January 13, 2024
Birch Bay, Washington
In my BDA series of books, I think I only mentioned our neighbor, “Dr. Hill” twice, in passing.
The first was that we three boys would play next door with his children on rare occasions and the second was in quoting mom and dad’s acquaintance, Joe Barrett (our Franklin House tenant and later informant for DA Lt. Jemison.) In that later reference, Barrett when I was questioning him circa 2001 about what he remembered about “The Franklin House years” replied, “Do you remember Dr. Hill Steve? When I got arrested he owned a Bail Bonds company and bailed me out and took me with him to a fancy party where the mayor and other important people were in attendance. I don’t remember what it was all about.”
For the past twenty-plus years I never really thought about “Dr. Hill” other than him being our next-door neighbor. A few days ago, I thought I’d take a quick look-see. I pulled back the curtain a bit and immediately fell into another Rabbit Hole.
It turns out our neighbor, the good “Dr. Hill” was a major mover and shaker in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Here’s what I have discovered just in the last few days:
This graphic shows the Hodel/Hill residences side by side.
At the time we lived there (1945-1950) none of the heavy foliage existed in front of Dr. Hill’s
residence and it was open and fully visible from the sidewalk.
ZERO DEGREES OF SEPARATION
Who was “Dr. Hill?”
It turns out Dr. Chales Wesley Hill was a major “mover and shaker” in 1940s Los Angeles and a pillar in the Black Community. He was known and referred to simply as “C.W.” The following photographs give us a peek at his influence and “connections” in 1940s Los Angeles. (The source of photographs and commentaries are from the UCLA Walter Morgan collection.)
“C.W.” and his Auto”
The below photograph was taken at CW’s residence, 5127 Franklin Ave., Hollywood
L to R: Stanley Mosk, Earl Griffin, Ted Le Berthon*, Lena Horne (in hat), C.W. Hill (behind Ms. Horne), a man named Silverton (first name unknown), an unidentified woman.
The man standing 3rd from the left was identified by Mr. Gordon as journalist Ted Le Berthon.
SUMMARY (From Walter Morgan UCLA collection.)
“Lena Horne was an American jazz and pop singer, dancer and actress, and civil rights activist.
Dr. C.W. Hill was co-vice president along with Lena Horne of the International Film and Radio Guild (IRFG). Initially working as a dentist, he became a successful businessman and real estate broker. Hill was active in the NAACP, the IFRG, where he was co-vice president along with Lena Horne, and other civil rights organizations. He was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. Hill was also a fundraiser and party host at his Hollywood home. According to Walter L. Gordon, Jr., at some point, Mr. Hill simply disappeared from the Los Angeles scene, and no one knew what had become of him. Census records indicate that he died in Evansville, Indiana in 1977.
Morey Stanley Mosk was an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court for 37 years (1964–2001), and holds the record for the longest-serving justice on that court. Before sitting on the Supreme Court, he served as Attorney General of California and as a trial court judge, among other governmental positions.
Publicist Earl “Red” Griffin was the IFRG’s public relations director. He was known for discovering and promoting his eventual wife, LaTanya Griffin.
All information concerning the content and description of the image was provided by Walter Gordon.
Photograph taken at Dr. C. W. Hill’s house in Hollywood, at an International Film and Radio Guild (IFRG) program before an audience of journalists. The purpose of the IFRG was to protect the rights and interests of minorities in the entertainment world.”
Zero Degrees of Separation No.1
*Ted Le Berthon
Here by way of journalist Ted Le Berthon, we have a bizarre link from Le Berthon’s acquaintance with Dr. C.W. Hill in the 1940s to his earlier link to George Hodel in the 1920s. I have reproduced that connection below. A 1925 article, The Clouded Past of a Poet, written by Le Berthon, in which he describes George Hodel in detail and which figured prominently in my first book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder (Arcade 2003).
Black Dahlia Avenger(Arcade 2003)– Pages 67-68
Toward the end of 1925, another story about Father appeared in print, this time by Ted Le Berthon, the drama critic for the Los Angeles Evening Herald, who wrote the following unusual and highly illuminating article about Father. In it, Le Berthon changes Dad’s last name from Hodel to “Morel” and the name of his magazine from Fantasia to Whirlpools.
