Archive for September, 2009

Boy Phenomenon vs Boy Wizard

This battle of titans began in the fall of 1894, when the miraculous magnetic healer known as the Boy Phenomenon (aka Dr. Stuart Franklin Temple) came to the city “with Healing in his Hands,” offering his free curative powers to the deaf, blind, sick lame, paralytic and whomever else who managed to drag themselves to the Los Angeles Theater. Before the healing commenced, Temple’s manager, the Great Diagnostician Professor W. Fletcher Hall, lectured on the medical research supporting the application of Vital Force and Animal Magnetism.  The duo took the show on the road to Pasadena, San Bernardino and San Diego, but then parted ways in 1895.  The following year, Professor Hall reappeared in Los Angeles with a new protégé, a young German boy he discovered among the “rubbers” in the Turkish baths at St. Louis, who must have impressed Hall with his restorative manual dexterity.  His given name was Carl Herrmann, but Hall dubbed him The Boy Wizard, and distinguished him in advertisements from Dr. Temple by claiming he “daily generates ten times more magnetism that the former Phenomenon.”

The Boy Wizard began his run in January of 1896 at the Music Hall, and also offered private consultations at $1.00 a pop at the Pacific Coast Magnetic Institute, his and Hall’s establishment on Third and Broadway. Unlike the Phenomenon, the Boy Wizard allegedly possessed a deft touch with the ladies.  According to his manager the Boy Wizard had an  “unbroken record in treating complaints peculiar to the gentler sex and his Magnetic Force has proved a boon to the suffering woman.” 

If only I had a dime …

It didn’t take long for the erstwhile Phenomenon, Dr. Temple, to discover that the Wizard’s ads featured the same testimonials as his so recently had, and Temple promptly brought suit against the magnetic newcomer.  The lawsuit occasioned some lovely copy in the LA Times, including this lede:  “Dissension reigns in the realms of occultism, and there is the grind of clashing auras and the shock of opposing batteries.”

All parties appear to have settled out of court, as the papers contain no mention of a trial date or ruling, and The Boy Wizard’s trail goes cold a few weeks after the lawsuit was threatened. 

By October of 1899, Dr. Temple, the Phenomenon, resurfaces as the
manager of Kohler the Oriental Seer, and in new digs, at the California
College of Occult Sciences at 245 South Spring.  But the partnership
turns out to be a short-lived affair. Before three months have passed
the institution and Dr. Temple have vanished.

September 19, 2009 at 2:05 am Leave a comment

The Drinks Are On Me!


 Andrew McLemore was feeling generous as he entered the Waldorf Bar at 527 S. Main Street. His pockets were stuffed with $896 in cash. That kind of coin can burn a hole in a man’s pocket, so Andrew ponied up enough bread to buy drinks for himself, and for everyone else in the house!  


The affable benefactor would likely have continued his largess, if he hadn’t been interrupted by the cops. It seems that he hadn’t actually earned the money – in fact he’d just robbed Lloyd’s Bank, one block over at 548 S. Spring St. One of the tellers had trailed Andrew to the bar, and then flagged down a passing police car. 


Andrew may have been acting on a generous impulse when he bought drinks for Waldorf’s barflies, but the law was unimpressed. He was handcuffed and hauled off to the slammer. 


Note to Andrew: No good deed goes unpunished.

September 17, 2009 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

Jake Will Cure Your Ache

When Mrs. Austin’s 13-year-old sister came to her complaining of cramps, big sis knew just what the doctor ordered: a healthy slug of Jamaica Ginger should make the pain, if not vanish, seem deliciously insignificant. The youngster was dosed, waited for relief, then complained anew. That’s when Mrs. Austin realized her mistake: the medicine she’d proffered was not Jamaica Ginger, but Arnica!

Convinced she had poisoned her sister and that the girl would surely die, Mrs. Austin telephoned for a doctor. Somehow the police were notified of a suicide at the address, and came to investigate. They found the crampy sister none the worse for wear for her dosing—which was a lucky break, since Arnica is rarely taken internally, and can cause illness or death–and Mrs. Austin most abashed.

 

(L.A. Times, May 28, 1896)

Jamaica Ginger has a long and fascinating history, in SRO Land and throughout America. A favorite remedy for pretty much anything that ailed you, this rocket-powered ginger jolt was packed to bursting with health-giving alcohol–around 150 proof.  All was well until the 18th Amendment was passed, and anti-drink regulators began requiring the addition of adulterants that made Jamaica Ginger, commonly and most affectionately called “jake,” taste horrible.

