Saturday, March 28, 2020

Elizabeth Short, aka "The Black Dahlia"

Note: This is a particularly disturbing story.  Parental guidance is suggested.

Elizabeth Short
was born was born on July 29, 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts.  She was the third of five children, and when she turned three, her family relocated to Portland, Maine.  There, her father owned a series of successful miniature golf courses, but these would disappear, along with the family's savings, in the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  A year later, her father himself disappeared.  Although his body was never found, circumstantial evidence indicated that he had committed suicide.

Fast forward twelve years to 1942.  Short's mother Phoebe received a letter from her supposedly dead husband, who had in fact relocated to San Francisco.  Elizabeth, having already dropped out of high school, moved west to reunite with her father.  There, she had a series of run ins with the law, including an arrest for underage drinking in 1943.

Short's 1943 mug shot.
Following the arrest, Short left California, this time relocating to Florida.  There, she met and fell in love with Matthew Michael Gordon, Jr., a decorated Air Force pilot.  The two were engaged and planned to marry, but it would never come to be.  Gordon's plane went down on August 10, 1945, just one week before Japan surrendered.

Following his death, she returned to California, this time settling in Los Angeles.  She spent the final six months of her life working as a waitress.  By all accounts she had aspirations of becoming a movie star, but this too, would not come to be.

On the morning of January 15, 1947, Short's body was discovered in an undeveloped area of the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles.  She was the victim of a brutal murder.  The body was naked and severed in two pieces at the torso.  These photos can be readily found on the internet if you are curious.

The case remains cold to this day and remains one of the most infamous unsolved murders in the world.  For more information, books, movies and a score of documentaries on the case are all available.

Short was interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland California.  The grave site is on a rather steep hill and can be difficult to find.  Be careful where you step!

Mountain View Cemetery
Section 66
Marker 798

  • The origin of the Black Dahlia nickname is a subject of debate.  Some claim it came from the LAPD, who noted her preference for sheer black clothing.  Others maintain it was given to her by friends at a Long Beach drug store following release of the 1946 Alan Ladd film noir The Blue Dahlia.

  • Two weeks after Short's murder, Republican state assemblyman C. Don Field introduced a bill calling for the formation of a sex offender registry.  California became the first state to make the registration of sex offenders mandatory.

  • Vlogger (yes, that's a word) Adam the Woo visits the Dahlia murder locations in this video.

  • In 2006, Brian DePalma brought the story to the big screen.  The Black Dahlia starred Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson and Hillary Swank.  The film was a complete disaster and bombed at the box office.  This blogger was dragged to it, kicking and screaming.  Feel free to watch the trailer here.

  • A number of documentaries on the case have been produced over the years.  Here's one by CBS's 48 Hours.  Running time: 1 hour, 5 minutes. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

This One's To Go

Raymond Albert Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois on October 5, 1902.  Why this is not celebrated as a national holiday I will never know.

He was the son of Czech immigrants who fulfilled the American dream of striking it rich in the land of opportunity.  Unfortunately, most of the money they made selling real estate would be lost in the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Kroc suffered a series of business failures through most of his early career.  In 1954, he was a traveling salesman for a milkshake company called Prince Castle, but had very few clients.  Then he got word of a business in San Bernardino, California, that had mysteriously bought six of his milkshake mixers.  This was unheard of at the time, and Kroc went to California to investigate.

There he met the owners of the business, Richard and Maurice McDonald, who had invented what would become the fast food industry.  Kroc was immediately impressed with their business model and wanted in on the company.  The brothers were hesitant however, having had prior franchising difficulties.
Richard and Maurice McDonald.

Kroc persisted, and the brothers ultimately allowed him to open a franchise back in Des Plaines, Illinois.  By all accounts, he was most interested in creating an environment that was safe and clean, one that customers would want to return to.  Employees were to be well groomed and were to treat customers with professionalism and respect.  Yes, we are talking about McDonald's here.

The original location in San Bernardino is today a McDonald's
museum, which this blogger visited in 2008.
The restaurant was a success, and Kroc, defying the brothers, opened additional locations.

The relationship between Kroc and the brothers was tumultuous at best.  He bought them out in 1961 for a mere $2.7 million.  For more information, I highly recommend the 2016 film The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Kroc.  Watch the trailer here

Kroc died of heart failure on January 14, 1984.  He was interred at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego.

Mausoleum of the Bells Terrace
Sunset Couches
Section D
Bay 1


  • During World War I, 15-year-old Kroc lied about his age and enlisted in the Army, serving as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross.  One of his fellow drivers was a still-unknown Walt Disney.

  • In 1974, Kroc retired from McDonald's and turned to his other interest, baseball, buying the San Diego Padres.  Watch him throw out the first pitch here.  During his first year as owner, the team lost 102 games.  In 1984, shortly after his passing, the team made it to the World Series, ultimately losing to the Detroit Tigers four games to one.  Kroc was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

  • In 1977, Kroc published his autobiography Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald's.  Pick up a copy here.

  • Kroc gave interviews well into his final years.  Here's one in which he discusses the name McDonald's.

  • One of Kroc's neighbors at El Camino Cemetery is Jonas Salk.