Three Minute Audio Intro to Upcoming Podcast “Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia” (Debuts Feb 13, 2019)
January 24, 2019
Los Angeles, California
C13 Originals/Cadence 13/TNT Audio Introduction (3 minutes)
“Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia”
Eight Hour podcast series begins February 13, 2019
“When Elizabeth Short, also known as The Black Dahlia was brutally killed in Los Angeles in 1947, it gripped the entire country and became Americas most famous unsolved murder. The case remains officially open, but many believe Dr. George Hodel to be the killer, thanks to the investigation by Hodel’s own son. For the first time ever, using unearthed archival audio and fresh interviews, the Hodels open up to tell their story, and the harrowing legacy of Dr. Hodel that has lasted generations. It turns out that this famous murder is only one of their awful family secrets. Through 8 episodes, sisters Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile will take a deep dive into their family history to try to figure out what really happened, and where do they all go from here?”
A few more recent notes on items that may be of interest:
1. Noticed interesting timeline on Man Ray’s one exhibition in 1943, the year L’Equivoque was produced. This was a one-man show of paintings and photographs at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The Museum’s online archives date the show to September 12. A notice in the LA Times of September 19 states the show was ongoing, and the next shows in the museum’s catalog start on the 24th. On the 23rd, Elizabeth Short was arrested for underage drinking at the El Paseo restaurant, a celebrity hangout three blocks from the Museum of Art. Apparently, she had moved in with a girlfriend in downtown Santa Barbara a week before (“The Black Dahlia Never Dies,” Santa Barbara Independent, 6/7/18). After staying a few days with arresting officer Mary Unkefer, Short relocated back to Medford, MA.
2. On Bill Copley’s references: In addition to Man Ray’s “La Jumelle,” “Erotique Voilée” and “Dorothy Huston Hodel with easel,” Copley’s “Birth of Venus” also seems to reference his “Nude suspended from bars” and “Woman in mask and handcuffs.” A less-frequently reproduced image from the Erotique Voilée series reveals that the bearded man is the artist Louis Marcoussis, a friend of Apollinaire, who appears to be torturing a prone Meret Oppenheim on the press in one image. Incidentally, Copley’s “Il Est Minuit Docteur” is likely a parodic-travestying reference to “Il Est Minuit Dr Schweitzer,” a French book/play/film about the famous medical missionary.
3. The five episodes of Louis Feuillade’s “Fantômas” were released in France from May 1913 – May 1914, which seems to overlap pretty well with young Master George H. Hodel’s stay in Paris. The San Francisco Chronicle reports his sailing for Europe in September 1912 and I believe you’ve indicated he stayed 1-2 yrs. The last episode, “The False Magistrate,” is particularly psychologically interesting in its depiction of the arch criminal’s impostoring gambit. 1913 also saw the release of two sequels in the French “Zigomar” series that anticipated but was eclipsed by “Fantômas.” Zigomar (shades of “Intramar”) is an international criminal genius whose calling card is the letter “Z,” and whose henchmen wear red executioner’s hoods with this insignia flashed across the breast.
Is there a possibility that DNA can be collected from the original evidence? I know that several older Cold Cases have been solved due to DNA evidence.
I really appreciate the information Steven Hodel has provided.
