The Media

The media played a huge role in the popularity of the case. In Los Angeles, and especially in Hollywood, getting the most sellable photos and headlines was imperative for a newspaper to survive and to make it to the top of the “heap”, so to speak. Los Angeles was a prime example of the lengths Phoebe%20Phoneeditors and publishers would go to sell the most copies. In fact, Wayne Sutton, a man who worked for the Herald newspaper, contacted Phoebe Short after Short’s murder and lied to the woman, telling her that her daughter had recently won a beauty contest in order to get more information about Short. Finally, Sutton admitted the ruse but Phoebe refused to believe it. It wasn’t until local Medford police attended Phoebe’s house that she realized what the reporter had told her was true. Such was the evil length newspaper reporters would go to in order to snare a good story.

Short was murdered in an era when the more graphic a photo,  the more copies of the newspaper were sold. By contrast, today there’s a standard where only specific events warrant the publishing of corpses. Although the general public would probably appreciate seeing the gory details (I base that supposition on the popularity of such violent and idiotic television programs as Gerry Springer), mainstream newspapers disallow it. It is permissible to publish the photo of a dead person whose identity is sought by police. In Short’s case, her mouth had to be sewn shut and her photo retouched in order to publish it, not so much for decency’s sake, as to make it more viable that a member of the public would recognize her in life. (Hence the odd criss-cross markings on the top left of her mouth in the photograph, although in actuality, they would have been gilmoreon the right).

Authors have also kept the Short case very much alive (pun). One such book has a free PDF download being Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia, by John Gilmore. Gilmore is a novelist, non-fiction author, musician and a former actor. He studied at the Actors Studio in New York City, learning Method Acting from Lee and Paula Strasberg, the same trainers who taught Marilyn Monroe and several other notable actors. I don’t agree with all of Gilmore’s opinions and speculations ,but his book makes for a worthwhile read. The other issue I take with Gilmore is his ability to somehow reiterate complete (and supposedly true) conversations among people from 65 years ago.

Although Gilmore never had an actual relationship with Short, he claims to have met her as a child. “She was my light in this shadow world,” he wrote in his book, whatever the heck that means. He stated dahlia7quite proudly that he was able to glean information out of dying LAPD officers because “you catch them with their pants down.” How lovely. Crime reporter Aggie Underwood stated “nobody in town is going to print any pictures of this one.” That’s not to say that people like Underwood and others from the press wouldn’t try to sell their photographs of the severed Short.

Gilmore wrote accurately about Detective Harry Hansen’s perspective of the crime scene. Hansen has stated in interviews what Gilmore wrote in his book that “a murder scene had its own special kind of life for the detective ,its own signature…. the spot where she was found was a “sacred setting.” ThLA_EX_470116lris is common thinking and practice among police officers today however it may not have been during the 1940s. I wouldn’t know that information. Police apparently reached the conclusion that  the killer didn’t use a knife with a serrated edge due to the smooth cutting. Eventually police would officially state a butcher knife and a razor had been used to sever and torture poor Short. It was suggested that the corpse had been kept on ice because her fingerprints appeared to be shrunken. It was also surmised that Short had been killed quite a while before she was brought to the vacant lot at North Avenue. That along with the puffiness of her face made identification difficult.

At first when there was no identification of the murder victim, Short was called “Girl” by the press. After her identity was located from fingerprints the FBI found when Short worked at Camp Cooke years before, she was nicknamed the Black Dahlia. The press of course revealed her true identity as Elizdahlia_herald_24_dumaisabeth Short but seldom did the headlines ever state her real name. She wasn’t Elizabeth Short, the person. She was the girl who was tortured and slain. She was the Black Dahlia, a name almost as foreboding as the murder itself. They might as well have called her Funeral Lily. It was this name that kept the story in the spotlight for decades. There were other heinous murders of beautiful young women in Hollywood and across America but this story has endured where many others have faded as surely as the paper they were once printed on.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Black Dahlia Apparel

