The Naked City Dec 30 2022
STORM CHASERS
The never ending quest for the ultimate shot.


Back during the heyday of on-scene crime reporting, mayhem-chasing news photographers were a standard sight at situations in progress, and they got very close to the action. The photos above were taken today in 1957 after police responded to a robbery, trapping the bandits inside a Los Angeles bar, where they were holed up with hostages. In the zoom, just above, note the photographers angling for a good shot. This in a situation in which bullets were likely to fly. They were a different breed of lensmen back then.

The police teargassed the bar, stormed the premises, rescued the patrons, and conducted the malefactors to jail. You see the aftermath below, courtesy of the numerous photographers on hand. The images came from the collection of the Los Angeles Examiner, which is held by the University of Southern California. We've mined their crime photo stash many times. You can see all those images by clicking the Examiner's keywords at bottom, but if you're very interested we recommend visiting USC's website. Just be careful—you could spend all day there.
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The Naked City Dec 25 2021
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT
X-mas marks the spot where one Angeleno met his end.


Above are two photos we've uploaded not for any morbid reasons, but more as a reminder that every day should be lived well, because alas, this comes to pass for us all one way or another. Wait—that was morbid, wasn't it? Well, whaddaya gonna do? Anyway, you see Yellow Cab hack Conrad John Favreau laying dead in a Los Angeles street after being shot in the back of the head by an unknown assailant. There's blood on the rear fender of the cab, showing approximately where he was standing. But with no witnesses, it's impossible to know why it happened. Was it resistance to robbery? A fare dispute? An argument over saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas? As far as we know, the crime went unsolved, though Santa Claus was not able to account for his whereabouts, which is quite suspicious, in our book. That was today in 1954, Christmas yes, but just another day in the naked city.

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Hollywoodland Dec 13 2021
HOLLYWOOD LOVE TRIANGLE
Wronged husband takes a shot at his rival.


Above is an interesting composite photo of the style that was sometimes produced by newspapers during the mid-century period. These old composites are pretty cool. We can imagine a museum or gallery exhibit of them. We've seen many, but have only featured one other, which you can see here. This one came from the Los Angeles Herald/Examiner archive and shows Jennings Lang, Walter Wanger, and Joan Bennett in 1951, and was made after Wanger shot Lang.
 
What was it all about? Wanger and Bennett were married to each other, and Wanger thought Lang was trying to get in Bennett's panties. Some sources say an affair was never consummated, but we think it was—and Benett was an expert at attracting men. The shooting happened today, with the news coverage running through the event, immediate aftermath, and sensational trial. You notice the composite also features a gun? That's the real gun Wanger used. We talked about it last year, and the short version is: the fact that the shooter is named Wanger is ironic in the extreme.
 
Below you see Lang's wife, at her husband's hospital bed, and we imagine her saying, “You're thinking about that fucking actress again, aren't you?” And Lang is thinking, “Switch two of those words and you're absolutely right, baby.” The previous bit we posted on their love triangle with Lang is at this link, and if you venture over there, take a look at the last photo and ask yourself if Wanger is a guy you'd want to cross. We think Lang had a death wish.

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The Naked City Nov 27 2021
MARRIAGE DO US PART
For as long as you both shall live—or until you try to murder each other.


We never cease to be amazed by how much access mid-century news photographers had to crime scenes. These photos made today in 1953 by a Los Angeles Examiner lensman show what we mean. Married couple William and Estelle Walker had checked into a motel on West 9th Street in Los Angeles, and at some point a domestic spat caused someone, possibly the motel manager, to call the cops. Police arrived to find that the Walkers, those impetuous lovebirds, had both gotten stabby. We don't know who picked up a knife first, but it sure looks like William got the worst of it. He has a head cut that makes you wonder if Estelle was aiming for his eyes. We don't know who was to blame for the fight, but regardless, you have to feel for them both that their bad day was captured on film. Good thing they had no idea digital technology would help the entire world see it a lifetime later. They'd have died of embarrassment.

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The Naked City Sep 26 2021
JACOBSEN'S JUSTIFICATION
You're the lawyer, not me, but listen—I have an idea for a defense strategy. First, let me introduce my mother-in-law.


The above photo from the University of Southern California archive of Los Angeles Examiner crime photos shows an L.A. homemaker named Karen Jacobsen in the midst of a pre-trial conference with public defendant Victor S. Baker today in 1961. Jacobsen needed a lawyer for the most important of reasons—to beat a murder charge. She had stabbed her husband Lawrence to death while they were in his car. She said it happened after a terrorizing ride, and claimed it was in self defense of both herself and her two daughters. She was arrested but freed on bail, and this conference occurred during her pre-trial release period.
 
When she was tried later in the year a jury acquitted her, but we knew that before even reading about the trial, and you wanna know how? That's her mother-in-law Edith sitting next to her in the photo below, offering emotional support. Her attorney: “Your honor, I'd like to enter into evidence defense exhibit A, the deceased's mom, who's obviously fine with his death, so, like... defense rests.” If your own mom isn't in your corner when your killer is on trial, forget it. Probably Lawrence never visited her, so she'd been thinking of him for years as dead already.

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The Naked City Jul 23 2021
DROWNING A PROBLEM
You can pull a man from water but you can't make him breathe.


