|The Naked City||Nov 5 2012|
|Intl. Notebook||Mar 7 2012|
Above, two mugshots from today 1946 of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, who was one of many women who broadcast English-language radio from Tokyo during World War II. These broadcasts were aimed at Allied personnel in the Pacific, and the soldiers referred to all the women collectively as Tokyo Rose, despite whatever they actually called themselves on air. D’Aquino called herself Orphan Ann, and her radio stints were limited to twenty-minute segments on Radio Tokyo. It wasn’t much time, but her low, raspy voice made an impression on listeners. What did she say? History.net answers that question by providing an example of a typical D’Aquino intro:
Hello there, Enemies! How's tricks? This is Ann of Radio Tokyo, and we're just going to begin our regular program of music, news and the Zero Hour for our friends—I mean, our enemies!—in Australia and the South Pacific. So be on your guard, and mind the children don't hear! All set? OK. Here's the first blow at your morale—the Boston Pops playing ‘Strike Up the Band!’
When the war ended D’Aquino, who was an American citizen, was taken into custody and shipped back to the U.S., where she was tried and convicted of treason. There was no actual proof that she had done anything traitorous—in fact her humor-tinged broadcasts had often undermined her Japanese employers’ intentions—but she neverthelesslanguished in prison for six years. D’Aquino’s legal troubles only ended in 1977, when U.S. president Gerald R. Ford pardoned her after evidence emerged that witnesses had lied at her trial. Cleared of wrongdoing, and the constant threat of deportation lifted, D’Aquino lived the rest of her days quietly and died in 2006 at age 90.
|Intl. Notebook||Dec 17 2011|
This mugshot of Lili St. Cyr appears on literally hundreds of sites around the internet, but we’re posting it anyway so we can correct some misinformation. Every source we saw—all of them—refer to this as St. Cyr’s September 1951 booking photo, but it’s actually from today in 1947, a fact that should be abundantly clear from the date under her chin: 12/17/47. The arrest, which was for lewd behavior, occurred in Los Angeles, and when St. Cyr appeared in court several months later she lost her case and was fined fifty dollars—a slap on the wrist. Things didn’t go so leniently for the owner of the Follies Theater, where St. Cyr had performed. He was sentenced to thirty-nine days in jail. See plenty more St. Cyr by clicking her keywords below.
|Hollywoodland||Sep 10 2011|
Actress and former Playboy model Victoria Vetri, aka Victoria Rathgeb, aka Angela Dorian pleaded no contest to attempted voluntary manslaughter earlier this week and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Last October Vetri was arrested after shooting her husband in the chest during an argument, and since then has been in custody, unable to produce the million-plus dollars needed to make bail.
Vetri claims her husband, Bruce Rathgeb, precipitated the shooting by slapping her in the face. Rathgeb, of course, says no slap was involved and his wife is simply a verbally abusive lunatic who was constantly accusing him of cheating. Vetri could have gotten life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, the original charge, so being offered a chance to accept the lesser offense of attempted manslaughter represents a victory—though a Pyrrhic one, without doubt. We’ll close the door on Miss Vetri with a shot of her in 1967, when she was a young centerfold calling herself Angela Dorian and could never have imagined, we’re pretty sure, what life had in store for her.
|The Naked City||Aug 18 2011|
This Real Detective from August 1942 hit newsstands during the height of America’s conflict in the Pacific against the Japanese and it tells the story of Madeline Webb, who was the central figure in a murder case so sensational that it managed to distract the country, however briefly, from war. Webb had moved from Stillwater, Oklahoma to New York City with small town dreams of being a Broadway star. Instead she met a petty crook named Eli Shonbrun and fell in love. Webb was living on an allowance from home, but Shonbrun’s income was more sporadic—he survived by stealing women’s jewelry. Eventually he needed another score and, along with two accomplices named John Cullen and Murray Hirschl, he hatched a scheme to rob a wealthy acquaintance of Webb’s, a woman named Susan Flora Reich.
But when the robbery was over Reich was dead, suffocated by the adhesive tape that had been placed over her mouth. Eli Shonbrun and company went into hiding, but the police soon tracked them down, whereupon Hirschl immediately made a deal to testify against the others. He admitted helping to plan the crime, but swore he was not present in the hotel room where it occurred. Madeline Webb also denied being present, and Shonbrun backed up her claim, but Hirschl said she was lying and had actually lured Reich to the hotel. A jury of twelve men deliberated for five hours and returned a verdict of guilty for all three defendants. Shonbrun and Cullen were sentenced to death and Webb was given life in prison. When her punishment was announced in court she sobbed, “Please, please, I didn't!” Shonbrun cried, “You have crucifed her!”
