AuthorJon Ponder

Hollywood & Crime, Season 1: The Black Dahlia Serial Killers

Elizabeth Short's mugshot

Elizabeth Short’s mugshot

Elizabeth Short was a star-struck young woman whose body was found completely severed at the waist in January 1947 in Los Angeles. She would be forever remembered as the Black Dahlia, and her murder remains one of the most infamous unsolved cases in the world to this day. But few people know that more than a dozen other women died in similar circumstances in Los Angeles around the same time.

HOLLYWOOD & CRIME recreates investigations into notorious crimes and scandals in early 20th-century Los Angeles. Season 1, THE BLACK DAHLIA SERIAL KILLERS, available now on Wondery, reopens the investigations into the unsolved cases of eight women of the women, including the hottest cold case of all, the murder of Elizabeth Short, AKA the Black Dahlia.

Their stories are told based on rigorous research enlivened with dramatizations of the investigations by seasoned Hollywood voice actors and recorded using state-of-the-art sound design.

Click HERE to hear the trailer.

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November 2016: 50th Anniversary of the Sunset Strip Riots

Los Angeles Times, 2005:

Gangsters, nightclubs and rock ‘n’ roll make up much of the Sunset Strip’s colorful history — along with a little-remembered tussle in 1966 that became known as “the Sunset Strip riots.”

The melee erupted as young rock fans were protesting efforts to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew and to close nightclubs that catered to them — including Pandora’s Box, at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards.

The confrontation with police also inspired musician Stephen Stills to write “For What It’s Worth,” released two months later by Stills and the band he was in, Buffalo Springfield.

“Riot is a ridiculous name,” he said in an interview. “It was a funeral for Pandora’s Box. But it looked like a revolution.”

The club, painted purple and gold, was perched on a triangular traffic island in the middle of the Strip. It drew a crowd of mostly clean-cut teenagers and twentysomethings wearing pullover sweaters and miniskirts.

Ensuing traffic jams annoyed residents and business owners, who pressured the city and county to get rid of the kids, the clubs and the congestion.

It’s unclear from Times files whether Pandora’s Box or other clubs had been closed by the time the protests began. But young rock fans interpreted efforts to enforce curfew and loitering laws as an infringement on their civil rights.

On Nov. 12, 1966, fliers were distributed along the Strip inviting people to demonstrate. And hours before the protest, “One of L.A’s rock ‘n’ roll radio stations made an announcement that there would be a rally at Pandora’s Box and cautioned people to tread carefully,” wrote Domenic Priore, author of the 2007 book “Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.”

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Go Inside Cafe Trocadero on the Strip in the Early Thirties

Cafe Trocadero as it appeared not long after it opened in 1934

Cafe Trocadero as it appeared not long after it opened in 1934

The interior of Cafe Trocadero in a photo dated 1937

The interior of Cafe Trocadero in a photo dated 1937

From former Los Angeles Times columnist Cecilia Rasmussen, here’s a description of the genesis of Cafe Trocadero, published on Dec. 7, 1997:

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Sunset Strip 1950, Looking East Near Sweetzer

photo-sunset-strip-19500314

From the Los Angeles Public Library:

“Cars travel in both directions on Sunset Boulevard, at Sweetzer Avenue, in what is now West Hollywood. Seen are homes in the Hollywood Hills, Foster and Kleiser billboards for Grant’s whiskey and Ford automobiles, and a glimpse of the Chateau Marmont (right). Photograph dated March 14, 1950.”

Here’s a view of the same area, around the same time, taken from the roof of the Sunset Tower Apartments.

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Lovely Tribute Video to Barbara Payton, ‘Queen of the Nightclubs’ on the Sunset Strip

From John O’Dowd, author of the great bio of Barbara Payton, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye“:

Barbara Payton reached the pinnacle of Hollywood in 1950. Blonde and beautiful, her libido was robust, her taste ribald; her lovers formed a who’s who of Hollywood leading men from Bob Hope, George Raft, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Guy Madison to Tarzan — with dozens and dozens of lesser lights in between. The tabloids feasted on her liaisons. When she flouted Hollywood’s code by taking on a black lover in 1955, her career was over at age 27. She went from making $10,000 a week at Warner Brothers to utter destitution and ruin, turning tricks for $5 on Sunset Strip.

