Manage episode 270553602 series 2781331
Welcome to the 3rd podcast of the Black Dahlia and the Blue Dahlia, this is your host, Scott Tracy.
The Los Angeles Police expect to send Jane Doe’s fingerprints to the FBI by air, however, blizzards grounded flights on the east coast. Los Angeles Examiner City Editor James Richardson offered the LAPD an opportunity to use the Hearst newspaper exclusive Soundphoto, an early incarnation of the fax machine. A wire photo transmission of each fingerprint was enlarged and send to the Washington Herald where FBI agents wait for the large copies of each single fingerprint. Within hours the FBI identifies Elizabeth Short as the victim based on her employment at the Camp Cooke military base and her arrest for underaged drinking by the Santa Barbara Police at the age of 19 at the bar of the El Paseo Restaurant. This arrest photo is the one commonly used on book covers and in magazines. One can easily understand why it would be chosen, as it is a striking image; Elizabeth Short is handsome, defiant and vulnerable. I am very drawn to the range of emotions visible in this photograph as there is chaos at the edge, Beth’s the wild dense hair and untidy bow tie frame her face. The use of make-up is restrained, atypical for Beth. The earrings are elegant. There is a compelling architecture to this face, her cheekbones are a force, her neck is noble, her jaw juts powerfully forward, challenging the camera. Her lips are slightly parted, tender and full, there is no expectation of words. This is a mouth that is as likely to spit in your face as blow a kiss. At the center of this the enigmatic photo, her imbalanced eyes; cautious and curious. These are the eyes of an animal captured at the moment of decision; to fight or flee; revealing an unexpected level of tension between Elizabeth and the camera. The beam of light that travels from her face to the lens is taunt as a rope. It is a photograph that captures the elusive essence of this beckoning and rebellious young woman, a visual that calls out equally to Bonnie Parker and Jane Russell.
It is in every way an arresting picture; many of us struggle with our embarrassing driver’s license ID photos and here is Beth Short with what may be the most attractive mug shot in history. It’s a haunting familiar image as we know the horrific fate that awaits the Black Dahlia.
This mug shot was taken by Santa Barbara arresting police officer, Mary Unkefer, Short stays with Unkefer in the days after the arrest until the juvenile court released Miss Short on probation. Beth is send home on a bus on October 2nd 1943, heading east to Boston Massachusetts. Officer Unkefer noticed Elizabeth “had a rose tattooed on her left leg. Beth loved to sit so that it would show.”
The Hearst newspapers are quick to act on their scoop. Reporters are sent to Santa Barbara to learn more about her time at the military base. James Richardson instructs reporter Wain Sutton call Beth’s mother, Phoebe Short in Medford Massachusetts. On instructions from his boss, Sutton informs Phoebe that Elizabeth has won a beauty contest to get more information before revealing the true reason for the contact. The newspaper learns that Elizabeth was in San Diego recently where she worked at Naval hospital, previously she had been in Hollywood working as a film extra
It’s horrible for the newspaper reporters to lie to Phoebe Short about her daughter, ironically much of what the mother tells the reporter are lies Elizabeth Short told her mother, Beth never worked at the San Diego Naval hospital at Balboa Park, she never worked at all in California, she was never had acting parts in any Hollywood studio movie. The Hollywood myth begins with a lie in a daughter’s letter to her mother repeated to a newspaperman.
It is compelling to compare how news framed the murder and the victim in the first days of investigation. Beginning
Murder Of The Black Dahlia Laid To A Sex-Perverted Madman, Baltimore Sun
The mutilation slayer of attractive 22 year old Elizabeth Short whose butchery was described by a police psychiatric as the work of a sex perverted madman, was being sought on a nation-wide scale today with authorities trying to locate her several “boy-friends” Her suiters were many, said Police Captain Loren Q. Martin of Long Beach where she lived until recently. He added that ... hangers-on at a neighborhood drug store near where she lived, (they called her) “The Black Dahlia” because of her raven hair and the jet-black clothing she usually wore.
As the newspapers grapple with the shock of the mutilation the story is framed by psychology. Who would do this? A sex pervert. Then one wonders which one of her many boyfriends is a perverted violent sex killer. Note the police statement that it’s Hangers-on at a drug counter, not friends.