What seemed to mesmerize the American public was the spectacle of Webb and Shonbrun clinging to their love in the face of adversity. They had frequently disrupted the trial with outbursts of support for each other. Whenever Webb seemed to wither Shonbrun managed to pass her notes of encouragement. On the few occasions they came into physical contact they kissed and exchanged “I love yous.” And when Shonbrun’s date with the executioner came in April 1943, he received a final love letter from Webb. He read it in the death chamber at Sing-Sing Prison, then surrendered it to the warden to be destroyed. Five minutes after being strapped into the electric chair Eli Shonbrun was dead.
Madeline Webb served twenty-five years at Westfield State Farm in Bedford Hills, New York, and was by all accounts a model inmate. She promoted educational programs for imprisoned women, taught many illiterate inmates to read, and ran the prison library. Her life sentence carried no possibility of parole, but her sentence was commuted in 1967. After her release she returned to Stillwater where she worked with variouscommunity organizations and cared for her elderly mother, who had spent her life savings on her daughter’s legal fees. Webb died of cancer in 1980 at age sixty-seven, and she did so still protesting her innocence. She was indeed an unlikely murderer. Her family had money back in 1942, and if she had required any she need only have sent a telegram asking for it. But just as New York City proved too much for her show business ambitions, its men may have proved too much for her better judgment. It's entirely possible she was simply too lovestruck by the rough and tumble Eli Shonbrun to derail his scheme. Some light could possibly be shed on this question if the content of her last letter was known—but that went to grave with her.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 17 2011|
With the release of Tabloid, the same pattern is repeating itself. McKinney participated in the documentary willingly, but now says she was taken advantage of and never wished to be viewed in a humorous light. Errol Morris says he has made an accurate document of an outsized personality, and that the humor in Tabloid derives from the simple fact that Joyce McKinney is funny. Morris claims to have explained as much to his suddenly reluctant star, telling her, "Joyce, you use certain kinds of language. You must know you are funny. In fact, you're one of the funniest people I've ever met." But McKinney, unimpressed, says she is considering a lawsuit. However it turns out, it’s worth noting that this is the third time during her life that Joyce McKinney has managed to make world headlines. She may not want to admit that she’s funny, but at the very least it’s clear that she isn’t a person who can live a quiet life. And if you can’t stay under the radar, you really don’t have much choice about how people see you.
|The Naked City||Jun 30 2011|
The two victims never knew each other, but Heather Barnett and Elisa Claps are forever linked by their stolen lives, stolen hair, and tragic acquaintance with a third person, a strange, compulsive man neither of them suspected was capable of violence. Danilo Restivo, an Italian national who spent much of his life in the remote town of Potenza, Italy, was convicted yesterday for the 2002 mutilation and murder of Heather Barnett. The killing took place in the British town of Bournemouth, where Barnett lived and where Restivo had relocated. But the Restivo saga may actually have begun seventeen years ago, when young Elisa Claps disappeared from a church in Potenza, Italy.
The Church of the Most Holy Trinity, known in Potenza as Chiesa della SS. Trinità, is one of the few old churches in a town that was destroyed by an 1857 earthquake and again by an Allied bombardment during World War II. The town was shaken yet again in 1993 when Elisa Claps disappeared. Then sixteen, Claps had agreed to meet nineteen-year-old Danilo Restivo at morning mass, but he claimed afterward that Claps left while he remained behind to pray. A missing persons case was soon launched but Claps seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Police suspected Restivo, but there was no evidence against him, and with mass just ending there seemed too many witnesses to a potential crime for him to have harmed her. Yes, there was a cut on his hand, but Restivo claimed to have fallen at a construction site, and he was cool when questioned.
Claps, below, remained missing and, as often happens, the vacuum in the case was filled by the general public as rumors sprang up, articles and opinion pieces were published, and websites were launched. Perhaps Claps ran away with a lover. Perhaps she was abducted by Albanians and sold into sexual slavery. Maybe there was a police cover-up. Or perhapsthe church was involved—after all, the priest of della Trinità was a curious man named Mimi Sabia and he wasn’t entirely cooperative with police, having refused to let authorities disrupt his church with forensic investigations. The case wore on and the obsession about it spread from Potenza to the rest of Italy.
Danilo Restivo eventually left Italy. By 2002 he was living in Bournemouth, England, where he was a neighbor of Heather Barnett. On November 12 Barnett’s two children found their mother mutilated and dead in the bathroom of their home. She was partially nude, her throat was slit and her breasts cut off. She was also holding a lock of her own hair. Local police immediately suspected Restivo. They learned that Barnett’s keys had gone missing just after Restivo had been inside the house asking about having some curtains made. When they interviewed him days later they found that he was soaking his Nike trainers in bleach. But suspicions do not a murder case make and so police did not detain him—however, unlike in Italy they decided to keep him under surveillance.
