The poem about hell is timely -- good choice! It's a bit harrowing, imagery-wise, but I do like the "jukebox groaning of the damned." I mean, I admire it as an image, not that I particularly want to hear it. Ever. ;)
Spicer produced quite a bit of harrowing imagery. I like to think he got that talent from growing up in Los Angeles— even though he grew up there twenty years before I did. There's always been something rather deranged about the place (yeah, that's my excuse.)
Edited at 2016-06-14 04:53 am (UTC)
I had never seen his name before. (My ignorance is vast.) I think of LA as kind of a nutty place, and now you've confirmed my view. *g* Black Dahlia, Hollywood Babylon, etc. (I've read that Fatty Arbuckle didn't do quite what was rumored, but I'm no expert.)
It's often attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright, though Saul Bellow used one variation of it in Seize the Day, but the claim that at some point America got tilted on its side and everything that wasn't screwed down fell into Southern California is apt.
In fact the Los Angeles that I grew up in was almost an apotheosis of the middle west. That's where a vast number of the immigrants who arrived in the first half of the 20th century came from, and when I was a kid the state picnics— gatherings of people who had moved from particular states— were still beingheld. Iowa's was usually the biggest, but people from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio still had big picnics too. Just imagine everything crazy about Indiana and double it, or maybe even triple it, and you'll have a good idea of Los Angeles in the 1950s.
By the 1980s, some of the crazy had been submerged in later waves of global immigration, but the way the place had been built by its pioneers, and some of the attitudes they'd brought with them, were a bit crazy-making, so I think a lot of the later immigrants were affected by it.
As for the movie colony— and that's how we thought of it— a colony of foreigners living in our midst, as exotic as the Chinese or the Mexicans— they had their own kind of crazy, more eastern metropolitan than Midwestern. We were as beguiled and repelled by Hollywood as people in the rest of the country were, but as for any deep connection between crazy Midwestern Los Angeles and crazy Hollywood, we ordinary non-film folk might as well have been living in Des Moines.
There was probably some influence both ways between the two groups, but I've always suspected that the greater influence went from us to them, rather than from them to us. That would explain why so many movies in those days were so corny and yet so odd. They were being made for preview audiences in Pomona and Anaheim and Van Nuys.
Poor Elizabeth Short. Not only did her murderer mutilate and dismember her body, but her story has been mutilated and dismembered by practically everybody who has written about her since.
At the time of the murder, one of my mother's younger sisters lived very close to where Short's body was found, and my mom told me that Aunt Tillie was sure she knew who had killed the Black Dahlia, but as far as my mom knew she never revealed who she believed it was. She just moved out of that neighborhood as soon as she could. That's pretty much what people in L.A. always did in those days— if something goes terribly wrong, move to a new neighborhood.
Edited at 2016-06-14 09:08 pm (UTC)
How interesting! I didn't know that about the Midwestern influx. I know I had Hoosier relatives who ended up in Pomona and Anaheim, but I hadn't thought about that affecting the ethos of the place. An online friend from Bakersfield has complained to me that that part of the state might as well be the Bible Belt. Ugh.
I wonder who did kill the Black Dahlia. The bootlegged photo of part of the corpse in the Anger book was a major creep-out. Poor girl. I'd have moved away too.
I blame the Movie Colony for convincing American women that they need to be on eternal diets and get plastic surgery to look like Barbie dolls. European actresses weren't and aren't prey to the same lunacy. I need to go look at photos of Simone Signoret again...
Like the eastern suburb of Los Angeles where I grew up, Bakersfield (and much of the San Joaquin Valley) got a large influx of dust belt refugees during the depression, with Oklahomans predominating. They are a problematic lot. On the one hand you've got guys like Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie, and on the other you've got Oral Roberts and his ilk. In a way, that made them a good fit for Southern California. Like Los Angeles, they tend to be either splendid or horrifying, or both by turns. But, yes, Old Time Religion Syndrome is a definite and often disturbing aspect of the region around Bakersfield.
I'm not inclined to blame Hollywood for the skinny girl obsession,though they've contributed to it. Classic female movie stars even into the 1950s were apt to be cows by today's standards. Just think of Monroe or Hayworth or Hollywood's favorite European imports, Sophia Loren and Ingrid Bergman. Even the comparatively svelte Lana Turner was not exactly a bean pole.
I think it was mostly the fashion industry that decided adult women should have the figures of pre-adolescent boys. Audry Hepburn was about the closest classic Hollywood ever got to achieving that ideal, and a lot of modern supermodels would probably crash diet if they got as fat as her.
It was only after Vogue
went living-cadaver crazy that the likes of Mia Farrow and Demi Moore could succeed in Hollywood. To put it crudely, given its own way Hollywood will probably always always prefer more meat on its casting couch.
As to why male fashion designers wanted women to look like boys, well, I've wondered about that. Maybe they just wanted women to be wearing clothes that would look good on the designers themselves— some sort of drag by proxy.
I don't think the Black Dahlia case will ever be solved. Former LAPD officer Steve Hodel thinks it was his father who killed her. Former L.A. Times reported Larry Harnisch, who I tend to trust more than other writers on the subject, is skeptical of Hodel's claims and those of most other writers, including Anger.
Harnish has the notes for his (as yet unpublished) book on the case online here
. The site has some rendering issues with my browser, and maybe others as well (quotation marks always render as question marks), but it has the advantage of being completely free of crime scene and autopsy photos. Harnisch is interested in information, not sensation.
You're probably right about the fashion designer thing. I remember all too well the "Madame, go to Omar the Tentmaker" kind of remark out of those jerks. Twiggy, btw, was a beautiful girl, if not also painful to look at. That's fashion. Audrey Hepburn was her own thing, luminously lovely but also such a beanpole. Maybe it was all that ballet. As for the other Hepburn, Tracy once said of her (as you'll no doubt know, but I want to type it), "There's not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce." I paraphrase, anyway.
Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.
Speaking of (and Googling) Los Angeles, I came across this interesting weblog post
by an Australian visitor named Ben Myers. There are only a few brief vignettes of his experiences and impressions, but they capture something about the place that I find eerily familiar. In places, they are a bit like brushing up against a ghost of my younger self.
Cool, another good link! Thanks!