Boy Friends in Three Services… Police would particularly like to question an unidentified army lieutenant, described as “tall and handsome” Miss Short allegedly told friends she intended to marry him. She also was frequently visited at her Long Beach hotel by a navy man. Policewoman Myrl McBride asserted Miss Short once asked her for protection from a discharged Marine whom the girl described as “insanely jealous.”
Note that McBride says Miss Short asked her for protection from an insane serviceman. This will come back to haunt McBride as she did everything correctly given the circumstances but its unfortunate for the image of the LAPD that Elizabeth Short is brutally tortured and murdered just after she asks for police protection earlier that same day.
Continuing with the Baltimore Sun. “Shortly after she took a clerk’s job in the Post Exchange at Camp Cooke, near Santa Barbara where, said her former boss, Mrs Inez Keeling, she at first was shy and bashful and never dated soldiers. At that time she was a model employee in all respects, not smoking and seldom drinking. A few months later, said Mrs. Keeling she began to go out with the soldiers several times a week.
The Baltimore Sun supposes the crime was committed by a crazy ex-serviceman. Let’s compare two other versions of the same news day story.
24 Former Suitors of Slain L.A.Girl Sought SF CHRONICLE
…Officers concentrated on locating … a supposed airline employee known as "Red" with whom Beth left San Diego a week before the killing. Also still unidentified is the "short, dark man" who paid Miss Short's rent when she lived previously at a Hollywood hotel. He drove an old black Ford sedan, similar to one observed by the vacant lot a few hours before the body was discovered. Still another suspect police want to question is a jealous marine suiter. A search for him was started after an incident related by Policewoman Myrl O. McBride. She related that the girl, so filled with terror that she was crying, run up to her at a downtown bus station and asked for protection against an "ex-marine boy friend who once, threatened to kill me if he found me with another man," Beth explained that she had just encountered the marine In a bar and had been so frightened that she had run out without her purse and wraps. Officer McBride went to the bar with the girl while she retrieved those articles. The policewoman advised Miss Short to go home, but the girl returned to the bus station, explaining: "My daddy's coming: in two hours from now." "Two hours from now" was the time a bus was due from San Diego. "Daddy" apparently referred to her boy friend, "Red," from whom she had received a telegram from San Diego.
The extent to which the city was shocked was reflected in the city council today when Lloyd Davies proposed a $10,000 reward for the conviction of the torture killer.
Note how different papers impose a narrative and arrange the facts accordingly. One of the many issues of this case that only become clear when you read the newspapers each day to see how the story evolves.
Looking back in time, we have no idea who “Daddy” might be. Certainly it’s not Cleo Short and it’s not Red Manley. Likely it’s a reassuring fib. Note Beth black dresses are now sheer black dresses. The source for the sheer comment is bartender at Four Star Grill in Hollywood. Buddy LeGore who remembered seeing Elizabeth January 10th, One of the so-called missing days where he says “ it looked like she had been sleeping in her clothes for days, Her sheer black dress was stained, soiled and otherwise crumpled quite a bit. Her hair was straggly and some lipstick had been smeared hit or miss on her lips.” It is of importance that Myrl O. McBride is saying Beth was crying and filled with terror. McBride advised her to go home and Beth Short went back inside. Note the theme “Careless youth of America pay a price when they don’t listen.”
Notice how the Oakland Tribune handles the same story.
QUOTE Los Angeles authorities today followed a trail of two dozen boy friends in their search for the murderer of Miss Elizabeth (Betty) Short, 22, whose nude body; was found bisected and badly mutilated in a Lovers’ Lane early Wednesday. Police said their number one suspect appeared to be a red-haired ex-Marine, who was seen with the young movie extra known as the "Black Dahlia" a week before she was strung up nude and tortured to death, probably by a jealously-mad denied suitor.
The Oakland Tribune is playing up the loose woman card. Lovers Lane is used as if to say, she went to the well too many times. She would be alive today if she had been a good girl and never gone to a Lover’s Lane. This bad girl side of the story is spelled out to Bay Area newspaper readers by Beth Short’s hairdresser.
QUOTE Alex Constance, 44, a Hollywood hair stylist who said he dressed the murdered girl's hair and sometimes took her out, said Beth had told him she was afraid of the marine but was afraid to turn, down dates with him because he was so jealous.
The paper creates the idea that the Hollywood Marine is the same Marine downtown at the bar, Before the press has better information, the press and police assume there is one Marine as they attempt to winnow the list of suspects. There is a threatening Marine in the Lompac area the threatening Marine in the bar downtown near the Greyhound station and the Red haired Marine in San Diego.