Much attention has been centered around Short`s manner of dress when she was alive.  In fact, her apparel is part of the rumour as to how her media name, Black Dahlia, began. Some say Short was called Black Dahlia in life because of her penchant for wearing black, her black hair, and the dahlia she usually wore in her hairdo. A deli owner on     stated “     she was known as the Black Dahlia.“ Personally I doubt this story. None of Short`s friends have confirmed it and certainly none of them ever stated toblack-dalhia-p1 police or press that they called Short the Black Dahlia when she was living. Aside from this, Short also liked to wear other colours besides black; she particularly favoured pink and blue.

It is also rumoured that Short got her nickname from the movie The Blue Dahlia, a film that was released the previous year. The press made a play on words from the movie to Short`s nickname, although in the film the Dahlia wasn`t a person but a nightclub. I believe this is the likely source of Short`s media name.

The press degraded Short`s style of dress. They described her as wearing “sheer`` (meaning transparent) blouses and purple_dahlia_line_art_wip_by_robouser1469-d486te2tight skirts. This information was false. There are many pictures of Short in public with dates, friends, and alone. Her clothes are tasteful and they embody the “ideal“ feminine wardrobe of the time: high-collared blouses, and A-line skirts.

Anne Toth stated that Short, “ was fastidious about herself. She was the type that didn’t want anybody to touch her clothes and she didn’t want to touch theirs. She washed everything, she was a very meticulous person.” Short went without food in order to buy new clothes. Short added the flower as an afterthought, a piece of her own signature style. Short had no idea how significant the little flower would one day become. The flower wasn`t with Short`s body when it was discovered. The killer must have kept it as a souvenir.

 

Phoebe Sawyer Short

Phoebe and Cleo Short were married for several years before Cleo abandoned the family in what looked like a suicide. In reality, the selfish man had left for Vallejo, California. Cleo left his wife alone to deal with bankruptcy, credit collectors and Phoebe%20Phonedebt. She couldn’t afford the $35.00 a month to rent the spacious house they lived in at the time, so Phoebe took the family to a smaller house on Evans Street  instead. Two months later the landlord increased the rent substantially and the family was forced to move again. Finally they settled in the downstairs floor of a two-family house on Magoun Avenue. It was very cramped and a makeshift bedroom had to be made for Elizabeth, Eleanora and Muriel on the sun porch. As cramped as the house was the family managed to stay in a good neighbourhood, Phoebe’s most important concern. Now and then Phoebe got work as a bookkeeper but the family mostly lived on welfare and Mother’s Allowance. Phoebe is pictured here using the phone after Elizabeth’s murder. Phoebe wore her own flower in her hat, as was the fashion of the day.

Like Elizabeth, Phoebe enjoyed movies. She got free passes and twice a week she took Elizabeth and Muriel with her. The other girls , Eleanora aeliznd Virginia, weren’t interested in films. Muriel remembered Elizabeth making the trip to the movies a special event. She made sure they dressed up and went window shopping in ladies’ boutiques along the way, dreaming of a time when they would be able to afford the gorgeous apparel they saw. Later in life, Short would spend every penny she had on beautiful clothes; she went hungry rather than skimping on money for clothes. She was accustomed to living without ample food but the yearning she had for the lovely dresses and skirts she’d never worn as a little girl never left her.

After a time, the landlord on Magoun also increased the rent. Apparently elizthere was no rent control in Massachusetts. Phoebe found yet another home for her brood on (of all the coincidental names) Salem Street. It was yet another step down in the world for Phoebe but by then she had secured a full-time, 6 day a week job at a bakery in Medord Square. Often, Elizabeth, Virginia and Eleanora whispered about Cleo, wondering what had happened. Phoebe wasn’t inclined to discuss her errant husband with her children. This may have contributed to the void in Short’s life after her father left. Perhaps all the dating and attention-seeking was the behaviour of a love-starved girl whose trauma over the abandonment by her father had never faded.

