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 found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.
Now I’m taking a few requests before I wrap it up. Yesterday, we looked at Pages 121-122, today, we’ll examine Page 131 at the request of Mary Pacios.
Recall that yesterday we found some particularly nasty, scheming misuse of the district attorney’s material on Ann Toth, one of Elizabeth Short’s roommates. Wolfe actually skipped several pages with the note “Finis quickly changes the subject” and altered a name in the material to make it appear as if Toth were referring to Maurice Clement when she was referring to another man.
Not trivial errors, folks. This is a scheming, calculating, cynical lie intended to prop up a fictitious premise.
Let’s see what Wolfe has in store for us today:
Hm. Wolfe is talking about Maurice Clement. Let’s back up a bit to Page 130.
Witnesses said Elizabeth Short frequented Brittingham’s Restaurant. That’s true. Wolfe says it was around the corner from Columbia Studios. That’s also true. Brittingham’s was next to KNX in Columbia Square but is now closed.
Wolfe quotes George Bacos, and says he was an usher at CBS, also true. But then he quotes Nina Blanchard, a name I don’t recognize.
To the end notes, Watson!
But my dear Holmes, there’s no attribution!
Not a word, Watson. Now where do we get this Blanchard woman?
Well that’s a mystery and a half:
“George Bacos, an usher at CBS across the street, stated to police that he had often seen her there, as had Nina Blanchard, who later became a famous modeling agency executive. At that time, Nina Blanchard was a waitress at Brittingham’s, where many of the Columbia Studio executives and employees socialized. According to Blanchard, Elizabeth used to frequent Brittingham’s and was also seen with studio executive Max Arnow, who was in charge of the Talent Department.”
OK, let’s do what any decent researcher would do and check Blanchard’s clips.
Blanchard indeed ran a modeling agency. In 1967, Brenda Lee Meinsenheimer, one of her models, died in a bizarre accident while filming a Pontiac commercial. Meinsenheimer was driving toward a camera truck, which was coming the other way. The camera boom was supposed to rise, but didn’t and she crashed into it. Raffael John Esposito, the camera operator, also died.
Hm. In 1965 Blanchard lived at 2045 Stanley Hills Place.
Hm. Looks like Blanchard was working as a model in 1965. Let’s do some math. If she was working as a waitress at Brittingham’s in 1946, let’s say she was 18. That would make her born in 1928. If she were modeling in 1965, that would make her 36. A bit old for the modeling game, I’d say. But wait. Hollywood High School’s alumni page says she graduated in 1946.
Hm. 1960. Teenage fashion show, Nina Blanchard provides the commentary.
With Jan and Dean? Oohh.
Hm. Junior League’s annual fashion tea, 1961.
1985, she pronounces Don Johnson sexy with or without “Miami Vice” stubble.
Sold modeling agency to Ford in 1995. Founded in 1961. Apparently still alive. That’s quite interesting. Wolfe usually relies on conveniently dead people. And this is the only reference in the book to Nina Blanchard.
Hm. Arnow was at Warners, then Columbia, died 1984. Nothing but a paid obituary in The Times.
Well, as far as I can tell, there was a Nina Blanchard, although it’s unclear she was a Brittingham’s waitress, let alone whether she saw Elizabeth Short. And there was a Max Arnow. So far, Wolfe is way ahead of John Gilmore’s “Severed,” which relies heavily on nonexistent people. But neither Blanchard nor Arnow appear in the district attorney’s files and since Wolfe gives no attribution for this little nugget I’m at a loss as to where he got it.
Hm. In discussing Toth, Wolfe says:
“In her testimony to the district attorney investigators, Toth had estimated that it was at least two weeks before she left the city—sometime in November—that she had dropped off Elizabeth near the Biltmore, where Toth believed she was meeting Maurice. And Toth thought it may have been Maurice who had driven her to a doctor’s office on Hollywood Boulevard shortly before Elizabeth suddenly left for San Diego.”
OK, well there’s a couple things wrong here.
First, Toth didn’t say that Maurice took Elizabeth Short to the doctor, it was a fellow named Otero, as we saw yesterday. Wolfe is faking the evidence to say it was Maurice.
Here’s Wolfe’s excerpt:
Toth: Mark [Hansen] might have driven her down. She was going to one on Hollywood Boulevard. I think maybe the teacher [Maurice] brought her down there once. It seems to me she said she was going to meet him one Sunday afternoon. But of course, he wouldn’t be in his office on a Sunday afternoon.
Not Maurice Clement, but Mr. Otero.
Second, Elizabeth Short didn’t suddenly leave for San Diego. Her departure from Los Angeles was well known and she spoke of it frequently. The only wrinkle, and it’s a major one, is that she claimed all along she was going to spend Christmas with her sister Virginia in Berkeley and went to San Diego instead. But the departure wasn’t sudden.
And finally and most important, let’s see what Toth told the district attorney’s investigators about taking Elizabeth Short to the Biltmore.
Here’s the actual quote from Page 12 of the second interview, with Finis Brown. Notice that Toth says “schoolteacher,” meaning Otero, who taught high school Spanish.
Brown: You drove her downtown in Los Angeles there near the Biltmore hotel on one occasion didn’t you? Near there?
Brown: About how long was that before she left for San Diego do you have any idea?
Toth: About two weeks.
Brown: Didn’t she give you any reason whatsoever to be to ask to be taken down there to the Biltmore Hotel? Didn’t she tell you who she was going to meet?
Toth: I thought she was supposed to meet the schoolteacher there. She might not have been telling me the truth either, you see. It didn’t mean a thing, later I would up getting her a place over here anyway because she was without means of any kind.
Brown: Did you ever take her down to the Biltmore Hotel more than once?
By the way, there is no attribution for Page 131 whatsoever. Poor work, folks.
Regular Anonymous Commenter asks me to add Page 162. Consider it done.
Time for my walk.
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