I took this information from the Black Dahlia Website by Pamela Hazelton. In it, she includes an article by Russell Miller, is an award-winning journalist and author of fifteen books, including biographies of Hugh Hefner, J. Paul Getty and L. Ron Hubbard. Miller was born in east London and began his career in journalism at the age of sixteen. In this article he sought out John Gilmore as part of his investigation into the life of Elizabeth Short.
Gilmore, the very same man who studied Method Acting and who I discussed in the blog John Gilmore, has written books about Manson, Tucson’s Charles Schmid and James Dean, stated emphatically that “it’s the body itself which laid the groundwork for endless generations of Black Dahlia zealots. It’s like this tremendous, bizarre magnet. It gets to our unconsciousness, and it gets to us on a real subliminal level… So much hidden agenda went into that murder that it was inherent at the scene of the murder.”
Gilmore’s expertise on Short stems from his childhood, when he met Short at his grandmother’s boarding house. He was about 9 years old at the time and this makes him an expert on Short. Riiight. Aside from Short’s ghastly murder, Gilmore documented that Short couldn’t have sex because her genitals were not fully developed, meaning Short was incapable of having sex. Personally I don’t believe that. The autopsy report, I’ve read, didn’t state anything of the kind. The SEVERED book went so far as to state, “STRANGE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER VICTIM WAS NOT A BEAUTIFUL FEMME FATALE, BUT WAS A MAN.” Considering the photographs of Short’s displayed body, fully developed breasts and vagina, I find that to be a completely stupid statement.
Gilmore is utterly convinced he has Short figured out correctly: “She knew that she couldn’t ever possibly become a full-blown woman in any size, shape, or form and she decided she was going to do the role anyway. Because she did. It was just a series of games, a series of encounters with people that would lead to the romance-type situation, and then she would disappear. I think she overlapped relationships, so she always had a place to go, and a place to be transported to.”
In other words, Short had a secret so dark she had to hide it from the male acquaintances in her life. If so (and I will allow for the remote possibility) this would indeed partly explain why Short refused to sleep with men to get a screen test or even a small role in a film. However, bear in mind there are many ways to have sex. Personally I think the distorted genital story is nonsense and it was Short’s morals that prevented her from using sex to get “discovered.”
In the 60s, Gilmore worked with actor Tom Neal to make a movie about Short. Gilmore went speaking with financiers, one of whom was a “weird, weird guy“. He wanted to touch Gilmore’s hands, because they had touched the field where the body had lain. So… there are still people strolling about who are about as weird as the actual killer. To think, they live among us. All plans of making a Dahlia movie with Neal were abruptly halted when Neal went to jail after murdering his wife in Palm Springs. If only Neal had started working on the Dahlia before he killed his wife he might not have killed her: he would have had a creative outlet for his murderous impulses. Such a shame.
In late 1981, a shady character named Arnold Smith emerged as a suspect in the Black Dahlia case only because he related the story to an informant (Gilmore brought Smith to the LAPD’s attention). Of course Smith stated he wasn’t responsible for the murder. An acquaintance of his named Al Morrison murdered Short in a house on East 31st near Trinity. When the LAPD investigated this Al Morrison, they didn’t turn up any proof that Morrison ever existed. Naturally police suspected Smith himself was the mysterious Morrison.
After Gilmore took taped interviews to the LAPD, Smith became impossible to track down. However, the LAPD and Detective Badge Number One, John St. John, was sure that Al Morrison was Smith: Smith related details about the murder that only the murderer could have known. These were details that the hordes of whackos who “confessed” to the murder of the Black Dahlia knew nothing about. Wouldn’t you know it, Smith was a smoker and one night, he nodded off while smoking and died in a fire in his tiny room in the Holland Hotel near downtown. Not only might he have been a deranged killer, he was a (gasp) smoker and stupid, too.
So Short’s “maybe” killer was suddenly gone. And, surprise it wasn’t a doctor with the skill to surgically cut Elizabeth Short into two. It was a loser, one of countless zeros wandering around Los Angeles. How he was able to sever poor Short so precisely is also a mystery. Probably just a fluke. The whole area where Short’s body was dumped was Mr. Smith’s neighborhood and playground and on the night Short was abducted he may have been the psychopath who came out to play in the worst manner possible. Maybe. In his article, Miller wondered why pretty Elizabeth Short had given Arnold Smith the time of day.
