Former Metropolitan Opera Singer Paul Veglia Details His Two Month Personal Contact With LA’s Most Infamous Murder Victim, Elizabeth "Black Dahlia" Short

February 28, 2017
Los Angeles, California




Former Met Opera Singer Paul Veglia, age 84 describes to me his connections and personal contact with Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short when he was a young farm boy of twelve in 1943. (Photo taken at Art’s Deli, Studio City, 2017)
 Investigative “tips” come to me these days, usually as an email or phone call.  This time it was the latter.  A late afternoon call from my brother, Kelly and his wife, Angel.
“Hi Bro. Had a strange thing happen the other day. I was doing one of my harmonica gigs for some Seniors and this guy walks up to me, looks at the name printed on my fatigues. (Kelly was a Navy Corpsman, like me).  And he says, ‘Hodel’ that’s strange I was just reading this book last night by a guy named Steve Hodel.’
Kelly responded, “Yes, that’s my brother.  He’s written several books about the Black Dahlia.”
Kelly went on to inform me that the man claimed to have met and spent time with Elizabeth Short back during the war years.
I explained to my brother that I get a lot of those kinds of claims. Most are psychos who are obsessed with the Dahlia story who email me and want to give me clues and tell me what she was really like.
My brother backed up by his wife, Angel, persisted.
“I don’t think that is the case with this guy Steve. I think he’s the real deal. He gave me his name and phone number. Maybe just call and talk to him. See what you think. Guy’s name is Paul Veglia. His phone is 310-936—-. He lives in Santa Monica.”
Angel, backed him up, “I also got the impression he was telling the truth, Steve.”
I thanked my brother and Angel for the call, took the name and phone number and threw it into the “To Do” box on my desk.
An hour later, my curiosity got the best of me. Though confident this was just another delusional crank, I knew that I would be able to ferret out the truth within five or ten minutes of conversation. I made the call.
“Yes, this is Paul Veglia. Oh, hello Mr. Hodel, yes thank you for calling.
He talked, I listened.  Twenty minutes later, convinced that he and his story claiming personal contact with Elizabeth Short was as my brother had said, “the real deal” we agreed to meet at Art’s Delicatessen, in Studio City, the following morning.

The Interview

Paul Veglia is a handsome, gregarious man of eighty-four. Physically fit, Intelligent, and extroverted. He is a man who knows the world and its streets. He opened our conversation by saying,
“Now please bear with me. I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It has affected my life since I was a boy, so if I lose my train of thought or repeat myself, just understand it’s the ADD. However, it doesn’t “add” it subtracts and has been the cause of missed opportunities for most of my life.”
SKH Note- Here is the Merriam Webster Medical definition of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  1. A developmental disorder that is marked especially by persistent symptoms of inattention (such as distractibility, forgetfulness, or disorganization) or by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity (such as fidgeting, speaking out of turn, or restlessness) or by symptoms of all three, and that is not caused by any serious underlying physical or mental disorder.
My interview with Paul at Art’s Deli in Studio City lasted three hours.  He talked about his remarkable life, his career as an opera singer (he performed twice at the NY Met) and performed in national tours in KISMET (1962) and CANDIDE (1971) and ‘La Boheme’ at the Santa Monica Civic Opera. Paul performed the role of “Elder Hayes”, in  “Susannah” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1966.  Paul was married to Monika Henreid, the daughter of famed actor, Paul Henreid. (Played “Victor Lazlo” in Casa Blanca)

