The Naked City Aug 20 2019
NOCTURNAL WILD LIFE
Birdwell get wings clipped, ends up in cage.


It started as a fun evening, but twenty-year-old Joan Birdwell was later booked on charges of felony drunk driving, something that happened in Los Angeles today in 1951. And wouldn't you know it? Just to make matters worse, a photographer from the Los Angeles Examiner was on hand to document Birdwell's humiliation from beginning to end. In addition to her wild night ending with arrest and photographic infamy, she may have actually crashed her car, because a companion photo below shows her passenger Vernon Burgess in a hospital bed, though not seriously hurt.

Birdwell was the daughter of powerful press agent Russell Birdwell. L.A. tabloids obsessively sought good art, and a juicy jail photo of someone connected to a celebrity—however obscure that celebrity might have been—certainly qualified. Celebs, killers, thieves, and regular folk all got this treatment. We can't confirm that Examiner ever actually ran these shots. Either way they're out there now, thanks to the University of Southern California's online Examiner archive. Ah, the internet: where everything you hoped was long forgotten lives in mortifying perpetuity. Joan, if you're out there, sorry.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 9 2019
THE LADY IS A COP
Then I put him in a reverse choke until he pissed his pants and passed out. I see what you guys like about this job.


Above, a male and female cop casually talk shop in this photo made in Los Angeles around 1955. Last one to the Krispy Kreme buys.

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The Naked City Apr 16 2015
TIME BANDIT
That silly grin of yours reminds me of some guys you'll meet in D-block whose humor is really infectious.

Burglary suspect James Frantz, top right, tries to look unworried while LAPD officers sort through a pile of time pieces and jewelry they believe he pilfered. No word on whether Frantz went down for the crimes. The photos were made today in 1951. 

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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 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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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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The Naked City Aug 7 2013
DEATH BY KNIFE
Mary’s Lindsay’s last dance.

Her name was Mary Lindsay, but she also went by the alias Mary Irving, and she was found stabbed to death one Friday in L.A.’s Wilshire district, in an apartment known to police as an illegal speakeasy and gaming establishment. The murder weapon, which you can see above in the foreground on the table, is probably at least a foot long. Irving/Lindsay’s live-in companion Emmett Hicks had gone missing after the killing along with a length of clothesline from the yard. Police later found Hicks hanged by that clothesline from a high-tension electrical tower in South Central Los Angeles, near East 99th Street and Zamora Avenue in a vacant lot. Their verdict: murder/suicide, case closed. That was today in 1931. The photo comes from the 2004 book Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive. 

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The Naked City Jul 15 2012
UNDER THE BRIDGE
The loneliest way to die.

Above is a random shot from the USC digital photo archive of a man hanged, either by his hand or others, from a Los Angeles underpass located at West First and North Figueroa. At left in the image you a see a detective using an official LAPD pokin’ stick to turn the corpse for a better look. Except it actually kind of looks like he’s sizing up a piñata purchased from the world’s least festive party supply store, and we can be sure that if he gave it a good whack it wasn’t candy that came out. Meanwhile, the cop below must be thinking that the detective’s exam might not be so hard to pass after all. This happened today in 1951. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 18
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
September 17
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.
September 16
1920—Terrorists Bomb Wall Street
At 12:01 p.m. a bomb loaded into a horse-drawn wagon explodes in front of the J.P.Morgan building in New York City. 38 people are killed and 400 injured. Italian anarchists are thought to be the perpetrators, but after years of investigation no one is ever brought to justice.
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