Kiyo Hodel, Laurel Canyon Astrologer to the Stars and the Black Dahlia Investigation

 April 19, 2016
Los Angeles, California

KIYOKiyo

Q:  Is your ex-wife KIYO still alive?  Do you think she knew about your father and Elizabeth Short?  Why was Kiyo’s picture still in your father’s photo album with Elizabeth Short and other family members?

No, Kiyo died from cancer, in 1978, some thirteen years after our divorce in 1965.

I welcome your question, as it affords me the opportunity to clarify the dynamics of what some readers perceive to have been a Wife-Father-Son “triangle.”  In fact, it was nothing of the sort.

Strange and mysterious—yes.  Adulterous- not really.  It was more like something out of a Greek Tragedy, where the gods needed to have a good laugh. Here is how it unfolded.

In 1941, shortly after the start of the war, Dr. George Hodel approached a beautiful young Eurasian woman on a street corner in Hollywood. She was waiting for a bus. It was Kiyo, age 20. He informed her he was a physician and a photographer and would love to photograph her and naturally pay her well for her modeling. Kiyo an art student happily agreed. George worked his charm and Kiyo fell in love with him and they had an affair. I was one-year-old at the time the affair ended, Kiyo married another man (Brook Cuddy, a photographer.) After the war was over, from 1946-1950, both Brook and Kiyo regularly attended parties at the Franklin House. I have no memory or knowledge of ever meeting her at that time.

In the 1950s, Kiyo became an actress doing bit parts in Hollywood films, including Cecil B. De Mille’s, The Ten Commandments (1956). She divorced Brook Cuddy, and remarried, then divorced her second husband after a few years.

Kiyo clip from Cecil B. DeMille’s – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

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Kiyo as Priestess ,Yul Brynner as Pharaoh    Charlton Heston as Moses
 

In 1961, still in my teens (19) and in the Navy, I met Kiyo at a “Hollywood Party.”  Always attracted to older, intelligent women, I was totally captivated by her exoticness and sophistication. By then, Kiyo was an “astrologer to the stars”, and was teaching both astrology and piano out of her home in Laurel Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills. (She had been an art/music student at Julliard) When we first met, Kiyo told me she was “28” and looked it.  I knew nothing of her “history” other than, “she knew my parents as a young girl.”  I had no reason to question her, and very much liked the fact that she was “ten years my senior.” I would not learn her real age (she was actually 20-years older than I) until after our three-year marriage ended in 1965. The full story of my life with Kiyo is told in Chapter 10 of BDA.

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George Hodel’s private album of loved ones
Photos of Kiyo taken by George Hodel sometime in the 1940s

As to the 1999 discovery of Kiyo’s photo in my father’s private album of loved ones, the “surprise” came not from the fact that they had been lovers, which I learned from my mother, shortly after separating from Kiyo in 1965.

That fact while bizarre in itself had been known by me for 35 years and was no “revelation.” The shock came in discovering that her photo was included in my father’s book of “loved ones.” This indicated that what I had always assumed was his “short fling with a beautiful young woman” was in fact– something much more. To me this indicated- he loved her. Why else would he keep her picture for over fifty years? Like I said, this is the stuff that Greek tragedy is made of.

image004                                                    March 21, 1969

Below is an excerpted quote by Kiyo in TIME MAGAZINE article of 3/21/69, some four years after our divorce.   Described in the article as “a young half-Japanese astrologer” one can see that she certainly looked much younger than her actual age of 48.

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 (Kiyo photographed in Time Magazine with a man identified only as her “client” is  Neil Young who had just broken up with Buffalo Springfield (1966-68) and was just beginning his springboard to fame.

 

Kiyo in Books

When I wrote my Chapter entitled “Kiyo” in Black Dahlia Avenger in 2003, I had assumed that would be her first public introduction. I was wrong.

Come to find out that unbeknownst to me, her “fame” was already talked about in print, all of which I had been unaware and were forwarded from individuals to me post-publication. Let’s examine a few of them.

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David St. Clair, in his book, The Psychic World of California (Double Day & Co. 1972) pages 181- 186, describes Kiyo as, “an Astrologer to the stars … small, fair-skinned and incredibly sexy.”  He then presents a four-page interview on her thoughts and feelings about astrology and metaphysics.

 

These Came Back by Richard Webb

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image011Film and television actor/author Richard Webb aka “Captain Midnight” was interested in metaphysics, reincarnation, and psychic phenomena and wrote a number of books on the subjects.

In his book, These Came Back (Hawthorne Books 1974) Webb wrote a full  biographical chapter describing Kiyo, and her, “sloe eyes, long, dark brown hair, beautiful smile and confident manner.”

In that chapter the author interviews and provides readers with Kiyo’s personal detailed description of what she believed were several of her past lives. (These Came Back Kiyo)

In keeping with Kiyo’s dual personality which was comprised of equal measures of both the Spiritual and the Salacious (she was unquestionably half-priestess and half-pagan)  I happened upon another “Kiyo Chapter.” This one found in the book, Queer Stories for Boys: True Stories from the Gay men’s Storytelling Workshop, (Thunder Mountain Press, Avalon 2004) edited by Douglas McKeown, Kiyo chapter authored by, George Pfiffner.

