On the Road Again
After she was thrown out by an ex-boyfriend who lived in Long Beach California, Short moved about, squatting here and there for the night (and probably not displaying gratitude by getting up in the morning and washing the dishes). Her transient lifestyle was just another part of her aimless existence. It didn’t bother her. In fact, Short developed street smarts and fancied herself quite experienced in the way of survival. She learned to trust her instincts, obviously too much. It was sheer luck that most of the people she met in her travels were kind, generous people who sought to take care of her. Eventually this would lead to her undoing.
By 1946, Short finally arrived in Hollywood eager to begin her career as an actress. The first route she was told she would have to take was as a model. Short secured an agent for herself, as it is rumoured she posed for professional photographs and she attended acting auditions. There is no evidence however that she ever received a screen test. There are some surviving photographs of Elizabeth during this time that display the “ideal” 1940s
figure: full-figured and robust. This photograph of Short, taken around 1946 is striking in similarity to the style and pose of Norma Jeane Mortenson Baker, aka Marilyn Monroe, when she was on the verge of her own modelling career.It was the type of photograph that used to be known as “cheesecake”, a tantalizing glimpse of women without baring too much. Cheesecake disappeared with the onset of Playboy magazine and eventually other explicit mens’ publications.
During this time, Short began frequenting a popular hangout called the Florentine Gardens, with celebrities, the Mafia and pretty girls like herself. The owner, Mark Hansen, would one day be a suspect in Short’s murder. He and Short were quite familiar with one another. Short met and dated two Mafia men through Hansen’s establishment. She was seen as a Gardens regular. Hansen was known to “take care” of young starlets and models who needed a place to stay for a while but were low on money. There is no evidence that Short ever relied upon his “generosity.”
Short also frequented the Hollywood Canteen, a place popular with sailors, celebrities and starlets. She was also considered to be a regular at the Canteen and frequently had men lining up to dance with her. It wasn’t a surprise that Short partied at the Canteen as she was fond of soldiers. Something about a man in uniform I guess. Short had to work regular jobs to pay the rent and since she frequently quit jobs, she was often broke. At one address where she lived with other girls, the rent was $1 a day. Elizabeth frequently didn’t have it and when the landlord came looking for his money she managed to be out of the rooming house. After Short’s murder her roommates stated to the press, “the kid was broke and hungry.” It was an explanation as to why Short dated so many men she only knew very casually.
Long Beach, California, 1947
A Long Beach druggist discussed Short’s life. This was the period July 22 to August 3 of her last year alive. “She lived at the Washington hotel, now called the Atwater, at 53 Linden Avenue,” said Arnold Landers Sr., the pharmacy owner. “She’d come into our drug store frequently. She’d usually wear a two-piece beach costume which left her midrift bare. Or she’d wear the black lacy things. Her hair was jet black and she liked to wear it high. She was popular with the men who came in here and they got to calling her ‘The Black Dahlia.’” This final statement is false. It isn’t likely that Short was known as The Black Dahlia in life. She was probably nicknamed the Black Dahlia by the press after her murder, due to a movie named The Blue Dahlia that had been released the previous year.
Her last known address was at 1842 N. Cherokee in Hollywood California where she shared an apartment with four other girls. After Short’s death another woman who looked similar to Short named Toni Smith, a working model, moved in. One night Smith received a frightening phone call from a man who stated “you’re next.” The police placed Smith under observation for an undisclosed amount of time.