The Naked City Jul 9 2018
KILMER INSTINCT
The hardest question to answer is always why.


Today in 1959 in a quiet area of Inglewood, California, a police officer was putting a ticket on a car that hadn't moved for at least two days. While writing the ticket he looked in the window and noticed that on the front seat were a sweater, a pair of Capri pants—and a bloody front tooth. He pried open the trunk and inside found a dead woman, Meredith Jean Prestridge, a twenty-six-year-old married mother of two. She had been missing from her Fresno home for a week.

In the top photo police officers and coroner’s personnel examine the crime scene. Soon the cops would be looking for an unidentified man seen with Prestridge shortly before she vanished. They would learn of a suspect named Robert Lee Kilmer and mobilize to arrest him where he was holed up in a friend's house. Kilmer didn't go easily, and in the end police fired tear gas and stormed the place wearing masks and bullet proof vests. In the resulting melee police fatally shot Kilmer in the head.

His guilt was not seriously in question in any of the accounts we read, but due to his untimely departure from the material realm the motives and thought processes behind his murder of Prestridge were never explained. But they surely would have been as banal as those of other murderers. Kilmer was just another bad man in the naked city, and Prestridge was just another victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Vintage Pulp May 29 2018
A PHONE CALL AWAY
Hello, is this the murder helpline? I'd like help killing my cheating ass wife.


Most people who haven't seen the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Dial M for Murder jokingly ask, “How could anyone want to kill Grace Kelly?” Well, because she's cheating with another man. Not that infidelity justifies murder, but it certainly can be expected to provoke some sort of serious reaction. Probably Ray Milland, her husband, should have confronted her with the usual questions: “When did it start?” “Do you love him?” “Is his dick bigger than mine?” “Does he make you orgasm and if so how?”

But instead of being reasonable Milland decides his wife needs to be gone from the Earth, so he devises a foolproof murder plot. It goes wrong anyway and that's the fun of the movie—seeing how he cleverly improvises over and over only to have his scheme unravel anyway because of one tiny thing he neglects to consider. Dial M for Murder is another winner from Hitchcock, one you should see if you haven't. It went into general release in the U.S. today in 1954.


The famed poster for the movie was painted by Bill Gold, whose credits include everything from Casablanca to Unforgiven. Gold was active from 1941 to 2011, accumulating numerous awards along the way, and is now retired at age ninety-seven. If you want to learn more about him there's a website that discusses and showcases his seven decades of movie work which you can access at this link. It's well worth a visit.

Could he really be trying to kill me?
 
I guess it's possible, considering I cucked and humiliated him. 
 
Maybe I shouldn't have told him I'm multi-orgasmic now.
 
For the crime of murdering the male ego I sentence you to hang by the neck until dead, dead, dead.

What? Seriously? But I've only gotten a third of the way through 101 Sex Positions

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The Naked City May 27 2018
COLD STEEL
L.A. woman comes to a dead end.


The images above come from the collection of digitized Los Angeles Examiner photographs curated by the University of Southern California, and they show murder victim Patricia Steel in a passageway between two garages in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. The case left barely a ripple. Other than the photos and skeletal biographical facts we found online, no detailed information exists about this killing in any archive we checked. That's the way it sometimes goes in the naked city, that the most critical moment of a person's life occurs, passes, and is forgotten. Today, 1952.

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The Naked City Apr 28 2018
BAD LUCK CHARM
Beautiful jinx finally jinxes herself.

Confidential Detective Cases, for which see an April 1960 cover above, was published bi-monthly from 1942 to 1978 by New York City based Detective House, Inc. The magazine has an appropriately garish crime rag look and many stories of interest, breathlessly reported. The headers are entertaining: “She Stabbed Him—Rather Than Share Him!” “Parade of the Grave-Bound Redheads.” “The Dames All Die for Me.” All these tales are of interest, but today we're focused on one story—the piece about the unlucky death of Janice Drake. It's titled “Big-Time Mob Leader and the Blonde Murder Jinx.” A jinx is of course someone who brings bad luck to others, but what do you call someone who brings bad luck on herself?
 
Drake was a former Miss New Jersey who had competed in the Miss America pageant, was a semi-famous G.I. pin-up, a professional dancer, and the wife of comedian Allan Drake. She and her husband were known to have an open marriage, and among Janice's male friends were several New York City mobsters. One of these was Anthony Carfano, aka Little Augie Pisano, an associate of crime boss Frank Costello, who was pitted against mob rival Vito Genovese in a power play for control of the New York City rackets. Carfano had thrown his support behind Costello, causing Genovese to develop a homicidal grudge.
 