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The chapter, again simply entitled, “Kiyo” describes the young author’s 1952 chance meeting and introduction to Kiyo, a then co-worker’s ( he uses the pseudonym, “Hunt Carter”, but we know it was Brook Cuddy) wife, due to his interest in astrology.

George Pfiffner describes in detail his infatuation with this “stunning Eurasian” and his hot and heavy, however, short-lived romance. Despite George’s admissions to being homosexual, Kiyo is confident that, with her powers of sexual persuasion she can and will be able to “turn him straight.”  George goes on to describe an initial sexual encounter in his car parked off-road in Malibu, followed by some apparently greenlit rendezvous in the bedroom, with tacit permission from Kiyo’s then husband, “Hunt” (Brook).  After a number of dalliances, the couple’s passionate romance sputtered and apparently was just “not in the stars.”

George closes the chapter by describing a highly emotional, out-of-control breakup with Kiyo, (who he claims had become hysterical and suicidal ) which required several hours of intense effort on his part to calm her down. George was finally able to send her home in a cab and out of his life.

He closes the Kiyo chapter with the following:

Kiyo was the first person I had been true to for any length of time. The first time I picked up a guy afterward, he was someone I didn’t particularly like, who I didn’t find very attractive, and who wasn’t very good in bed. But, it was as though I hadn’t had sex in six months and he was the young Marlon Brando.

Amilda KiyokoTachibana Doe Cuddy Herd Roth Hodel Aurness

While much remains secret and hidden about Kiyo’s personal life, based on some updated public records we do know that during the period from 1943-1973 she was married to at least six separate young men. They included:

John Doe, 1943, Alleged to have married a guard (name unknown) at Manzanar the Japanese Internment Camp in 1942, to gain her freedom from detention.

Brook Cuddy, photographer, cameraman, circa 1948. Became CBS Lighting Director for Game Shows.

Richard T. Herd, 1954. One year marriage. Herd became a leading character actor in film and television with over 147 acting credits.

John Mickey Roth, 1955, a child film star from 1945-1955, including acting in the film, Rhapsody in Blue, where he played George Gershwin as a Boy. Likely met Kiyo on the set of  C.B. Demille’s, The Ten Commandments, as both Mickey and Kiyo had bit parts in the film. (Mickey a Roman soldier and Kiyo was Pharoah’s priestess.)

Steve Hodel,  Married from 1962 -1965.

Rolf C. Aurness, 1973 ( True to her MO of collecting boy-toys, in 1973, wound up marrying Rolf Aurness, 1970 World Surfing Champion.  Rolf is son of actor James Aurness, Gunsmoke’s, “Marshall Matt Dillon.”)  On their marriage certificate Kiyo lists her age as “27” (she was actually 53) and Rolf’s stated age was “21.”

Kiyo (Amilda Kiyoko Aurness) died from cancer in Los Angeles at age, 57, on June 30, 1978. While her death certificate lists her birthdate as “Aug 2, 1935,” her actual birthdate was August 2, 1920.

How many of her other husbands were aware of her real age? You would have to ask each one of them. As for myself, as indicated in BDA, I had no reason to question her stated age of “28” and would not discover her actual age until separating and divorcing her in 1965 after finding her astrological chart which showed her to be, 42 at the time we married.

Kiyo the Leo with a Cougar MO  

Below is a list of the “recorded” marriage certificates ages vs. Kiyo’s real age.

  1. John Doe circa 1942   Kiyo unknown. Likely her real age of 21.
  2. Brook Cuddy  (Unknown, not found file)
  3. Richard Herd 22  Kiyo “25”           (actual age 34)
  4. John Mickey Roth 23, Kiyo “25”    (actual age 35)
  5. Steve Hodel 20, Kiyo “28”             (actual age 42)
  6. Rolf Aurness 21, Kiyo “27”            (actual age 52)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. John Ayers says:

    Wasn’t it Kiyo who suggested that you pursue a law enforcement career? It’s that training that led you to connect all the dots, Black Dahlia, Zodiac, and more.

    • Hi John: Yep. She convinced me to switch my job as an orderly at Kaiser Hospital and join LAPD.
      I now know she knew or strongly suspected (along with a lot of other “insiders” at the Sowden/Franklin House, that her former lover, George Hodel had killed Elizabeth Short. She was there a lot of the time up until dad split in 1950. Karma City.

  2. Francois Houle says:

    March 1969

    Her moment of fame

    Zodiac active in SFO

  3. During Elizabeth Short’s so-called “Missing Week” just before her murder, wasn’t she seen with a woman described being in her late 20s with long dark hair? Could the mystery lady have been Kiyo?