‘The Black Dahlia Serial Killers,’ Demo for Our New Podcast Project

A groundbreaking true-crime series for audio platforms, HOLLYWOOD & CRIME recreates investigations into notorious crimes and scandals in early 20th-century Los Angeles. All the stories involve movie stars, the rich and famous or those who aspired to be – and all of them were front-page news nationwide in Hollywood’s golden era.

Season 1, THE BLACK DAHLIA SERIAL KILLERS, reopens the investigations into the unsolved cases of 15 women who were brutally murdered or went missing in Los Angeles in the 1940s, including the most mysterious cold case on record, the murder of Elizabeth Short, AKA the Black Dahlia.

Episode 1 will focus on the murder in 1944 of oil heiress Georgette Bauerdorf, who was killed in her apartment at the El Palacio, a block south of the Sunset Strip, at La Cienega and Fountain. Her friends last saw her when she left the Hollywood Canteen after 11 p.m. on Oct. 11. Housekeepers found her body in her bathtub the next morning. She’d been strangled and sexually assaulted. Like the Black Dahlia’s and the other dozen or so cases around that same time, Georgette Bauerdorf’s murderer has never been found.

For more info, visit HollywoodandCrimePodcast.com. Listen to the demo here:

Gene Roddenberry’s Curious Inspiration for Mr. Spock: LAPD Chief William Parker

From left: Roddenberry, Parker and Nimoy as Mr. Spock

The death of Leonard Nimoy last week was one of those rare losses to the culture that cuts across generations. As Mr. Spock, the ultra-rational, half-human, half-alien character he portrayed on “Star Trek,” Nimoy was instantly recognizable to sci-fi fans of all ages, from wizened old Boomers to hipster millenials — like the crowd who paused for a moment of silence at the Long Beach Comic Expo on Saturday, all of them giving Spock’s trademark Vulcan salute, to honor the passing of the 83-year-old actor.

While Nimoy personified Spock, the character was the invention of Gene Roddenberry, the creative genius behind “Star Trek,” a bold and imaginative wild-West adventure series set in the far reaches of the galaxies — “where no man had gone before” — that premiered in 1966, three years before the first man, Neil Armstrong, had stepped foot on the moon.

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Then and Now: Sunset Plaza Apartments, Luxury Living at the Sunset Strip’s Historic Core

Top: Sunset Plaza Drive on the Sunset Strip at Christmastime in the late 1930s, with the luxurious Sunset Plaza Apartments on the hill in the background. Bottom: The same intersection in December 2014. Many of the nearby buildings remain but the Sunset Plaza Apartments were demolished in 1987 and replaced by a residence that is hidden behind tall shrubbery.

During the Sunset Strip’s early incarnation as Hollywood’s playground, the Strip was more than just an entertainment destination where the stars dined, drank and gambled, it was a desirable address. Perched on a hill above Sunset Plaza midway along the Strip, the Sunset Plaza Apartments were the westernmost and last-built luxury apartment buildings on the Strip. Three of the buildings on Sunset are still standing. Two have been repurposed as hotels — the Chateau Marmont and Sunset Tower, built in 1929 and 1931, respectively — and one, the Hacienda Park Apartments, built in 1927, is an office building now called the Piazza del Sol.

The others, including Sunset Plaza Apartments, have been demolished.

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Aerial View of 1930s West Hollywood

(Click to enlarge) 1. Victor Ponet estate, 2. back of a north-facing building in Sunset Plaza, 3 steeple of S.t Victor’s Catholic Church on Holloway Drive, 4. Hancock Avenue, 5. Palm Avenue, 6. Horn Avenue and Shoreham Heights, and 7. Sherman Trolley Yards

This is a section of an aerial photo of West Hollywood taken in the early 1930s that has been slightly enlarged to highlight noteworthy historic sites, including (1) the stately-looking home of Victor Ponet, an early major landowner in the area. In 1892, he purchased 280 acres in the hills above the village of Sherman (7), where he grew poinsettias and avocados. In 1906, Sunset Boulevard was extended westward from the Hollywood city limits to Ponet’s estate when land to the east of his property was developed into a residential neighborhood called Hacienda Park. That same year, Ponet donated land and funds to build St. Victor’s Catholic Church (3) on Holloway Drive. (St. Victor’s original woodframe building was replaced with its current building in the 1960s.) Within the next few years, the Sunset extension was graded all the way west to the Beverly Hills city limits, completing the 1.5 mile route that would become the Sunset Strip.

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Then and Now: Trocadero in the 1940s