The Naked City Jun 29 2014
ALL TIRED OUT
When the wheels come off.

The above photo shows twenty-two-year-old Eddie M. Gonzalez, who was discovered dead behind a service station located at 3822 E. Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the background is police detective A.W. Frank. Police decided the cause of death was an accidental overdose, a deduction made thanks to fifty capsules of an unnamed drug found on the deceased’s person. To us the whole scene looks strange—a well-dressed, well-groomed person in shiny shoes who can afford fifty capsules of drugs doesn’t seem like the type who would need to ingest them behind a gas station and end up tangled in a pile of tires. And if suicide was his aim, why fifty leftover capsules? But maybe we’re just conspiracy minded. The photo is part of the University of Southern California’s digital archive and was taken today in 1952. 

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The Naked City Jun 16 2014
L.A. LEAP
Bridge to nowhere.

Above, another photo from the coffee table book so morbid it will put you off your coffee—Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive. This image shows the aftermath of a suicide leap from L.A.’s 7th Street Bridge, today 1959.

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The Naked City May 30 2014
BACKSTREET BOYS
United they stand, divided they fall.

This photo shows the sheet covered body of Fernando Reyes, aged 17, who was killed after a brawl escalated into gunplay on Lamar St., in the hinterlands east of the Los Angeles River. The onlookers include two plainclothes detectives, the deceased’s brother, a friend, and several bystanders. It happened today in 1952.

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The Naked City May 21 2014
FLIGHT FROM FLORENCE
To every action there is always an equal reaction.

The top photo shows an LAPD policewoman named Florence Coberly, who in a dangerous undercover operation, was asked to lure a serial rapist named Joe Parra. This would require placing herself in harm’s way so police could catch him just before the act. Supported by more than thirty cops hidden in unmarked cars and stationed around the neighborhood, Coberly did exactly that, drawing the suspect, which in turn drew her backup. Parra tried to run, and photo two shows him after he was gunned down. Strangely, Coberly was later arrested for shoplifting and drummed off the police force. But that would be several years later. These shots are from 1952, a year at the end of which she would win the LAPD’s Policewoman of the Year award. These images come from the USC digital archive of mid-century Los Angeles Examiner photos. 

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Hollywoodland Apr 30 2014
THE GOOSE AND THE GANDERERS
A unusual Page from Hollywood history


Who is this, you wonder? Her name is Joan Page and she’s posing at Hollywood Park, a thoroughbred race track located in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles. The photo, which was made today in 1954, was intended to publicize the circuit’s new aluminum rails, which had replaced the old wooden rails during the off-season. The photo also announced Page’s candidacy for the title of Goose Girl, the winner of the track’s yearly beauty contest. Why was she called a Goose Girl, rather than a Horse Girl or a Pretty Filly, you’re probably thinking? Because Hollywood Park, which was known as the Track of Lakes and Flowers, enclosed several small lakes populated by geese. In addition to posing for photos and making publicity appearances in a ridiculous outfit, the Goose Girl was required to drift around in a small boat called Miz Clementine, tossing food to the birds as the racegoing crowd cheered. Hollywood Park operated on the theory that race days were events, and successfully staged such spectacles for decades, beginning with its opening in 1938.

But times change. Hollywood Park had long been a playground for celebrities and political figures, but as the decades passed such clientele began to seek thrills elsewhere. During the 1980s some of thepark’s lakes were filled in to build concession stands, and the popular Goose Girl was eliminated, brought back in the 1990s, then eliminated again. Profits sagged, and real estate values went through the roof—always a deadly combination. Hollywood Park’s land became too valuable for racing, and the site’s closure was announced in May 2013. The current plan is to transform the former Track of Lakes and Flowers into luxury housing, which seems to always be the plan, everywhere. And what happened to Joan Page? Hard to say. There are several Joan Pages who appeared in films during the 1940s or 1950s, but we have no way of knowing which—if any—posed on Hollywood Park’s aluminum rail in 1954, or for that matter whether she ever won the title of Goose Girl.


