John Huston Letter No. 6-Rancho Mirage and Halloween 1949 -"A Bat, Cochise, Gorgeous George and a Schmoo"-" Trick or Treat?

December 5, 2017
Los Angeles, California
Steve Hodel, age 9, In the desert
In my sequel, Black Dahlia Avenger II (2014) Chapter 8, I included fourteen separate typewritten letters written by my mother, Dorothy Hodel to her former husband, famed film director, John Huston.  These letters spanned the years from 1948-1957.

Author Note:  My discovery of these letters was pure happenstance. I came across them while browsing through the John Huston Files at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California. There, I found an index labeled, “Dorothy Huston.” It contained these original letters written by my mother to John.
Let’s take a look at Letter No. 6 which my mother wrote on August 27, 1950. Clearly, it is Desperation City again. I’ll let the letter speak for itself.
From Black Dahlia Avenger II, page 133:  (click below link to read)


 We now know that John came through with the money, and as I had written in BDA back in 2003, a friend and sometime lover of my mother’s, film director Rowland Brown, packed our belongings into a truck and moved us out near his home and family in Rancho Mirage, which was then just a tumbleweed town eight miles outside of Palm Springs.




















Rancho Mirage 8 miles east of Palm Springs




Mother’s plea to John for help and money to get us out and away from dad’s “growing threat of no control and physical violence” was answered.
Thanks to several newspaper articles mentioning both Rowland and mother’s move to Rancho Mirage I can now pinpoint our walkabout to the desert. Mother wrote John in late August and we moved within a month. (Likely, sooner).
Two separate articles in the local newspaper, The Desert Sun on October 31st and  November 3, 1950, announced our arrival and later participation in the local Halloween School Parade help document our arrival.
Desert Sun, November  3, 1950
“A lighter, but no less important subject is the Halloween doin’s of the small fry of Rancho Mirage. Michael, Kelvin and Steven Hodel, sons of screewriter, Dorothy Hodel, packed their Halloween costumes with their lunches Tuesday in honor of the big school parade at Cathedral City. They were disguised as bat, the Indian chief Cochise, and Gorgeous George, the wrestler. Steven Brown, son of motion picture director and writer, Rowland Brown was a Schmoo. …”


Desert Sun, October 31, 1950
… “Rowland Brown and his beautiful ballet-dancer wife Karen moved in carrying their two babies Steven, 7, and Daphne, 2., papoose fashion on their backs. Rowland is a brilliant director and writer who has made motion picture history–too long to go into his successes. He is coming down, he told us, to roll up his sleeves, take off long pants and dash off two new one for Paramount: an original for Ann Sheridan, and the Wayward Bus of Steinbeck’s.
Dorothy Harvey Hodel, script and radio writer, and her three sons are established opposite the Desert Air Hotel and swimming pool on Del Sol Road.”


  1. William Schmidt on December 8, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Dear Steve,
    Tremendous recollections!I have BDA and BDAII and you are a brilliant author,able to tell the facts,and add personal anecdotes in a easily digested way.A few quick
    1.Did you ever meet Betty Bersinger,is she still alive?
    2.I lived at the old Apt Bldng at Franklin and Grammercy and one of the tennants told me that Captian Donohoe died in a house ditectly across the street on St Andrews.
    3.Any update on the property owner behind Sowden house allowing Buster to go over the back yard?
    Lastly so glad you came home to Los Angeles,
    Best Wishes
    William Schmidt

    • Steve Hodel on December 8, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Hi William S: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated and glad you’ve enjoyed both books. The sequels Most Evil and Most Evil II take us much deeper into the Rabbit Holes. Also, will be updating BDA II with new info and ten new chapters which should publish in Feb/March 2018, so stay tuned. As to your questions:

      1. Yes, I met and personally interviewed Betty Bersinger. Beautiful woman with clear memories.
      2. Yes, that sounds right. I know he lived just south of Franklin and I think it was Gramercy Pl.So, just within spitting distance of our home at 5121 Franklin Ave.
      3. No change in Laura Person’s refusal, but maybe something might develop on another front but basically status quo as of now. Best Regards, Steve

      • William Schmidt on December 13, 2017 at 10:33 pm

        Hi Steve,
        Cannot wait to order the new update fo BDAII! Wanted to let you know that I always agree with you 100% on all your BDA-Hodel data, but always felt the Norton ave body dump was aimed at Dr Bayley until today.I left my apt at Franklin and Vermont and took Normandie down to Norton and as sure as shooting I was on Degnan before I knew it, then was so confused as to get Norton!I totally see how your father could have thought he was on Degnan.I agree with you now about the Degnan ,Chicago clue but do you think he knew Dr Bayley?Amazing how the address down there carry on the “vibe” of who lived there before.Betty Bersingers at 3705 was neat bright and clean with Christmas decorations.3825 ,the body dump was a dark bad vibe as was Dr Bayleys old house.Carry on! If you ever come to IKEA Burbank I work in the restaraunt, your lunch, dinner etc is on me.

  2. Alena Jetton on August 6, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Steve,
    I wrote to you briefly a few years ago after reading your books. I lived at 1922 N.
    Edgemont for years and years and went to Los Felix Elementary. We walked by
    the Franklin house hundreds of times and never saw a soul, but always
    wondered who lived there.
    Decided to see if there were any more updates recently. Did you publish more in
    Jan. or Feb. this year (2018)?
    Many thanks, AJ

    • Steve Hodel on August 6, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Alena: Lot of new blogs, which you may have already seen. BDA III is expected to publish this fall. Hopefully by november. Lot of new material in the upcoming book. Best, Steve

  3. Alena Jetton on August 8, 2018 at 2:17 am

    Thanks Steve, I will be eagerly waiting. Alena J

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