Nancy D: Yes, but LAPD claims they are “too busy” to collect DNA evidence from sources I have provided. That said, other law enforcement may come up with DNA in their crimes, so will shall see? Thanks for you kind words. Steve
Addendum: Turns out that “L’Equivoque” (1943) itself references “La Jumelle” (1939). There is a second version of this painting (also dated 1943) in which the crosshatch where the face should be is replaced by a pair of binoculars. “La Jumelle” puns on the French word for binoculars, the legs on the bisected female figure being shown as spyglasses (even clearer in Man Ray’s 1939 notebook pages). Further, both versions of “L’Equivoque” feature two green pillows that clearly evoke the green skirts or brushes on the strange machine in the companion piece, “La Jumelle avec la ‘A'” (1939). The latter work also anticipates “Alphabet for Adults.” Quite the inside language this crew had going. -LW
Addendum II: The timing of the Santa Barbara show is also notable with respect to the Mattie Comfort affair (’42 or early ’43?). One wonders if the “Noire et Blanche” riff with Dorero and Mattie’s chorus-line friend was presented in that show. Judging from the alternate version of “L’Equivoque,” Man Ray was riffing on “La Jumelle” (which featured his most explicit ever use of the “girl, bisected” motif) in this 1943 work. And, it looks like maybe GHH knew all about that. -LW
LW: You’re deep dives into the related facts surrounding the investigation never cease to amaze me. Appreciate your comments and discoveries.. There is no doubt that in all their separate artworks the surrealists and especially Copley, Man Ray, Duchamp, had their secret/private language and “clews, winks and nods,” between each other. Clearly, this is the basis of GHH’s becoming one of them. His winks and nods in and to the public as his crime signatures in his own mind made him a surrealist just like his good buds. His taunts concealed in plain sight to the police and newspapers and on the victim’s bodies and posings and street sign clues were all part of his GAME. And, I have no doubt his fellow surrealists KNEW IT. Best, Steve
Steve: If “L’Equivoque” really is Beth Short then it seems Man Ray didn’t like her very much or, at best, saw in her simply a vessel to express misogynistic feelings. That might be one of several factors (including shared Sadean ideology and rational self-interest) contributing to a willingness to give George a pass on the whole Black Dahlia thing a few years later. We also know from the Lenorak incident that GHH was a past master at gaslighting troublesome women. Even the cops seemed eager to blame the victim after they came up empty-handed. -LW
Steve first off thank you for what you’ve done. 2 questions: how did Elizabeth get tangled up w George? And who was Lillian?
Heather O: Not sure how they met? Either through the VD clinic where she was being treated for a “Bartholin Gland Cyst” or met him through artist/surrealist Man Ray in ’43. LAPD confirmed they knew each other and dated prior to the murder in their reports. Lillian Lenorak was a friend of my father’s and committed perjury in testifying at the incest trial claiming “no abortion” then changed her mind and decided to tell the truth and George drugged her and staged a “attempt suicide”. It all came out later in a letter from a Santa Barbara Police officer named Mary Unkefer. Best, Steve
Steve: The cross-hatching in one of the two “L’Equivoque” (1943) faces is most likely some kind of pun — we get that from the title, and through the referencing of “La Jumelle.” I think it possible the wordplay is between “hash” and the French phonetic “H.” Recall also that “La Jumelle” from 1939 was paired with “La Jumelle avec la ‘A'” with the “Alphabet for Alphabets”-style ‘A.’ Another point of comparison: “Dorothy Huston Hodel with easel” (1944), with the latent double H (pointed out by another commenter here a while back) and its inspiration, “Erotique Voilée” (Meret Oppenheim). I would also remark that both “L’Equivoque” and “Dorothy Huston Hodel with easel” seem clunky and forced by comparison with the works they reference. Is it possible that “L’Equivoque” was made to order or knocked out as a favor to a friend, perhaps along the lines of Man Ray’s work for Willie Seabrook? Obviously, that’s a long chain of speculation, but it would be good to know more about the provenance of these paintings. -LW
Steve: Just realized that the binoculars (“jumelles”) in the face of the red-and-blue version of “L’Equivoque” themselves obviously suggest the letter ‘H.’ Don’t know how I missed that before. I think we have two ‘H’ puns for the price of one here. I thought those binoculars looked somehow over-literal and out-of-place in a Man Ray painting. Reminds me of Man Ray’s dedication to GHH, “I celebrate you. Man.” -LW
Steve: The 6/7/18 Santa Barbara Independent article “The Black Dahlia Never Dies” mentions that the paper obtained for the first time Mary Unkefer’s report from the September 23, 1943 El Paseo arrest, just down the street from Man Ray’s one-man show that week. I’m wondering if you have ever had a chance to review it. While looking for other Man Ray works from 1943 (apart from L’Equivoque), I came across “The Mug Drawing III.” I first thought it mildly interesting owing to the visual and verbal punning involved and the use of “hachure” (hatching). But, putting it next to the Elizabeth Short mug shot from the 1943 arrest, it seems quite curious. -LW
LW: No never saw the arrest report.