Suddenly out of nowhere Cleo contacted Phoebe and asked her if she would take him back. To her credit, Phoebe emphatically told him not to contact her again. After the hell he’d put his family through for several years, it was astounding that Cleo even thought he stood a chance. He didn’t take rejection well. Afterward, he never contacted his family again. That was the end of Cleo and Phoebe Short.

Decades after the murder, Phoebe stated to an interviewer,  “She was a very affectionate, sweet girl and if she was out at night she always stopped in my Phoebe Phone (1)bedroom to talk. And she would talk and talk and tell everything that she had done and everything.” Clearly mother and daughter were close. Mrs. Short told reporters that, “It was only 10 days ago when she wrote me from San Diego telling me she had a job in the naval hospital there. I never dreamed that  she was having financial difficulties. Her letters were always so cheerful.” That was very much like Short; she could put on happy airs around people when necessary but in reality she wasn`t a happy girl most of the time. It is possible that her father`s abandonment of the family when she was a child had a great deal to do with her sadness. And Short`s lack of funds likely led to her murder, since in dating different men she managed to keep herself fed.

At the inquest in Los Angeles, Mrs. Short was asked to tell about hearing of her daughter’s death. “She was murdered!” she said, rising from her chair. Silence fell over the courtroom as Mrs. Short regained her composure. She stated, “Elizabeth phoebealways wanted to be an actress. She was ambitious and beautiful and full of life, but she had her moments of despondency. Betty always loved California so, so I think we’ll have the funeral in Berkeley. That is, as soon as the body is released.“Short`s married sister, Mrs. Adrian West, told reporters about Short before the funeral: “She was always being told how pretty she was and I guess it went to her head. We just can’t understand the things they say about her in the papers. She was never like that. We just can’t believe it.” 

After 35 years, the press still wanted to know Phoebe`sdahlia clipping thoughts about the unsolved murder:“I expect it would
be good to close the case, but like I say, I’m not a person that holds a grudge, but I, I would like to see the case closed.”

Virginia Short, Short`s sister, said, “This case seems to be constantly coming up. It’s never been buried, it’s never been solved. But there always seems to be, you know, unfinished business with it. It’s a very mysterious kind of thing.”

A Herald Times editor named Wayne Sutton, was assigned to locate Short’s mother in Medford, MA. Sutton found her and used the cruel ruse that Short had won a beauty contest in order to obtain lots of information about her. Phoebe loved to talk about her beautiful daughter.  Sutton finally bd doeexhausted the beauty contest sham, and his boss instructed him to tell Mrs. Short the truth about Elizabeth. In shock and skeptical, Phoebe refused to believe Sutton. It was inconceivable. Local Medford cops were contacted and they went to Phoebe’s house to tell her the news, confirming Sutton`s story.The horror of that day and that phone call has long subsided, but the lack of closure continues for Phoebe Short and her children. The public and LA police know a thing or two about that.

 

 

1940s Vintage Makeup Beauty

Trust the press to exaggerate a situation to (gasp) sell a newspaper. However this little gem is inspired by a true story. out gangLIPSTICK CAUSES DIVORCE – AGAIN! was the headline about  Darla Hood`s divorce from her husband after she discovered lipstick smears on her husband`s shirt. Hood had played the role of an adorable little heartbreaker in the original “Òur Gang“ series, later known as ``L`il Rascals.“ No doubt Short knew the value of a good lipstick.

Linda Rohr, one of Short`s roommates and a pretty-looking girl, worked for a time at Max Factor`s in the Rouge Room    department. She was openly critical of Short`s makeup, since makeup was supposedly meant to enhance a woman`s natural beauty during the 1940s. This trend came about with movie stars such as Ingrid Bergman (how it was that audiences knew Bergman wore a natural look when her films were in black and white is anyone`s guess). Short preferred a heavy, made-up look. She felt it made her look glamorous.