This article reveals another side to my father. Besides being a pampered mama’s boy, intellectual elitist, poet, and pianist, he was also a fighter who at the slightest provocation would be eager and ready to trade punches.
Los Angeles Evening Herald
December 9, 1925
By TED LE BERTHON
The Clouded Past of a Poet
GEORGE MOREL is tall, olive-skinned with wavy black hair and a strong bold nose. His eyes are large, brown, somnolent. A romantic, hawklike fellow, a pianist, a poet, and editor of Whirlpools, a bizarre, darkly poetical quarterly.
“George is a nice boy but—
How often did one hear that!
What his friends hinted was that George, being young, was inclined to write of melancholy things.
Of course, George could have pointed to Keats, Rupert Brooke, or Stephen Crane for precedent, but— “It’s not George’s gloom, his preference for Huysmanns, De Gourmont, Poe, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Hecht that pains us,” these “friends” would parry, “but his stilted elegance, his meticulous speech!
George drowned himself at times in an ocean of deep dreams. Only part of him seemed present
He would muse standing before one in a black, flowered dressing gown lined with scarlet silk, oblivious to one’s presence.
Suddenly, though, his eyes would flare up like signal lights and he would say, “The formless fastidiousness of perfumes in a seventeenth-century boudoir is comparable to my mind in the presence of twilight.”
One might have answered “What of it?”—but one just didn’t.
As one of George’s “friends” put it: “He’s young. He’ll get over it. What he needs is contact with harsh realities. At present his writing is tenuous, dreamy, monotonous—and he is like his writing.”
A Future Realistic Novelist
I HADN’T seen George for about a year—
And last night, strolling up Spring Street in a sort of Morelian reverie myself, I was startled by hearing a familiar voice. The next moment I saw a tall young fellow in a taxi driver’s uniform seize a burly, argumentative man by the coat lapels and growl menacingly:
“Come across with that taxi fare or I’ll smack you in the nose, right here and now!”
The speaker was GEORGE MOREL.
Zero Degrees of Separation No.2
In the newspaper article below we see C.W.Hill with Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield and wife actress Jane Russell at his
Hollywood residence, 5121 Franklin Ave.
In bizarre twist number 2 we jump from 1940s past to 1960s past.
Once again, as documented in my BDA book series, without any knowledge of the above linkage, At age twenty, I married my first wife, Kiyo (who unbeknownst to me was fourteen years older than her stated age to me of “28”, and had been the former lover of my father, George Hodel.) At the time of our marriage, Kiyo was teaching astrology classes at our home, with Jane Russel in regular attendance. Through Kiyo, I became friends with Jane and her husband, Bob Waterfield which lasted through my three-year marriage. During those years (1962-1965) I had no clue to the Russell’s earlier connection to our former next-door neighbor at the Franklin House–Dr. C.W. Hill, and only discovered it in reading the above article yesterday.
Zero Degrees of Separation No.3
The California Eagle newspaper
August 14, 1947
(Seven months to the day after the kidnap/torture-murder and surgical bisection of Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short that occurred next door to Dr. Hill’s at the Hodel residence, George Hodel, as noted and named in the below article, is in attendance, at “C.W.’s” residence for the piano recital of Beatrice Sandell.)
“Among the 50 or so guests…”Dr. George Hodel and a host of others.”
“C.W.” with Soprano Annie Wiggins Brown at his Franklin Avenue mansion
Ms. Brown was the origianal “Bess” in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opera.
L to R: Paul Robeson, C. W. Hill.
Paul Robeson was an American bass singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. At Rutgers College, he was an outstanding American football player, and then had an international career in singing, with a distinctive, powerful, deep bass voice, as well as acting in theater and movies. He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. (Wikipedia)
C. W. Hill was a Los Angeles real estate agent and businessman.DESCRIPTIONAll information concerning the content and description of the image was provided by Walter Gordon.
“C.W.’s Series 5 All-Star Picks”
(Sticks his head out of the Rabbit Hole.)
I have no real hard memories of our neighbor Dr. Charles Wesley Hill other than visiting on several occasions as a boy of some six or seven years, and playing with some other children at his residence. I had no idea during the writings of the BDA series that he was this well “connected” to L.A. politicos and was unquestionably a leader in LA’s Black community. It will be interesting to see if anything else pops up now that we have discovered CW’s Rabbit Warren.