Steve: The question came up here a while back whether it’s just a coincidence that Mary Unkefer arrested Beth Short in Santa Barbara in 1943 and also drove down to Hollywood to take Lillian Lenorak off GHH’s hands in 1950. I’m thinking the solution might be that GHH knew Unkefer from the 1943 incident, and specifically asked for her help in 1950. Audacious, but fortune favors the bold. -LW
Yes, I’ve wondered about that a lot. As Connelly’s Harry Bosch say’s, “There are no coincidences.” I think there must have been some kind of earlier contact, but most like from/through the mother, Mrs. Hamilton. Officer Unkefer was responding to her request to get her grandson from Hodel. It most likely was a private request from Mrs. Hamilton (who was known to have money and power in Santa Barbara). She didn’t really care about her daughter, Lillian, and just wanted to get her grandson. There is more than we know, but doubt we will ever discover the behind the scenes info.
Steve: Looking at it closely, I have a hard time believing that Man Ray’s “The Mug Drawing” is not based on Unkefer’s mug shot of Beth Short. Too many points of resemblance. -LW
LW: Yes, likely could have been contact between GHH and Unkefer back then. The scenario being GHH and Man Ray both knew ES from George’s doctoring/treating her for her Bartholin Gland cyst and or Man Ray from her modeling for his L’Equivoque. George contacts the PD after the arrest, speaks with Officer Unkefer re. his “patient/friend” ES. Unkefer advises him, “She will be sent back East to her home.” End of story in ’43. Slow forward to 1950, and Mrs. Hamilton knows Unkefer as a SBPD officer asks her to do an “off duty service” for her. Unkefer advises her she knows and had contact with Dr. Hodel many years ago and agrees to go pick up her daughter Lillian and grandson at Hodel residence. (Possible scenario?)
Steve: I wonder about the scene at the El Paseo. That place attracted many celebrities over the years. They had Spanish/Flamenco dancing there, which crops up in a few Man Ray photos, including at least one featuring Juliet. Juliet was a bit of a drinker, apparently (later in life, at least — maybe back then?). The one-man show had just wrapped up. Maybe things got rowdy, dancing on the tables or whatever. ES is there, gets arrested as a minor. Famous artist Man Ray and distinguished LA Social Hygiene official GHH get involved as responsible adults when Unkefer marches ES across the street to the basement of City Hall for her booking. ES has no job and no money, and there’s an offer of a quick modeling gig down in LA so she can get the planefare to go safely back to MA. And, “a promise is a promise to a person of the world,” so eventually she winds up back in Hollywood, just like Mattie Comfort. The problem with other scenarios for an early GHH-ES connection is that her known movements before heading back East aren’t especially compatible with her meeting Man Ray in Hollywood as a model or GHH as a doctor, even if they don’t preclude it. The scenario of a meeting in Santa Barbara has fewer problems and could explain “The Mug Drawing” and the Unkefer connection. -LW
Of note with respect to the El Paseo scenario, Jules Engel, a Disney animator friend of the Man Rays during the Vine Street years, recalls that, while Man Ray was not a drinker and Juliet was a “nice person,” Juliet was also a big-time drunk. See his video reminisces of the couple, “Out on the town with Man Ray” and “Man Ray and Julie.” -LW
More thoughts on “The Mug Drawing III” (1943):
1. We can be pretty sure the visual-verbal punning involves “mug shot,” not just “mug” in the generic sense of “face,” given the unusual combined profile/frontal portrait.