Paul Henreid Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in Casa Blanca (1941)
While it was fascinating to hear about Paul’s life and personal anecdotes, for the purpose of this blog I am going to focus and present his verbatim memories of a two-month time period in the Summer of 1943, when he was a farm boy of twelve.
During those two months, he came into daily contact with then nineteen-year-old, Elizabeth Short, who four years later would become Los Angeles’ most infamous murder victim, known as “The Black Dahlia.”
 (SKH Note-  In 1947, the victim, Elizabeth Short (initially a “Jane Doe No. 1) was identified through fingerprints from an arrest for “Minor Possession” (being present in a bar in Santa Barbara under age.)  Work records showed in 1943 Elizabeth was employed at Camp Cook (Vandenberg Air Force Base) in the PX as a salesgirl just 8 miles north of Casmalia. This narrative takes place during those months in 1943.
Here is Paul’s verbatim recounting of those two months.
“In 1943, I was twelve years old.  I was a farm boy growing up in Casmalia, California.
Casmalia is a small town about seven miles north of Camp Cook. (Vandenberg Air Force Base.)
I met Elizabeth Short, is it OK if I call her Beth, it’s shorter to say? I met Beth when she was staying at a cabin at the Ranch House in Casmalia. Dave Thompkins was a twenty-four-year-old farm boy and he had met Beth somewhere and he said to her (I’m assuming this) said, “Why don’t you stay at the Guest House at my ranch?
That cabin where Beth stayed was about a quarter mile from my bedroom. At that time I was living in the back of the Hitching Post, which is now a world famous restaurant. Back then it was a ten-room hotel.  Later, in 1948, after the war, Boyd Wyse came and offered my dad, Mario, a deal and they became partners and opened it up as a restaurant. It became famous and still is for “The Best Bar B Que in the world.”
For two months in the summer of ’43 I saw Beth every day. We never really spoke other than for her to say, “Good morning Paulie.” I was just a kid of twelve and she was about nineteen or so.
Physically, she had black hair. It was almost touching her shoulders. She usually wore black slacks and a white short sleeved blouse. She would come out from her cabin when I was sweeping her porch.  She would come out and say to me, “Good morning” or I would say it to her too. Then she would thank me for sweeping off her porch and she would walk barefoot across the pasture and through a clump of Willow trees to the Post Office and store. The water would collect on the ground and she was barefoot and would walk through the water to the Post Office.

September 1943 Santa Barbara PD   Booking Photo of Elizabeth Short.Arrested for being a minor and present in a bar. This photo would have been taken just a few months after Paul Veglia saw her on a daily basis at her residence in Casmalia.
Paul continued his narrative:
Beth had Post Office Box 66, which was right next to our box which was 65. My mother later told me, or somebody told me that Beth would come to pick up her letters every day.
During school vacation I would get up during school vacation sometimes at 4:00 a.m. and Johnny Tyler, my schoolmate would drive and come and pick me up in his car. We would drive back to Camp Cook and we’d sell a hundred newspapers each for five cents apiece. I’d make two cents per paper, so I made $2.00 every morning during the summer.
I’d be back home at 7:00 a.m., go to the ranch, pick up my shovel, feed the cows some hay, the horses alfalfa, and the chickens some grain. Then I’d sweep Beth’s porch and sweep all the chicken manure off it.
My father owned the Hitching Post and I am one of three sons. I started working for my dad peeling potatoes when I was seven. My mother was the bartender at the Hitching Post. I remember one time when I saw Beth with David Tompkins there at the bar. My mother served them drinks. I think I remember that Beth had a cherry in her drink. Beth was pretty, but she wasn’t Elizabeth Taylor beauty.
I was born in Santa Maria, California about eight miles from Casmalia. My mother gave birth to me at sixteen. I was the first born, named after my grandfather who was a Deputy Sheriff up there.
Beth and I really had no conversations, just, “Good morning Paulie.” No, I never saw her with guys. We never even shook hands.
In 1952 or 1953 I came in to California for 4-5 days, in uniform on furlough. I was in the Air Force. My mother came up to me and said, “Paulie, remember Elizabeth?” I said, Elizabeth? Oh, you mean Dave Tompkins girlfriend?” That’s when my mom said, “She was murdered.” My mom didn’t even know about the body being divided, just that she had been murdered. Oh, I thought she was murdered in ’52 or so? 1947? I was still in high school in Santa Maria then. My mother didn’t hear about it until 1953.
Beth went to Camp Cook AFB every day, just like me. I have no idea how she got there? Maybe her boyfriend, David Tompkins took her? He was six or seven years older than me.
(Paul draws a map on restaurant paper.)
Beth’s guest house was here. A corral was here. Dave Tompkins lived here with his brothers and sisters.  Here’s the store, where I worked. I stacked vegetables for twenty-five cents for Boyd Wyse, who became partners with my dad and later on, they opened the Hitching Post Bar B Que.








