The Naked City Jan 20 2015
BAD GAMBLE
Even if it sounds like a bluff, don't call it unless you’re willing to lose everything.


This photo made today in 1959 shows a woman named Jessie Mae Noah, who Los Angeles police had arrested and were questioning in connection to a crime that had occurred seven weeks earlier. On that December night a Samuel Goldwyn Studios suit named Kenneth Savoy walked into the In Between Café on Melrose Avenue during the time two men—one holding a sawed-off shotgun—were in the process of robbing it. Having collected the money and valuables of eight patrons and the contents of the cash register, they demanded Savoy’s wallet, and perhaps having watched too many of his own movies, he replied that if they wanted it they’d have to shoot him. That hard-boiled response earned him a load of buckshot in the stomach. The robbers scampered to their getaway car—where Jessie Mae Noah was waiting in the rear seat—and fled the scene.

After police published composite sketches of the robbers in the newspapers, Noah contacted police, resulting in the photo op above. The robbers—George Scott and Curtis Lichtenwalter—were arrested later (for those who wonder whether composite sketches ever work, check the comparison between Scott and his likeness at bottom).

Scott had fled all the way to Texarkana, Arkansas, and gave up only after a shoot-out with police at a motel. Jessie Mae Noah claimed she’d had no idea her two acquaintances were planning a robbery, and that she had simply gone for a ride with them for kicks. She avoided a murder charge, but Scott and Lichenwalter were both found guilty of robbery and first degree homicide. Scott—the triggerman—was gassed to death by the state of California in September 1960. And as for the victim Kenneth Savoy, you have to wonder what he thought in that instant when the shotgun went off. We suspect he thought that maybe calling bluffs was something best left to the stars of action films.


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Hollywoodland Jan 8 2015
BURNS IN THE FIRE
You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you.


The above photos show Barbara Burns when she was busted for drugs today in 1958 after LAPD officers found track marks on her arms. Burns was the well-to-do daughter of famed comedian Bob Burns, but her father had died of kidney cancer in 1956. Barbara Burns was sentenced to probation after the arrest, and the story got some play in national newspaper, with several calling her probation sentence a storybook opportunity at a second chance. But she didn’t cooperate in the role. She managed to cobble together some behind-the-cameras television work, but was arrested for heroin possession in 1959. That time she served ninety days in jail and admitted in an interview, “I’m really hooked. I had nothing else to do, and my mother wouldn’t talk to me. I wanted to be a singer but I was too heavy and they told me it would help me lose weight.” 

Burns had always called herself an ugly duckling, compared herself unfavorably to her siblings, and felt she could never live up to family expectations. But even though her own words told the world that low self esteem was the root of her problems, a dead father and an estrangement from her mother probably didn't help things. The downward spiral continued. She was arrested for marijuana possession in early 1960 and
earned ninety days in Camarillo State Hospital. In November 1960 she was snared in another weed bust, but that time she walked after a jury acquitted her. When she was arrested for heroin possession again in June 1961, she lamented what had probably been true for longer than she admitted—that she had doomed her chance to have a career in show business.
 
At some point she sought medical treatment for an eye problem and was told by a doctor that she was losing her vision in her right eye. In both August and September of 1961 she attempted suicide, and in January 1962 while awaiting trial on one of her narcotics busts she was found overdosed and unconscious on a Hollywood street, and died a few days later in the hospital. Her suicide note said all she wanted was to be loved but everyone hated her. Many of her obituaries, ironically, described her as “tall and beautiful,” which she certainly would not have believed. They also noted her advantages in life—how she had won the crucial lottery of being born to wealth. But Barbara Burns didn’t see it that way. She once said, “I wish I had been born in some poor, obscure family that nobody knew. Then maybe I would have tried to become somebody.”
 
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The Naked City Dec 29 2014
OUT OF THE BLUE
The worst luck always comes when you aren’t looking.

What you’re seeing here is an aftermath photo of suicide leaper Louise Stark, who jumped from a department store window in downtown Los Angeles. It was a catastrophic fall, as you can discern from the river of blood running into the gutter, but she didn’t just kill herself—she landed on a pedestrian named Victor Angel and killed him too. The unfortunate human nail between the hammer and anvil was deaf, but hearing probably would have made no difference. Even if Angelenos made a habit of looking up while they walked, you have to doubt that a warning shouted by an observer would have done little more than give the man time to look up and see his doom approaching. Still, you never know. This happened today in 1958.

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Sportswire Dec 21 2014
SUGAR & SPICE
Getting on the same page.

These two December 1960 promotional photos show American welterweight/middleweight boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and Italian middleweight actress Rita Giannuzzi hamming it up after Robinson’s draw with rival Gene Fullmer at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Robinson and Giannuzzi were slated to appear together in a boxing-related movie—title to be determined—backed by lightweight producer Felice Zappulla and filmed in Europe. Apparently the idea never quite caught on, because the movie never happened. 

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The Naked City Dec 16 2014
TURN FOR THE WORSE
What did I say to you? I said I’ll drive. What did you say? You said no I got this…

The holidays became a bit less happy for Bernabe Sena and Frederico Muñoz when they crashed their getaway car into a telephone pole trying to flee cops after a narcotics bust. The above shot shows the despondent men awaiting treatment in the hospital while vice cop Jack Smith searches Muñoz’s clothes for contraband. The next two shots show the ruined car, and a vice detective with the unlikely name Werth Harvey checking for evidence and drugs. It happened yesterday in 1954.

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Hollywoodland Oct 20 2014
IN LIKE FLYNN
In Lincoln Heights Jail, that is.