  4. Patricia Urdea says:

    God works in mysterious way indeed! A child born from an immoral father,choosing to deliver justice in his professional life.Thankfully you only inherited his intelligence,but not his proclivity and taint!

    I’ve been wondering a lot about if you have ever tried to find the ironic correlation between the choice of your vocation and the fact your father was a murderer (still at large at the time you joined LAPD) ?
    Do you think it is really an irony that the son of a big time serial killer felt a calling for solving murders?
    But as I said,unfathomable are the ways of Karma …

    And a more personal question,can you actually recall your father’s reaction on learning that you joined the same police department which was investigating against him.

    I really appreciate any answer you can provide.

    Patricia

    • Patricia: As detailed in my “Kiyo” Chapter in BDA, I had never really thought of or considered becoming a cop. Probably the last thing from my 20-year-old mind. Kiyo suggested it one morning at breakfast. She threw a copy of the LA Times on the table and said, “Look, LAPD is hiring and it pays $100 a month more than you are making at Kaiser Hospital. (I was an orderly after being a medic in the Navy.) She kept pushing it for a month or so and convinced me to try for the academy. I took the exam, then the police oral, then the psych test, then found myself in the academy, and next thing I knew I was working patrol wearing a gun and a badge. So, seemingly, it all came because of her urging me to become a police officer.
      And, I would not discover my father’s connection to any LAPD criminal investigation until his death in 1999 after I had been retired from LAPD for thirteen years. (I did, of course, know about the 1949 arrest and trial for incest, in which he was acquited.)
      Best Regards, Steve

      No, don’t recall my father’s initial reaction or when he first was informed of my joining LAPD? Probably notified him in writing shortly after joining in 1963, but I do document in BDA his initial discovery of my marriage to Kiyo at our face to face meeting at the Biltmore lobby in ’65. His surprise reaction in learning that my new Eurasian wife was Kiyo. (Of course, at that time I had no clue that they were former lovers, and would not discover the truth until I separated and was informed by my mother.)

      I have since wondered if there was something else, subconscious that may have influenced my career choice? Did I hear something as a child that connected my father to a crime or crimes that I buried deep and had no conscious memory of? Did my half-sister Tamar, make some comment that I overheard and was long forgotten? Certainly, possible, but I tend to think not.
      More likely it was Kiyo’s secret “payback” to my father for seducing then dumping her for another. “Look George, I’ve married your son and convinced him to join the LAPD.”

      • Luigi Warren says:

        Steve: A Greek Tragedy adapted by Gilbert and Sullivan, perhaps? Kiyo Kiyoko Ko-Ko Kiki Yum-Yum Peep-Bo Peek-a-Boo… Doesn’t seem like GHH liked to lose. What was George’s secret “payback?” How did he medicate his wounded ego after the “red dress” meeting at the Biltmore in ’65? Doesn’t it seem that there are quite a few coincidences here? -LW

        • Steve Hodel says:

          LW: He never really discussed KIYO with me. It remained one of those awkward unspokens. Neither one of us had any desire to discuss it. A few days after dad’s death when I was with June one of the photos she handed me was a 8×10 glossy of a young Kiyo taken by dad. (Not the ones in the small album) I looked at the photo then at June then shook my head and just ripped it in half, saying something like, “Well no need to keep that.” Rash emotional reaction. Now, obviously wish I hadn’t done that, but who knew?

  5. Rich Martin says:

    I rented from Kiyo the house at 1950 Weepah Way just below her house on Ridpath in Laurel Canyon 1971-ish. 3 questions: 1. Did she own the Weepah Way house? 2. I was told that Steven Stills once lived in the Weepah way house. Do you know if that’s true? 3. I was told that Neil Young lived at her Ridpath house for a while?
    Thanks so much.

    • Rich M. Hi Rich. As to your questions. 1. I’m not really sure about the Weepah Way house. We bought the Utica property in ’63 which included the separate several rental homes. I was gone by ’65 and gave her the properties. Not sure if she bought that property or not? 2. Don’t know about Stills renting it? But, likely true, since he was part of Buffalo Springfield and connected to Neil Young. 3. Yes, Neil Young rented from Kiyo, but my impression was it was not the Ridpath house, but a small cabin on the Utica Dr property separate and above the street level property. Again, would have been after I split in ’65. Best Regards, Steve

      • I can verify that Neil rented the small cabin next to the main house on Utica Drive. From 1967-69 I rented the garage apartment at the street level. I had to sleep on the couch in the main house for a few weeks, waiting for John Densmore (The Doors) to move out of the garage apartment. All tenants at the property shared the same mail box at the bottom of the stairs. Saw lots of utility bills addressed to a Steven Hodel.

        • Wayne: Thanks. Yes, my years with Kiyo spanned from 1960-1965 (Married in July ’62 then divorced her in Nov ’65). I think we bought the Utica Drive house in 64 or early 65? Divorce final in ’66. So, The Doors and Neil came several years later. I cut off all contact with her so was unaware of those connections until much later. Best, Steve

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