QUOTE Constance said he once saw the man arrive at Elizabeth’s apartment driving a dark-colored 1937 sedan. Residents near the lovers lane where Miss Short's hacked and severed body, scrubbed clean and fitted together, was found Wednesday, reported seeing an old black sedan stop at the curb. Beth sometimes posed In the nude for a Hollywood photographer, her friend Constance said. The hairdresser said she sometimes played her many men against each other; making dates ~ and then breaking then. "I warned her that would get her into trouble.”...
we don’t know the name of the man that paid the rent
Indeed there is much we do not know, however that doesn’t mean the police did not locate interview and release the man
Another friend questioned in the case is former Army -Flier Joseph Gordon Fickling, now employed by Twentieth Century Airlines, Raleigh, N.C. Police said he is not a suspect; Fickling disclosed he received a letter from Miss Short written January 8, the day she disappeared, in which Beth said she hoped to go to Chicago to model and mentions a man named Jack. A wardrobe trunk of Miss Short's discovered in Union Station contained love letters from "Fickling which indicated he didn’t know whether she was more interested in him than in any other of her 20-odd boy friends.
Joseph Fickling is the man Elizabeth Short came to see in Long Beach in July of 1946. She tells some she plans to marry him. They register at the Washington Hotel on July 22nd signing in as Mr. and Mrs. There is a strict law at this time, given the issues with housing shortage, a guest can only stay at a hotel for five days. The couple moves to different hotels in Long Beach other check in at the Breevport Hotel in Hollywood. Beth and Joseph have played house in the various hotels then Beth strikes out on her own on August 27th.
Fickling never hears anyone call Elizabeth, “The Black Dahlia.” (Her friends never called Elizabeth that name. Why would they? There is no such flower. No Dahlias are black, most dark dahlias are burgundy, some are purple, none are black. black and dahlia — those two words never existed next to each other in print until the January 1947. Elizabeth Short was not named after a flower that was not in her hair and did not exist by her friends, her quote nickname end-quote derives from a current movie title because she is a wannabe actress and her lunch counter public that invents the nom du guerre for the new girl in town, it is lighthearted and mocking nickname for a naive wannabe. The Blue Dahlia in the movie is a nightclub. A place where action happens. Not a woman, a nightclub. The famous film noir movie played for one week at the Fox West Coast movie theater at 333 East Ocean Ave. from July 31st, 1946 to Aug 5th. Elizabeth Short and Gordon Fickling lived one block east of the Movie Theater at the Washington Hotel on 53 Linden Ave. Lander’s drug store where Hangers-on at a drug counter give here the epithet, “The Black Dahlia” is at 102 Linden Ave. corner of First Street, one half-block north of the hotel. That is how the Blue Dahlia mystery movie becomes the Black Dahlia newer moniker.
Returning to the Oakland Tribune
QUOTE Described as lovely, innocent and shy in 1943 when she first came to California for her health, police said, the black-haired beauty had changed to a man-crazy adventuress during three years of gay living in four Southern California cities. Homicide officers piecing together her career discovered their list of suspects was as numerous as the men she attracted in Santa Barbara. Long Beach, Hollywood and San Diego.
The Oakland paper highlights sex as the motive; a jealous mad suitor is denied sex and kills in rage. Adventuress sounds a lot like adulteress, doesn’t it? Note the dig about the evil cities of Southern California from a Northern California newspaper: Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Hollywood dens of man-crazy adventuress
QUOTE Cleo Short father of the dead girl. was located today in Los Angeles and told detectives: “I want nothing to do with this." He said that he had separated from his wife several years ago and left the family. Five years ago, Elizabeth wrote to me and I sent her some money to come out here. We set up housekeeping, but she wouldn't stay home. "In 1943, I told her to go her way, I’d go mine.”
There is has news about finding Elizabeth Short’s trunk at the station. Beth’s love letters are used against her. And Beth’s “Daddy” in this article is her Father, as Cleo is introduced as the disappointed and disapproving adult in this story. Amazing that Mr. Cleo Short could be the hero of any story. Cleo is the husband and father that abandoned his wife and five daughters during the depression by feinting suicide. He leaves his car at a bridge and walks away. Nine years later he writes to Phoebe who declines to speak to him. Beth corresponds and Cleo sends her $200. during the war for her to come and live with him in Vallejo. Cleo expects Beth to be his maid and cook, instead Beth is a typical teenager girl who hangs out with boys at night and sleeps late during the day.
