Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
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 uses the “Laura” format, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.
Yesterday, we looked at a particularly foul and nasty installment, Page 167, at the request of Mary Pacios. Today we’ll do Pages 197-198 at Mary’s request. I hope you are ready for a shocker. Even for Donald H. Wolfe, this is nasty, nasty work. A ruthless, conniving, calculating and cynical attempt to pull off a fraud.
You are so busted, Donald H. Wolfe.
To the haz-mat pile of Dahlia books….
This chapter is titled. Hm. Well Page 196 is labeled “Inside an Enigma” and Page 197 is “Sunshine and Shadow.” OK, Part II is “Inside an Enigma,” echoing Will Fowler’s favorite comment on the case. Of course, Wolfe doesn’t actually credit Will, but you’ll find it on Page 92 of “Reporters.” The chapter is titled “Sunshine and Shadow.”
Page 196 is about organized crime in Los Angeles: Jack Dragna and Bugsy Siegel. And there’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo and Brenda Allen, Mickey Cohen, the mob assassination of Paul “Paulie” Gibbons, blah blah blah.
Oh “a hail of bullets.” Now there’s an original phrase. The only thing missing is “shots rang out.”
OK, well here’s an untrue statement:
“The gangland killings and attempted assassinations made headlines for days but remained unsolved. Although neither Homicide nor the press seemed to have a clue about who was responsible, the average cop on the beat and the below-average man on the street knew it was the Mafia Capo of Los Angeles, Jack Dragna.”
Now this is just Wolfe being nasty for the sake of being nasty. I would say that for the vast majority of gangland murders in Los Angeles of the 1940s, there was no mystery as to the killers or their motivation. The problem for the police is locating cooperative witnesses, because oddly enough, most people find it unhealthy to testify in court about mob murders. And although publishing capricious and unverified murder accusations against conveniently dead people (oh, say Bugsy Siegel or Dr. George “Evil Genius” Hodel) may sell lots of books, allegations against living people will get you sued.
Well let’s see, Page 197 is mostly boilerplate about innocent, wide-eyed Elizabeth Short returning to bad old Los Angeles in July 1946 with “little comprehension of the dark side of the movieland maze, where the studios, the nightclubs, the unions and many of the major talent agencies had been infiltrated by the mob.”
The only thing missing is: “Run, innocent little girl, run like the wind back to home and hearth in safe old Boston as fast as your shapely milk-white legs and trademark black suede pumps can carry you!!!”
Now I am skipping around so I may have missed the bogus stuff from “Severed” about Elizabeth Short being at the Hollywood Canteen in 1944 and all that rot (note: she was actually in Florida and Boston). And doesn’t Wolfe have her being a prostitute at some point? And then he turns around and makes her into a lazy tramp. I mean Wolfe really doesn’t have a handle on who she was, does he?
“When her bisected body was found on Norton Avenue in Leimert Park, it wasn’t mentioned by Capt. Jack Donahoe or the press that her remains were found in the weeds approximately 250 yards from the backyard of Jack Dragna’s house at 3927 Hubert Street, near the corner of Thirty-Ninth and Norton.
Nor was it ever mentioned that the letter “D” had been carved by a knife into the pubic area of the victim’s flesh. The D is clearly visible in police photographs held today in the Black Dahlia files of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Did the D stand for Dahlia—or could the D have stood for Dragna? Whatever the meaning of the psychopath’s message, the silent scream from the sacred setting was certainly heart at the nearby home of the Mafia Capo, Jack Dragna—and La Famiglia.”
And then there’s the this memo. Mary asked if Wolfe cut off something important in reproducing it.
But first. It’s true the police and the press didn’t mention the proximity of Jack Dragna’s house to the crime scene. As I recall, it’s about five blocks. Dragna’s house, by the way, is still there and fairly modest for a mob chieftain.
Luckily, we have Google Earth and Google Maps. So let’s see. Isn’t it weird that Wolfe talks about the distance to Dragna’s backyard? Hm.
