Georgette Elise Bauerdorf was born in New York City on May 6, 1924. Her mother, Constance, died at 40 years old in New York in 1935. When she moved to California, Georgette went to the prestigious Marlborough School, a girl’s preparatory school in Los Angeles, where students were known as “Violets.” She also attended Westlake School for Girls in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, where she graduated in 1941. Fellow alumni included Shirley Temple. Her father, George Bauerdorf, was a Wall Street financier, with oil interests in Louisiana, Texas and Nevada.
The Hollywood Canteen
Anne Lehr, an entrepreneur, helped in the war effort when Bauerdorf lived in Los Angeles, by turning a rented home near Bauerdorf’s apartment into the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. Located at 1284 North Crescent Heights Boulevard, the guild was only eight blocks from Bauerdorf’s home and on her way to the Hollywood Canteen. Although not officially connected to the Hollywood Canteen, the Guild provided a place for servicemen to sleep at night while on leave in Los Angeles. Originally, the former Dustin Farnum home was opened by Mrs. Lehr to house studio employees and unemployed actors and others in the business that were down on their luck. The Canteen, built by Bette Davis, John Garfield and other Hollywood legends, turned an old barn at Sunset Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard into a night spot for servicemen. Almost every movie star in Hollywood donated time and effort to make the experience memorable for men and women in uniform. Joseph Jasgur was the official photographer for the Canteen. He took pictures of the troops and movie stars. Jasgur, who died in 2011, is famous for taking photos of the young Norma Jean Dougherty, later known as Marilyn Monroe, in 1946, the year after the Canteen closed. The interior had a western motif, with wagon wheels hung from the ceiling with lanterns as light fixtures.
The Hollywood Canteen opened on October 3, 1942 at 1451 North Cahuenga Boulevard and closed on Thanksgiving day, 1945. In less than three years of operation, nearly three million men and women in uniform visited the club. It was a hot spot for locals, celebrities and soldiers. The Canteen was one of the most prestigious clubs to visit on a Saturday night. Eventually Bauerdorf would volunteer as a junior hostess in the club, dancing with servicemen. It was a service to the military that was looked upon with respect.
Bauerdorf’s father, stepmother and sister moved back to New York that summer. Connie, her sister, left her coupe in California and Georgette drove it around Hollywood, often leaving it parked in front of the El Palacio or just across the street. Her the apartment faced Fountain Avenue below. It was a spacious upstairs-downstairs arrangement. There was a small patio outside the rear door to her kitchen and there were gardens. Among Bauerdorf’s neighbors was MGM actress Virginia Weidler. “Ginny” Weidler was born in Eagle Rock in 1926 and had a successful film career. Rose Gilbert, Mr. Bauerdorf’s secretary, spent time at the apartment accompanying Georgette on shopping trips. El Palacio management employed full time caretakers that lived on the property and Georgette had maid
and janitorial service provided for her. It seemed that Bauerdorf seemed an ideal life. Bauerdorf had a good friend, June Zeigler, whom she’d met when they volunteered to dance with soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen in Los Angeles. When she traveled, Bauerdorf wrote to Zeigler. One letter stated, “are you still going to the Canteen? I think of it every Wednesday ‘nite even though there seemed to be a majority of jerks there-.”
Like Short, as a young adult during wartime, Bauerdorf traveled around the United States. In November, 1943, she visited San Francisco. In February, 1944 she traveled by train from Los Angeles to
New York, with stops along the way. She had not been home in almost four years. Afterwards, she continued on her way to Shreveport, Louisiana, where her father had business interests. Bauerdorf sent postcards and letters to June in Los Angeles when she was traveling. Bauerdorf may have acquired some wisdom of the world in her travels but she remained very naive about people.
In October, 1944 Sergeant Gordon Aadland was in Hollywood on furlough from duty in the Aleutian Islands. He was staying in West Los Angeles with his brother’s family and
his mother. On his last night before returning to duty, he decided to take his sister dancing at the Hollywood Palladium. Late in the evening when his sister had caught a streetcar home, he recalled, “I needed a ride…No sooner did I get on Sunset and Palisade, motioned with my thumb, than she pulled up in a coupe. She asked, ‘Where to?’ I told her. ” On Sunset Boulevard, near the Palladium and the Hollywood Canteen Bauerdorf was headed west. She talked about her boyfriend in Texas. She dropped Aadland off “after a few miles.” During the ride, he thought it was unwise of her to pick up strangers on the road, but said nothing. Aadland spent, by his own estimation, about 10-15 minutes with Bauerdorf. Many years later, he said, “She seemed like a friendly girl and I appreciated the ride, but she never should have picked up a soldier around midnight.”