Rohr`s comment was, “She had pretty blue eyes but black dahlia eyessometimes I think she overdid with make-up an inch thick.” She described Elizabeth Short’s finished look as “startling and almost geisha-like.“ Short`s pale skin was about two shades lighter than her own. about an inch thick. startling like a geisha. Short ignored the natural beauty trend and presented a glamorous face to the world. It is sickeningly ironic that in death, her red mouth would be slashed from ear to ear and that her beautiful face would be unrecognizable. In face the gashes from her mouth to her ears had to be sewn shut in order to recreate her real face for a police poster seeking information on her. That beautiful face that had charmed so many men and meant so much to Short would one day become a symbol not of glamour, but of absolute annihilation.

This blog started off fun with a vintage make-up tutorial and a ridiculous divorce story. But this is the story of Elizabeth Short. Were you hoping for a fun ending too.

 

Mark Hansen

Of all the men Short was involved with, Hansen is the most peculiar. Mark Marinus Hansen was born in Aalborg, Denmark on July 25, 1890 and moved to the United States in 1919. In 1921, Hansen moved to Los Angeles. He lived at Melrose and Larchmont and owned the Larchmont Theatre. He also had a theater in Whittier, one in San Pedro, one in Walnut Park, three in Oxnard and three in downtown Los Angeles. Clearly, Hansen was smitten with movie stars and Hollywood. In 1926, Hansen built the Marcal Theatre as a playhouse. He and his wife separated from each other in the mid 1940′s.

Mark%20Hansen%2021When he knew Elizabeth Short in the 1940′s, Hansen was a Hollywood resident and a successful businessman. At the time, he was described as 55 years old, 5′ 9′, 175 lb, with graying hair and an accent. He was also chubby and utterly banal in appearance. Hansen owned two rooming houses, and was part owner of the Florentine Gardens, a nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard. Hansen’s friend, actress Anne Toth, lived with him off and on at the house on Carlos Avenue. Short also stayed at Hansen’s house for two weeks in October and ten days in November, 1946.

Short waitressed at the Gardens for a time and it was in this manner that the two met. He became interested in her soon after she began working for him. At some point she quit her job and moved in with Hansen, but like all of her living arrangements, it didn’t last long. Short lived with Hansen for two weeks in October and ten days in November of 1946. However when she lived there, Short wasn’t his only female occupant.

Hansen had a reputation for being a ladies’ man. He only OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhired beautiful, young women to dance as showgirls at the Gardens. A beautiful girl who could put one foot in front of the other without falling over was easily hired. Whenever a beautiful young woman was short on cash, Hansen, ever the white knight, offered her a room in his home for free….well, free where cash was concerned.

Short and her friend Marjorie Graham were first brought to his home by Sid Zaid, a musician of questionable character, in October, 1946. According to Hansen the girls stayed, “Perhaps about a week or ten days; something like that.” He asked them to leave, “because this Graham girl, she was inclined to be liquored up and I didn’t like it at all; and this Short girl, she had always some undesirable looking character waiting for her outside and bringing her home.” Toth explained it more succinctly “Well, Marjorie drank up all of Mark’s liquor, so he kicked her out, so out Betty went too. I don’t blame him.”

Hansen welcomebette1d shady clients into his club: Mafia kingpin Mickey Cohen was an
occasional visitor, as were his henchmen. However, the Gardens was also a watering hole for celebrities, servicemen and regular folk with the right look and money to spend.  After the murder Hansen became a suspect. However when investigators approached Hansen he put an abrupt halt to their questions by threatening to go to the media about the police officers he paid off to remain open to the public. That was the end of that lead.

eliza ann toth interShort’s eventual roommate Anne Toth, knew Short and Hansen quite well. For a time Toth also lived with Hansen although they weren’t romantically involved. She believed Short was infatuated with Hansen and that the feeling was mutual. However, both Hansen and Short continued to see other people. Hansen played down his interest in Short. One of those open-type dating relationships I guess and a volatile one. Short moved out of Hansen’s place on October 22, but moved back in on October 23. Toth stated that Short had placed a long distance telephone call to Texas, to this Fickling, and I think that sort of — she charged it on his telephone bill, and I don’t think she told him about it. That is one of the things too, he wanted her to — then of course, I think she paid for it later.”