This was not a guy to go to dinner with, but on the night of September 29, 1959, Drake accompanied Carfano to a restaurant called Marino's, where they dined with a mob caporegime named Tony Strollo. Strollo was Genovese's right hand man, but Carfano had no idea Genovese was bent on revenge, nor that Strollo had been assigned the job. When Carfano and Drake left Marino's, they were planning to drive to La Guardia Airport to board a night flight to Miami. But two gunmen were stationed in the rear of Carfano's Cadillac and they forced him to drive to a secluded area near the airport, where they shot both him and Janice Drake twice in the head and once in the back of the neck.
 
Bad luck for Drake, but don't feel overwhelmingly sympathetic. She may not have been married to the mob, as the saying goes, but she was definitely playing footsie with it. Twice she had been present at a mobster's last supper. She went to dinner with Garment District kingpin Nathan Nelson the night he was murdered, and dined with Gambino crime family boss Albert Anastasia the night before he was whacked in a barbershop. Talk about a jinx. She was called to testify in court concerning both slayings, yet for some reason never seemed to comprehend the risks of running with a dangerous—and highly endangered—crowd.

More than a few police figures believed Drake was a mob courier, a high level go-between, a role in which she may learned the identities of Nelson's and Anastasia's killers. She may not have been a target the night she had her last supper and met a messy end, but it could be that since she knew too much, her loss as collateral damage was deemed an acceptable outcome. Others think she was just mob arm candy and finally ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time; anyone in the car with Carfano would have bought it the same brutal way. Whatever the specifics, Drake's early death—she was thirty-two when it happened—was probably inevitable.

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The Naked City Apr 27 2018
BOSTON MARATHON
After two long years of unsolved killings National Star Chronicle points the accusatory finger at—nobody.


This edition of National Star Chronicle appeared today in 1964, and as you can see it blares the claim that the Boston Strangler had been caught. Eleven women in the Boston area had been slain during the early 1960s, with the victims ranging in age between nineteen and eighty-five, nearly all of whom were sexually assaulted or raped before bring killed. Boston police felt they were drawing close to a break in their marathon investigation, but the confessed killer Albert DeSalvo was not apprehended until the autumn of 1964. He was actually arrested for a different set of crimes known as the Green Man rapes, but he eventually claimed, while a patient at the Bridgewater State Hospital in southern Massachusetts, to have committed the Boston Strangler rape/killings.
 
The admission came in April 1965. In addition to the eleven killings police had tentatively linked, DeSalvo confessed to two more killings, bringing the unofficial total of his victims to thirteen. So Chronicle jumped the gun on their headline by a year, but we've all learned by now never to trust low rent tabloids, right?

At the time this Chronicle hit newsstands Boston police in fact still had dozens of suspects. The police sketch does resemble DeSalvo somewhat, who you see in his mugshot at bottom. Of course, the sketch also resembles other suspects in the case. In fact, it even resembles big brained Tany Kominski in the above post.
 
The police didn't immediately consider all the strangulations to be the work of one person. The age range of the victims, as well as some variations in the method of dispatch, had slowed them in seeing a connection. Later, after DeSalvo confessed, many observers doubted the real killer had been caught. In 2013 DNA testing definitively tied DeSalvo to the last victim in the murder chronology, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan, but public doubt over who killed the others continues to this day. Of course, the public is always doubtful. Meanwhile the prosecutors are certain they got the right guy. Of course, prosecutors are always certain. One thing's beyond doubt—National Star Chronicle didn't help clarify matters.

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The Naked City Apr 17 2018
A WOMAN SCORNED
I'm totally sorry I'm killed him. I'm all torn up about it. Absolutely devastated. Seriously.


The above photo made today in 1952 shows Barbara Joy Plymire, who had shot her estranged husband Leslie Plymire earlier in the month and was appearing in Los Angeles County Court for a preliminary hearing. The case was pretty much open and shut. She had attended a birthday party for her hubby at which she hoped to win him back. She made her pitch and when he indicated a reconciliation was unlikely she ventilated him. The money quote: “I've shot him and I'm glad." Below you see detectives checking out his body the night of the murder and agreeing, “Yep, that poor fucker's dead as hell.”

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Vintage Pulp Mar 27 2018
YOU TELLER OR I WILL
Yep, this is a robbery. Faked you out, right? Now pretend I'm asking for a back rub and empty the cash drawer.


Above, a great cover for W.R. Burnett's High Sierra from Avon Publications' series Murder Mystery Monthly, 1946, featuring a very slick robber painted by Paul Stahr. We shared another cover for this book you can see here

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The Naked City Jan 31 2018
SO DEAD THE ROSE
Book on Elizabeth Short murder points at new suspect.


The cultural fetish with cold cases continues with the publication of an article on the Rolling Stone website several days ago about the most famous cold case victim of all—the Black Dahlia, aka Elizabeth Short. The piece talks about a recent book by British author Piu Eatwell that promises new insights into the unsolved murder.
 
