Automobile fatalities in L.A. increase by one.
This macabre image, which showed up online a while back thanks to an exhibit of one hundred years of Los Angeles Police Department photos, shows an LAPD detective regarding a muder victim whose throat was cut while he was in his automobile. There's no information about who the victim was or why it happened, but it's an arresting image of a grisly end. The shot was made by Leon Driver, who when he arrived in L.A. from Texas in the early twenties was arrested for vagarancy, but by 1925 was one of the earliest official photographers employed the LAPD. He made this photo today in 1929.
The shots heard round America.
We suspect most Americans know of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, which occurred today in 1929, but somewhat fewer have seen its actual result. If you're one of them—Happy Valentine's Day!—you can now cross that off your list, as above are pictured six unfortunates who learned that the gangster life often ends bloody. Albert Kachellek, Adam Heyer, Albert Weinshank, Reinhardt Schwimmer, John May, and Frank and Peter Gusenberg were in the SMC Cartage Company warehouse on Chicago's north side when they were corralled by four rival gangsters, two of whom were wearing police uniforms and sporting fake badges, and blasted into oblivion with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns. May, who was probably there only because he was repairing a truck, lost the left side of his skull to a round of buckshot.
The murders stemmed from a turf war between the North Siders, who were headed by Bugs Moran, and the Chicago Outfit, led by Al Capone. It's Moran's men who got ventilated. Capone, in true gangster style, was away in Florida at the time. The photos show only six victims because Frank Gusenberg miraculously survived the shooting and was rushed to a hospital, where a few hours later he died of his fourteen bullet wounds while refusing to identify his killers. Even to this day their identities are not conclusively known, though ballistics evidence later suggested one was veteran hood Fred Burke. The massacre may not have resulted in murder convictions, but it drew the attention of Washington, D.C. authorities, led to broad new efforts to tackle organized crime, and eventually led to Capone's imprisonment for federal tax evasion in 1931. Please enjoy this romantic day.
Learn how to be a killer in one easy novel.
Above is a colorful cover for Peter Rabe's Le tueur, a book better known as Anatomy of a Killer. It was published as the latter in 1960, with this French translation from Éditions de la Trevisse appearing the next year. Obviously, there was a better known novel—actually a novela—by John. D. Voelker, aka Robert Traver, called Anatomy of a Murder that was published in 1958 and became an acclaimed Jimmy Stewart movie in 1959. Why did Rabe choose such a similar title? No idea. But the title tells the story: detailed examination of a professional hitman, as the narrative follows him from killing to killing. The art on this is by Jacques Blondeau, who painted numerous book covers during the 1960s. Based on this nice effort we'll stay alert for more of his work.
It was the Whisper heard from coast to coast.
Above is a cover of the tabloid Whisper from January 1965, with actress Carroll Baker, convicted murderer Winston Moseley, and New York judge J. Irwin Shapiro starring on the front. But before we get into the magazine, we want to share the good news that our longtime scanning problems are fixed. We didn't get a new scanner, though. We got a new computer—a Mac Studio with plenty under the hood. It's quicker than the old Mac, but it also changed the functionality of the scanning interface. The whole process runs differently, and is about three times faster now. So you'll be seeing more magazines in the future.
Turning back to Whisper, Winston Moseley—who editors call William for some reason—was America's villain of the moment for the murder of Catherine Genovese, who he stalked, stabbed with a hunting knife, then found again where she had taken refuge in a building, and finished her off. Additionally, Moseley was a necrophiliac. He raped his victims—of which there were three total—post-mortem. Of the trio of victims Genovese is the one that's remembered today because her murder sparked a national reckoning about the relationship between citizens and the police, as well as life in big cities, because the press reported that thirty-eight people had seen the crime happening but had done nothing.
As it turned out, that number was wildly inaccurate, but never let the truth get in the way of perfectly cooked, juicy tabloid outrage. A quote appeared in nearly every story about the murder: “I didn't want to get involved.” New York City—where the crime occurred—and other metropolitan centers were criticized as uncaring places. Author Harlan Ellison, who at that time was writing urban crime fiction, weighed in, saying, “not one of [the witnesses] made the slightest effort to save her, to scream at the killer, or even to call the police.” Peak outrage was achieved by New York State Supreme Court Justice J. Irwin Shapiro when he expressed a desire to execute Moseley himself. In the end, Moseley wasn't executed at all. He died in prison in 2016 at age eighty-one.