Inspector Jemison’s report said, “Anne and her friend Leo
Hymes state that Mmark_5ark was crazy about her and jealous of her, that he is a man who must have what he wants. Beth 
told Anne Toth that Mark was trying to make her, that he was jealous so she had to leave boyfriends at the corner so he wouldn’t see them.” Hansen also owned an apartment building under the name of, what else, the Gardens.  He had one of his tenants, “who was in the dressmaking business,” make two dresses for her “which she fitted and made, but never delivered to the victim.

Short permanently moved out of Hansen’s home on November 13, 1946, after an argument with another of Hansen’s girls. Hansen led Short to believe they were exclusive or at least pretty close to it, but then he allowed other girls to move in with him. One afternoon Short caught Hansen with another woman and ordered her to go home, calling the woman a “tramp.” The womAnna%20Tothan replied in an equally insulting manner but before the two women became involved in a physical fight, Hansen ordered Short to move out. Seriously. Make up your mind, dude. “
One afternoon Hansen and Toth visited the LAPD Homicide office where there were twenty reporters and photographers. Hansen stated he was nobody and that he was Toth’s  chauffeur. “Well, he used to get provoked at me about mentioning his name, he, at that time, to the papers, and one thing and another, which I didn’t.  Only they found [Short’s] address book and, of course, they got his name, but I didn’t mention his name or anything.”

For a time Short and Graham returned to Hansen’s residence but supposedly not for a long-term stay. Short brought a man named Marvin Margolis with her and both told Mark that Margolis was Short’s cousin. Cousin? Whatever. The two women stated they wanted to leave town, as they were going to go east and Margolis was going with them. Hansen explained, “Later thiGreyhound%20Depot%203s Graham girl came over one night.  I wasn’t home, but she was sitting, eating dinner, and she was sitting eating dinner and crying.”

“The next day [Margolis] came around there and carried the suitcase up and I says, ‘What’s this?’ He says, ‘Can she leave this here overnight? She’s going away tomorrow and would like to leave these until tomorrow.’”  Clearly, Margolis was finished with Short and was dropping off her belongings at Hansen’s house. Hansen stated “that night I come home Beth Short was there.” Is anyone else confused here or is it just me? And does this sound like a page out of a high school girl’s diary? Who says that the adult years bring about adult behaviour? Certainly it didn’t happen for Short and Graham.

On January 25, 1947, Hansen was again interviewed by police in  his home. “Several girls have rented rooms here at the house, but I never went out with them.  She had lots of dates. There was a language teacher that I know of, and with other persons, mostly hoodlums whom I wouldn’t even let in my house.” He also indicated that a memorandum and calendar book was missing.  “I believe Miss Short stole that.”

“I thought you were just going to leave your suitcases,  and she said,  ‘I didn’t have no place to stay.’  Would I mind if she stayed.  She kept staying and staying. (To Hansen’s way of thinking 10 days is “staying and staying.”) Then she moved over to the Chancellor Apartment.  Then it was after that oOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAne night she was sitting and crying about being scared – one thing and another, I don’t know.  She said she was going to Oakland to a sister.  Well, from there she wanted to know if she couldn’t come back there when she came from Oakland. She said she was scared.” What Short was scared of remained unmentioned,which
is not to say that Hansen wasn’t aware of it. Was it Margolis? Graham? Something or someone else? Perhaps it was her fear of abandonment and not having a place to live again. Or maybe something much darker.

