This excerpt is from the website The Black Dahlia in the Dial Murder Network. Additional lines are added by me in regular font.
Too much time has passed and too many witnesses are gone to accurately reconstruct a typical day in the life of Elizabeth Short in Hollywood in 1946, and especially the last day of her life, but we can imagine what might have been:
Before she returned to her apartment that evening, Beth walked through the front door of Musso and Frank’s on Hollywood Boulevard and made her way to the back of the restaurant and entered a telephone booth. She closed the door, dropped her nickel and dialed GR-9953. When the salesgirl at the other end of the line answered, she asked if they had the medicine she needed. When the girl said yes, Beth said she would be in for it the next day. Back in her apartment, Beth dyed her hair again while her roommates prepared to turn in for the night. The girls insisted she clean out the sink more carefully than last time as it was stained with purple-tinted henna for a week. She was staying with the other girls at the Chancellor on Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood. It was early December and Hollywood was starting to get ready for Christmas. Short was acutely aware that she was too low on money to buy Christmas gifts to send home to her family, or for friends in Hollywood. She hoped she would date a gentleman who was in a generous enough mood to press a few bills into her hand over the next few days.
The next day, she woke up late, dressed, put on her make-up and fixed her hair, said goodbye to her roommate Marion and then walked down the hall from room 501 to the elevator. She pulled the metal safety gate aside, entered and waited for the door and the gate to close, then pushed the button for the lobby. The elevator descended without a stop, and she entered the lobby and walked outside to the street. Beth had dressed well, as usual, wearing a new pair of Nylons and a favorite pair of shoes. Her red lipstick and curled eyelashes fave her a doll-like look. She walked south on Cherokee to Yucca Street. She looked both ways and then crossed the street and turned left.
It was a pleasant fall day and she glanced at the old houses along the street until she reached Whitley Avenue. Perhaps it was because she always felt a little sentimental at Christmas, but today the houses reminded her of the neighborhoods where she’d grown up, and the houses she’d lived in. It brought a lump into her throat. She crossed Whitley and turned south towards the Boulevard. On the corner, Beth stopped for a moment and looked at the new magazines at the Whitley newsstand. She stared at the sinister cover of Inside Detective without picking it up. “Jealous Enough to Kill,” the headline said. After a bit, she turned left onto Hollywood Boulevard and glanced at the fresh produce facing the sidewalk at the Hollywood Market. She was hungry, but she didn’t have much money. Sometimes the thought briefly crossed her mind to simply palm a piece of fruit or a vegetable but she would never do it. She felt the grumbling in her stomach and kept walking towards Vine to her favorite drugstore.
As she walked along, she saw the theater marquees of the Hollywood Music Hall at Hudson and the Warner at Wilcox. “One day, my name will be up there,” she thought hopefully, her heart aching a little. She wanted to see the new Alan Ladd movie, but it wasn’t showing on the Boulevard. She’d enjoyed his last film, The Blue Dahlia, very much. She passed Ben’s Smoke Shop on the way to Cahuenga Boulevard and she heard a car horn honk for her, but she didn’t look over. She was used to the sound of car horns, but except for her hunger, she wasn’t interested today. She didn’t want to have a forced conversation, as if she found her date fabulously fascinating in order to eat.
She passed an acquaintance, Paul Burke, a young actor who tended bar at the Florentine Gardens in the Zanzibar Room. She wanted to duck into a nearby drug store, but he’d already spotted her. He stopped her briefly and asked if she’d seen the new John Payne movie, “Wake Up and Dream.” “It just opened last week. I had a small part in it,” he told her. She congratulated him, smiled and then continued her walk. Apparently producers were giving parts to anyone these days. A newsboy was yelling out headlines to automobiles on the corners, but paused to watch her pass by. She winked at the kid and he smiled at her. He’d have something to brag about to his friends later.
When she reached the corner at Cahuenga, Beth crossed the street and walked east on the south side. The sun was not as bright and she window-shopped at Macy’s Jewelry on the corner and later at Lucy’s and Chandler Shoes. When she got to Vine she walked through the main floor of the Broadway Hollywood and looked at ladies gloves and handbags. They were too expensive for her, but sometimes she enjoyed looking. One day when she was a famous actress, she’d buy out the store. Although she’d been depressed lately, despondent over her lack of employment, Short pepped herself with positive self-talk. Moving to Hollywood was still the best thing she’d ever done. It was just a matter of time before something remarkable happened to her.
She walked out the Vine Street door and passed Mike Lyman’s restaurant to see if she knew anyone there. She was hungry by now, and if she ran into someone she knew, she might be invited for lunch. She didn’t recognize anyone and continued to walk down Vine, past the Lux Radio Playhouse and Mom’s Hot Dogs, towards Selma. Short thought of calling Mark Hansen again but she’d be
damned if she’d let the aging lothario know she was again financially bereft after the way he’d treated her. Besides, she felt smug knowing Hansen had practically begged Anne Toth, her roommie, to tell him where she was living now. Anne had refused. Short liked the thought of Hansen being jealous and baffled as to how she could live without him.
