Marion Hodel- My Mysterious Cousin- "Paymaster" at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar racetracks
I really know very little about my cousin, Marion Hodel. Perhaps that is why to this day, he remains in my mind, as a bit of a mystery. A shadowy family figure.
I only met Marion on perhaps three or four occasions, and each time was while I was “playing” and he was working. Cousin Marion was the Paymaster at all three of the Southern California racetracks, which included: Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita.
In “the old days” some of our investigations at Hollywood Homicide required we drive out to the local race tracks (on duty naturally) to check out “the usual suspects.” These would be either Hollywood Park or Santa Anita. While we were “working” we naturally wanted to blend in with the masses, so we’d have to have a few drinks and make a few bets. On occasion, I’d go to the paymaster’s office, shake hands with my cousin, and pick up box seats for the day. Marion was always friendly and cheerful, but we never really “talked.” Oddly, we never met off track. No family visits or conversations. (Knowing what I know now, WISH I HAD.)
The below 1971 article profiling cousin Marion establishes he was Paymaster at the three race tracks, since 1952.
Imagine being “The Paymaster” to all three So. Cal racetracks in 1952. Talk about potential connections to the rich and infamous. Shaking hands with J. Edgar Hoover and Bugsy Siegel back to back. (Both men, reportedly, absolutely loved the “Sport of Kings.”)
Here is a brief summary on the little I do know about Marion Hodel:
Marion was born in Los Angeles, circa 1911. He was the son of my great aunt Ida and uncle, Walter Hodel. Walter was my grandfather’s brother and also came to Los Angeles at the turn of the century from Odessa, Russia. (I met my great uncle, Walter Hodel only once, in April 1970, about seven years before his death. He died at the advanced age of 95, in Santa Barbara, California.) The picture below, taken on that 1970 visit, shows great uncle Walter standing next to but not exactly towering over, my 63 VW “Bug”:
Walter Hodel, father of Marion Hodel photo taken in 1970 -age 89. He died six-years later at age 95.
In checking data bases I came across an interesting document. It shows that Marion Hodel in 1946 was living at the Franklin House with his Uncle (George Hodel Sr.) This was likely during my father’s absence overseas in China as an UNRRA officer. (Feb-September 1946) There is no available info as to whether Marion remained after his Uncle’s return in September, 1946?
Here’s a short interview with Paymaster Marion in the L.A.Times , November, 1976 by Staff Writer, Bion Abbott:
I only have one anecdote regarding cousin Marion.
Sometime in the late 1970s, I was flying from LA to New York on an extradition. I was going to return a suspect arrested on a murder warrant out of Hollywood.
In those days, due to the fact that we were always armed, and “skyjacking” was much more in vogue, the airlines required police officers to pre-register and provide our name and seat number.
Shortly after takeoff, the stewardess approached me and asked, “Excuse me, detective, but the captain wants to know if you are any relation to Marion Hodel?” I told her, I was, and that “Marion is my cousin.” A few minutes later the captain came back and greeted me. Shaking my hand, he informed me that he was, “a good friend and business partner with Marion.” Turns out they “together owned a race-horse.” (Should have got the name. If not the man, then at least the horse.)
Not sure when Marion died, but records show possibly in 1981, but that is unconfirmed.
Be happy to hear from anyone who knew or was a friend to my cousin Marion Hodel. Obviously my information is very limited.
This is from the Social Security Death Index:
MARION HODEL 20 May 1911 Feb 1981 91030 (South Pasadena, Los Angeles, CA) 91208 (Glendale, Los Angeles, CA) 551-01-4993 California
Wasn’t Elspeth “Bobbie” Long seen at Santa Anita shortly before her death? I wonder if she and Marion Hodel ever met there?
Yes, excellent memory Karen! She was supposedly at the track just before her murder, but I’m not sure it was ever confirmed “absolutely.” I think she was a track regular, soooo? Doubt she would have had any connection with Marion at the Corporate Office there, but one never knows.