Visiting Some Black Dahlia Sites

Photo of Elizabeth Short – via prairieghosts.com

Yesterday I bicycled out to check out some sites mentioned in “My Fair Dahlia,” Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s musical recap of the Black Dahlia murder in the Cinema Purgatorio #11 comic. This post is similar to my earlier post on visiting Thelma Todd sites, but frankly there is even less to see at the present day Dahlia sites.

The most important location associated with the Black Dahlia (one where several people have visited and posted accounts online – there are even tours that visit it) is the site where Elizabeth Short’s body was discovered. In January 1947, Betty Bersinger discovered Short’s mutilated corpse in a vacant lot. Today that lot is a neighborhood of modest single-family homes. The neighborhood is called Leimert Park, historically and still today a community where many African-Americans live.

The site is often described, including by Moore, as “39th and Norton.” (That’s even the title of a chilling Dahlia comics story published in Taboo #5 in 1991 – alongside Moore’s From Hell and Lost Girls.) That’s the closest intersection, but the site is actually mid-block on Norton Avenue between 39th Street and Coliseum Street. Today the address is 3825 Norton Avenue.  Continue reading

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Visiting the Place Where Thelma Todd Died

Thelma Todd at her cafe. Photo via Indywire

I confess that I hadn’t really been aware of early film star Thelma Todd until I read Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s take on her in “Revelations of the Bat” in Cinema Purgatorio #9.

I live in central Los Angeles, not far from Hollywood. By this I mean the neighborhood Hollywood, which, down from the tony Hollywood Hills, is mostly not so glamorous. A few people I know are involved in “the industry” – the Hollywood film industry – though I can’t claim any ties to it.

It has been interesting reading Moore and O’Neill’s stories in Purgatorio, in part because they take place in the city where I live. A lot of Moore’s work – especially Jerusalem, Voice of the Fire, “Coal Memory“, Providence, and From Hell – is thematically rooted in a sense of place. He melds people, physical places, stories, histories, etc. to get at what makes a place tick. In doing so he explores universal truths, expressed in smaller microcosms.

More than any other Moore work, Purgatorio is Moore telling stories about my place.

In this spirit, last weekend, I set out to check out some of the places Moore introduced me to in his Thelma Todd tale: Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe and the nearby home of director Roland West, where Todd was found dead.  Continue reading

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