And in contrast to Yôko Azusa, who's very adept in water, here you see a photo of someone who didn't fare well in that medium. This shot shows cops fishing drowning victim John Ray Thompson from MacArthur Park Lake in Los Angeles today in 1951. This is another curious and macabre discovery from the digital archives of the Los Angeles Examiner. Such imagery fascinates us because this type of news content, now unseen in the U.S., was prevalent in Central America when we lived there. We assume it still is. It was known as nota roja, basically “red reports,” essentially, if it bleeds it leads. The Thompson photo shows no blood, but the principle is the same. We have no idea how he drowned. Whether by accident, suicide, or murder, that information doesn't appear anywhere online that we looked, and might not have been printed back in ’51 either. Examiner photographers shot rolls of film every week, and editors picked the best photos for the paper. There's no guarantee an item on Thompson's death ever ran. But however he drowned, it was a bad ending.

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The Naked City May 14 2021
DEATH IN VENICE
We get to the beach so rarely, shame to waste the trip. Who's up for a swim before we haul this stiff to the morgue?


Today in 1954 a man named Nathaniel Smith who was walking on Venice Beach in Los Angeles spotted something floating in the surf behind the breakwater of the old Venice Pier. He waded into the ocean and discovered the something was a person. Smith pulled him to shore, but the man was already dead, a victim not of drowning but of a gunshot wound to the head. Was he a murder victim or a suicide? There's no info available on that, nor on his identity. Whoever he was, we bet he never could have imagined thousands of people would be looking at photos of him nearly a lifetime later. We're doing that thanks to the University of Southern California, which holds these and tens of thousands of other images in its archive of Los Angeles Examiner press photos. You can see many more shots from the collection by clicking its keywords below. 

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The Naked City Sep 7 2020
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS
Man tries to catch train, train catches him instead.


These photos show an unfortunate man named John Heldt, Jr. trapped under a Pacific Electric freight car in Gardena, California. Getty Images has this listed as happening August 7, 1951, but the USC digital film archive where the image is stored has the date as today. We trust USC over Getty, but whenever it happened, it was a bad day for Heldt, maybe not the worst of his life, but certainly in the top five, we can be sure. His rescuers had to bring in special equipment to lift the train off him, so he was probably pinned for hours, his indignity compounded by the fact that a Los Angeles Examiner photographer made these snaps of him. “Can you hold that pose? Heh heh, that's a joke, see, because you can't move at all, you poor, stupid sap!” There's no info on whether Heldt recovered, nor whether he lost any body parts. Still, as bad as this looks, it's better than flying Ryanair.

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The Naked City Dec 3 2019
HALLMARK'S CARD
'Tis the season for generous giving—of prison time.


This unusual photo made today in 1953 shows a man named Edward Hallmark, aged seventy-three, being wheeled into a Pasadena courtroom to testify against twenty-four year old Donald Randazzo. Apparently, the previous September Randazzo kidnapped and beat Hallmark in an effort to rob him of his life savings. The shot is part of the large Los Angeles Examiner archive held by the University of Southern California, and which we've mined for interesting historical shots often.

In the photos below you see the defendant Randazzo conferring with his lawyer Edward S. Cooper. Randazzo is being shown a page from an edition of Advance California Reports. Advance reports or advance sheets are legal aids—specifically, pamphlets containing recently decided opinions of federal courts or state courts of a particular region. So basically Cooper is informing Randazzo of something relevant to their court appearance.

And we know exactly what that relevant something is—a standard in California case law stating that when the chief prosecution witness is trundled into court on a stretcher the defendant is seriously screwed. We have a feeling a wheelchair would have worked fine for Hallmark, but when you're facing your kidnapper you play your best card. The bedridden victim card beats everything king and below. Cooper is doubtless saying to his client, “As you can see here in Advance California Reports, Donald, legally you're fucked.”
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The Naked City Sep 29 2019
DIRTY BACKSTABBER
An L.A. woman's derailed life comes to an end by knife.


Another night in Los Angeles, another murder, and another Los Angeles Examiner photographer on hand to document the aftermath. This collection of shots shows Bill Stewart in police custody, and Miriam Lake, who he thought it would be good idea to stab in the back, dead on the floor. This is one destitute pair of Angelenos. Stewart is covered in grime and is missing a shoe, while Lake's Hermosa Beach domicile is a studio with stove, sink, three beds, and sofa all in one room.
 
We're not putting Lake down for being poor. Quite the opposite. Billions of people live modestly, and more should. But if you look around Lake's place, and focus past the disaster of a kitchen table, the general mess, and the stained furniture, you see a pile of boxes in the corner, stacked three high. We surmise that these are possessions she wished to hang onto, even though she had no space at the time. That tells us she wanted or even expected to get out of this flat one day. But no thanks to Stewart, those expectations never came true.

Below is twelve year-old Charles Pratt, a neighbor who saw Stewart leave Lake's house. He's been brought into the police station as a witness. Since he's too young to know what death really is, he seems pretty jazzed to be the center of attention. We imagine him bragging about it at school. That's probably what we would have done at that age too. But the fullness of time brings all of us to the edge of the abyss. If Pratt is still around he'd be about eighty today, and by now knows precisely what death is. We wonder if he ever thinks about Miriam Lake, murdered his entire lifetime ago. Probably. This all occurred today in 1951.
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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 03
1959—Holly, Valens, and Bopper Die in Plane Crash
A plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa kills American musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, along with pilot Roger Peterson. The fault for the crash was determined to be poor weather combined with pilot inexperience. All four occupants died on impact. The event is later immortalized by Don McLean as the Day the Music Died in his 1971 hit song "American Pie."
February 02
1969—Boris Karloff Dies
After a long battle with arthritis and emphysema, English born actor Boris Karloff, who was best known for his film portrayals of Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy, contracts pneumonia and dies at King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, Sussex, England.
February 01
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.
1968—Image of Vietnam Execution Shown in U.S.
The execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem by South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan is videotaped and photographed by Eddie Adams. This image showed Van Lem being shot in the head, and helped build American public opposition to the Vietnam War.
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