It was then that Toth found an apartment for Short at the Chancellor. Short visited Hansen and Toth later, telling them that she didn’t like living at the Chancellor. Hansen stated: “I felt sorry for her.  She said there was bad company over there and she couldn’t stand it. She say she was going to Oakland during the holidays with her sister. When she comes back she says she would call me to see if I changed my mind, to see if she would stay at the house. I never saw her again.”

lola_titus_&_thad_brownHansen himself nearly met an early demise. In 1949, Lola Titus shot Mark Hansen while he was in the bathroom of his Carlos Avenue home. Lola, aka Beverly Alice Bennett and nicknamed  “The Lady in Gold,” was a 25-year-old blond taxi dancer. Apparently she was a darned good shot, at least at close range, but she didn’t quite accomplish her goal of murdering Hansen. The bullet pierced a lung and missed his heart by 7/10 of an inch. Lola explained to the press, “I made up my mind that he was either going to love me, marry me or take care of me or I was going to kill him.” In the investigation Lola was listed as a, “Friend of Short. Never thoroughly quizzed.” 

I don’t believe Hansen was a viable suspect in the Short case. He had no reason to kill her and certainly I can’t see him committing murder in such a gruesome manner. Short was no threat to him personally or professionally. His statement “I felt sorry for her” is very telling. A sympathetic sadistic murderer has never existed. I’m unaware of a connection between Titus and Short. If you have information to share, I would like to print it.

 

Janice Knowlton and Daddy Dearest

I’ve blogged twice about John Gilmore and his “expert” opinions about Short. Another author of Daddy was the Black Dahlia Killer, Janice Knowlton, insisted to Pamela Hazleton, owner of the Black Dahlia Website that Gilmore is a “selfish bookbastard none of us should trust.” Ouch. I don’t necessarily trust Gilmore but I wouldn’t refer to him as a “selfish bastard.” My guess is that Knowlton objects to the fact that Gilmore is out to make his money with his text about Short and for that reason possibly refuses to share any information with her. Well, doesn’t going for that bestseller and the royalties that accompany it place Knowlton in the same category?  Knowlton stated that Gilmore sent her “threatening letters” when she was writing her own book about Short. Certainly threatening letters are a problem but I’d have to read one to believe it.

Perhaps the worst thing Knowlton wrote about Short in her own book was that Short was a “peddler” of children and a pedophile. Now that type of rumour makes my blood boil, more than any other. It has to be one of the worst slurs I’ve ever heard about Short. Why does Knowlton write it? To make money, of course. And we’re back to the selfish thing again. Something about the pot calling down the kettle, I believe. Knowlton’s book is only going to sell if she can sensationalize it. This is another one of those “tell-all” (the bullshit) books I will not be reading. How does Knowlton know that her father George Knowlton was the BD killer? Because he raped and beat Knowlton repeatedly over the years and during her traumatic flashbacks over the decades she somehow came to the conclusion that daddy dearest also killed Short. She recalled him celiza7ommitting beating and killing their animals, beating her mother…when the repressed memories came o
ut, it was of him murdering other people.
It gets better than that. Knowlton claims that her father and Short were lovers and  Short was a frequent visitor. Knowlton was told to call Short Aunt Betty, but her mother set her straight: “she’s not your aunt, she’s just another of your father’s whores.” Knowlton said that her father had been having an affair with Short and that Short was staying in a makeshift bedroom in their garage, where she suffered a miscarriage.

