The Naked City | Vintage Pulp Jul 29 2014
PAYBACK IS A HITCH
They say vengeance is a dish best served cold, but we recommend passing entirely.


Above is a very nice True Detective from July 1959 with a Brendan Lynch cover depicting a woman startled by the arrival of a criminal. It’s actually a perfect cover, because inside the issue you get an interesting story related by Elma Baldwin, who was kidnapped by a paroled convict named Richard Arlen Payne. Payne snatched Baldwin and three her kids at gunpoint as part of an ill-conceived plan to trade them for the release of his former cellmate Burton Junior Post, aka Junior Starcher, who was serving time at West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. Payne didn’t want Starcher out because they were buddies. Quite the opposite—he had vowed to kill the man, and threatened to torture and murder the Baldwins if his demands weren’t met. He wrote in a note to Governor Cecil Underwood, “My purpose is to kill and take the head of my worst enemy, who is now out of reach. I must kill him or go mad.”

You’re probably asking why Payne never did anything to Starcher while they were cellmates. Payne’s answer was simple: “I could have killed him at any time, and I thought about it very seriously. At times I had a blade to his throat. But he was as good as done for anyway, because I knew once I got in the free world there were ways that I could get at him.”

Well, maybe not so much. In any case, the kidnapping was big news in 1959, probably owing to its sheer incomprehensibility. Today it’s mostly forgotten but remains a good case study of the benefits of being able to let go one’s anger. The entire event lasted only twenty hours, ending with a brief shootout in which nobody was injured, followed by Payne’s admittance to a mental asylum. Asked if Starcher had done anything specific during their time at Moundsville to engender such hatred, Payne said, “Well, nothing I can put my finger on. It was just a sort of natural hatred.”

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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 20 2014
GUN RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD
Top of the world one second. An anecdote the next.

Mobster Bugsy Siegel met his end in a Los Angeles bungalow belonging to his girlfriend Virginia Hill. His killer attacked from the dark through a window, spraying a burst of automatic fire from a .30-caliber military M1 carbine as Siegel was sitting on a sofa. Accounts of the damage to Siegel are all over the map, but the morgue photos tell the story. The shots came from a front rightward angle. He was hit in the torso with bullets that pierced his lungs, and he was hit twice in the head—once in the right cheek, and once in the right side of the nose. The pressure from that bullet passing through his skull blew his left eye out of its socket, but he was not actually shot in the eye. It happened today in 1947.

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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 Jun 2 2014
HARVEY'S PRIDE
They were on a collision course from the moment they met.


This cover of the The National Insider published today in 1963 touts a true story about actual people for a change of pace, in this case Harvey and Christine Holford. Thirty-one-year-old Harvey Holford was a club owner and well-known figure in Brighton, England; eighteen-year-old Christine Hughes was a local party girl. They met, romanced, and married each other, but Christine quickly found Harvey a sexual bore and he soon resented her constant bedding of other men. At one point he shaved her head bald as punishment for her philandering, then later apologized by buying her a sports car. But these stints of tranqulity never lasted long. The last straw came when she allegedly taunted him using their daughter Karen, claiming she wasn’t his, which resulted in him shooting her.

When police came to their flat the couple were sitting up in bed. She had six bullet wounds, one in the face, and was long gone from this world. She was propped against her husband, who was comatose from an overdose of pills. But he recovered and was held in Lewes Prison until he could stand trial for murder. The day before the proceedings were to begin he tossed himself from a window and fractured his skull. He recovered again, and eventually went to trial before a sympathetic judge who, referring to Christine’s taunt about the paternity of the couple’s daughter, at one point told those assembled in the court, “Can you imagine any words more calculated not only to sear and cut deeply into the soul of any man but to rub salt into the wound at the same time?” Harvey Holford was later acquitted of murder to vigorous applause from the public gallery, and convicted instead of manslaughter, serving three years before being paroled in 1964.

Of course, the key to acquitting a man of murdering his adulterous wife is to consider her a piece of property rather than a human being, and there’s little doubt that’s what happened in the Holford case, for as hurtful as infidelity may be, male pride eventually heals whereas dead wives never do. Harvey claimed to have acted in a fit of passion—the very quality Christine always claimed he lacked in their marriage—but we tend to think divorce is the more sensible remedy for unfaithfulness. Or sometimes even—call us crazy—reconciliation. To this day, though, many still doubtless think Harvey Holford was blameless. Luckily for him, the presiding judge was one of them.

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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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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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The Naked City | Vintage Pulp Dec 28 2013
EXCESS BAGGAGE
This is bad, but the upside is I finally have proof I’m right—you do take too long to pack.

True Detective gives readers the lowdown on several crimes in this issue published this month in 1958, but the most chilling story involves 18-year-old Marjorie Schneider, who was parked in a secluded lover’s lane near Fort Collins, Colorado with her date and another couple when she was abducted at gunpoint. True Detective scribe Jonas Bayer tells readers how the perpetrator was a man named Floyd Robertson, who first shot up the car, then robbed the quartet inside, and finally dragged the screaming Schneider away, saying, “I want the blonde to come with me.” With the car non-functional, the survivors ran two miles to a telephone. Their call touched off one of the largest searches in Colorado history. When police caught Robertson just days later, he admitted that he had abducted and raped Schneider, shot her three times in the head, then buried her body 600 feet up the side of an incline overlooking Highway 14. Robertson was later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison. The cover art on this issue is by Joe Little, who painted covers for Master Detective, Saga, Male, Man’s World, and many other mags. More from him later. 

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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.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
August 21
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.

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