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Sportswire Apr 29 2014
STERLING CHARACTER
The Donald Sterling fiasco is a surprise to nobody. What will the NBA do now?


In the U.S. today, in our old home of Los Angeles, the city’s newly ascendant basketball team the Clippers is in the playoffs while team owner Donald Sterling’s racist personal beliefs have blown up in his face and cast a pall over his on-the-court product. You’ve maybe heard the story. His mixed race mistress recorded him insisting that she, well, that she basically reject her own blackness. Specifically, Sterling wanted her to stop posing for Instagram photos with black acquaintances and even told her to stop bringing black friends to Clippers games. The recordings also revealed his bizarre attitude toward his own players, who he feels he “gives” everything they have, despite the lifetime of work they’ve put in to reach the NBA.

Sterling’s legal mouthpiece has implied—but not asserted—that the recordings could be fake or altered. That’s highly doubtful. The idea that the mistress hired a voice actor, staged an argument, and then released the recording to harm Sterling makes little sense. For one, there’s this little thing called voice analysis that can determine whether recordings match certain voices, and anyone who’s watched a Friday night detective show knows that. Second, to make such a recording, or to alter one in order to damage another person’s standing, could be construed as criminal fraud, which seems a hell of a risk to take just to thumb your sugar daddy’s eyes. No, it’s Sterling on the recordings, and his camp has not issued a flat denial because that in itself would harm them in future legal proceedings once their assertion was proven to be untrue.

Some observers have cited Sterling’s charitable work, but let’s be clear—such activities are mandated, not necessarily in the league bylaws, but by the NBA culture. They are the price of owning a team. Just as players must appear at hospitals hugging sick children when they would rather be relaxing at home with their slippered feet on the coffee table, owners are expected to contribute to their communities. Yes, some players love making sickbed appearances because of heartfelt views, and it’s possiblesome of the league's owners enjoy philanthropy, but never forget that the NBA runs ads all year extolling this community service. It is good work, but it is also marketing used to make fans feel better about ponying up tax revenue for multi-million dollar arenas and for laying down hard earned coin for overpriced seats. In short, Sterling would have to deal with a host of league-wide consequences if he didn’t do charitable work.

Likewise, there’s no contradiction in the fact that Sterling’s erstwhile mistress is mixed race. It has long been a privilege of old school male power that they can stick their dicks anyplace they like as long as they don’t embarrass themselves or shame their family by treating the person as anything other than a toy. That part isn’t even a matter of ethnicity. The same would be true if Sterling’s mistress were Norwegian: have all the fun you like, just don’t make a spectacle of yourself. At that Sterling has failed stupendously, and not for the first time. A notorious slumlord, in 2009 he lost the biggest housing discrimination suit in U.S. Justice Department history. At the trial witnesses divulged that Sterling believes African Americans smell bad, that Mexicans just sit around smoking and drinking all day, and that Koreans will live in terrible conditions and still meekly pay rent on time every month.

So today there will be a press conference at which NBA commissioner Adam Silver, empowered by public opinion and the other team owners (some of whom, by the way, are rumored to be barely better than Sterling), will presumably announce some form of punishment. It may or may not be severe enough to satisfy many observers, but the real issue that fans may want to consider is whether the NBA somehow enabled the entire

fiasco. Any player who had for years behaved as odiously as Sterling would have been disciplined long ago, yet the NBA brass turned a blind eye on an indicted slumlord and all around heel even as it touted its inclusive values and community minded culture. In fact, it looks suspiciously as if there was one set of rules for the workers and another for the 1%. Perhaps that’s what NBA fans should question, in the league and beyond.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2014
PRIMAL SCREAM
Make all the noise you want. Nobody is listening.