Elsewhere in Whisper, you'll notice that the magazine is—unsurprisingly, given the time period and nature of the publication—antagonistic toward gay men, as demonstrated by the panel with the blaring text: “Who's Queer Asked the Peer?” But what is a surprise is that later in the issue the editors run a detailed piece on transvestites and transsexuals, and the approach is very different than the contempt shown toward homosexuality. As we've pointed out many times before, mid-century tabloids had a deep interest in trans issues. The story is titled, “A Doctor Answers What Everyone Wants To Know About Sex Change Operations.” The tone is as follows:
The condition he referred to was the common plight of all male transsexuals. Physically he was a man, but emotionally and personality-wise he was a woman, a condition that made it difficult to find successful employment, and to live at all happily. Fortunately, in his case, he had a lawyer and a wise judge who were able to help him in his wish to go to Europe for a sex change operation so that his body could be brought into greater harmony with his mind, and enable him to work and live with a degree of happiness he had never known before.
That's respectful—if not even compassionate—for a 1965 publication considered lowbrow by sophisticated readers. Is it a paradox that the magazine could be so evil toward gay men, yet so civil toward transsexuals? We think so, and we'd love to know the thought process behind it. While we're puzzling that out, you may want to move on to Whisper's slate of celebrity news. Everyone from Romy Schneider to Ernest Borgnine get their due exposure. We've uploaded the magazine's “Behind the Whispers” feature, so you can get the dish on a few Hollywood stars. Please enjoy.
Fillette gets overheated and the final result isn't pretty.
Montreal based Le Rendez-Vous is one of the more interesting mid-century tabloids. It faithfully catalogued celebrity, crime, and nature's misfortunes and atrocities—the classic tabloid formula—but did so with an extra layer of brutality that's amazingly raw for a Canadian publication. Was it that way because Canada was such a safe country and its readers liked to walk on the dark side? We think that could be a factor, though it's true to an extent for all tabloids that their readers seek exotic thrills. But as if to prove our point about Le Rendez-Vous, the crime stories in this issue from today in 1969 all come from outside countries: Mexico, South Africa, and the good ole USA. Canada seemingly wasn't a good source of chaos and killing.
The editors first pump up the sex factor with British actress Margaret Lee on the cover, then, to the right, you see a stack of text about a “fillette de 16 ans.” No, it's not about a dry-aged steak. It says: 16-year-old girl kills her sister... Because she stole her lover father. Lover father? That sounds ominous. And indeed, turns out a Mexico City girl named Amalia Martinez, her sister Cristina, and father Ernesto, were in an incestuous love triangle. Amalia solved this family beef by shooting her sister in the head. “That little silly girl,” she said after being arrested, “got what she deserved.” Clearly she still hadn't quite worked through her anger. Probably she always had to share everything with her sister, and usually got the short end of the stick. It's quite a story from Le Rendez-Vous—100% prime tabloid journalism.
Elsewhere in the issue readers get a feature on circus performers, including a photo of a contortionist that brings to mind the time we saw a woman in Marrakech crawl through a tennis racket (we were searching for a cursed monkey's paw, but seeing that feat was a worthy consolation prize). Also inside is Croatian actress Sylva Koscina on the Côte d'Azur, Italian actress Antonella Dogan in the centerfold, ex-first lady Jaqueline Onassis in Greece, and our old friend, model and actress Donna Marlowe, in a bikini. We have plenty of scans of those items and more below, two other issues of Le Rendez-Vous here and here, and more from this publication to come.
Just a D.O.G. going about his J.O.B.
Those of us in fat, modern societies tend to forget that hunger is probably the number one behavioral driver inscribed in our genes. It need not be said that this especially goes for animals. To a domesticated dog humans are a good provider of meals, but to a wild dog that's hungry, a human—once he stops moving around, throwing rocks at you, and yelling weird mouth noises at you—becomes the meal. That's sometimes the case even with domesticated dogs, under specific circumstances. Pet dogs trapped with dead owners in houses, apartments, or even sometimes in the woods, start chewing on master's face when they eventually get hungry.