My three-hour interview with Paul came to an end. I thanked him for sharing his memories of Elizabeth Short and the stories of his life with its trials, tribulations, and successes.
It wasn’t’ until I returned home and transcribed the taped interview that I became aware of how powerful an impression Paul’s story and description of Elizabeth had made on me.
It was not Paul’s conversation with her that had impressed me. In truth, there were no conversations between them, just a regular morning “Hello” and “Thank You Paulie.”
But, the picture, Paul his shared with us, as seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old farm boy,  is very real and very powerful.
 After hearing his story, I find myself haunted by his personal description of Elizabeth Short more than any other “witness” I have interviewed over the past fifteen years. Why?
Because he confirms and has made real what I have always felt and suspected was the essence of Elizabeth Short—Her Loneliness.
A young woman alone, with few or no real friends. Living in a rural broken down cabin with a porch covered with chicken manure that needs to be swept away each morning.
She walks barefoot out her front door, through the wet pastureland, passing through the clump of standing Willow trees, walking the quarter mile to the Post Office. On her slow walk, she has hope in her heart. Hope that someone has written her to say, “I love you”. Come join me.”  But, it was not to be.
Thank You, Paul, Veglia for lending us your twelve-year-old eyes that saw more of the truth in those two short months than all that have come forward since to claim “they knew her well.”
SKH Note:  In a follow-up call to me last night Paul wanted to thank me for meeting and talking with him. I asked him had he been interviewed by anyone or the media over the years on his meeting with Elizabeth Short?  He told me that he had been interviewed “ten or fifteen years ago, by a man from the LA Times who was doing research on the Black Dahlia, possibly for a book?”  They too had met at a restaurant and talked for about “ninety minutes.” While he could not recall his name, I am sure this must have been the retired LA Times copy-editor, Larry Harnisch. Harnisch who for the past twenty years has been “ in the process of writing his Black Dahlia book” and to this day still claims to be, “the leading expert on the Black Dahlia murder.”  In 2001, two years before my publication of BDA  made some public claims that he suspected the Black Dahlia killer to be a “Dr. Walter Bayley who lived in the neighborhood and was a surgeon with L.A. County Health Department.  The first witness to the crime, Mrs. Betty Bersinger, had run south after discovering the body in the vacant lot and used the Bayley’s telephone to call the police to the scene. In a radio interview, Harnisch when asked what Dr. Bayley’s motive for the crime might be, speculated that it might have been “pent up rage because his young son was killed in an unrelated car accident some twenty-five years earlier.”












Paul Veglia singing at 3:22 on the video.











  1. Lucas on February 28, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Facinating encounter Steve. Like you say the sense of Beth Short’s isolation and
    loneliness does come across in his description of her. I also get a sense of her as
    extremely naive especially about men and relationships. Obviously GHH was attracted
    to and easily able to manipulate Short. Psychopathic predators like GHH have a special radar
    for people’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities and he zeroed in on hers with horrific results. It’s really all very sad. That Short returned (at least in part) to seek out her father only to run into GHH and become his “masterpiece” truly is a sad tale. That is the legacy of GHH, human misery in every direction. Through your work and this interview you succeed in humanizing Beth Short and for that I commend you. Beth Short was not GHH’s “masterpiece”. She was just (sadly) his most well known victim of which there are many. Rest In Peace Beth Short. Rest In Peace

    • Steve Hodel on February 28, 2017 at 11:51 pm

      Lucas: Thank you for your comments and kind words. Much appreciated.
      Yes, she was very naive and vulnerable.
      Best Regards, Steve

  2. Amy Albani on March 10, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Steve: Your “Black Dahlia” books are fascinating reading, though I’m sure that what you discovered about your father’s connection to the case must have been very disturbing for you. I admire you for going ahead with the project as you have done for so long. I was especially interested in your recent interview with Paul Veglia, who has been my friend and singing colleague for many years. (Before I became a book and screenplay writer, I was an opera singer, and Paul and I often performed together.) My book about Paul’s life, which will be published later this year, is called “Shut Up and Sing!” (The Story of a Tenor). The title came about because of something Paul mentioned in your interview with him — his Attention Deficit Disorder, which made it difficult for him to memorize music and lyrics. It’s one of the reasons he was never able to achieve the fame his talent deserved — along with a few other things, including his parents’ lack of sympathy when he tried to practice as a boy, causing them to yell at him, “Paul, will you shut up?!” Again, Steve, congratulations on your books — I’ll let you know when “Shut Up and Sing!” is published!

    • Steve Hodel on March 10, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Amy:

      Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
      Yes, Paul mentioned your upcoming book on his life. Looking forward to reading it. Great title. I could see just from the short interview with Paul how it (the ADD) would/did impact his life in many ways. But, despite the medical impairment, his talent and intelligence still shine through. Let me know when the book comes out for sure. Best Regards, Steve

  3. SR on March 10, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    As I have read the books and the blog, I have observed you master the facts, such that you feel confident publishing your intuitions on ES’s personality, and you can consider GH’s crimes against the templates of contemporary films.

    Watching a master develop and become fluid with the material is as much a pleasure as learning the truth. Sort of “Becoming a Master in Public.”