Many formulas were introduced in an attempt to produce a palatable, legal Jamaica Ginger recipe, among them Harry Gross’ and Max Reisman’s 1930 version, packed with delicious tri-ortho cresyl phosphate (TOCP), a plasticizer. Shortly after the new formula debuted, tens of thousands of jake drinkers began presenting at hospitals complaining of mysteriously drooping toes and other symptoms of paralysis. Upstanding citizens who had hitherto kept their benders on the down low were exposed by the easily recognized Jake-Leg Shuffle, a limp shared by many habitués of the concoction.

The poisonous formulation was soon discovered and taken off the shelves, but the damage had been done. While some jake abusers recovered, others suffered long term nerve damage.

For more on jake leg’s cruelties, and the syndrome’s role in the history of the Delta blues, see Dan Baum’s 2003 New Yorker feature (PDF download).

As for us, we’re sticking with Vernors!

 

September 11, 2009 at 6:48 am Leave a comment

Pass Me a Napkin, or I’ll Shoot!

Ex-convict Ray Davis, 31, was seated at the counter of a café at 456 South Main Street, when he realized that the napkins were just out of reach. He asked the man next to him, Bob Sahagain, a 21 year old Sioux, to please pass him a napkin. Bob chuckled, saying “I can’t”, then turned away from Ray to continue his conversation with a friend.

Ray thought that Bob was being rude and asked him once again to hand over a napkin. Bob turned to him, laughed, and repeated that he couldn’t do it. Maybe it was a case of diner rage, or perhaps Ray was flashing back to his prison days, taking his meals in a crowded mess hall, where manners were an artifact of a society too far removed. Whether they were past, or present, the demons in Ray’s head prompted him to pull out a .25 caliber pistol and shoot the young man in the back.  

What Ray had failed to notice about Bob was that he was totally blind – he had two glass eyes! The patrons of the café decided that if anyone needed to be taught a lesson about etiquette, it was Ray. Surely shooting someone at the dining counter of an SRO Land café could be considered the height of bad manners. A small mob formed immediately following the gun play. Ray was soon disarmed and the patrons began to beat him, breaking his jaw. They continued to beat him until the cops arrived and ended the confrontation.  

Bob was reported to be in fair condition at General Hospital.Ray was booked at Central Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder.  

I think I’ll have dinner at home tonight.  

September 9, 2009 at 2:46 am Leave a comment

The Case of the Medical Electrician aka Abortionist


“The girl was thirsty and wanted ice water constantly.  She wouldn’t eat much, and vomited black stuff.  She was in a great deal of pain on her left side and her abdomen.”  So ended the short life of Lillie Hattery, age 22, on February 5th, 1897, in the clinic of “Dr.” Calvin S. Hastings, Medical Electrician, according to testimony presented at his murder trial. 

When Lillie Hattery came from San Bernardino to visit her sister in Los Angeles in late January, she arrived with the names of people rumored to perform “criminal operations.”  “Dr.” Hastings, who practiced without the benefit of a medical license, was third on the list.  According to testimony at the trial, Lillie paid $200 for Hastings’ services, which included multiple applications of electrical current to the back and abdomen, as well as a surgical procedure, which resulted in copious blood loss by the patient.  Lillie suffered from fever, convulsions, and severe pain for a week, during which Hastings treated her solely with electrical stimulation. Two licensed medical doctors examined Lillie’s body after it had been delivered to the morgue, and determined that the cause of death was septicemia due to blood poisoning.  They also determined that she had been pregnant and undergone an attempted abortion. 

At his trial, Hastings testified that Lillie Hattery suffered from an injured ankle, which he treated with electrical stimulation.  He claimed that she appeared in good health until the very last moment before she succumbed to what he assumed must have been an internal abnormality such as a diseased heart or some other affliction.  Although the prosecution presented evidence of perjury and intimidation of witnesses on the part of both Hastings and his nurse, along with surgical instruments found in Hastings’ offices that were commonly used for abortion procedures, as well as closed court testimony from a young woman who had recently undergone the criminal operation in Hastings’ care and had almost died, the jury still found Hastings innocent in the death of Lillie Hattery.

Hastings was even able to post bond during the trial, thanks to the generosity of a female admirer, and re-located his Medical Electrician clinic for business down the street in the Hammond Block at 120 1/2 South Spring.  Hastings’ Medical Electrician Clinic’s Grand Opening so provoked a dentist in residence there that the man came to blows with the rental agent, and promptly moved out of the disgraced office building, where, he claimed, no decent woman would now darken a door. 