Sounds like Beth was the same girl there as she would be in Hollywood and at the French’s in Pacific Beach. So she was dating in Vallejo before she was the good girl in Camp Cooke?
The newspaper narrative fails to hold. So does the often repeated story of Cleo throwing her out. Remember this fact, Cleo and Beth move from Vallejo to Los Angeles together. Cleo Short’s acquaintance from Vallejo, Mrs Yankee, owns a house in Los Angeles on 36th Street near Exposition and they live there for three weeks, then Beth leaves for Camp Cooke.
Ah, so it calls attention to the hollow myth that Beth wants to be a movie star. Note that Elizabeth leaves Mass and comes to Vallejo not Hollywood. Then to moves to Los Angeles for three weeks and then on Jan 29th 1943 she leaves for Lompoc, 3 hours north. Far from Hollywood.
The young woman chooses men in uniform over a fantasy career. Indeed, the odds of finding a husband are solid than the lottery odds of a wannabe becoming a movie star. By the way, 1028-1/2 W 36 St Los Angeles is a four minute drive from the vacant lot on South Norton Ave. What does that mean? Likely, a mere coincidence. One can get caught up in the many associations and coincidences in this story. Suspects are often brought to the forefront of the mystery when they seem to have a potential connection to the murder however with research one realizes, no this is a coincidence is not a connection. Cleo Short refuses to identify the body and is in a drunken stupor every time the police try to interview him they are stepping over empty wine bottles.
Stepping over empty booze bottles is the Los Angeles “gay” living that doesn’t make the Oakland Tribune.
I have a witness to introduce to you. Tod Faulkner, has memories of Beth Short and Long Beach, he saw Elizabeth Short when he was a boy of 12. we know his story because he became a reporter for the Los Angeles Times when he grew up and in Tod 1971 interviewed retired LAPD homicide detective, Harry Hansen for an article about The Black Dahlia. Twenty four years previous, he and a friend, a newsboy, would to sit in front of Faulkner’s father's pinball concession at the entrance to the Long Beach Pike and, as boys will do, they boys watch people go by. One person they noticed multiple times, coming to and from a local bar and dressed for the ocean, was a young woman, whose face the boys would later recognized on the front pages. The Landers drug dounter is a common daytime visit for Beth, she meets an ex-serviceman from Boise, Robert Robertson at the breakfast counter at Lander’s soda fountain. Robert told police the two of them would walk to the beach after breakfast. They did this multiple times. They ride the trolley to Hollywood once, and Beth wrote to him at home for a period of time. As you recall, Beth is living with Joseph Fickling at this time. Lander’s drug store is a place one might purchase sun tan lotion not a dressy night club where Beth might wear her sheer black evening outfit. Beth is going to be seen. She wears her two-piece bathing suit and perhaps most 12 year old boys would be excited to see a tattoo on pretty girl’s thigh for the first time. We have to remember the morals of this period. The bikini is a new concept, invented in 1946. Two pieces suits are risqué for many women. Even twenty years later Annette Funicello can wear a two piece suit to make surf movies but Annette can’t show her belly button.
The nom de guerre The Black Dahlia is a result of a young woman who seeks attention from those who see her but do not know her was a person.
Find her a bit obvious. Dress up. Rookie move out of towner the naive overdress see stars sexy costumes on the red carpet and think that’s how the cocktail dress with glitter to Albertsons market.
There is a lone woman murder in downtown Los Angeles on this day, January 18th 1947. A 37 year old black woman is found beaten and strangled with a stocking in bed Sunday morning by the manager of the Weller Hotel in Japantown. Asaichi Ujiri, who names her companion from the previous night to be a white man. Within two weeks, Mary’s husband, a black musician was arrested and released, six months later, a 40 year old white man, Oscar Johan Hallgren, a former film technician, is then identified as the man Ujiri saw and is arrested. Hallgren would be found not guilty at trial. In his book, Cases That Haunt Us. John Douglas surmises this murder is a copy cat Black Dahlia killing. Nonsense. It is not a copy cat murder.