The day after Bauerdorf dropped him near the Clover Club, Aadland’s brother drove him to Los Angeles Union Station to begin the first leg of his trip to Fairbanks, Alaska and then back to the Aleutians. He said he found a copy of the L. A. Times on board the train and saw the headline about an oil heiress that had been killed. After reading the article he wrote a letter to the Los Angeles police chief . Years later, he said, “In retrospect, probably the key to our short conversation is that when she got home, if there was a message from her boyfriend in Texas, she would fly there. That’s what made me make the connection to her when I saw the Los Angeles paper’s story about the horrid affair. When I wrote the letter to the police, I probably said two things that misled them. I said she dropped me off on Sunset and then turned right. That is because at that place, the only turn was right. The probable truth is that further along is a left turn off Sunset, which she probably took to get to her apartment. The other possible misinformation I gave in this letter is that she seemed nervous. I assumed that because she kept looking out the rear view window. The reality is that she was doing that while switching lanes; some drivers don’t trust their rear view mirrors.” Aadland also said, upon reflection, “There should have been my fingerprints on the passengers side, from where I got in and out of the car, but the police never contacted me about it.”
Before long, Bauerdorf was back in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Canteen on Wednesday evenings. Her family had returned to Los Angeles, too, but in August, they left for New York again. She was on her own, living at the spacious El Palacio. There would be no more traveling for Bauerdorf. Bauerdorf became a volunteer hostesses at the Canteen at this time. She didn’t just dance with the military men; she gave rides to the soldiers, treated them to lunches and invited them into her home. Most nights, two bands played and the volunteer hostesses danced with the soldiers.
Mrs. Atwood, the janitor’s wife at Bauerdorf’s residence, the El Palacio, said, “She seemed happy and contented. She was very much interested in war work- especially the Hollywood Canteen, where she went every Wednesday evening. She was real proud of being a junior hostess.” The hostesses were not allowed to enter or leave with soldiers although clearly Bauerdorf overstepped this rule on her own time. Rule number 6 of the Canteen-Volunteer agreement stated , “All volunteer workers, hostesses, hosts, entertainers, musicians, name people, etc. must enter through the Cole St. door. There will be a light there at all times..”
On Wednesday, October 11, Bauerdorf went out with Rose Gilbert, who said she was in good spirits. “We shopped and had lunch together, and she seemed perfectly happy. I was with her until two o’clock in the afternoon.” Bauerdorf had her hair done and bought a ticket to fly to El Paso to see a boyfriend, Jerry Brown, who was stationed at Fort Bliss. She and Jerry met each other on June 13 at the Hollywood Canteen. At that time, he was stationed at Camp Callan in San Diego County. Later in the day, June Weider met Bauerdorf in Hollywood. She was knitting in her car in front of the Canteen for half an hour before going in.
The Persistent Soldier
According to Deputy Sheriff Hopkinson, Weidler said that Bauerdorf, “appeared to be nervous and had asked her to spend the evening with her at her apartment. However, she gave no explanation for her nervousness or any reason why she wanted her to spend the night with her. She remained in the car until 7:00 o’clock at which time they entered the Canteen-.” On October 11, friends noticed that Bauerdorf seemed agitated. Weidler noticed that one soldier was persistent in jitterbugging with Bauerdorf. She didn’t want to dance that way because she preferred the waltzes and more conservative style, but he kept cutting in. She said later that she was annoyed with the jitterbugging soldier. An employee, Hopkinson, said that, “the records show that she signed out at 11:30 P.M.” Weidler and Bauerdorf said goodbye outside and Bauerdorf walked to her car alone and drove off. It was the last night of Bauerdorf’s life.