She crossed Selma and headed towards one of her favorite places, Tom Breneman’s, where most of the staff knew her.
Sometimes they offered her a free serving of toast and an orange juice when she was alone because she often brought in h er dates which meant more business for them. Today however she walked past Breneman’s and when she got to the Thrifty drugstore, she noticed a few Christmas advertisements in the window and then went in. Inside, the sales clerk, Jean Knudsen, remembered her telephone call from the night before and knew what she wanted. Beth had asked for something to “help me stop biting my finger nails.” She paid Mrs. Knudsen her last two pennies and thanked her. She still had a nickel left.
Beth checked the seams on her nylons, went back outside and walked across Vine near the NBC Radio City studios and up towards Hollywood Boulevard. She passed the Brown Derby and Owl Drugstore and waited for the signal to change and a streetcar to pass. She walked with a deliberate swivel, her breasts thrust out and her chin held high. She’d learned that in the modelling course she’d managed to afford. It was only one course, but better than none. Men often paused to take a second look at this striking, hourglass-shaped woman. Then, Short crossed to the north side of the street. She noticed that Ken Murray’s Blackouts was still playing at the El Capitan up on Vine. On the opposite corner, she saw people were bustling in and out of Melody Lane.
The light changed, and as she made her way across Vine, another driver honked at her and she heard a wolf whistle. She ignored the car and stepped up on the curb and continued on down the Boulevard towards home. She had a few postcards and letters to mail at the post office on Wilcox, but otherwise, she had no plans for the day. One postcard was to Marjorie Graham, who’d moved back to Massachusetts weeks ago. The letter was for her mother. It was cheerfully worded as always and she didn’t hint at her financial difficulties, or that she was always hungry. She knew her mother would start sending her money and Phoebe herself was on a very fixed income.
Several ideas crossed Short’s mind as she walked along. She’d hoped for a phone call from her modelling agent about getting an audition for a small part in a movie but none had come. In fact, she hadn’t had an audition for months and it didn’t look as though she would anytime soon. She hadn’t had a modelling job in quite some time, even though she called the agency regularly. It baffled her that she wasn’t getting more jobs. She was easily as beautiful as any of the young women who were constantly working. She’d met a girl at Breneman’s named Norma Jeane Dougherty who didn’t look that glamorous to her with her red, kinky hair and round nose, but she was always working. Short knew she was far prettier than Norma Jeane. Dougherty must have been one of those girls who didn’t mind the casting couch if it meant getting a role. Short wouldn’t even consider it. That was like prostitution as far as she was concerned.
Sometimes Short thought about marrying one of the men who admired her and settling into a domestic life, where money was steady and she could eat regularly but that had not been the goal when she arrived in Hollywood and it wasn’t now. She might stop at Bradley’s five and ten for a Coke and run into some friends. Or, she might stop at the Cherokee Building first and see if Dr. Faught was in. She was still hungry, so she considered stopping by Steve Boardner’s. She had met some servicemen there before, and if she saw them again, they might offer to treat her to lunch.
As if fate was answering her prayers, another horn honked at her and a car pulled up beside her. Short glanced around at him. He was pleasant-looking with intense eyes partially hidden behind wire frame glasses and a non-descript manner of dress. “Hey you’re Beth Short, right?” he kept talking without giving her a chance to answer. “I’m sure I’ve heard of you. You’re an actress or something? I’m sure I’ve seen you in movies. You look so familiar.” Blushing, Short tossed her mane of black hair , straightened up a little and lied, “well I have had a couple of small roles. I’m working on larger roles. Where have you heard about me?” She was known for telling stories.
“Hey listen, climb in. I’ll treat you to lunch and tell you all about it. In fact, I know a guy in the industry. I’m sure he’d be interested in meeting you.” Short thought about it for a
moment. The man’s eyes locked on hers. He kept an unwavering grin on his face, tapping his steering wheel with his knuckles and waiting. It was a pleasant fall day in December in Hollywood and Beth had no plans. Short climbed into the man’s car and shut the door, smiling at him. He didn’t smile back. Instead, the man pressed the gas pedal quite hard, pulling abruptly away from the curb. Short’s body jerked forward and she nearly hit the dashboard. She glanced at him, her eyes registering doubt. The man’s face was grim as he appeared to ignore her. Instead he looked straight ahead, fastening his eyes on the road. It was as though she wasn’t even in the car anymore. Short thought he muttered something that sounded like “actresses are whores.” The small hairs on the back of Short’s neck prickled.