Come on in, the water’s just fine.
Originally posted October 28, 2011
This shot of an Aqua Maiden in the pool of L.A.’s Town House Hotel, circa 1951, certainly evokes an era that has vanished in the mists of time. For tens of millions of Americans the ’50s were nothing to romanticize, but for some it looked like this. The Town House was once considered one of the finest hotels in California, if not the entire U.S., and was well known not just for the Aqua Maidens paid to entertain guests with their watery frolicking, but for its bar/club The Zebra Room. The hotel and the surrounding neighborhood eventually fell into disrepair, and for a while the Town House was used as subsidized housing. Today the structure is on the National Register of Historic Buildings, but the Maidens and the famed Zebra Room are long gone.
'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.”
Watch and marvel as I escape this cage using the incredible power of my court appointed defense attorney.
This odd photo shows Eric Pederson, whose real name was Charles E. Putnam, showing off for photographers after he had been arrested on suspicion of auto theft in Los Angeles today in 1947. He and a companion named Edward Sell were busted by cops inside a car belonging a third party, though both denied they were trying to steal it. Pederson is rock hard in this photo for a reason. He was the reigning Mr. California, a title he won at only eighteen years old. The win sent him onward to the Mr. America competition, but he was beaten for the national crown by future Superman Steve Reeves.
Pederson generated plenty of publicity off that and other bodybuilding competitions, which led to a Your Physique cover painted by none other than George Quaintance. Since Quaintance painted only about a dozen of these, this was quite an honor. From there Pederson was able to launch a long pro wrestling career, which is how he's mainly remembered today. At one time he had Hollywood aspirations, but ended up managing only one role—a bit part as a wrestler in 1951's Civilian Coast Guard, starring Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines.
We weren't able to find out how his auto theft arrest turned out, but considering his seemingly unbroken timeline from bodybuilding competitions to wrestling, it's safe to say the charges were pleaded down to a misdemeanor or dismissed altogether. Which just goes to show that even quasi celebrity is helpful in L.A. Or maybe the cops gave him a break in exchange for bodybuilding tips. In any case, Pederson retired from wrestling in 1961 and died in 1990, but the Quaintance painting guarantees he'll be remembered as long as people collect great magazine art. We have more from Quaintance here, here, and here.
Hayworth enjoys a not-so-light snack in Santa Monica.
Published today in 1941, we love this Life magazine cover of Rita Hayworth on the beach in Santa Monica, California. But we love the second photo even more. Movie stars will do just about anything to avoid being photographed unhinging their jaws to cram in a pile of food. You can't blame them. Paparazzi lurk in hope of getting exactly this type of shot, which they sell for big money to websites that specialize in making celebs look bad. Hayworth turns the idea into comedy while simultaneously looking appetizing herself. That's star power for you.
Yep, this guy's dead as hell. Too bad. He could sue the beer company for false advertising.
This photo, which is part of the archive of mid-century Los Angeles Herald press shots maintained by the University of Southern California, shows a suicide at the front entrance of Temple M.E. Church at 14th and Union in Los Angeles. The man was named Robert Palmer, and you can see that the poor guy shot himself in the middle of the forehead. You can also see that he bled profusely, which suggests his heart pumped for a bit before he finally died. L.A.P.D. detective Hugh Palmer (no relation) stands over him. Like many suicides Robert Palmer had a final drink before doing the deed. His choice? As you see in the zoom below, it was Lucky Lager, which conferred no benefits whatsoever. Maybe a rabbit's foot or a horseshoe would have been more effective. Or not. The photo is from today in 1957.
Serial killer art released in effort to solve cold cases.
As pulp art fans we were a bit amazed by this next news item. The FBI has just released drawings imprisoned serial killer Samuel Little made of his victims, with the hope that the images will help in solving open cases. Little is serving life for three murders he committed in California, but he claims to have killed ninety women over nearly four decades. Law enforcement in various states have definitively linked him to more than thirty murders. Many of those killings were not classified as such at the time because Little's preferred method of dispatch was to knock the women out and strangle them, which meant that there were not always clear signs of foul play if the remains went undiscovered for any amount of time.
But now, by circulating these drawings, authorities hope to close dozens of cases scattered throughout the United States in places the nomadic Little is suspected to have traveled. The feds are being helped by Little himself, who agreed to cooperate in exchange for being allowed a transfer to a new prison. He's 78 years old and in poor health, which means it's basically now or never in securing his assistance.
After Little dies in prison it will be interesting to see what eventually happens to these drawings. In the past such artifacts tended to end up in repositories such as the Black Museum and similar places, but in this day and age we suspect they'll be destroyed once their usefulness is agreed to have passed. Since they're incredibly sad when considered in context, destruction may be a fitting end for them. But it's also possible, though not likely, that they could be sold and the proceeds used to compensate victims' families. One thing is for sure—there are plenty of collectors of the morbid out there who would buy them.