Spring Street, looking south from First Street 1900-1910
USC Digital Archive

After his acquittal, Hastings married the woman who posted his bond.  In later years she turns up as one of the many sufferers who find miraculous relief at the hands of the great healer, Rama, of the Rama Institute at 305 ½ South Spring Streets, Los Angeles. One can only wonder why Mrs. Hastings’ own husband was unable to heal her deafness with his electrical stimulation.


 LA Times Historical Archives

Dr. Calvin S. Hastings was still practicing medicine without a license in 1911 when the state attorney filed a complaint against him during a campaign to shut down so-called “Quack Chink Doctors.”

September 8, 2009 at 6:34 am Leave a comment

Tarzan’s Dad at the Hickman Trial

In an era where a celebrity journalist like Dominick Dunne (1925-2009 R.I.P.) covered the sordid murder trials of O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector it should be noted that this is not a new phenomenon. 

Hickman Court Hearing: William Edward Hickman sans necktie at his court hearing. Immediately to Hickman’s right is longtime Sheriff Eugene W. Biscailuz and to his immediate left is his lead defense attorney for the trial Jerome Walsh.

 

Case in point- was the 1928 trial of William Edward Hickman for kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Marion Parker.   For two tension packed weeks the trial created such a sensation of tabloid headlines that even Charlie Chaplin came to the Hall of Justice to get an up close and personal look at Hickman.  Famed journalist and screenwriter Adela Rogers St. Johns attended and reported on the trial just as she had done during the prosecution of Loeb and Leopold and later Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindberg kidnapping. 

 

Edgar Rice Burroughs famed fantasy author best known as the creator of Tarzan of the Apes covered the duration of the trial in 13 columns for the Los Angeles Examiner.  The articles can be found at http://www.erbzine.com/mag17/1768.html

It is particularly interesting to see how Burroughs in this series of OP-ED pieces  thinly disguised as columns gave it his best effort to seal Hickman’s fate.   Hickman’s guilt was never in doubt but his counsel presented one of the earliest attempts at the insanity defense.  Not only did Burroughs not buy into Hickman’s defense attorney’s contention that their client was insane, Burroughs protested that he didn’t see any need for a trial at all.  And Burroughs sarcasm was evident when he mocked the defense’s dermatography demonstration by trying it at home with his own son. In the test actually performed at the trial, Hickman removed his shirt and his skin was scratched with a metal object.  According to the defense in explaining the significance of dermatography, a bright colored long lasting mark was supposed to prove mental instability.  

Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1934

On the other hand Burroughs nicely encapsulated a couple of the trial’s most dramatic and emotionally wrenching moments.  When the autopsy photos of Marion Parker’s nude dismembered body were passed to the jury, the woman in the third seat was so overwhelmed by the first of these black and white 8X10s that she fainted on the spot.  And the most dramatic moment in the trial was the appearance and testimony of the prosecution’s last witness, Marion’s father Perry Parker.  In the winter darkness of December 19, 1928 Parker delivered the ransom to Hickman on South Manhattan Place. When Hickman opened the car door, Marion tumbled out just as Hickman sped off.  Parker ran up to find an unspeakable horror.  Lying in the gutter was the lifeless body of his daughter still wearing her little gingham dress.  Rouge had ghoulishly been painted on her cheeks.  Her limbs were missing and her eyelids had been sewn open.   It was a crime that continues to shock for its brutality over eighty years later.  Hickman’s insanity defense was rejected by the jury and he was executed by hanging at San Quentin on October 19, 1928.  Hickman got weak in the knees as he began to climb the steps of the platform and had to be carried the rest of the way to the top.  But that was just a prelude for the real drama. Hickman’s head hit the opening of the chute when he dropped, breaking his fall rather than his neck.  It took William Edward Hickman over 15 minutes to die that day by suffocation.  Observers reported that the drawn out death scene was so disturbing to watch there were shrieks from the audience and numerous people fainted, including Dick Lucas one of the key detectives who had been involved in the investigation.

Personal Sidebar about Burroughs.


Bob Clampett and John Coleman Burroughs: Clampett and Burroughs reminisce while holding original John Carter of Mars material. This photo is from the early 1970’s.