If you suspect the jailhouse photo above is associated with a good story you’re correct. Hollywood party animal Errol Flynn, pictured here in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights Jail, was arrested for public intoxication along with 21-year-old Irish aspiring actress Maura Fitzgibbons. It was an unexpected end to what was supposed to have been a celebratory night. A couple of hours earlier Flynn and Fitzgibbons had been at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades where the Publicists’ Association was staging an annual costume party called The Ballyhoo Ball. When Flynn and Fitzgibbons made their entrance a man approached for an autograph. Flynn explained, politely according to witnesses, that he would comply but never socialized or signed autographs until he had a drink in his hand. But the man insisted on an immediate autograph—he said the hatcheck girl was his wife and a big Flynn fan.

Flynn reluctantly let himself be led by this insistent man to the hatcheck stand, whereupon he saw that the man’s wife, who appears in the photo at right, was attractive. Since Flynn was a consummate horndog, he suddenly became eager to comply and not only signed an autograph, but even managed to steal a kiss on the cheek. Making polite chit-chat afterward, Flynn asked the man what he did for a living and learned that he was a cop. Or at least said he was. But since the man was in civilian clothes, Flynn said, “If you’re a cop where’s your badge?” Or something to that effect. When the man produced a badge Flynn grabbed it and tossed it to his date Fitzgibbons. This was a costume party, remember, so it’s quite possible Flynn never believed him. And it’s virtually certain the cop never considered that the situation might make any claim to be a cop appear to be a prank. In any case he got upset and arrested Flynn and Fitzgibbons.

Once at the Lincoln Heights Jail the police either decided the arresting officer—whose story was markedly different from Flynn’s, Fitzgibbons’ and several other witnesses—had been overzealous. Or perhaps they simply decided to show a little preferential treatment to a movie star. In any case, they offered to let Flynn go with a warning. But the actor was indignant: “I want to be arrested. I want the whole world to know of the injustice of this deed.” So the cops tossed Flynn in a cell with a group of Mexican drunk and disorderlies who were still singing tequila-fueled ranchero songs. Even as late as 1957 Flynn was one of the most recognizable men in the world, so when the realization struck the detainees that the newly arrived drunk and disorderly was Errol Flynn everyone stared in stunned amazement. Then they began shouting, “Viva El Capitán Blood! Viva El Capitán Blood!” They started up the ranchero songs with renewed vigor, and Flynn sang along in the choruses. As for Fitzgibbons, below, she never earned a single credited role in Hollywood, which makes her Ballyhoo Ball arrest the height of her fame. That all happened in the wee hours today in 1957.


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The Naked City Sep 21 2014
AMERICAN MURDER STORY
Wait a sec, I have the right to remain silent? Really? Oh. Um, I take back everything I said.

Blood splattered Henry Whitfield appears in the above photo after his arrest for homicide by Los Angeles police. Following an argument about a woman and money, Whitfield shot Robert Hayes, seen dead in the background, then called police and waited calmly for them to appear. After they arrived, Whitfield told them; “I killed him, and I’m glad. He was no good. I should have killed him a long time ago.”

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The Naked City Sep 16 2014
ACCIDENTAL HISTORY
Danger lurks on every street.

Have you ever marveled that you don’t crash every time you climb into your car? There you are, hurtling along in your metal box, surrounded by other drivers texting, phoning, GPSing, groping on the floor for iPod chargers. Or maybe you’re the one doing those things. But even without modern distractions driving isn’t easy, and today we present ample evidence of that truth, with a collection of calamitous photos from a simpler automotive age. These are all from Los Angeles and environs 1945 through 1955. Ready? Fasten your seat belt.

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Hollywoodland Sep 4 2014
WILDE AT HEART
Some said it was a hasty decision but few could fault the results.

This photo shows American actress Jean Wallace and Hungarian actor Cornel Wilde, née Kornél Lajos Weisz, emerging from Los Angeles Superior Court after their marriage ceremony, which took place five days after Wilde was granted a divorce from his first wife Patricia Knight. Press stories described the wedding as quick because Wallace and Wilde had dated for perhaps five months. One newspaper told readers Wallace “married actor Cornel Wilde in a hasty ceremony… kissed the flustered Mr. Wilde hastily [and] hastily brushed aside the honeymoon…” Hasty or not, the marriage lasted three decades—a success by many measures, especially in Hollywood. The photo is from today in 1951. Side note: Wilde was famous for his haircut, which was unusual at the time and provided ample sport for gossip columnists, but his shaggy 'do influenced a generation of young men. 

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Hollywoodland Aug 31 2014
EVERYTHING MUST GO
How Venice evolved into Not-Venice

The shot at top of Windward Avenue in Venice, California was made around 1905. Owned by the Venice Historical Society, the image caught our eye because we were just there in July (actually, we used to live in Venice). The second shot was made from basically the same angle in 1939. Note how most of the original Venetian gothic windows have disappeared, and the gothic cornices have likewise vanished. In addition to the buildings, Venice had sixteen miles of canals, but by the time of the 1939 photo all but 1.5 miles of those had been filled in. During the 1950s financial neglect began to turn Venice into a slum, and in the following years not only did the remaining gothic elements go, but also most of the structures. Today the famed colonnade of Windward Avenue fronts only five buildings. 

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1920—Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forms
In Canada, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka Gendarmerie royale du Canada, begins operations when the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, founded 1873, and the Dominion Police, founded 1868, merge. The force, colloquially known as Mounties, is one of the most recognized law enforcement groups of its kind in the world.
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1933—Hitler Becomes Chancellor
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