Bauerdorf arrived home sometime around midnight on October 11. She parked her car and entered her apartment. She went into the kitchen to make a snack for herself. She ate a can of string beans and cantaloupe, cleaned her dishes, spoon and fork and tossed the remains of the fruit into the trash. Fredrick Atwood, the janitor, heard the sound of high heels pacing around the kitchen in her apartment. About midnight, he heard what sounded like a tray crashing to the floor. Then, at 2:30 am, a neighbor heard a woman scream. “Stop, stop! You’re killing me!” He didn’t knock on the door to ask Bauerdorf if she was alright nor did he inform the janitor or police. Bauerdorf may have invited her killer in or he may have laid in wait. She may have invited the killer home when she thought no one would notice. Or, he may have forced his way in before or after she returned home.
According to the Metropolitan edition of the October 14, 1944 Daily News, Bauerdorf’s neighbour, Ginny Weidler, “who lives next door, said she knew Miss Bauerdorf quite well, and that on
Wednesday night she heard no noise from her neighbor’s apartment.” But, something went wrong. Bauerdorf had time to scream and fight back, but in the end she lost the struggle. Her body was placed face down in her bathtub and the hot water had been turned on. A cloth was wedged between her teeth. It was “inserted into the mouth and carried far back into the larynx, sufficient to be impacted therein.” There was secondary bleeding from the nose, and the lips, both upper and lower, show bruised areas where they rest over the teeth and around the mouth., extending down over the chin, more to the left that the right are bruised areas caused apparently by pressure. There is one slight break in the surface of the lower lip below the second right incisor tooth.”
The Day After
On the morning of the murder, Frederick Atwood, the janitor and his wife and one of his daughters, entered Bauerdorf’s apartment. Hearing water running upstairs, Mrs. Atwood went up the stairs and called to her husband. Mr. Atwood ran up the stairs and found Bauerdorf’s body in the bathtub, face down. He said, “- her face was in under water and her hair floating on top.” Atwood testified later that, “We usually got around to the apartment around 10:30 and my wife went to the bedrooms and the bathrooms first and my daughter did the bathrooms and my wife, the bedrooms, and I cleaned up all around. The bathtub was about three parts full, quite a ways up the tub and we thought she had fainted and I reached in there myself to drain the water in the hopes we could bring her to.We didn’t know what to do.” He reached in the tub to pull the stopper and open the drain, touching her right forearm, thinking she was possibly still alive.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department handled the case. A.L. Hutchison, Deputy Sheriff arrived at the crime scene at 12:10 pm. Hutchinson recounted his investigation on the day of the discovery: I found the dead body of the victim in the bathtub and her face was lying on the bottom of the tub straight down, and the body kind of lying on the left side. There was no water in the tub at the time. She had the upper part of a pajama suit on. That was wet, and alongside of the tub upon the floor of the bathroom was a wet Turkish towel and it looked kind of dirty, but it was wet, so I went into the bedroom then and the bed didn’t seem to be mussed up. There were two sheets lying on the bed that hadn’t been disturbed, but the blanket had been thrown back and there was an indentation in the pillow and looked as if somebody had been lying on the bed on the two sheets and covered by the blanket. ” When asked at the inquest if it appeared that there had been a struggle, Hutchinson said, “No indication. The bed didn’t show it and nothing in the room turned over or disturbed, and the only thing is her pocketbook was lying on the floor alongside the bed. There were a couple of ashtrays there on the floor and they hadn’t been turned over and they still had cigarette buts in them, and they hadn’t been disturbed, and they seemed to have been there right along.”
It was determined that Bauerdorf had been raped and killed by someone who waited for the right moment. The cause of death was strangulation. A nine-inch by nine-inch piece of cloth was found forced down her throat, with about one inch protruding outside her clenched teeth. The light bulb on her porch was unlit, possibly to cover the exit of the intruder after the murder. Atwood, the janitor, said, ” the light bulb was at least not screwed in a couple of turns.” “Rape, not murder, was the motive,” the police said.
Kenneth Raymond a 23-year-old army deserter, was accused of kidnapping and possibly killing 6-year-old Rochelle
Gluskoter in the 1940′s. At the time of his arrest in 1946, he was questioned about the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf. He
was described as a “gangling, 6 foot tall youth” and a “nightclub dancer.” The FBI labeled Raymond, alias Raymond Pulaski, as a “one man crime wave.” He had a history of robbery and assault, but there was not enough evidence to charge him in the Bauerdorf murder. Nor was he convicted of the murder of little Gluskoter.