More like 6½ blocks. Google Maps says it’s 0.6 of a mile. Now look. This is really important. Out of consideration for the people who own the house, I absolutely never give out the actual address of the crime scene. I always say 54 feet north of the fire hydrant in the middle of the block. I have made up an address for Google purposes that’s fairly close to where Elizabeth Short’s body was found.
How about a little math? Hm. 1,760 yards in a mile, makes it more like 1,056 yards. So Wolfe owe us 806 yards—nearly half a mile off.
This is really funny. Page 375: “Dragna’s address in the 1946 telephone directory place him three short blocks from Thirty-Ninth and Norton [forgetting, of course, that the body wasn’t found there]. Isn’t it interesting that Dragna’s HQ of evil is listed in the phone book? Like maybe people could call him up ask about the latest mob hits or something.
Of course, those of use who have a 1946 L.A. phone book can check. (Thank you, Ebay). Guess who’s not listed.
Go ahead and guess.
Maybe I should check under Evil, H.Q.
Whew. Nothing like wrestling with the technology to get the satellite picture I need. Again, note that I have intentionally fed Google the wrong address for the crime scene. IGNORE it.
Now while we’re at it, who else isn’t mentioned by police or the press. Who is it that lives at 3944 S. McClung?
Would you believe it? Detective Lt. Paul W. Freestone, the University Division watch commander who was actually at the crime scene.
A coincidence? I think not.
So the following are lies:
Jack Dragna’s house wasn’t 250 yards or three short blocks from the crime scene.
Jack Dragna’s address is not listed in the 1946 Los Angeles telephone directory.
Not exactly a good showing is it? Not a real confidence-builder.
Now for Part II.
“Nor was it ever mentioned that the letter “D” had been carved by a knife into the pubic area of the victim’s flesh.”
You know what I like about this paragraph?
Did the D stand for Dahlia—or could the D have stood for Dragna?
Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe it stood for Donald Duck or Donald H. Wolfe.
Wolfe is having fun here because the district attorney’s office won’t let anybody copy the body photographs. I’ve seen them all and I don’t recall anything like that, but then I wasn’t looking for the letter “D” either.
So let’s check this memo Mary was asking about. Because I do have that.
Gosh, this is kind of hard to find.
Weird that it’s not dated. It should be.
I’m starting to get a really, really bad feeling about this document.
My spider-sense is tingling.
Now the text is found on Page 13 of “Evidence and Declarations Tending to Connect or Disconnect Leslie Dillon to the Murders of Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French and Gladys Kern.”
The full text is:
ITEM NO. XIII:
SOME PEOPLE BELIEVED that the “D” cut in the shaved pubic region of Elizabeth Short is of the same type as found on the body of the French woman. [Aha. That explains the reference. Jeanne French].
Facts reveal that the pubic region of Elizabeth Short’s body was not shaved.
Experts in handwriting have stated that it would be impossible
to determine any type of handwriting from the so-called “D” cut into the pubic region of Elizabeth Short’s body.
ITEM NO. XIV….
The really bizarre thing is the header Wolfe shows:
M E M O R A N D U M
To: H.L. Stanley, Chief of the Bureau of Investigation
ATTENTION: Arthur L. Veitch, Deputy District Attorney
IN RE: Elizabeth Short Murder—Los Angeles Police Department Records, Reports, Statements, Correspondence, Evidence and Information
FROM: Frank B. Jemison, Lieutenant—Bureau of Investigation
Because it’s not there.
I’m starting to think Photoshop, folks. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Gosh, it looks like someone lifted the header off an unrelated Oct. 29, 1949, memo from Frank Jemison to H.L. Stanley. Snipped off the inconvenient date and pasted on the material about Leslie Dillon.
I’m short on time so I won’t scan in the material today, but you can rest assured, the document produced on Page 198 of “The Black Dahlia Files” is fraudulent and pasted together from two unrelated reports.
Would someone please remind me again what a well-researched book this is? I keep forgetting.
Shout out to:
National Internet Backbone [ISP Redacted]