April 19, 2016
Los Angeles, California
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)
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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
Film 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.
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.
- John Doe circa 1942 Kiyo unknown. Likely her real age of 21.
- Brook Cuddy (Unknown, not found file)
- Richard Herd 22 Kiyo “25” (actual age 34)
- John Mickey Roth 23, Kiyo “25” (actual age 35)
- Steve Hodel 20, Kiyo “28” (actual age 42)
- Rolf Aurness 21, Kiyo “27” (actual age 52)