Pacios, author of Elizabeth Short….. claims she was a good friend of Elizabeth’s during the time she lived in Medford, Massachusetts with her family. Elizabeth was about 16 when she and Pacios, who was 10 years younger, became friends. Elizabeth was actually a big sister of sorts to pacios. That would make more sense than a 16-year-old girl hanging with a young child, wouldn’t it? One thing the girls really liked to do was to attend the movies and watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire tripping the light fantastic. Where does that weird expression come from anyway? Pacios suggests this may have been where Elizabeth began dreaming of movie stardom.
Elizabeth was always sent away during the winter months in Medford due to her respiratory illnesses. She lived in Miami during these months with family and friends. She usually found work as a waitress when she was there, no doubt earning generous tips from the men who ate at the diner and were served by the pretty “Bette”, as she called herself. And indeed Elizabeth became more beautiful as time went by. She had mousy brown hair, beautiful pale skin, and light blue eyes. By the time she turned 19 Elizabeth began dying her hair raven black. This made her eyes even more remarkable. She became full-figured with the ideal figure of the 1940s – meaty thighs, large breasts, a generous smile and carefully coiffed hair. Elizabeth wore red lipstick everyday and began placing white dahlias in her hair. This was one possibility as to how Elizabeth was nicknamed The Black Dahlia by the press. Other stories suggest Elizabeth died when a popular movie The Blue Dahlia was released in theatres, and her moniker was a dark reference to it. Still others claim she was never referred to as The Black Dahlia when she lived; it was only after death that people referred to her that way because it became a media moniker.
By the time she turned 19, Elizabeth knew her father was alive and well and living in Vallejo, California. Deciding she definitely didn’t want to return to Medford, Elizabeth wrote to her father, suggesting she join him and keep house for him. Obligingly, Cleo Short sent his daughter money to make the trip and before you could say “black dahlia!” Elizabeth moved in with Cleo. You certainly couldn’t call her a California girl by any means: her black hair, white skin, red lips and preference for heels and pretty dresses ruled out the possibility of Elizabeth hopping on a surfboard. She did, however, occasionally wear a two-piece bathing suit and loll about in the sand with friends. Even then her hair was coiffed and her makeup was perfect. It was as if she believed stardom was just around the corner.
Cleo and Elizabeth traveled to Los Angeles and stayed at the home of his friend from Vallejo, a Mrs. Yankee, for about three weeks. Her home in Los Angeles was located at 1028 1/2 W. 36th St. In 1942, Mrs. Monte, a tenant, remembered Elizabeth and recalled that she told her that eventually she was going back north to Camp Cooke, an Army base in Lompoc, California. Life with father Cleo didn’t blossom into a happy family reunion. Cleo had an old-fashioned perspective about his daughter. He expected her to do all of the household chores and wait on him as if he was a king. Well, Elizabeth had suggested she keep house for him. Perhaps she hadn’t been specific enough as to what “keep the house” meant. At the very least, Cleo expected Elizabeth to do the washing and cook for him. No doubt he wanted her to pack his lunchbox too. Elizabeth, perhaps envisioning herself as Mamie Van Doren, had changed her mind about the arrangement and was having none of that. She preferred to lie in bed all day and go out at night with friends. If her father wanted the house cleaned he could darn well do it himself. The two fought for weeks about Elizabeth’s lazy habits until finally Cleo could take it no more and he threw his daughter out.
Well, in one respect I have to agree with Cleo. Maybe cooking for him and doing his laundry was a little over the top, but Elizabeth couldn’t have expected to live for free in her father’s house. That was what he ran away from in Massachusetts, after all. She ought to have done her share of the housework and that would indeed have been most of it. Her father worked a full day’s shift and provided for both of them. Elizabeth’s job (since she had none) should have been to keep house just as she’d promised. Elizabeth wasn’t one for keeping promises as it turned out. She didn’t see it that way and father and daughter parted ways for good. It was the last time Cleo Short would ever see his daughter alive. Bad blood (pun) runs deep in the Short family. It was the last time Cleo would express any concern for Elizabeth’s well-being, even after he heard of her death.