My dad was only a couple of years older than Marion Parker.  About the time of the murder he attended the original Otis Art Institute downtown which he would travel to by streetcar. Another student driven by chauffeur in a limosene became one of my dad’s lifelong friends.  It was John Coleman Burroughs, second son to Edgar Rice Burroughs.  My dad, already a big fan of Burroughs’ books, visited the Burroughs home frequently and soon got to know the elder Burroughs.   Several years later when my dad was an animator at Warner Bros. studio he partnered with  Edgar Rice Burroughs and son John Coleman to bring Burroughs’ vision of his Mars series to the silver screen via animation.  They worked nights and weekends for over a year and completed quite a bit of development artwork, script treatment pages and a one minute sales reel showing what a John Carter of Mars animated feature might look like.  At that time MGM couldn’t see past the success of the live action Tarzan films they were producing.  To finance an animated feature was not a proposition that appealed to them at all.   Here’s a youtube link to the reel with an audio track of my dad narrating.  

This piece originally appeared on the DVD, Beany and Cecil The Special Edition Volume One released in 2000.  There have been many other unsuccessful efforts over the years to bring Burroughs’ Mars stories to the screen.  However Pixar/Disney is now at work on John Carter of Mars, their first film that will include live action characters blended with CG animation.

Other notable Otis alumni from the 1920s included the two very talented brothers Bob McKimson (creator of Foghorn Leghorn) and designer and layout artist Tom McKimson.  Both brothers later worked with my dad at Warner Bros. Cartoon studio. There was also George Maitland Stanley (designer of the Oscar statue, the Astronomer’s monument at the Griffith Observatory, and the fountain at the Hollywood Bowl),  John Hench (Key Disney artist for over 65 years and Tyrus Wong (another Disney artist who worked on Bambi) and is now 99 years old. (Otis later became Otis College of Art and Design.) 

My dad stayed in close contact with the Burroughs family throughout his life.  Danton Burroughs, John Coleman’s son and keeper of the Burroughs legacy, passed away last year. 

Thanks to Bill Hillman of Erbzine.

Thanks to Sarah Russin, Director of Alumni Relations at Otis College of Art and Design.

Thanks also to The Watson Family Archive and to Delmar Watson (1926-2008 ) who was like a second father to me.

September 8, 2009 at 2:49 am 2 comments

The Needle and the Damage Done

I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun.”  — Neil Young

Morphine may have been legal in 1910, but it wasn’t being distributed for free. If you were an addict, you’d still have had to find the money to pay for your drug of choice. Faced with the difficulty of obtaining the necessary funds, one creative Angelino devised an unusual plan.

The unidentified hophead spun an imaginative tale to the managers of several local plumbing establishments. He told the gullible men that he was representing a medical institute, explaining that it was headed by a New York physician who was planning to occupy an entire floor of the Alexandria Hotel!

According to the man, the doctor hadn’t yet spoken with the management of the Alexandria; however, he had been engaged to find a plumbing company that could handle the installation of several very large and extremely heavy bathtubs.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the “glib tongued drugster” then produced plans which called for the placement of the tubs, which were eight feet long, six feet wide, made of lead-lined iron, and described as “big enough to hold a dray horse”.

 Blinded by visions of a job worth at least one thousand dollars ($24,049.74 current USD) and some priceless publicity, the plumbers didn’t look too closely at the man who was pitching such a sweet deal. And they also never questioned the absurdity of operating a medical institute in the Alexandria Hotel! If they’d paid attention, they’d have seen what Mr. J.A. Hooser (of Hooser & Buchanan, 1302 South Main Street) ultimately observed.

Mr. Hooser admitted that he’d initially believed the man’s story. He told a reporter that “I fell for the song. He was a clean-cut fellow enough, and fairly well dressed, as far as I saw…but when he was on his way out, I noticed that the coat tails he wore were a bit frayed and that his shoes were laced with twine.” Mr. Hooser went on to say: “Right there I did not think much of the job and scolded myself for wasting time with a crank. But the next day I found out that this same fellow borrowed a two dollar tape from the shop after showing my tinner his arm full of hypodermic needle marks to prove that his New York doctor had cured him.”

Apparently the man had run the same scam all over town, “borrowing” tape from Hooser’s shop, tools from another – all of which he then sold for drug money.

Maybe the anonymous drugster should have used his ill-gotten gains and visited one of the many doctors in SRO Land who claimed to treat addiction. But then, the treatment that they used may have done more harm than good.At that time one of the most aggressively marketed treatments for morphine addiction was heroin!

Ironically, heroin (a derivative of morphine first successfully synthesized in 1897 by the Bayer Company) was thought to be a non-addictive substitute for morphine. Bayer’s intentions may have been good; but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

Can a company seek redemption? If so, maybe Bayer has already been forgiven. Around the same time that they launched heroin, Bayer introduced another drug that would have an enormous impact on the world – aspirin.

September 4, 2009 at 12:41 am Leave a comment


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