The rare promo you see here is the Japanese poster for Carl Monson’s thriller A Scream in the Streets. We’ve seen this movie described as the first cop buddy picture. We don’t know if it was the first, but the dynamic is there—a straight-laced family man partnered with a wild hothead, their relationship residing at the core of a plot involving murder and mayhem in Los Angeles. So yes, it’s a buddy movie perhaps, but just barely—A Scream in the Streets is in actuality a sexploitation movie that spends far more time on the down and dirty than on crime solving, something you can probably deduce from the fact that the promo features a nude Sharon Kelly, aka Colleen Brennan, and by the fact that the alternate promo below features an even more nude Kelly/Brennan. 

While not hardcore, A Scream in the Streets was certainly too extreme to receive an R, and today it remains unrated, a garish display of flesh, blood, and profanity, as the cop combo wend their way through Los Angeles during a hot summer week rife with sleaze and crime, trying to keep the city from imploding as they also track a killer who targets women while dressed as one. If there’s a lesson in the movie at all it may be that it’s pointless to try and go unsullied by such rampant depravity—you can try not to touch it, but it’ll reach out and touch you. Either that or the lesson is if it looks like a man dressed as a woman and acts like a man dressed as a woman, it’s probably going to try and kill you—even if you’re a cop. A Scream in the Streets premiered in the U.S. first, then in Japan today in 1973.


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The Naked City Mar 1 2014
HI AND BYE
Knocked for a loop in Los Angeles.

Were the police being whimsical? We don’t know. This evidentiary photo taken at Pacific Ocean Park shows the curious path that 19-year-old John Lee O’Brien took when he fatally plunged from a roller coaster into the sea, today in 1927. The image comes from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archive of twentieth century police photos. There are two accounts of what happened here. One says O’Brien fell 50 feet, but that doesn’t explain the strange loop in the photo.
 
The more plausible story is version two. In that one, O’Brien was showing off by standing up during the ride. When the car went around a curve, he lost his balance and plunged 125 feet into the ocean. A fall from that height would have his descent beginning from the higher track in the photo, whereupon—boing!—he struck the lower track, rebounded and fell a further 50 feet into the water, unconscious or possibly already dead. Maybe that’s what the loop signifies—bounciness. The coaster, by the way, was called the High Boy. See below.

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Hollywoodland Jan 15 2014
POLAR VORTEX
There’s no business like snow business.

Today in 1932 Los Angeles suffered what was called the first real snowstorm in its history when two inches of accumulation settled downtown and the Hollywood Hills became a winter wonderland. It had snowed at least once before in 1882, but the 1932 storm remains even today the heaviest snow ever recorded in Southern California. Did scientists suggest the polar vortex had something to do with it? Possibly, since they had known about it for decades, but in the absence of politics you can bet the general public didn’t care at all. The above member of the general public is named Judith Wood, an actress who appeared in The Vice Squad, Road to Reno and other films. She regards the scene with amusement and/or amazement from her hilltop home. 

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The Naked City Dec 14 2013
WATER WATER EVERYWHERE
The fault was theirs and theirs alone.

Fifty years ago in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Baldwin Hills a tiny crack in the wall of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir became a 75-foot-wide breach that allowed more than 250 million gallons of water to burst free in a killer wave. The reservoir had been built on an active geologic fault, a fact that was known by engineers but deemed unimportant. The images above and below, part of the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection of vintage L.A. photos, show the beginning and aftermath of the event. The first shot was taken as workers were examining the growing crack. At some point, a shouted warning sent them scattering and the dam broke. The time elapsed between the discovery of the crack and the failure of the dam was about three hours. No workers were hurt, but within the path of the wave, an area roughly bounded by La Brea Avenue, Jefferson Boulevard, and La Cienega Boulevard, five people were killed, sixty-five houses were completely destroyed, and 210 other residences were damaged. That was today in 1963.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 29
1957—Paar Takes Over Tonight Show
Today in 1957 Jack Paar begins hosting The Tonight Show. During Paar's five year stint, his unpredictable antics and strong comedic style help turn the program into a ratings juggernaut and a national institution.
1981—Charles and Diana Marry
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer marry at St Paul's Cathedral before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated global television audience of 750 million, making it the most popular program ever broadcast.
July 28
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."
July 27
2003—Hope Dies
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.

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