What they learned was extremely disconcerting. Restivo haunted a local park, where he would spy on single women, darting between bushes or ducking behind stands of grass. He wore gloves during these outings, and he often returned to his car to change shirts or shoes. They also learned that he had a habit of stealing girls’ and women’s hair. Two teenagers reported that someone had cut their hair while they rode in a bus. They couldn’t say for sure who did it, but they were able to identify Restivo as one of the people who had sat behind them. Police also learned that at the age of fourteen Restivo had tied up and tortured two boys whose families later dropped charges in exchange for financial compensation from Restivo’s family. And perhaps most worrying, other women had been murdered and mutilated in places where Danilo Restivo resided and passed through.
All of this was uncovered through years of police work, and though the case against Danilo Restivo was looking stronger and stronger all the time, it wasn’t until this March that police caught the break they needed. That was when two workers back in Potenza, intending to repair a leak in the roof of della Trinità, found Elisa Claps’ body in the very church where she had been last seen. Her skeletonized remains, covered by mummified skin and the rags of her clothes, had been hidden in a small tower room beneath some old tiles. In one of the corpse’s hands was a lock of hair, and subsequent forensic analysis revealed that she had been mutilated in almost identical fashion as Heather Barnett. A case that had spawned numerous articles, websites, multiple investigations and hundreds of conspiracy theories, had come full circle. British police arrested Danilo Restivo, the court tried him, and yesterday, with Barnett’s family members present, a jury convicted him.
Now all eyes turn to Potenza. Mimi Sabia the uncooperative priest had long been suspected by some of hiding something. His was the only church that didn’t ring bells on the anniversary of Elisa Claps’ disappearance. Now there was a body in that bell tower belonging to a girl who would have been found probably the very day she was killed if onlyDon Mimi had helped. During investigation into the case he claimed not to know Danilo Restivo even though Restivo had been to della Trinità and Sabia was once photographed, just above, at a birthday party thrown for Restivo. But these questions will possibly never be answered because Don Mimi Sabia died in 1998.
However there are other questions. Della Trinità's newest priest claims that Elisa Claps’ body wasn’t found in March 2011, but two months earlier by two cleaners. The priest claims he informed church officials but was told to keep quiet while they decided what to do. Two months of secret deliberations later, two more workers were called in to repair a leaky roof that in fact wasn’t leaking at all. A body that had been completely covered with tiles was now partially exposed in order to ensure its discovery. Or so the new priest says, which means the Catholic Church is accused by one of its own of operating outside the law. It would be shocking if it hadn’t happened so many times before with regard to child molestation cases, but only time will tell if these specific allegations are true. Meanwhile, all the details of Elisa Claps’ last day on Earth are set to emerge—Danilo Restivo is being extradited to Italy to stand trial for her murder.
|The Naked City||Jun 23 2011|
No, Whitey Bulger isn’t a thing, but a person. James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster who had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List for sixteen years and was the template for Jack Nicholson’s character in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, was captured last night in Southern California. Bulger had once been leader of an Irish organized crime syndicate called the Winter Hill Gang, and worked for twenty years as an FBI informant in Boston. But he was dropped from the Feds’ roster in the early 1990s and dropped out of sight himself in 1995 when his FBI handler John Connolly, Jr. tipped him off that an indictment was coming down. Bulger was arrested yesterday at a Santa Monica apartment complex and now will face a full slate of serious charges—including murder, conspiracy, money laundering, narcotics distribution, and extortion.
|The Naked City||May 26 2011|
This May 1973 issue of the true crime magazine Master Detective delves back more than four decades to examine one of the most infamous murders committed in early twentieth century America. The victim was a 12-year old Los Angeles girl named Marion Parker, and on December 15, 1927, she was abducted from her school by a man who used to work for her father. The man—nineteen-year-old William Edward Hickman—came to the school and told the registrar that the girl’s father had been in an accident that morning and wished to see his daughter. It was not policy to release children to anyone other than their parents, but swayed by Hickman’s measured urgency and apparent sincerity, the registrar released Marion Parker into his custody.
Hickman was after money. Marion Parker’s father, a banker named Perry Parker, had it in abundance. For the next few days Hickman sweated Perry Parker, sending pleading notes written by Marion, as well as other notes demanding a ransom. Hickman signed the latter with various pseudonyms, but one in particular stuck with the press—“The Fox.” Eventually, Parker and Hickman agreed on a ransom of $1,500, to be paid in $20 gold certificates. The first attempt at an exchange failed when Hickman noticed a cop near the meeting place. It’s unclear whether the policeman was part of a trap, but Hickman was taking no chances. He bailed, and set up a second meeting for a few nights later.
