Happy Birthday Aggie Underwood & Deranged L.A. Crimes!

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie Underwood was born on December 17, 1902 and Deranged L.A. Crimes was born on December 17, 2012, so there’s a lot to celebrate today. We have so many candles on our birthday cake it will take a gale force wind to blow them all out.

It was Aggie’s career as a Los Angeles journalist that inspired me to begin this blog; and my admiration for Aggie and her accomplishments has grown in the years since I first became aware of her.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie’s career began in late 1926 when she took a job as a temporary switchboard operator at the Daily Record. She had never intended to work outside of her home, but she was motivated by her desire for a pair of silk stockings. When her husband Harry told her they couldn’t afford the stockings, Aggie got huffy and said she’d buy them herself. It was an empty threat — until a close friend called out of the blue and asked her if she would be interested in a temporary job at the Daily Record. Aggie jumped at the chance. Christmas was coming and the Underwood family could use a few extra dollars, and Aggie would get her silk stockings.

In her 1949 autobiography, Newspaperwoman, Aggie described her first impression of the Record’s newsroom as a “weird wonderland”. She was initially intimidated by the men in shirtsleeves shouting, cursing and banging away on typewriters, but it didn’t take long before intimidation became exhilaration. Much to her surprise she had fallen in love with the newspaper business. At the end of her first year at her “temporary” job she realized that she wanted to be a reporter. From that moment forward Aggie pursued her goal with passion and commitment.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express. Note the baseball bat — she used it to shoo away pesky Hollywood press agents.

During a time when most female journalists were assigned to report on women’s club activities and fashion trends, Aggie covered the most important crime stories of the day. She attended actress Thelma Todd’s autopsy in December 1935 and was the only Los Angeles reporter to score a byline in the Black Dahlia case in January 1947. Aggie’s career may have started on a whim, but it lasted over 40 years.

Look closely and you can see Aggie's byline.

Look closely and you can see Aggie’s byline under “Night In a Motel”.

Over the past five years I’ve corresponded with many of you and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of you in person. Your support and encouragement mean a lot to me, and whether you are new to the blog or have been following Deranged L.A. Crimes from the beginning I want to thank you sincerely for your readership.

There will be many more stories in 2018, and a few appearances too. Look for me in shows on the Investigation Discovery Network (I’ve been interviewed for Deadly Women, Deadly Affairs, Evil Twins, Evil Kin and several others.) I recently appeared in a show on the infamous Cecil Hotel (Horror at the Cecil Hotel).  The Cecil has the dubious distinction of having been home to two serial killers!

I have appeared in a few podcasts — Hollywood & Crime and Gangland Wire to name two.

Whether it is on television, in the blog or some other medium I’m looking forward to telling more crime tales in 2018.

Happy Holidays!

Thank you again for your support.

Joan

Hollywood Love Triangle: Part 2

raymond_mackaye_kellyThe circumstances of Ray Raymond’s death may have been successfully covered up if not for local newshounds who got wind of the fight and his subsequent death. They called on the Coroner and began asking for details, but he couldn’t tell them a thing – Raymond’s death had not been reported to him!  Dorothy’s $500 payment to Dr. Sullivan had clearly been worth every cent.

Coroner Frank Nance at his desk. [LAPL photo]

Coroner Frank Nance at his desk. [LAPL photo]

Coroner Nance called the hospital where Raymond had died, and was informed that not only was Ray deceased his body had been removed by an undertaker!

Nance followed up and located Raymond’s body at a Hollywood mortuary.  He immediately claimed the body to perform an autopsy.

Not surprisingly, Coroner Nance’s findings didn’t agree with those of Dr. Sullivan — and Dr. Nance had harsh words for both Paul Kelly and Dorothy Mackaye.

He said: “Fortifying himself with four or five drinks — probably to brace up his bully courage — Kelly deliberately went into Raymond’s home for the purpose of beating him. I am also informed that Mrs. Raymond was in Kelly’s apartment when he left his home for the purpose of going to her home to beat up Raymond and it is my belief that it was due to her influence that Kelly went to Raymond’s for the sole purpose of attacking him.”

I agree with Coroner Nance.

Dorothy Mackaye collapsed three times at the grand jury inquiry into Ray’s death.  At one point she fell to the marble floor with enough force to render her unconscious for ten minutes. She must have become light-headed after finally being compelled to tell the truth about the day of the beating. Her original story had been that she’d gone out to get Easter eggs for her daughter and to go to a dressmaker. The truth was that she and one of her so-called chaperones, Helen Wilkinson, had been at Kelly’s apartment drinking and had been present when he phoned Ray.

mackaye_indictments

Mackaye summed up her day of testimony before the grand jury by saying: “It has been a terrible ordeal. Why, oh, why, do they have to do all this to me? I would be all right but my nerves are shot to pieces. I hope I won’t have to go through all this again very soon.”

Dorothy had no words of sadness or remorse for Ray’s miserable death. In true Hollywood diva fashion, it was all about her.

In Kelly’s statement to the cops he said he’d purposely called Ray to demand an apology. Seems pretty ballsy to demand that Ray retract statements about Kelly’s relationship with Dorothy — statements which were true. Kelly also told cops was that he went to Raymond’s home “to give him the threshing that was coming to him”.  Kelly wouldn’t make any other statements except to profess his love for Dorothy.

Witnesses stated that Dorothy was still at Kelly’s apartment when he returned after viciously beating Ray, and apparently the couple retired to a rear room and conferred in secret for nearly thirty minutes — obviously to get their stories straight.

It wasn’t only Kelly and Mackaye who were in deep trouble following Ray’s death.  Dr. Sullivan, the physician who had determined that Raymond had died of natural causes, was being taken to task as well. In the District Attorney’s office the day following the grand jury hearing, Dorothy Mackaye came to Dr. Sullivan’s defense. She said:

mackaye_sullivan“I have absolute faith in Dr. Sullivan’s statement that Ray’s death was due to natural causes. He [Raymond] hadn’t been well for some time and we had been afraid of a nervous breakdown.” She continued: “Mr. Kelly I have known for years. I knew him as a youngster in New York when he was first starting out. My feeling for him has always been, and is, I suppose, a sort of sisterly love.”

Mackaye admitted that she and Ray hadn’t been happy for some time and had discussed divorce, but they hadn’t gone through with it due to financial concerns. Oh, and any talk of a future marriage with Kelly had been done “in a joking manner”.

Paul Kelly was indicted for the murder of Ray Raymond, and Dorothy Mackaye was indicted for concealing facts in the case.

NEXT TIME: Hollywood Love Triangle: Part 3