|Hollywoodland||Jul 5 2017|
Dearest Mommie - I'm sorry, really sorry, to put you through this but there is no way to avoid it - I love you darling you have been the most wonderful mom ever and that applies to all our family. I love each and every one of them dearly - Everything goes to you - Look in the files and there is a will which decrees everything - Good bye, my angel - Pray for me - Your baby
It wasn't unusual for press to have access to death scenes, as we've documented frequently in our Naked City posts. Landis's death photo appeared on the fronts of hundreds of newspapers by the next morning. By then questions had begun to arise. Some said Landis had written a second suicide note that Harrison destroyed. When asked at a coroner's inquest whether there was a note, he said no. Her friend Florence Wasson said there was a second note, but it only asked that the cat be taken to the vet because it had a sore paw. The inquest was closed with no new findings, but years later a policeman who had been at Landis's house that day said he had seen a second note addressed to Harrison, and that the cat had seemed in perfect health.
Landis's family claimed Harrison was guilty of murder—and not just for dithering about when he thought he felt a pulse. They claim he killed her outright to keep news of his affair from damaging his career. However, his relationship with Landis was a poorly kept secret, and tabloids were making sly references to it, identifying Harrison and Landis by their initials. Also, Harrison already had a terrible reputation. People behave irrationally in high stress situations, and Harrison made bad moves at every stage, especially when one considers that there was no way he could hope to hide his involvement. But that shows merely cold-hearted concern for himself, and possibly a lack of awareness how near death Landis was. Add it all up and you have one of Hollywood's most storied suicides—one where an act meant to be a final answer left endless questions.
|The Naked City||Nov 30 2016|
This FBI wanted poster was issued for Clarence Vernon Stevens today in 1937, in connection with a kidnapping case dating back to 1933. Clearly, the FBI were having no luck finding their target. In May 1933 Stevens and three accomplices had kidnapped Kansas City rich girl Mary McElroy right out of her bathtub one night and demanded a hefty $60,000 ransom from her father for her safe return. In the end they got $30,000, but they also got caught—all except for Stevens. While his accomplices were tried and sentenced to, respectively death, life, and eight years, police scoured the state for Stevens. Eventually they decided he might have hidden himself somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The FBI got involved in the search, resulting in the above poster.
Whether McElroy's problems originated from the kidnapping itself or from subsequent anxiety concerning the state punishing them on her behalf, the rest of her life did not go well. She had several nervous breakdowns—as such incidents were called back then—never moved out of her father's house, and became addicted to opium. In January 1949 she committed suicide at age thirty-two by shooting herself in the head with a pistol. She left a note that read, “My four kidnappers are probably the four people on earth who don't consider me an utter fool. You have your death penalty now - so - please - give them a chance. Mary.” But her death brought about no change in her kidnappers' status. One had already been paroled as scheduled, but the other two remained in prison. As for Clarence Vernon Stevens, he was never caught.
|The Naked City||Feb 16 2016|
|The Naked City||Jul 14 2015|
The photo above shows the path an unfortunate named George Yasbec took when he leaped from the Municipal Courts Building in Los Angeles today in 1952. He was distraught over a drunk driving conviction. We’ve shared press and police photo diagrams in the past, and below you’ll see several more, all for leapers—including the uncollected bodies of several—in the Los Angeles area during the 1950s.
|The Naked City||Mar 24 2015|
Above and below is a fascinating series of photos from the Los Angeles Examiner during the heyday of tabloids, showing just how invasive such publications could be. The photo above shows the aftermath of a murder-suicide at the Ansonia Apartments in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood. A mother jumped from a window with her six-year-old son. The photos below show the scene from different angles, then a priest administering last rites to the boy, and finally the father grieving over his son’s body. The Examiner focused on crime, corruption, and Hollywood scandals, and was for a time the most widely circulated newspaper in Los Angeles. Possibly its most famous scoop was breaking the story of the 1947 mutilation murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.