This latest new look at the crime suggests that Leslie Dillon, a bellhop and aspiring writer, was the murderer. Apparently Dillon, in addition to being in Los Angeles during the crucial time frame, moved to Florida soon after the murder and began writing to an LAPD psychiatrist requesting information about the case. He said he was researching a book about sexual psychopaths, and when his interest led to him being arrested police let him go because they were engaged in a cover-up of the entire case.
 
This is always the way it goes with cold cases, isn't it? The perpetrator was in custody but through incompetence/malice/luck slipped away. Does the author have conclusive proof Dillon did the deed? Apparently not—which means her book Black Dahlia, Red Rose joins the heap of others speculating about the slaying. But we may check it out. Its publication during the autumn flew way wide of our radar screen, so it's good Rolling Stone—also Smithsonian, just yesterday—did a piece on the book. You can read more about the Dahlia, the book, and Piu Eatwell here.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 27 2018
DEAD SILENCE
Counterfeiters and Nazi agents clash in wartime Los Angeles.


When we saw Quiet Please: Murder on the Noir City slate and realized we'd never heard of it we decided to watch it and were treated to an interesting flick about sellers of literary forgeries who get in over their heads when they cheat the representatives of Nazis. Apparently, Hermann Göring is accumulating items he expects to maintain value in the event of post-war inflation, and a rare quarto of Hamlet fits the bill. George Sanders and Gail Patrick are the crooked vendors who run afoul of the Nazis, as well as the cop hero played by Richard Denning. The movie is remembered for its central scene involving an air raid drill that plunges heroes and villains into a blackout at a crucial moment, but the primary benefit here is watching Sanders, who was Russian born but learned a clenched-jaw upper class English accent that made his voice unique in film. He's a perfect baddie here, shooting a librarian to acquire the original Hamlet, pimp slapping his partner Patrick, and in general being shady as fuck. Thanks to him Quiet Please: Murder is an entertaining little b-noir.

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The Naked City Oct 30 2017
READY FOR CRIME TIME
New murder magazine puts a fright into British readers.


Who is this odd character on the cover of the UK weekly Crimes & Punishment? That would be John Linley Frazier, an Ohio born religious fanatic who this month in 1970 murdered five people at the behest—he claimed—of God. His victims were a wealthy Santa Cruz, California ophthalmologist named Victor Ohta, his wife Virginia Ohta, their two children Taggart and Derrick, and the ophthalmologist's secretary Dorothy Cadwallader. Frazier bound them all with scarves, shot them with a .38 or a .22, depending on the victim, and dumped their bodies a large pool behind the house. He did the same to the family cat. Then he burned the house down.

Frazier left a note on one of Ohta's cars. It read: "Halloween... 1970. Today world war 3 will begin as brought to you by the people of free universe. From this day forward, any one ?/or company of persons who misuses the natural environment or destroys same will suffer the penalty of death by the people of the free universe. I and my comrades from this day forth will fight until death or freedom against any single anyone who does not support natural life on this planet, materialism must die or mankind will.” He signed the note four times—as the Knight of Wands, the Knight of Cups, the Knight of Penticles [sic], and the Knight of Swords, all identities from standard tarot decks.


Frazier's similarity to Charles Manson is impossible not to notice. Both had grandiose ideas about reshaping the world and believed in a coming war; one claimed to talk to God while the other was strongly influenced by the Book of Revelation; both were part of the California hippie scene, and both were of tiny stature and compulsively needed to influence others. In the end it was Frazier's constant talking about the evils of materialism and consumerism that did him in, since people tended to remember his lectures. In particular, he had railed against Ohta's ostentatious lifestyle and the trees he had uprooted on his ten acre property to build his house. Tips from acquaintances, as well as Frazier's estranged wife, helped police zero in.


Frazier was arrested at his shack not far from the Ohta mansion four days after the murders and he went to trial a year later in October 1971, with the first proceedings designed to establish guilt, the second to determine sanity, and the third to decide upon a sentence. In the photo above he's being led to court during the sanity phase, and he's shaved half his head, half his beard, and one eyebrow as a representation of the two sides of a hippie. If the haircut was an attempt to look crazy to the jury it didn't work—they sentenced him to death, a penalty that was commuted to life in prison when California later banned capital punishment.


This is the debut issue of Crimes & Punishment, dating from 1973. We don't think it published past that year, but as a weekly at least a couple of dozen issues were produced. We may try to track down others, because this one was very involving. Inside you get profiles on Leopold & Loeb, Ma Barker, Gaston Dominici, Charles Manson, the Zodiac, and even Adolf Hitler. Nearly all the crimes took place in the U.S., which we imagine the magazine's British readership found curious and disturbing. We know because we live overseas and whenever another U.S. mass killer hits the news our friends are curious and disturbed. For that matter so are we. We have quite a few scans below to put a fright into you as Halloween approaches, and we'll share more true crime magazines a bit later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
September 24
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
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