The Naked City May 2 2017
PLAYING CHESSMAN
Did the legal system use him as a pawn, or was it the other way around?

Caryl Chessman and a detective named E.M. Goossen appear in the above photo made shortly after Chessman's arrest in January of 1948. Chessman had robbed several victims in the Los Angeles area, two of whom were women that he sexually assaulted. He forced one woman to perform oral sex on him, and did the same to the other in addition to anally raping her. Chessman was convicted under California's Little Lindbergh Law, named after Charles Lindbergh's infamously kidnapped and murdered son. The law specifically covered intrastate acts of abduction in which victims were physically harmed, two conditions that made the crime a potentially capital offense.

The law was intended to prevent deliberate acts of kidnapping and ransom, as had occurred in the Lindbergh case, but Chessman's prosecutors—demonstrating typical prosecutorial zeal—argued that Chessman had abducted one victim by dragging her approximately twenty-two feet, and had abducted the other woman when he placed her in his car, then drove in pursuit of the victim's boyfriend, who had fled the scene in his own vehicle. Chessman was indeed sentenced to death. The Little Lindbergh Law was revised while he was in prison so that it no longer applied to his crimes, but his execution was not stayed.

During his nearly twelve years on death row he authored four bestselling books—Trial by OrdealThe Face of JusticeThe Kid Was a Killer, and Cell 2455: Death Row, the latter of which was made into a 1955 movie. The books, many interviews, and a steady stream of articles fueled public debate about his looming execution. Among those who appealed for clemency were Aldous Huxley, the Rev. Billy Graham, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Frost. Their interest was not wholly about Chessman so much as it was about the issue of the cruelty of the death penalty, which had already been abandoned in other advanced nations.
 
In the end the campaigning was ineffective, and Chessman was finally gassed in San Quentin Prison. But even dying, he further catalyzed the death penalty debate. The question of whether a capital punishment is cruel and unusual hinges on whether it causes pain. Gas was held by its proponents to be painless. Chessman had been asked by reporters who would be observing his execution to nod his head if he was in pain. As he was gassed, he nodded his head vigorously and kept at it for several minutes. It took him nine minutes to die. That happened today in 1960.

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Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Aug 6 2011
ACID REIGN
Long before the general public knew it existed, LSD was the drug of choice among celebrity elites.

We’re back to the gossip magazine Uncensored today, with its info-packed cover telling us about gay Toronto, lesbian Hollywood, Sean Connery’s sex secrets and rumors about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. But the standout item here (aside from the appearance of the non-word “rejuvination” and the misused term “capitol”) is the one on Cary Grant and his experimentation with LSD. Before the Beatles, Timothy Leary, and Carlos Castaneda, LSD was the drug of choice for a rarefied circle of glamorous elites who ingested it as part of their psychiatric therapy sessions. We’re talking about people as famous and diverse as aquatic actress Esther Williams, Time publisher Henry Luce, director Sidney Lumet, authors Aldous Huxley and Anais Nin, and composer André Previn. Cary Grant never tried to keep his LSD use secret. In fact, he spoke glowingly about it in a 1959 interview with Look magazine, saying that it had brought him close to happiness for the first time in his life. He also said that LSD taught him immense compassion for other people, and had helped him conquer his own shyness and insecurity.

But by 1968 the U.S. government—which had experimented extensively with LSD in hopes of using it as a truth serum or a form of chemical warfare, and had dosed thousands of people both willingly and unwillingly—was moving toward declaring the drug illegal. Grant’s wife Dyan Cannon had famously cited LSD usage as a primary factor in seeking a 1967 divorce, and the counterculture embrace of the drug was beginning to frighten middle America and the White House. That’s the backdrop against which this August 1968 Uncensored appeared, and by October of the year LSD was illegal. But the fact that public opinion had shifted—or more accurately, had been pushed by a steady, government-initiated anti-LSD campaign—did not particularly harm Grant’s public standing. When he died in 1986 he was still one of the most revered Hollywood actors ever. And about his LSD usage he had no regrets. Quite the opposite—he commented: “Yes, it takes a long time for happiness to break through either to the individual or nations. It will take just as long as people themselves continue to confound it. You’ll find that nowadays they put you away for singing and dancing in the street. ‘Here now, let’s have none of that happiness, my boy. You cut that out; waking up the neighbors!’ Those darn neighbors need waking up, I can tell you, constable!” 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
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