ‘short, dark complexioned man’ who used to park in front of the Hawthorne and pay Beth’s rent—the mystery man who picked up Beth in his ‘old black Ford sedan’ and helped her move to Mark Hansen’s place on Carlos. Was it the same ‘1936 or 1937 black Ford sedan’ seen by Robert Meyer and the newsboy, Bobby Jones, as it remained parked for several minutes at the site where Elizabeth Short’s mutilated and bisected body was disposed of in the predawn hours of January 15, 1947? Apparently Det. Harry Hansen suspected that it was and that ‘Maurice’ may have been the connecting link between Elizabeth’s Hollywood acquaintances and the ‘sacred setting’
“Witnesses at the Chancellor and the Florentine Gardens were uncomfortable talking about Maurice or mentioning the mystery man’s name because he was a dangerous subject. Maurice was connected.”
“Maurice proved to be Maurice Clement, a minion of Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen, who was a procurer for the Syndicate call-girl ring run by the notorious Hollywood Madam, Brenda Allen.”
Well this rambles on and on and I won’t quote more of it.
Gad, I wish Wolfe could make up his mind whether he’s going to call her Elizabeth or Beth. Note that he uses both names in the same paragraph.
Beth called him ‘Maurice’ and he had promised to ‘setup’ Elizabeth in an apartment in Beverly Hills.’
I don’t want to go back through all the nonsense about the “boy on the bicycle” from the crime scene because it covers 10 posts. That’s what the search feature is for and it’s very nice. From freefind.com
And Maurice never helped Elizabeth Short move. I don’t know where Wolfe got that one. Of course, all she had were a couple of suitcases and a hatbox so it wasn’t all that much.
Rather than get into all of Wolfe’s mumbo-jumbo about dangerous little Maurice, the mob torpedo and wiseguy who was driving a 10-year-old Ford (the vehicle of choice for flamboyant gangsters, don’t you know) here’s what the district attorney’s office says about him:
(Oh, and I wouldn’t attach any significance to the order used in the list of suspects. Note that Mark Hansen is last and he was one of the more prominent candidates—although he, too, was exonerated).
Wolfe even reproduces it way back on Page 276:
“Maurice Clement, Apartment 107, at 1616 North Normandy [Normandie] was working at Columbia Studios at the time of the murder. His name appeared in this victim’s address book. He knew Short socially and is a likely type of character but has been partially eliminated by Los Angeles Police Department. See their reports.”
Nothing about him being connected to the mob. Nothing at all, in fact. Completely bogus.
In case you want to check, yes, the building is still there. It’s a two-story apartment house on the east side of the street just south of Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a very unassuming little building and not exactly what you’d expect for an elegant mobster pad.
I should mention something else just because it’s amusing. There’s a lot of claims about what was known on the Columbia lot about poor old Maurice and how he was such a prominent figure. Except that that the picture Wolfe publishes of him on Page 310….
Uh, that’s not him. That is an unlabeled photo in the district attorney’s files on Elizabeth Short. In the files on another case, however, the photo is labeled as Salvador Torres Vara. That’s No. 9 on the list of 22 suspects. (Except he’s “Vera” there, remember that these reports were dictated so many names are spelled phonetically).