The Naked City Dec 11 2016
RUMMELL SHOTS
Extra, extra, read all about it!

The above photo shows the murder scene of Los Angeles mob lawyer Sam Rummell who was messily dispatched in front of his Laurel Canyon villa via shotgun blast in 1950. Around 1:30 a.m., as he climbed the steps to the sprawling house, someone or someones with deadly aim blew off the left rear quadrant of his head. Rummell ran with the notorious mobster Mickey Cohen for years, and had been neck deep not only in Cohen's multimillion dollar prostitution and gambling operations, but also in schemes to oust mayor Fletcher Bowron in a recall election, and to take control of the LAPD.

The insider theory was Rummell was killed to prevent his appearance before a grand jury to testify about an alleged conspiracy between the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and a company called Guarantee Finance, a front for a massive Cohen-controlled bookmaking operation. The insider theory was also that L.A. Sheriff's officers pulled the trigger. These remained mere theories, because the killer or killers were never caught.

All very interesting, one more dead mob underling, but that isn't why we shared the photo. A close look reveals, at center, a man holding an edition of the Los Angeles Mirror with a headline reading: Cohen's Lawyer Shot To Death. Yes, Mirror staff were so quick with their Extra edition that it hit newsstands before Rummell's murder scene had been cleared. That's journalism—late night, coffee-fueled, time-pressured, editor-with-a-whip journalism. And the photo is an fascinating example of it working perfectly, sixty-six years ago today.

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Hollywoodland | Femmes Fatales Mar 23 2016
MOBSTER'S MOLL
She had nothing to hide on stage, but she certainly did elsewhere in her life.

Liz Renay’s Washington Post obituary called her a “Cult Actress, Stripper and Mobster’s Girl.” That only touches on what she was. She was also an author, painter, streaker, charm school instructor, and convict. The latter designation came when a federal judge sent her up for perjury committed during the gangster Mickey Cohen’s 1961 tax evasion trial. Cohen was Renay’s boyfriend, and her bad taste and unshakable loyalty cost her more than two years on Terminal Island, years she says permanently damaged her prospects in Hollywood. After her release she became a professional celebrity, more famous for her associations and striking blonde appearance than anything she did, with her cult status reaffirmed by such people John Waters, who put her in his film Desperate Living, and author James Ellroy, who included her in his explosive 1995 novel American Tabloid. The sultry shot of Renay at top, pre-blonde, pre-Cohen, and pre-prison, dates from the mid-1950s. The second is from around 1960, and the one below shows her in 1961 entering the courtroom during Cohen’s trial.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 26 2015
SHORT AND SWEET
Everybody wanted a piece of Candy.

She was born Juanita Dale Slusher, but danced under the much more palatable name Candy Barr. This shot dates from the mid-1950s, when she was beginning to enjoy success on the nationwide dance circuit after a dubious beginning as a teen hooker and star of a porno film at age sixteen. Along with recognition on the dance circuit came trouble, and she would have numerous legal run-ins, including drug charges, an arrest for shooting her abusive husband, and time as a fugitive in Mexico. She was involved with West Coast mobster Mickey Cohen, and became friends with Texas gangster wannabe Jack Ruby. Barr really deserves a more detailed treatment, considering how quintessentially pulp her life was, so we’ll try to get back to her very interesting story a bit later.

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The Naked City Jul 19 2013
SHOTS IN THE DARK
What do you get for being a member of the Mickey louse club? A cap... in your ass.

Tonight in 1949 just before 4 a.m.—i.e. early in the morning of July 20—L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen was ambushed by unknown gunmen outside a Sunset Boulevard eatery called Sherry’s. The above photo diagram and close-up shows where his assailants hid behind a billboard across the street from the restaurant and opened fire with shotguns. Cohen was hit in the shoulder, three others were seriously wounded, and New York Daily News reporter Florabel Muir was bruised by a ricochet (or shot directly, according to some accounts). The photo just below shows the view the gunmen had from underneath the billboard. And the last two show the immediate aftermath of the shooting, with a surprising number of bystanders and/or restaurant patrons present considering the late hour, and Cohen henchman Edward Herbert on the ground. He would later die from his wounds. The Sherry’s ambush was the second of several attempts on Cohen’s life. None were successful, though as usual, the members of his circle did not fare well. For a look at a cool collection of photo diagrams and an explanation of their use, see here. 

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The Naked City Oct 14 2011
DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
Photo diagrams were used as law enforcement and legal tools, but are almost an art form in themselves.

Researching the Hazel Glab case exposed us, as we mentioned in that post, to newspaper illustrations, which in turn led us to some crime scene photo diagrams. These images were used by police, lawyers and jurors to understand the geography of crime scenes and the physics of the events. We were fascinated by the images, and when an online forum pointed us toward the Los Angeles Public Library’s online collection, we headed over there and dug into the archive. We’ve shared our finds below, with details about each crime.

Body found in L.A. River, 1949.

Girl found stabbed to death 26 December, 1936, at 721 Turner Street, with an X marking the location of her body and arrows marking the direction a car arrived and departed.

Armed robbery, 11 August, 1930, on East Pico in Los Angeles.

Armed robbery at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with $15,000 stolen and a police officer wounded, 16 July, 1929.

This shows the crime scene after the attempted killing of gangster Mickey Cohen, with bullet holes in a parked car across the street from where Cohen was standing, 20 July, 1949.

Photo of a boy pointing to where his friend was sucked into a storm drain. The friend drowned, 1953.

1936 photo diagram showing the last movements of actress Thelma Todd, who was found dead in her car in December 1935.

Unknown and undated crime scene photo with drawing of presumed positions of assailant and victim. 

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The Naked City Oct 7 2011
COUPE DE VILLAIN
She’s a real beaut—powerful, roomy, and gets two gallons to the mile.

More from the USC digital photo archive. It looks like just another black Cadillac, but no, this one belonged to mobster par excellence Mickey Cohen and it’s parked outside the L.A. eatery Sherry’s, where he was the target of an assassination attempt in July 1949. Gunmen shot Cohen in the shoulder (or arm, depending on the telling), fatally wounded one of his friends, seriously wounded two others, and managed to hit journalist Florabel Muir in the ass with a non-penetrating ricochet. Having learned a lesson, Cohen had his next Cadillac bulletproofed (bombproofed as well, by some accounts). Below are a couple of photos of that car and the two-inch-thick glass that was installed (all well and good to be sealed inside an armored hotbox, but what if your driver ate broccoli with dinner?). Anyway, Cohen sold the Caddy in 1951 for $12,000, supposedly because it wasn’t street legal. He died of natural causes in 1976. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 01
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
February 28
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
February 27
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
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