Otto Stephen Wilson
Freak that he was, Otto Wilson, a serial rapist and murderer in the Los Angeles area, wasn’t considered a suspect in Bauerdorf’s murder. Wilson was a prize. He murdered several young women in Los Angeles, taking the time to mutilate their bodies after the killings. Like Short’s killer, Wilson used a large butcher knife to mutilate the women. The victims were hacked to pieces, including dissection of the breasts and vagina. His wife came forward after the murders and informed police that her husband, Wilson, committed strange “sexual impulses.” As an example she told them that once when she removed her clothing to take a shower, Wilson slashed her buttock with a razor and licked the blood away. Soon after his arrest, Wilson confessed to the murders of his two victims, neither of whom was Bauerdorf. A forensic psychiatrist stated, “He was a necrophiliac and cannibalistic, all of which when summed up are the manifestations of the sado-masochistic complex.” It wasn’t possible that Wilson murdered Short. He was sentenced to death and executed that year for the murders.
As time passed, the trail grew cold, and the confessors began to appear. In December, a 22-year-old man walked into the FBI offices in San Francisco and said he had killed Georgette Bauerdorf. Detective Hopkinson left for the Bay Area to talk with the man. “I met the girl on a street-car and she asked me to accompany her home. When we got there, we talked for a while and then I bummed her for a cup of coffee. Pretty soon a soldier came in and stayed about an hour. Then, after he left, I strangled her.” Hopkinson was suspicious of his story, and eventually the man admitted the lie. “I wanted to die in the chair because I had nothing to live for. I was afraid to commit suicide.” The suspect, John Lehman Sumter, had been discharged from the army for writing bad checks. His family later revealed that he had spent time in a sanitarium in Georgia.
Zeigler and Bauerdorf volunteered as hostesses together.
Zeigler was also friends with Doris Puckett, who worked at the Times and volunteered at the Canteen on Tuesday nights. Puckett remembered dancing with servicemen and helping them write letters. Puckett and Zeigler worked at the classified counter at the Times. Bauerdorf worked for Becky Webb in the Women’s Service Bureau. Puckett and Bauerdorf did not know each other, but Puckett remem
bers Webb telling her after the murder that Bauerdorf let her know that she was an heiress.
Later it was verified that Volpe was the soldier who kept cutting in on the dance floor to dance with Bauerdorf. When questioned by police about the last night of Bauerdorf’s night at the Canteen, Zeigler said a soldier was “cutting in all evening and that she danced with him only to avoid a scene.” He was brought in for questioning
and later released. Volpe said, “She was not a good dancer, but wanted to learn. I was a professional dancer back in Astoria, Long Island, and I’m a good jitterbug.” Zeigler said, “Georgette did know one soldier who was extremely tall – probably six feet four inches at least. She met him at the Canteen throu
gh another soldier who is now overseas. This tall man gave Georgette quite a rush, but after dating him a few times, she refused to go out with him again. Said she just didn’t like him.” Zeigler could n
ot remember the soldier’s name. June Lorraine Zeigler left California for Connecticut after the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf in October, 1944. She reunited with her fiance, William Joseph Quinn, and they married on November 28, 1944.
Robert George Pollock White
Another lovely suspect, Robert George Pollock White, was arrested in San Diego after he was reported to have forced a cloth down the throat of a 65-year-old woman whom he had
attacked. The suspect said he had been in Los Angeles at the time of the Bauerdorf murder. How convenient. Where do these creeps come from anyway? One newspaper article said, “Miss Bauerdorf’s duplex apartment was a ‘little overnight hospitality center’ for service men who, in town on leave, had no other place to sleep. Of this sheriff’s investigators [were] convinced after piecing together the stories of a score of persons who knew her habits and after leafing through large bundles of ‘thank you’ letters from soldiers, sailors, Marines or Coast Guardsmen, most of whom are now in various combat zones, who had slept in the downstairs living room of the suite.”
Like Short’s killing, the Bauerdorf murder was never solved.