2. I can’t find any other Man Ray work that references mug shots. He would presumably have been familiar with Duchamp’s 1923 self-portrait, “Wanted $2000 Reward,” purportedly a “rectified readymade” adapted from a poster that Duchamp found in a restaurant.
3. The image strongly recalls “The Kiss,” especially the wide-crop version which includes the subjects’ eyes. However, several details suggest that work has been reimagined based on distinctive aspects of the ES mug shot: obviously the one visible ear (which becomes the handle of the “mug”), but also the strong chin, distinctive curve of the lips, up-tilted nose and light-colored eyes.
4. “Noire et Blanche,” which Man Ray had recently reimagined using Dorothy Hodel and Suzette Harbin as models, is also evoked by this drawing.
5. Interesting how the floating “mug” seems to match the facial void in the L’Equivoque paintings, buttressing the idea these works are linked. The use of hachure adds another visual link.
Reading the Unkefer 1/30/50 letter to the DA again, it seems possible that it was GHH who steered Lenorak’s mother into asking Unkefer to take the girl off his hands. It could be a coincidence as Santa Barbara was a relatively small town back then, and it would seem superficially a risky move if there had been prior contact with Unkefer around the ES underage drinking arrest. OTH, if GHH had assumed a “white hat” figure-of-authority role back in ’43 and knew Unkefer had already shared this ES link with investigators, it could have been a characteristically in-your-face play to reassert his bona fides and stay on top of the situation. In the 3/22/50 DA interview transcript with Dorothy Hodel, Jemison moves swiftly from the topic of the Tamar trial to asking about Lenorak and whether Dorothy knew Lenorak’s mother, then immediately shows her the 1943 Santa Barbara No. 11419 mugshot — which is not very representative of ES’s appearance in the Hollywood years — and asks her if she had ever seen Elizabeth Short. In the subsequent questions relating to ES going out with George and being over at the Sowden House, Jemison doesn’t suggest Dorothy had direct personal contact with ES in Hollywood. Maybe there’s a hint in there that the DA did have info about a Santa Barbara connection.
LW: Yes, I think there most assuredly was a much deeper connection between Mrs. Hamilton and GHH. However, we do KNOW that Joe Barrett (roomer at the Franklin House) and Karoun Tootikian accompanied Officer Unkefer up to Santa Barbara. And Tootikian was a dance instructor/close friend of Lillian’s and both danced and instructed at the Ruth St. Denis dance studio in LA. In the Unkefer letter to the DA she writes, “Joe Barrett & Karoun Tootikian were here from Los Angeles to attend the hearing. Joe has had a good chance to talk to Dr. Hodel & he knows the Dist. Attorney’s Office is interested in the case. He seems to be afraid he might be questioned about the trial because his whole attitude was changed. He now speaks of the Dr. as ‘not a bad fellow, with plenty of worries of his own’. He spoke & acted as though he is sorry he opened his mouth the night I brought Lillian home from Los Angeles. Karoun Tootikian’s address is 2211 S. Highland, Dancing Teacher.” So, clearly, GHH could have met Lillian’s mother socially or on a visit she may have made to see her son, even possibly at the Franklin House? skh
Steve: Whoever alerted Mrs. Hamilton (Lillian’s mother), the question arises where the idea of tasking Mary Unkefer came from: was it GHH, Mrs. Hamilton, Lillian herself, or did the SBPD just assign her in response to a generic request? All four ideas seem possible, but only the GHH idea “explains” the coincidence of the Unkefer connection to ES. Perhaps that wouldn’t amount to much on its own, but I think it takes on added interest in light of the time and location of Man Ray’s ’43 show and the curious aspects of “L’Equivoque” and “The Mug Drawing.” I had a question on the mugshot. Who would see that? Would ES have received a copy of her own arrest report, or could GHH have received a copy if he somehow involved himself in ES’s “rescue?” Can we envision a scenario where Man Ray could have ended up seeing those images? From a purely artistic standpoint, the flow to me looks like: mugshot -> Mug Drawing (“The Kiss” reinterpreted) -> L’Equivoque (“La Jumelle” reinterpreted, with hat-tip to “H”) -> GHH’s grisly “homage” to Man Ray three years later. This theory only works if there’s some way Man Ray can see the mugshot back in 1943. Otherwise, I guess we have to assume that his gimmick of conflating “The Kiss” with a police mugshot is just a coincidence. -LW
Steve: That the hachure in one of the two known versions of “L’Equivoque” represents an ‘H’ is confirmed when you look at “Les treize clichés vierges H,” one of several “Alphabet for Adult”-style drawings Man Ray did for a 1968 portfolio illustrating texts by Eluard, Breton and Duchamp. Thus, both versions of “L’Equivoque” call out the letter “H” within the blanked-out face of the model. Who, then, is “H?” -LW
LW: Yes, very interesting. And just one year prior to his 1969 Unsaleable-Minotaur poster was shown in Europe. All of these works are after he met and befriended George Hodel. Who is H? Indeed. s.
