James Ellroy: ‘Don’t Anybody Say the Name Steve Hodel’

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

An incredibly curious thing happened yesterday. I’ve been taping segments for an “America’s Most Wanted” episode on the Black Dahlia and the producer called to see if they could get some shots of me in the Biltmore bar talking to Detective Brian Carr, who is assigned to the case.

The Biltmore usually charges astronomical fees for filming and sometimes even buckets of money won’t gain access if the shoot is related to the Black Dahlia, which I learned with another TV production. However, Universal came up with buckets and buckets of money to rent big chunks of the hotel, (including the 10th floor with the Presidential Suite) for a press event publicizing Brian De Palma’s upcoming movie.

Of course I agreed, so Brian Carr and I set up in the bar (hyped mercilessly by the hotel as being the spot where Elizabeth Short was last seen—in reality, an absurd claim that shows what people want to believe about the Black Dahlia case. For the record, Elizabeth Short didn’t drink for most of her life and when she did, it was very moderately). We had a nice chat on camera.

Then the producer, Fred Peabody, said that James Ellroy was in the hotel and it would be nice to get a shot of the three of us. Mind you, Brian Carr and I have decent roles in the 2001 documentary “James Ellroy’s Feast of Death” where I get into my Black Dahlia research and James voices strong support for my scenario involving Walter Bayley as a possible suspect. And then, as most people know, James wrote the introduction to Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger” that says “Steve convinced me” that George Hodel was the killer. Brian has even more contempt for the Hodel scenario than I.

So Brian and I were rather curious as to how James would react to us on camera. The five of us (camera operator, sound man, producer, Brian and I) went up to the Presidential Suite to find James. After waiting about half an hour because it was around lunch, Peabody came back with James.

And the first thing James said when he came into the room and warmly shook our hands was: “Don’t anybody say the name ‘Steve Hodel.’ ”

We talked and joked for a few minutes on camera. I said: “The last time the three of us were together, Nick Nolte showed up wearing a bathrobe covered with dog hair” and we all laughed. Brian twisted James’ tail about not getting a ticket to the premiere, so James got him one immediately. And James asked me if I still had the same phone number at The Times. I said yes, adding: “You know where to find me.”

James shook hands and promised: “I’ll call you next week and we will discuss times past.” I hope he calls. It was good to see the old boy. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing that life brings to us with age.

Woof, daddy-o.

Ps. Yes, I passed Scarlett Johansson in the hallway. I only got a moment’s impression of her, and I could certainly be wrong. But speaking as a parent, I wouldn’t want my 21-year-old son to be dating her, although he would surely disagree.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Homicide, LAPD, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to James Ellroy: ‘Don’t Anybody Say the Name Steve Hodel’

  1. JAMES says:

    Elizabeth Short was arrested for under age drinking when she was 19. I’m willing to listen to all the theories about the murder. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.


    • In 1947 she could have been picked up and booked for holding a can of beer. I’m not aware of any evidence she was a drinker. It’s good to listen to all the theories, sometimes quite entertaining. And you’re probably right, absent writers willing to put in the time on really rigorous research, we’ll probably never know.


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