    • Steve Hodel on March 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      SR: Thanks for your comments/observations. Very kind. What I loved about the Paul V. interview is how much his up close and personal description of her seen through the eyes of a young boy, matched and captured the same feelings from what I heard from HER OWN VOICE, in reading between the lines from her personal letters to boyfriends as published back in ’45 and ’46, just a few years after Paul’s encounter with her at the ranch house. Best Regards, Steve

  4. Mario Veglia on July 28, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I thank you so much for interviewing Paul Veglia, my dad. 🙂

    He is quite a guy.

    Congratulations on your highly interesting books of course.


    Mario Veglia

    • Steve Hodel on July 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Mario: The pleasure was mine. Grateful your dad added so much to our understanding by sharing that picture of a young, lonely and lost Elizabeth Short. Best Regards, Steve

  5. Shawn Watters on January 18, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Veglia back in 2016. My family and I were in California for a short vacation and had dinner, slept and then breakfast in Santa Monica. At that time I was attempting to start a t-shirt line/company, “IT” Shirts, and was wearing one for the first time ever. While waiting in line at Panera, I believe, I saw Paul point at me and speak to the gentleman and younger lady he was with. A minute later, as we headed to a table, he walked up to me and said something like, ” You know I’ve been telling people around here in the business for decades that I’ve got “IT!” He then asked me if I thought he had “IT” and I told him him I just met him so I really didn’t know, but it was possible. He briefly told me that he was an opera singer, but mainly did weddings and such now. We exchanged pleasantries and he returned to his group and I sat and ate with my wife and daughter. Both tables were talking about the encounter, I was excited that an hour into wearing my shirt someone noticed. I thought it was going to be a hit! I could hear his friend was supportive, but the woman was telling him he shouldn’t have bothered me. After we were finished eating I approached them and introduced myself and explained my shirt, the idea behind and my plans. Paul introduced me to his friend who may have been his manager and his daughter. He then told me about the Hitching Post, gave me his card and drew me a map. I never intended on going off course, but there was something about Paul that drove me to go an hour off course through the hills to the middle of nowhere, Casmalia, to have dinner at The Hitching Post. It was literally the only thing in town beside some beat up homes and a closed store all on one street. We had a great meal in a very interesting place, especially the patio/garden and it was there that I realized it must have been that Paul Veglia truly does have That “IT” Factor or else I would have made it to my original destination Morro Bay. I hope he is doing well and still singing!

    • Steve Hodel on January 18, 2019 at 7:44 pm

      Hi Shawn: Thanks for the anecdote. Well now you’ve got my curiosity up about the “In the Middle of Nowhere” Hitching Post restaurant referred to by “Paul Veglia (pronounced VALIA) from Casmalia.”
      One of these days I hope to make the trip to check IT and the food out. Best Steve

  6. Chickie Leventhal on May 5, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I was fortunate to be introduced to Paul Veglia a couple of weeks ago in Beverly Hills when he crooned a love song so beautifully into my ear. I would like to go on record saying that he most definitely does have “IT.” Paul fully confirms my philosophy that age is only a number. I wish him many more years of serenading swooning red heads!

    • Steve Hodel on May 5, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      Chickie L: Paul V. is definitely a lady charmer and still going strong at 86! Once in “Show Biz” always I guess. Glad I had a chance to meet and interview him. Gave an accurate picture of Elizabeth Short, even though it came from the eyes of a twelve-year-old. Best, Steve

  7. Tom MacDonald on August 3, 2020 at 11:30 am


    I met Paul years ago when I was living in NYC after I auditioned for some musical. He introduced himself and we hung out together for awhile; and since I was a tenor as well, we had a lot to talk about.
    This was the time when he was a Broadway chorister (I think) and he was living at the Hotel Ansonia.right next door to the Brazilian soprano at the Met, Bidu Sayao whom I met. Well, after that background, is it possible that i could get in contact with Paul?

    • Steve Hodel on August 4, 2020 at 1:36 pm

      Tom M:

      Haven’t had contact with Paul in over a year, but will try and contact him and give him your request to have him call you if I can reach him. Only have a phone number so? Left several requests for him to call me, but so far nada. Steve

  8. Tim Carey on June 18, 2022 at 10:41 am

    I enjoyed a wonderful 3 plus hour flight recently with Paul describing his life. About half way through the flight, he asked if he was boring me. I said absolutely not, you have had a very interesting life and I have enjoyed listening to you. The way he described the details, I felt like I was there.
    Thank you Paul and I hope you have another 90 years of adventures!
    Tim Carey

    • Steve Hodel on June 18, 2022 at 10:49 am

      Tim C:
      Well, I have to totally agree with you there. Paul does love to talk and I’m sure with three hours he was just warming up.
      He has lived a truly remarkable life for sure.

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