Steve: Man Ray’s 1937 “Les Mains Libres,” illustrating Eluard’s poetry, is full of GHH-relevant drawings, including a remarkable image of a woman being cut in two with scissors, pictures of the Marquis de Sade and the Comte de Monte-Cristo (perhaps another Zodiac influence), and more. One drawing, entitled “Reproduction de Narcisse,” probably bears on “L’Equivoque” and suggests the myth of Narcissus and Echo is being invoked. I believe that explains why the woman has no face and an H is imposed instead, and also (which had been puzzling me) why the two versions are “mirrored.” Psychologically, it’s reminiscent of Remy de Gourmont’s sado-erotic novel, “The Phantom” (1893), wherein the female lover is a mere reflection of the male ego and in the end quite disposable. -LW
I’m wondering if Lillian Lenorak’s identification of the ES photo (cited by Jemison in his closing report) might relate to Santa Barbara ’43 rather than to ES’s time in Hollywood. Perhaps GHH knew that Unkefer and Lenorak were both aware of a contact with ES, but it was “old news” to all concerned (including detectives) and could be rationalized away given his “white hat” status along with the fact that it was years before her murder and even before her return to the East Coast.
Compared to Joe Barrett’s explanation that the stalking incident was motivated by Lenorak’s knowledge of contacts at the Sowden House and beliefs concerning the murder, this idea seems to better explain: (a) why GHH would risk handing off Lillian to Unkefer, widely identified in Dahlia press coverage as ES’s SBPD rescuer, for a 3-hour road trip, and (b) why Unkefer’s letter to the DA detailing Lillian’s terror of GHH mentions the incest trial perjury but doesn’t mention the Dahlia case at all.
If this is correct, then in outline the investigation might have evolved as follows:
’45 – Unresolved suspicions at the DA’s office regarding the death of GHH’s secretary.
’47 – (Hypothetically) Information from Mary Unkefer regarding an apparently innocuous ’43 link to ES puts GHH on the DA’s radar.
’49 – Incest trial shatters GHH’s veneer of respectability.
’50 – Unkefer’s letter regarding the Lenorak incident raises new red flags, triggering Sowden House stakeout.
’51 – GHH leaves the country (to everyone’s relief) and the case is quietly deep-sixed and forgotten.
Would be nice to know more about when and how Lenorak came into contact with GHH in the first place. Given his sideline as a music/dance “impresario,” (evident from the bugging transcripts), could he have been her original LA connection?
Steve, I respect and appreciate the fact that you pursued the facts about the Black Dahlia murder and your father’s role in that horrendous crime can’t imagine how hard that is but you sought for the truth and justice for the victims. I say victims because looking at the brutal nature of the case I would say George was no doubt a serial killer. I ponder if he acted alone or if some of his surrealist buddies helped just seems like he got some help. I ponder to it seems like the Black Dahlia was street smart I cannot fathom her willingly going into the basement seems like she would have put up a fight unless there was more than one attacker or she was drugged? I hope law enforcement will finally say publically that George was the murderer even if it cost the city money to bring closure the way I see it there was absolute failure to get justice for these women which more than likely lead to more victims seems like there was a cover up . I commend your family for having the courage to go public .
