Thursday, January 30, 2014

White Jazz in Los Angeles

The White Jazz Copyright is 1992 by James Ellroy and the story starts "L.A. fall 1958" and again we have characters from L.A. Confidential and real life figures inserted within the telling. Mickey Cohen, Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner, Howard Hughes and the new to the south land Dodgers and of course Chavez Ravine. After having trouble distinguishing characters at the start of previous Ellroy novels I started a list with Dave Klein the first item.

To create a sense of the period popular names, songs and products of 1958 are added to the story. But this relish only works in my opinion if the reader knows something about it. Page 51, "Those haaarbor lights" ---pure schmaltz"....."and did anyone ever tell you you sound like a homo? Like Johnnie Ray out of work?" I remember Johnny Ray songs.
After going to the Santa Monica Pier to do some drop line fishing we would walk around Muscle Beach smelling the fried foods and the sound from the jukeboxes wailing away in the various beer joint along the boardwalk. Someone must have stuck a quarter in the slot (songs were a nickel) and Ray's Cry kept repeating.

On Page 59, I not quite certain about this, "Who's is Elston Majeska?"..."some kind of silent-movie star from Europe" My first thoughts about the name was Modjeska Canyon having lived many years in Orange County, California and Helena Modjeska a famous Polish actress living there long before films.

Page 60 The mention of Scrivner's Drive-In gets Ellroy a three pointer where Mickey finds and discovers Glenda working there.
Art Laboe had an afternoon radio show at the drive-in on KRLA radio. We went there several time to Hollywood to get on his show there. Only once did we ever get on his mike as most of the locals were already there by the time we drove over from SAMOHI. That spot was located at Sunset and Cahuenga. We also drove to the Scrivner's in Inglewood on Manchester there.
Page 61, Yiddish words of the day, tsuris and faygeleh from Cohen.
And on the bottom of the page DMV records about Glenda. Her wheels are a very cool 56 red/white Corvette and later it has clutch problems so she was not driving a Powerglide. Her plate is CAL." DX 413". This often happened when an author takes the time to add lengthy details to a description then fail with the facts. California started using six places on licenses in 1947.
The 56 Vet had a 265 V8 and a power pack option that added a second 4 barrel carb and a hotter cam but those details are not included in the story.
Page 62 another local drive-in "Stan's Drive-In" is mentioned.
Through-out Southern California almost every city had a drive-in some had more than one. Jack's in Santa Monica was the regular hangout with good service a cute car hops. Goody Goodies farther east had male car hops, you figure. Certain nights were cruise nights and we would all hop into someone cars and go cruising. Gas was real cheap by todays standards at around thirty cents a gallon and most hot rods had to use ethyl for the higher octane, add another nickel to the cost.
Page 74, "forty-one hot-sheets flops Adams to Florence." The expression "hot sheets" is in reference to a one hour rental motel room used by professionals/street walkers. Last Sunday I got on the 110 at Orange Grove headed south on 1941 designed scary curved freeway towards Chinatown
exiting Hill Street, swung over to Broadway at Ord then drove the length of Broadway to Rosecrans. From what I saw there are not too many hourly motels left. (see I can talk L.A. street noir too)
Page 75, "High Yellow" and "colored man" You don't hear that much these days.
Page 75,"mousy little white girl ho' roun' here" Using hoe in place of whore doesn't fit in with my memory but I can't be sure if  this is a prochronism.
Page 117, "Vampira" gets mentioned as a TV hostess. I was unaware that there was this earlier Vampira and only watched the later host. Here is Marla Nurmi.
 It is nice to learn things.
Page 154, "Lester stirred and gargled T-Bird". Not the car but Thunderbird wine. Search Thunderbird on this blog for previous reference.
Same page, Glenda Bledsoe is under contract with ,"Variety International Pictures" a clear legal breach of her contract with Hughes Aircraft, Tool Company, Productions et al." Howard Hughes started in the movies business at a young man in his twenties. His father Howard Sr. was a partner in starting the tool company making oil drilling bits. His partner died and he renamed it Hughes Tool. Howard Jr. was born on December 24, 1905 and at the age of eighteen he became heir to the tool company. If you lived in Los Angeles during the forties and fifties there were no shortages of Hughes's urban legends. Howard owned RKO studios between 1948 and 1955 and he did make independent productions but why would Glenda be under contract with the Tool Company or the Aircraft Company? Funny how a little searching in the information age can dig up very interesting facts.  Howard Hughes once lived in Pasadena at the Vista del Arroyo at a bungalows before the hotel was built.
He stay there with his Aunt Annette and actually audited classes at Caltech but never was an enrolled student as he never finished high school in Texas. I can not say that Hughes wasn't a strange fellow but IMO Ellroy really paints him as evil.
Page 185, Pacific Bell is mentioned and that is correct.
Page 288, Hollywood Ranch Market is mentioned. We used to cash out Hughes paychecks when I worked there after work at a 24 Hour Market off Jefferson in Culver City but not sure if it was the same company as Hollywood.
Page 313, Yeakel Olds gets a mentioned. It was a dealership in Los Angeles that did a lot of on air ads including television. "Radio hum: Starfire 88's at Yeakel Olds". Again another faux or prochronism. It is what I like to call an "faux auto tech:"
The Starfire model was not available as an 88 only a 98 and it was a couple years later the 88 Starfire actually became available.
One of the many bad guys is found at his Airstream in a trailer park where he lives.
I usually thought that the Airstream was a travel trailer and would most likely be used for recreation not as a home but it is possible. Page 314 in the "Monster den:.... Dodger T-shirts"
I watched the Dodgers play with the shorted fence before they moved above Chinatown.
And again at the Ravine where they forgot to put in drinking fountains. In 1958 silk screening on cotton t-shirt have not been invented.
Warhol in 1962 started with his Campbell Soup Cans and the dissemination of commercial messages followed and I remember running in a local 10K event and the finishers were all given white t-shirts with the sponsors name on the front and I wore the t-shirt one day to play tennis. Several people asked why I was wearing a shirt with printing on the front. They had never seen anything like that and that was in the early seventies.

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