This week in Zacatecas, Mexico a cartel related gang killing led to the grisly sight of a dog trotting down a local street with a severed human head in its mouth. A bystander filmed the animal as it was busily taking care of job one: discreetly get the head somewhere quiet and safe to enjoy in peace. A dog carrying a head presents an awkward mental image, so we thoughtfully provided the camera phone screen grab above. It's low-rez, but as you can see (and never unsee) the dog carried its intended meal upside down by a chunk of handy neck flesh, easy as pie. Dogs are MacGyverish when they need to be. Years ago we were at a barbecue when one jumped on a picnic table, grabbed a pot of pork and beans by the handle, and fled into the nearby trees.
This decapitated head story caught our eye not just because it's unusual, but because PSGP has a history with wild dogs. There was a pack that terrorized the somewhat isolated barrio where he lived in Guatemala, and their aggressive behavior was a problem. They surrounded him more than once. But he was sympathetic to their difficult lives, so he gave them a massive pig's head to eat. He cooked it especially for them, though he admits he didn't season it. Bland or not, he and the dogs subsequently reached good terms, and remained that way. The point is, since he's seen a dog carry a head, this Zacatecas story resonated.
It's important to note at this point that while dogs will eat humans—in part, or given the chance, in whole—that doesn't mean it's a preferred or easy decision. The Zacatecas dog was surely wondering, “Am I still a good boy?” And the answer he probably came up with was, “Let me eat first, have a good scrotal lick and a nap, and I'll get back to that perplexing conundrum later, assuming I remember to do that.” Unfortunately, he never got the chance, as he was relieved of the head by some human killjoys. He'll get another opportunity, though. The cartel wars always provide.
Everyone said they always did everything together.
More random midcentury aftermath. This photo shows a kneeling priest about to do his thing over the bodies of Thomas J. Hogan and Fred Romer, who together were a murder-suicide. Hogan shot Romer before turning the gun on himself. There's no information about the exact circumstances behind the event. Cops being cops, they probably ruled out the idea of this scene being any sort of willing pact. Romantics being romantics, we at least wonder about it. But alas, we'll never know. Usually these vintage crime photos come from Los Angeles, but lately we've been sharing examples from New York City. This is another one, and it happened today in 1961.
The gun is mightier than the pen.
Above: a shot of British actress Angela Lansbury made when she filming 1956's Please Murder Me, in which she starred with Raymond Burr and Dick Foran. Lansbury's first movie was 1944's classic version of Gaslight. In total she had more than fifty cinema roles, but it was on television that she became a major star, beginning with 1950's Robert Montgomery Presents, and continuing through more than two-hundred and fifty episodes of her smash hit series Murder, She Wrote. Personally, if we had to choose a favorite Lansbury role it was as Granny in 1984's gothic horror movie The Company of Wolves. She gets eaten, but not before dispensing wisdom like, “The worst kind of wolves are hairy on the inside,” and, “Never trust a man whose eyebrows meet.” Well, you can generally trust Lansbury. She was an excellent actress and improved almost everything in which she appeared.
It's not a party until someone gets their brains blown out.
The above photo shows the murder scene of a mid-level gangster named Joseph “Little Joe” La Cava, and occurred in New York City on Mulberry Street at the Feast of San Gennaro today in 1939. We'll go out on a limb and say the festive atmosphere took a fatal hit too. Luckily, the celebration usually went for a week, so we suppose it was salvaged. La Cava was gunned down along with Rocco “Chickee” Fagio, who you see below. These images were made by Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee, and are especially well known because the ever clever lensman angled himself to get a photo of Fagio ironically sprawled beneath a scungilli restaurant sign that says O Sole Mio!—which means “my sun,” after the famous Neapolitan song. He used the same trick when shooting other murders, because hey, if it works, just roll with it. Also interesting, cops being cops, the flatfoot closest to La Cava looks incongruously jocular as he chats with a higher-up. If this wasn't the most unforgettable Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy's history it had to be close. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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