Along with those repressed memories, Knowlton recalled being in the garage with her daddy when he killed Short. Forced to participate, the young Knowlton carried “guilt feelings” for years. Knowlton said she was later forced to accompany her father when he disposed of the body. Knowlton’s therapist, whom I suspect has been cut in for a percentage of Knowlton’s royalties, stbd11_001ated on Inside Edition that “I think a pretty seasoned therapist is good at this.”
Personally, I wouldn’t have said that out loud. Police in Los Angeles and Westminster dismissed Knowlton’s Black Dahlia story when it surfaced. Naturally the facts Knowlton delivered to Det. John St John (better known as Jigsaw John – let’s hope that isn’t a dark joke about his participation in the Short case) aren’t compatible with Knowlton’s staggering retrieved memories. I tend to side with the detective. In 1991, she persuaded skeptical  Westminster police detectives to search for evidence of the Black Dahlia murder — and that of another murder she believed her father committed — by excavating a vacant lot, the site of her former home. Nothing to warrant a criminal investigation was found. Here is a pitch for the book: Carefully documenting her claims, she exposes George Knowlton’s 30-year rampage of rape and murder. Even more shocking is the evidence she provides 

black dahlia smilerevealing that the police always knew the killer’s identity. Additionally, without any evidence of course, Knowlton has the audacity to state that,“Be
th Short stole too much from me when I was nine and ten. She and curiosity-seekers will get no more.”

This statement was a response to Hazleton, who invited her to participate in a 3-hour chat session on her blog (I believe) about her book with interested members of the public. Knowlton abruptly refused. She didn’t wish to be questioned about her book even though it was a great promotional opportunity.   Knowlton didn’t mind promoting herself and her book with the press, however. “Any time we ran anything about the Black Dahlia case, she’d leave long, rambling voice messages on my answering machine at The Times,” said Larry Harnisch, a Times copy editor. Harnisch’s curiosity was pblack dahlia eyesiqued by Knowlton’s silence after a Nov. 21 Los Angeles Times Magazine article on Steve Hodel about his supposed killer father George Hodel was published. Harnisch began
investigating, as any good editor will do, and discovered that Knowlton died March 5 at her home. The Orange County coroner’s office classified the death as a suicide from the combined effect of five drugs. Jolane Emerson, Knowlton’s stepsister, told The Times she “her story was trash, and it wasn’t even true. She believed it, but it wasn’t reality. I know, because I lived with her father for 16 years.” Her stepfather, a foundry worker who died in 1962, “could be meaner and ornerier thacomfort ringn heck, but he wasn’t a killer.” Of course, Knowlton has further repressed memories that involved another horrific murder – this one being Georgette Bauerdorf. I assumed there would be a sequel to the Short memories had she lived.

There exists an amateur yet sensible theory about the death or disastrous misfortune of a person called the Comfort Theory.  It’s something that should be (and typically is) common sense to most of us, but not to the Janice Knowltons of this world (or the next). The theory (illustrated on the left) states that when you consider the misfortunes of others, it’s NOT all about YOU (Janice, are you listening up there on your cloud)? The comfort theory is best illustrated with rings or circles.

dahlia bikiniIn the centre ring is the victim (Short). All rings circling outward are the people closest to her who are the most effected by  her murder. Obviously that includes her mother and sisters, then her friends such as Anne Toth and her ex-boyfriend Gordon Fickling. The further out the rings are (which means the bigger the rings) the less connected these people are to the subject at hand. These are the LEAST important people in the circle. These are the people who think “it’s all about me” when clearly it is not. Somehow these egocentric types believe their experiences with the person in the centre of the ring matter more than that person him or herself. Never mind what suffering Short has been through: it’s all about Knowlton, or Hodel, or anyone else who is out to make a profit from Short’s tragedy and in doing so, keeps the spotlight firmly on him or her.  And for many Black Dahlia authors, that’s all it’s about.

Richard Miller and the Black Dahlia “Expert”

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.

gilmoreGilmore, 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 elizabeth_short_nd_man_lapd_01_thumbwoman 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 weES 2222ird 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. Johnblack-dalhia-p1, 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 thelizabethe 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 02-Marilyn-Manson_mm_eliz_short_1led 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 consequeGreyhound%20Depot%203nces 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-black_dahlia_by_mistertrece-d5rl2iqsporting, 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.