Orson Welles in 1946

Orson Welles in 1946

In December 1946, John Abernathy, 27, the tenant of the house at 8117 Sunset Blvd. — in the northwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Blvd., across the street from the Garden of Allah Hotel — was arrested for stealing a woman’s wrist watch. According to the Los Angeles Times, Abernathy was cherubic and portly actor who occasionally worked as a stand-in for Orson Welles, one of the most famous actor-directors of the era.

The Case of the Walking Wristwatch

It was also recounted in the L.A. noir episode of the Pacific Drift podcast.

December 18, 1947

Two years ago, Mrs. Mary Louise Loftus rented a room in her home at 6429 Primrose Avenue to a (seemingly) nice young man whose height and cherubic features earned him an occasional paycheck doubling for Orson Welles. John Abernathy made such a good impression on Mrs. Loftus that she entrusted him with taking a broken diamond- and sapphire-studded wristwatch down to the jewelers. And that was the last she saw of Abernathy until…

… driving near Sunset and Laurel Canyon Boulevards last night, Loftus thought she spotted Orson Welles standing on the corner. But everyone knew that Orson was in Rome making Black Magic and mourning his split from Rita Hayworth. Ergo, that had to be Abernathy taking his evening constitutional! The lady called the cops, who located Abernathy in his nearby apartment at 8117 Sunset and took the kid down to the Hollywood Jail. The charge: grand theft, wristwatch, for the missing bauble was valued at $750.

The house Abernathy was renting would later be used for restaurants, including Villa Frascati in the 1950s and nightclubs including the Coconut Teazer, 1990s rock joint. It’s called Privilege now.