Fifty years ago today, Johnny Stompanato, bodyguard to mobster Mickey Cohen, was murdered in the home of his girlfriend, actress Lana Turner, by Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane. Quite the scandal at the time. He'd been dating/beating Turner for a while. Crane finally snapped one night and stabbed him to death.
There has always been some debate on whether it was Crane who did it, or Turner who did it and got her daughter to take the rap. Mostly fueled by Cohen, who may have been trying to use Stompanato to get leverage over Turner.
I was reminded of all this last night while looking over crime scene and trial photos at the reception for Mobsters, Molls and Mayhem: A Year in the Life of Los Angeles at USC's Doheny Library, which showcases a sample of photos from 1958 culled from the thousands that they acquired from the Los Angeles Examiner.From the shot of the middle-aged housewife found dead in her home with a serving fork shoved so far through her chest that only the handle is visible (police couldn't tell if she'd been murdered or fell on it), to the elderly woman who held off demolition crews for 8 days with a shotgun as they were coming to bulldoze her home to build a new freeway, the photos show a thin slice of the tragic comedy that is Los Angeles. Some heartbreaking, some gruesome, all provocative, the pictures show just how much, and just how little, has actually changed in this town.
The size of the collection is staggering. When the researchers culled all the photos down to 1958, they still had tens of thousands to go through. The ones on-line are only a tiny fraction of what's available.
The exhibit has been going on since February (why they had hte reception mid-way I'm really not sure) and continues through May 16th and is free to the public at the Doheny Library on the USC campus. Worth checking out if you get the chance.