In the references we dug up on the Clouart tragedy the wife’s name is never given—she’s called only Mrs. Gerald Clouart. That was of course common practice at the time, but it’s ironic the way it renders invisible a woman who might have received help had anyone truly discerned her troubles. But in yet another example of the Examiner’s extraordinary access, one of its photos is of Mrs. Clouart’s suicide note, and we were able to get her name from that. The note said: “I’ve reached the point of no return. It’s not your fault. You’ve been a wonderful husband and father. Am taking [John] with me to spare him the disgrace. I’m just inadequate.” It was signed Terry. That was today in 1952.
|Hollywoodland||Jan 8 2015|
The above photos show Barbara Burns when she was busted for drugs today in 1958 after LAPD officers found track marks on her arms. Burns was the well-to-do daughter of famed comedian Bob Burns, but her father had died of kidney cancer in 1956. Barbara Burns was sentenced to probation after the arrest, and the story got some play in national newspaper, with several calling her probation sentence a storybook opportunity at a second chance. But she didn’t cooperate in the role. She managed to cobble together some behind-the-cameras television work, but was arrested for heroin possession in 1959. That time she served ninety days in jail and admitted in an interview, “I’m really hooked. I had nothing else to do, and my mother wouldn’t talk to me. I wanted to be a singer but I was too heavy and they told me it would help me lose weight.”
|The Naked City||Dec 29 2014|
What you’re seeing here is an aftermath photo of suicide leaper Louise Stark, who jumped from a department store window in downtown Los Angeles. It was a catastrophic fall, as you can discern from the river of blood running into the gutter, but she didn’t just kill herself—she landed on a pedestrian named Victor Angel and killed him too. The unfortunate human nail between the hammer and anvil was deaf, but hearing probably would have made no difference. Even if Angelenos made a habit of looking up while they walked, you have to doubt that a warning shouted by an observer would have done little more than give the man time to look up and see his doom approaching. Still, you never know. This happened today in 1958.
|The Naked City||Jun 16 2014|
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 21 2013|
Rampage returns to Pulp Intl. after a six month absence with this issue published today in 1973. The cover star and interior models are unknowns, and the stories are mostly fiction (a fiend stomps a girl’s guts out, a ghost rapes a girl in graveyard, a husband shoots out a rival’s eyes, a wife shoots her husband because he wanted a beer) but the editors do expend a bit of column space on two real people. The first is Richard Burton, who they call a hopeless drunk with violent tendencies—not a newsflash, since other tabloids had already covered his drinking issues to death. Of marginally more interest is a story on Peter Duel, a little-known figure today, but one who was a major star during the 1970s, half of the famed duo from the hit television show Alias Smith and Jones. Rampage claims Duel did not commit suicide in December 1971, but rather was murdered. The evidence? The testimony of a medium who communicated with Duel’s spirit and reported that the aggrieved entity said, “They… murdered….me! I… was… murdered..! Oh God..!” And of course, ghosts being famously elliptical, Duel transmitted all this across the ether without uttering the name of a single assailant.
The last item of note in Rampage is the group of predictions by Mark Travis. His predictions are usually so off as to be pure comedy, but eerily, he nails a few this time. For instance, he predicts the development of a cream that can allow a person to be whatever shade they wish. While many current day Americans have perhaps heard of these only in relation to porn stars whitening their anuses, skin whitening creams are in fact a multi-billion dollar industry in places like Japan, India, and China, where paleness is perceived as an indicator of wealth. The fact that people could so blatantly kowtow to racist paradigms is another issue entirely. We’ll get into that another time maybe. Travis also predicts that American highways will all become toll roads, and that’s of course a wet dream of today’s privatization sect, and one that’s coming closer to fruition every day. Okay, Travis missed a few too. Goat’s milk has not become a major part of the American diet yet. And as far as we know, Mexico has not yet offered instant citizenship to Americans who purchase property over the border. But here’s the thing about predictions—there’s no time limit. If they haven’t come true yet… just wait. We predict that we’ll have more issues of Rampage soon. Scans below.
|Hollywoodland||Aug 30 2013|
Today we’re getting back to what we do well with some scans and tawdry tales from a mid-century tabloid—this time it’s Uncensored, published this month in 1965. There’s quite a bonanza inside. You get stories on Ray Charles’ ongoing narcotics problems, Jack Paar’s runaway ego, the health fad of Finnish saunas, and the astounding “fourth sex” (castratos, in case you’re curious). There’s also interesting coverage of American socialite Hope Cooke’s marriage to Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal of a place called Sikkim, a Himalayan monarchy that is now a part of India. When Cooke married the prince in 1963 she became the second most famous American to marry into royalty (after Grace Kelly). The marriage made her a Maharajkumari, which has a nice ring to it, but the union was not successful. An amusing subhead on Uncensored scribe Aldo Ceruzzi’s article encapsulates the problem: Sophisticated though she is, it’ll take lots of doing to overlook those concubines!