Jennifer D: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. There were three individuals involved in her abduction on Jan 14, 1947 from DTLA, “two men and a woman.” Last seen with them by an LAPD policewoman, Officer Myrl McBride who stopped and talked to them. So, yes, others were involved. I think the two men were: GHH and Fred Sexton, the woman??? Likely more than one suspect involved in the torture/murder at the Franklin House. She was drugged. I go into the details extensively in BDA and BDA II. Best, Steve
I watched I am the Night last night. Interesting story. I especially loved when the bus came over Dunmovin Hill in the Owens Valley. However, I believe there was a bit of artistic license going on there. You have said, Steve, that your father lived in the Philippines for about 35 years after leaving Hawaii. How could Fauna have found him at the Sowden House in LA in the mid-60s? Looking forward to hearing Root of Evil when it is released.
Hi Jean: I haven’t seen or watched the I Am The Night episode and not sure I will. What you and viewers need to know is that is a FICTIONAL account as in NOT REAL. Fauna never ever met her grandfather and was never at the Sowden/Franklin House until after our father’s passing and the publication of my book in 2003. On Feb 13, a podcast, “Root of Evil” will begin and hopefully will tell “the true Hodel story” which I did cooperate in interviews in hopes of setting the record “straight” to counterbalance the fictional account in the I Am The Night miniseries. Regards, Steve
Thanks, Steve. I was rather hoping that Root of Evil would tell the true story. I will listen to it. Thanks for answering my question. Wishing you well.
Hi this is probably a stupid question, but I was just reading the comments and I don’t understand wat paintings is Luigi speaking about. I was listening to a podcast tonight and it was about the Black Dahlia Murder. I have heard about it but never researched it, so this was how I came along ur website. I’m so looking forward to the podcast and I will definitely be purchasing your books. I’m glad I didn’t watch that new tv show bc your podcast sounds like it will be the true story!! I wish u the best.
Jenny: Luigi’s comment relates to a painting by Man Ray called “LEquivoqu” that relates directly to the Black Dahlia crime. But, it and much more is all explained in my books. Yes, the upcoming podcast is the true story.
Hello. I’m listening to podcast 1 right now. When will the next one air?
Valarie: I think they are weekly, but not 100% sure? Probably next Wed?
Is there any schedule when they’re realeasing episodes?? Kinda frustrating.
I believe the episodes are being released every Wednesday so Episode 3 of 8 should be available tomorrow, Feb 27th.
Does anyone know the name of the song used as the theme song for the podcast?
Nate H: I don’t, but I’m sure someone out there does. steve
It’s “David Lynch – Star Dream Girl”. Hope that helps!
Brendan: Thanks for the info.
When do the next episodes come out for Root of Evil???
Rachel K: I believe the new episode airs every Wed in the United States so, tomorrow, March 6th should bring us Episode 4 of 8.
Steve, I’m hooked on the podcast. And I’m thoroughly impressed by your research and candor. I haven’t seen the show as I don’t have cable, which is probably fine considering you said some of the show is fictional. I would like to order your books on Audible. Since I know a lot of the background from the podcast, which book do you suggest I start with?
Well, guess it’s best to start with Black Dahlia Avenger. BDA II, unfortunately, is not on audible. Most Evil II by the narrator, Malcolm Hillgartner is EXCELLENT. BDA III is not yet on audible either. Re. the miniseries, not “some” but about 95% is fictional. No real information as relates to the true crime investigation. Steve
It seems the episode titled: “supposin I did kill the black dahlia” seems to be unavailable everywhere. It shows that it’s 1hr and 6mins long but once you press play it’s just 2mins of adverts and then it stops and that’s the end of that “episode”. Can you try to fix it? Thanks!
Monika: The below link works for me? Try it. If not, let me know and I’ll check with Cadence 13.