When Parker reached the rendezvous point he saw Hickman sitting in a parked car. Parker approached the driver side window and saw that the kidnapper was aiming a gun, and he also saw his daughter in the passenger seat, bundled up to her neck in a blanket. She couldn’t move—that was clear. She didn’t speak. Hickman took the ransom and drove quickly away, stopping just long enough to push Marion Parker out of the car at the end of the block. When Parker reached his daughter and lifted her into his arms he screamed in anguish. Marion was dead, and had been for twelve hours. Hickman had cut off her arms and legs, flayed the skin from her back, disemboweled her, and stuffed her with rags. She had been bundled up to conceal the fact that she had no limbs. Her eyes had been wired open so that she would, upon cursory inspection, appear to be alive.
Hickman had escaped, but he had left behind a clue that would lead to his capture. Among the rags he had stuffed into Marion Parker’s empty abdomen was a shirt with a laundry mark that police were able to trace to an address in Los Angeles. Twenty cops descended on a residence that turned out to be occupied by a man named Donald Evans, who wascooperative but said he knew nothing about Hickman. In truth Evans was Hickman, but by the time police figured that out he had fled to the Pacific Northwest. But he hadn’t run far enough. Wanted posters reached every corner of the west coast within days, and just one week after Hickman’s disappearance two police officers in the town of Echo, Oregon recognized him and arrested him.
At trial, Hickman claimed to be guided by voices—one of the first times, if not the first, that this type of insanity defense was attempted in an American courtroom. But the jury wasn’t buying any of it and they convicted Hickman of murder and kidnapping. The judge sentenced him to be executed at San Quentin State Prison, and he climbed the stairs to the gallows on October 19, 1928. Hickman had once been smooth enough to talk a school official into sending Marion Parker to her doom, and had calmly lied about his identity to twenty cops who had burst into his house. In prison he had corresponded with and impressed author Ayn Rand so much that she decided to base a character on him because he embodied her mythical “Nietzschean Superman” ideal. But at the end, all of Hickman’s considerable aplomb deserted him. Just before the hangman sprang the trapdoor that would cast him into oblivion, he collapsed babbling in fear. His last words were, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”
|Politique Diabolique | Sex Files||Apr 7 2011|
In Italy it has to be one of the biggest trials in history. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is facing charges that he paid for sex with a then-underaged prostitute on thirteen separate occasions, and afterward used his power to cover it up. Both Berlusconi and the woman—known as Ruby, but born Karima El Mahroug in Morocco—deny hooking up, but Italian prosecutors claim to possess a wealth of wiretap evidence that will help them prove otherwise. The trial began yesterday, but that initial session lasted only seven minutes before being adjourned. Proceedings will resume in May, and eventually 20,000 pages of evidence will be presented and forty women will be called as prosecution witnesses. Meanwhile the defense witness list includes assorted attendees of Berlusconi’s many parties, including American actor George Clooney, Venezuelan model Aida Yespica, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, Portuguese football god Cristiano Ronaldo, and a who’s-who of jetsetters, television stars, and showgirls.
Berlusconi didn’t attend yesterday’s court session, and has maintained all along that the event is a politically-motivated set-up. Which prompts us to point out that Berlusconi has been surrounded by scandal since way before he became prime minister. Perhaps that’s why in 2008 he pushed through a law granting himself immunity from prosecution while in office. That law was finally overturned last year, paving the way for what Italiansare calling the “bunga bunga” trial. Berlusconi claims that his famous parties are not bacchanals, as portrayed in the tabloid press, but rather “convivial, elegant soirées of food and song.” Of course, bacchanals are always convivial and elegant on the surface, and remain that way to 99% of the guests. But in a private room upstairs the host’s closest homies and associates are slurping MDMA-spiked Taittinger blanc out of giggling models’ navels. How do we know? Because one of us worked at Playboy before running away to the developing world—which is to say, we know whereof we speak.
We don’t think there’s any doubt that political motivations play a part in Berlusconi’s prosecution, but frankly, we don’t blame his enemies—the man is an international embarrassment. Not because he sleeps with showgirls and models fifty years younger than him—we’d all do that if we could. What? Oh, don’t give us that shit. Of course you would. And to our female readers—yes, you would do the same with a twenty-two-year-old Calvin Klein Jeans model. Or even two of them. No, Berlusconi’s a joke because the same planetoid-sized ego that’s convinced him he’s getting all this trim because of his charm and looks has also convinced himhe can portray his country as one where public office is a farce. Or put another way—part of a prime minister’s job is to bring credibility to a nation, and if he hates that fact, he should step down. True, he wouldn’t be able to funnel models and dancers into cabinet positions, but at least as a civilian his sex life would once again be private (and the public wouldn't have to hear about about the septuagenarian heaving atop some poor teenager like a walrus). In any case, whether Berlusconi returns to civilian life may no longer be his choice. Much of the public despise him, and are calling for his resignation. And even assuming he does secure an acquittal, he faces three more trials on a variety of corruption charges.