By 1949 the Long Beach Press-Telegram is including the Tate Murder is one of the lone woman murders. When we compare the Black Dahlia to the majority of these Lone Woman Murders rarely do these other crimes intersect with all of the levels of the Black Dahlia murder mystery because the victimology is so different, so many of these other unsolved cases are contact is sexual and rape related not torture driven.
Laura Trelstad, Evelyn Winters, Alice Burns, Angela Loya, Loretta Robinson, The commonality of the unsolved murders is they involved strangers. The police had no suspects.
Only a handful of in Los Angeles police officers and reporters knew the murder of Mary Tate in January 1947. There was no article in the Herald-Express, or the Long Beach Telegram or the Los Angeles Times or the Examiner about the death of Mary Tate on January 18th 1947. Or the 19th or any date in January or February or March or April or June. Nothing. Today, what a newsworthy story; A white man kills a black woman in Japantown—tell me more—. In 1947, only the black newspaper, the Sentinel writes about Mary Tate Murder and only when the husband, Terry being arrested in early February. Later in that same year, a white man, Oscar Hallgren, is arrested for the crime. This is July 1947, only then does the Los Angeles Times writes a story about the arrest of a white man for murder of a black woman. So very little is known about the facts in this violent crime because there was no ongoing press coverage. It’s not likely that it was a planned murder, given three eye-witnesses observed them together that night. Are Mary and Oscar lovers? Or was it a business transaction? Or chance pick up gone wrong? There are too many unknowns. Was she raped? The only other women killed in hotels are prostitutes. The cross racial element is concerning given the time period. Did she die because Oscar Hallgren thought Mary was disposable? It that the way the jury say the crime? The Mary Tate Murder has nothing in common with any of the unique the Black Dahlia signatures; Beth was tortured, slashed with a knife, then mutilated after death, washed and displayed in public. Mary Tate shares a few similar themes to other Lone Women Murders. The murder likely a result of an attempted rape. Her killer uses a weapon at hand to silence her screams. Mary is strangled with her stocking. Her body left at scene of the crime. Some similarities to Georgette Baurdorf’s murder who was killed with a cloth bandage but not at a hotel. But It can’t be a copy cat murder since it’s not a copy and no one is aware of the Mary Tate murder and everyone is aware of the Black Dahlia.
One more thing
The changing post war world 1948 pageant magazine Good Girl or Bad?
IF Beth Short is going out every night is this the behavior of a good girl? There has been a major shift in our culture pre and post world war II. The concept of a good girl someone who saves themselves for marriage A good girl is a virgin on her wedding night. WWII changes everything. The shortage of men brings a women to the workplace. Women experience new freedoms, it’s more than housewives go to work: Women driving cars! Women with paychecks!
Fewer Good girls wanted to wait, after all if your man is going overseas and might be killed that changes everything. Why wait? If sex is making love, why wait for love? Some good girls found that men were less willing to wait. If a woman stole your man thru sex, she would be called a tramp or a whore. But the bad girl would be going out on Saturday night and the good girl might be staying at home Beth Short wasn’t a “bad” girl but she acted like one and was judged accordingly by her boyfriends when she was alive and the police and the press after her murder.
In another time and place Beth would be a beatnik § or hippie. Wanderlust rather than “Prowling the boulevard.” There are significant culture changes a foot. 1947 Bettie Page goes to New York City to model. Edwin Land, took the first instant photo with his innovative Polaroid camera in New York at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The headline pop of the Black Dahlia spreads to other media. Sex and death motif film noir posters and pulp magazines women showing more skin, more active, power, an more predicament tied up more bondage greater physical threat read from pin up book photorealism style supplants the illustration style of the previous decade
prewar Rapunzel waiting for the Dick Tracy
postwar Brenda Starr working with Joe Friday
Thanks for listening. The next podcast the police discover a suspicious man who talks murder in his sleep.
*this mug shot was taken by arresting police officer, Santa Barbara Independent, Thu Jun 07, 2018 The Black Dahlia Never Dies.
**Santa Barbara Independent, Thu Jun 07, 2018 The Black Dahlia Never Dies.
***Beth went to that drug store with Lt Col Fickling and later would met Bob Robertson from Idaho at the breakfast counter.
**** The San Francisco Chronicle 18 Jan 1947, Sat • Page 9
§ error as it appears in newspaper, Short is bisected. NOT dissected.
§§The term "Beatnik" was coined by Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958, a portmanteau on the name of the recent Russian satellite Sputnik and Beat Generation.