“With them, I think it was a very strange connection of the cripple,” Gilmore told me. “She was crippled. She was a defective individual, and he was a defective individual. And you have a tense situation with people whose nerves are on the surface, where the antennas are very clear with one another. Very clear. I think he was a man who just overrode all boundaries. I don’t think he even recognized boundaries in life… plus, he was stalking her, so it was simply a matter of time. “
If that isn’t the most insulting and derogatory explanation in the history of crime then it’s a very close second. Short wasn’t a “cripple.” If she had defective genitalia that didn’t mean she wasn’t able to walk or was in some manner physically handicapped, which is the definition of a cripple (personally I loathe the word cripple, a demeaning label). She also wasn’t handicapped. Flawless is another contention of mine. Why would Short even compare her own genetic “flaw” with the darkness inside of this psychopath’s mind? I’m sure nothing of the kind occurred to her. Short herself didn’t “override all boundaries” as Gilmore seems to imply. She lived very flamboyantly and took many chances with her well-being, but she remained firm in her ethics and self-respect, two traits the killer lacked. She also maintained social ties and respected laws, two more aspects of the murderer that clearly he didn’t possess.
Miller suspects that it was Elizabeth Short’s insecurities that led her to associate with the wrong people, at the wrong time. I can allow for this perspective, as it isn’t cruel and has an element of truth to it. I think it was more that Short was ignorant of the people with whom she associated. We don’t know what story Smith (if it was him at all) gave her about her Hollywood connections. We also don’t know that she went with him willingly. How many kidnappers and rapists hide in bushes and around corners, then take a woman by force? I’ve heard of a rapist walking up to a victim in daylight, sticking a knife in her side and telling her if she didn’t walk with him he would kill her. As usual, people are willing to blame the victim for her horrible fate, rather than putting the blame where it belongs…on the killer.
Gilmore felt she was ambitious but “afraid of running into herself”:
“…She played these games out with men, and reached a point where… it was time to get up and do the act. And she couldn’t do the act– I think it was a moment of great anxiety for her, which might have been all along leading up to a point where she fled. She left and ran. I think (Smith) was there at the right time, at the right place, as if to say, take my hand– the spider and the fly. And I think she was a willing fly. She was willing herself into the crime, as weird as that might sound. So you could look at him as an incidental thing, an appendage to her success or something, as a noir star, a dark star.”
I only wish Short was alive today to hear that statement. I would love to hear her answer to that supposition, that she was willing to sacrifice her life to a man who would torture her for 2 – 3 days, slice her in half and dump her body on the side of a road in a horribly demeaning position. Gilmore’s theories are beyond stupid – they are degrading to all women and are completely inane. And insofar as Short’s success went, it is well-known that there was none. She didn’t reach her goal as an actress. She had a few modelling jobs that didn’t pay well and that was the closest to success that this lovely woman ever reached.
Miller ruminated: How many things could Elizabeth Short have done differently after she arrived in LA to avoid her run-in with Arnold Smith on January 14, 1947? Standing there in the shadow of the Holland Hotel, I finally realized what it was about the Black Dahlia murder. In its uniquely haunting way, Elizabeth Short’s story is a play about randomness– the Black Dahlia case embodies the consequences of Chance in a stark nutshell. By naive, dumb chance, Elizabeth Short’s path crossed that of a murderer. And from that point on, a shortly wound clock was ticking towards her macabre murder.
I agree with Miller wholeheartedly when he says the Black Dahlia’s fate was one of chance and randomness. (When he says naive, dumb chance he doesn’t insult Short, he implies it was the very bad luck of the draw that their paths crossed at all). In other words, the Dahlia could have been anyone who immersed herself into Hollywood without understanding its demographic, and not just Short. She was a random choice on his part. Not her own.
About his foray into Hollywood, Miller stated, “Freaks with Black Dahlia tattoos walk the streets of America. Goatee-sporting, cappuccino-sipping, wanna-be-arty gothic-types sit in coffee houses rambling on about Elizabeth Short, practically deifying the girl.” Miller can say with surety that “America” is wearing tattoos of Short or has he only seen them in Hollywood? And are they freaks? Millions of people are obsessed with Short. Does that make all of us freaks? What about Miller himself? He doesn’t consider himself among these many “freaks” because he doesn’t wear Short’s remains or face on his arm, and perhaps he doesn’t tend to hang out in coffee shops having discussions about Short. Oh wait a minute….he did exactly that with Gilmore when he researched Short for this article. And so the hypocrisy and irony around the Short story continues unabated, even by so-called “professional” authors and journalists.