Short didn’t waste any time tasting the night life when she arrived in Hollywood. She didn’t live in the downtown area as it was too expensive and she had little money. However she lived on the outskirts and knew of very popular nightclubs and bars. She attended these and made the acquaintance of celebrities, models and Mafia men alike. Short herself got intermittent work as a model but she didn’t get a screen test for a movie. She never appeared in a movie. In the meantime, Short worked for a time at the Florentine Gardens as a waitress. She enjoyed her life and didn’t seem to worry much about the future. She lived in the moment and perhaps it was just as well. (The picture enclosed is of the fictional Blue Dahlia in the movie of the same name. The film Dahlia was a nightclub, not a person.)
The Florentine Gardens
Perhaps the classier of the clubs Short attended, the Gardens was owned by Mark Hansen, an associate of (although not a member) the Mafia. His club was a very popular establishment for celebrities, the Mafia, starlets, models, and pretty young women such as Short who were hoping to break into showbiz. Hansen was a ladies’ man. He was known to provide young women with a place to stay for a time when they were low on cash. Of course nothing in Hollywood comes free. Short didn’t take Hansen up on his offer.
Police believed Short might have met her killer at the Gardens. When they attempted to investigate Hansen he intervened from the start. His threat was that if the police interrogated him or any of his friends (including the mob) he would reveal to the press that he’d been paying the police blackmail money in order to remain in operation. The police quickly backed off and Hansen was taken off the suspect list even though Short briefly dated two Mafia members she met through the Gardens. Frankly I don’t believe Hansen belonged on the suspect list. He was as unlikely a candidate as any. Hansen could associate with Short any time he liked and he was surrounded by beautiful women. He was not known to be violent or disrespectful towards them. Many women stayed in his private quarters and never claimed that he’d been violent with them.
The Hollywood Canteen
Another haunt (pun) of Short’s and her friends was the Canteen. It was financed and built by Bette Davis and a few of her celebrity cohorts. Celebrities, servicemen, starlets, and many other glamorous people attended the Canteen regularly. It was the place to be on a Saturday night. Its interior decor wasn’t too wonderful: it had a western motif complete with wagon wheels hung on the walls. Ick. Short made the acquaintance of Georgette Bauerdorf who was a junior hostess. That meant Bauerdorf volunteered to dance with servicemen and provide them with proper, ladylike company while they were there. Rule Number 6 stated that none of the hostesses were permitted to leave with any of the customers and Bauerdorf never did.
Just weeks before Short was murdered, Bauerdorf was also killed in a brutal slaying. She was found face down in a bathtub perhaps in an effort to remove the killer’s DNA, a rather eerie similarity to Short’s murder. There was a large bruise on the right side of her head and another on her abdomen, perhaps the result of blows from fists. She
had been strangled with a piece of towel stuffed down her throat. Her right thigh showed the bruised imprint of a hand “even to the fingernail marks piercing the skin.” Yet when the story broke none of the hostesses at the Canteen batted a masacara’d eyelash. They weren’t frightened for their safety and continued to dance the night away with servicemen.
Tom Breneman’s Restaurant
Thomas Breneman Smith was a popular 1940s American radio personality known to his listeners as Tom Breneman. Breneman was host of the show Breakfast in hollywood which aired on several major networks at various times from 1941 to 1948. The popularity of the radio program was such that he created his own magazine, and in 1945 he opened his own establishment, Tom Breneman’s Restaurant, located on Vine Street off Sunset Boulevard. It wasn’t open only for breakfast of course and it had a fun nightlife. Short and friends began attending Tom Breneman’s Restaurant in 1946. It was as popular as the aforementioned clubs. Certain hotspots in town were known to be filled with the Who’s Who of Hollywood, and Short gravitated to those establishments. Her behaviour was ladylike and she was never seen leaving any of the clubs or restaurant with a man. Breneman himself died in 1948.
The Crown Grill
Another place to see and be seen, the Grill, as it was known, hosted good times, jazz and swing music, and popular persons galore. Short attended the Grill nearly as often as she did the Gardens and the Canteen. Joe Scalis , an employee at the Grill was a suspect after her murder simply because he knew her and witnesses claim they saw him associating with her on her last night, but eventually he was cleared.
Short lived a relatively glamorous life considering she was always low on money. Somehow she managed to appear, at least on the fringes of celebrity royalty, rather than being an essential part of any influential group. She socialized and worked where celebrities and servicemen were to be found. It would cost Short her life. Still, associating with celebrities at the clubs wasn’t a bad idea since she wanted to break into movies, but, like hundreds of pretty women in LA at the time, even these associations didn’t help her to begin a movie career.
I’ve wondered how her friends reacted to her murder, how their lives might have been changed by it, whether or not they missed her or attended her funeral. I’ve wondered whether they continued to frequent the same clubs they’d always gone to without Short. Perhaps the murder was too close to home and the girls became more cautious, less flighty and less inclined to bar-hop the night away. If none of her casual acquaintances and friends were touched by her murder that would be a pitiful clue as to how few people actually knew and cared about her. I guess we’ll never know.