When's the last time you cleaned your doorbell?
We like a good tonguing. Everybody does. But even the gentlest tongue can create soreness after a while and that's what happened in Salinas, California, when a nocturnal tonguer irritated the town. The tale began when a family alerted by its security system to the presence of a nighttime visitor reviewed video footage and was surprised to discover that an unidentified man had come lick, lick, licking at their front porch door. They posted a frame from the video on social media and alerted police and neighbors to the menace. The good people of Salinas can now rest easy—the assailant has been identified as Roberto Daniel Arroyo, a thirty-something local citizen, possibly homeless. A motive for his actions has yet to emerge, but since he was obviously looking for some sort of recognition by playing to the security camera, we think boredom and/or loneliness may have been factors. Can't rule out psychoactive drugs either.
But here's the interesting part. Tonguing doorbells isn't illegal. Filthy, yes, considering all the bodily dirt embedded in them. But illegal? No. A porch is an invitation to the public to inquire whether a domicile's occupants are present. You can't just stand on the street and yell at the house. And certainly there's no law stating you can't touch a doorbell with your tongue. It's no worse than fingering it, when you really think about it. And there's also no law against being in public at 4 a.m. Well, not technically. Our non-U.S. readers may be interested to know that cops will often hassle you when they see you out at that hour, but it isn't actually illegal. So Arroyo broke no laws by tonguing the doorbell. It was weird as hell, but within the bounds of legality as normally interpreted. Unfortunately, he complicated his situation by stealing some electrical cords. The law is pretty clear on that. Jail may be in his future. And there, once the inmates learn of his proclivity for tonguing things, boredom and/or loneliness are not likely to be problems.
L.A. man ends the holidays with a bang.
We've always been fascinated by splatter shots from the mid-century period. When did someone finally decide people had a right to privacy even in death? We don't know, but we think it was a good idea. Before that change came about press photographers routinely tramped around crime scenes documenting mayhem for profit. These images show the aftermath of a murder-suicide that took place today in 1951. Pictured are L.A. cops Detective Lieutenant George A. Encinas and Detective Lieutenant Bill Cummings, along with the bodies of Charles Sullivan and his wife, identified only as Mrs. Charles Sullivan. Maybe a new year would have brought new hope to this household, but we'll never know, nor will we know exactly why Sullivan shot his wife and himself. The images are part of the always compelling collection of Los Angeles Examiner photos maintained by the University of Southern California.
Most people thought her place was in the house. She thought her place was in the Senate.
This photo shows a quartet of overdressed campaign workers cleaning graffiti from a Mildred Younger billboard in Hollywood, California. Running as a Republican, Younger lost a bid to become the first woman elected to the California senate. During her run she dealt with all the expected problems—dismissal, ridicule, hate mail and, apparently, defaced billboards. Despite all this she was defeated only narrowly. According to reports she took the loss hard, but afterward kept her hand in politics by helping direct the career of her husband, state attorney general Evelle J. Younger, and later by serving as a consultant to Richard M. Nixon. The photo just below shows Younger in mid-campaign, looking confident. Both shots are from 1954.
She made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Above is a nice piece of promo art for Hot Cars, an obscure little flick some people classify as a film noir, but which we think of as a basic crime melodrama. A Culver City used car salesman's lofty ethics get him fired from a used car lot, but hired at another whose owner is looking for employees with “honest faces and honest souls to go along with them.” But there's more than meets the eye going on here. There's a stolen car ring working Southern California and our honest John begins to suspect it's his new employer's lot the autos are being funneled through. His suspicions are quickly confirmed—his boss wanted an honest face as a front for the crooked lot. Honest boy quits in a huff, but with a sick son and medical bills piling up he has to go crawling back, and from there he just gets in deeper and deeper. The film is nothing special, but statuesque Joi Lansing plays the owner's femme fatale wife, and she's the real heat in Hot Cars. At just an hour in length the movie comes with a discount in time expenditure, so with Lansing as part of the package it's a deal you shouldn't refuse. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1956.
Hi, I'm Joi. I see you've noticed I'm sizzling hot.
You'd give your right arm to have a woman as hot as me and we both know it.
You realize the drink is just going to make me look even hotter, right?
If you think I'm smoking hot at twenty-six, just wait until I hit my late thirties.
That heat in your chest isn't indigestion. It's me. It's my hotness.
I'm hot, but often quite approachable too. Like now.
I'm going to ruin your life, but hotly, so you'll mostly love it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
1930—Gandhi Leads Satyagraha March
In India, Mahatma Gandhi raises a lump of mud and salt and declares, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." His words, which were a protest against the British salt tax, mark the beginning of the Satyagraha March, which in turn triggers the wider Civil Disobedience Movement that ultimately culminates in Indian independence.
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