James Ellroy's Feast of Death Arena


James Ellroy's Feast of Death

A programme exploring the work of crime writer James Ellroy, whose credits include LA Confidential, The Black Dahlia and My Dark Places.


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Transcript


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This programme contains very strong language and scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

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LA Confidential, the movie,

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is the best thing that happened to me in my career

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that I had NOTHING to do with.

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It was a fluke, and a wonderful one, and it is never going to happen again, a movie of that quality.

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Here's my final comment on LA Confidential, the movie.

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I go to a video store in Prairie Village, Kansas.

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The youngsters there know me as the guy who wrote LA Confidential.

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They tell the old ladies who come in to get their G-rated family flick.

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They come up to me, they say, "Oh, you wrote LA Confidential! What a wonderful movie!

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"Kim Basinger was so beautiful. Is she a nice person?" "Yeah, she's all right."

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"Oh, it was a wonderful movie. Is Kevin Spacey really gay?

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"Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful movie! I saw it four times.

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"You don't see story-telling like that on the screen any more."

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I smile. I say, "Yes, it's a WONDERFUL movie and a salutary adaptation of my wonderful novel,

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"but, Granny, you loved the movie - did you go out and buy the book?"

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And Granny invariably says, "Well, no, I didn't."

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And I say to Granny, "Then what the fuck good are you to me?"

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LOW VOICES

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..Two- and three-foot depths of water and they couldn't find her.

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After a while, the rains cleared and the gravel pit drained out,

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and, of course, one of the employees at the gravel pit found her.

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You can only imagine what this poor victim was going through.

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It's after midnight, dark, cold at that time of year.

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-This creep is attacking her and she's wondering if she's going to live, and she didn't.

-Yeah.

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You wonder when you're reopening these old cases, are you opening new wounds for the victim's family?

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They've survived this long without the suspect being caught.

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Well, you know - you've reopened your mother's case. It brings back a lot of emotion.

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-Let's go pull your mother's file.

-Right.

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We've got it located in a slightly different location now.

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Hard to believe all these files represent somebody's life.

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Dead people who are saying, "Solve me, solve me."

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Some represent more than one life.

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This is it right here.

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"Z483362."

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Not much to say for a person's life, is it?

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43 years...3 months...and 7 days.

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Let's go take a look at it.

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"He learned some things about murder early on.

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"He learned that men kill with less provocation than women.

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"Men killed because they were drunk, stoned and pissed off.

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"Men killed for money.

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"Men killed cos other men made them feel like sissies.

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"Men killed to impress other men. Men killed so they could talk about it.

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"Men killed cos they were weak and lazy.

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"Men killed women for capitulation -

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"the bitch wouldn't give them head or give them her money, or overcooked the steak,

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"or threw a fit when they traded her food stamps for dope or pawed her 12-year-old daughter.

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"Men did not kill women because they were systematically abused by the female gender."

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He talked about breaking in after watching her in the kitchen for a while.

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She'd gone to the back of the house and he broke in and hid in the bathroom

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and waited for her to go to bed.

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And that just made the hair stand...

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I mean, I remember sitting there in the prison listening to this kid that was like 22 years old.

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It was a terrifying statement that he gave us.

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You can just visualise her terror.

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-And...

-He was 17.

-He was 17 at the time, yeah.

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Think of how horny you were and unsatisfied.

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Think of the deep, dark, turbulent...passionate, but wholly tender love

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you carried around at age 17, with no release for it other than masturbation and stroke books -

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what Tom Waits called "making the scene with a magazine" -

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and then remove your conscience from the whole equation,

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and then add violence to the eroticism,

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and then realise that if you're a fucking sex psycho like Oswaldo,

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you can have any woman that you want.

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To me, that's the whole appeal of serial killers deconstructed.

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It's sexual power.

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It's the absolute sexual power that they have over virtually any human being

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that they're turned on by.

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Here you can see that in those days across the street directly from the entrance was a drive-in dairy

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which now has been replaced by McDonald's,

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so things have changed since 1958.

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This is the first crime-scene photograph,

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which you can barely see the body in the shadows of the hedges.

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And from a different angle you can start to see her dress appear through the shrubbery.

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She was actually found by a group of Little Leaguers who came here to play baseball on Saturday afternoon.

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They saw her dress in the shrubbery and brought the coaches over

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and, of course, they notified the authorities.

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Here's a photograph of Mrs Ellroy, as the body was found.

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Her bra is up around her neck,

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and, at first appearance, they thought she had probably been strangled by her bra,

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but once the body had been moved, they realised there was another method of strangulation.

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This second photo shows the cotton cord used first to strangle her,

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and the suspect broke the lead off right at the knot and he was afraid that she wasn't dead,

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so then he placed a secondary ligature around her, using a nylon,

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and strangled her again.

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The marks you see on the body are insect bites.

0:09:040:09:08

She was originally on her back,

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and the minute somebody dies and they're exposed to the elements like that,

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the insects immediately attack the body.

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Closure is bullshit for murder victims, their families, murderers, for anybody acquainted with murder.

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The ramifications of murder go on and on,

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and they spread like a metastasising fucking tumour and it never ends.

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If I could eradicate one word and concept from the English language,

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it would be the word "closure".

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Anybody who thinks the execution of a loved one's murderer will bring closure is out of their mind.

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It just doesn't exist. It goes on.

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There is no closure. I've dealt with families, felt their pains.

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We got convictions, suspects do life.

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For those people there's no closure. If we found your mom's killers

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-and convicted that guy...

-Yes.

-..there's no closure.

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-Yes.

-Families are glad when court is done and they can put it behind them but it doesn't change what happened.

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If you found your mother's killer,

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you would have more questions.

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You'd be ripping - not the hair - but you'd be tearing yourself apart inside

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because those questions aren't going to be answered even if he gives a full-blown confession.

0:10:340:10:40

-There's going to be - what's this guy all about?

-Lingering questions.

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You will end up being much more discontent.

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In 1958, the suspect could drive into the street, keep the passenger side of his car up against the kerb

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and not even be seen by people on the street,

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so it would make for good camouflage for the things he was about to do.

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And this is one of the composite drawings that were made by the witnesses of the swarthy man.

0:11:070:11:14

These are composite drawings made by two separate witnesses.

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You can see the similarity, yet there are differences,

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so it's probably close to what he looked like.

0:11:250:11:29

"A cheap Saturday night took you down.

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"You died stupidly and harshly,

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"and without the means to hold your own life dear.

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"Your run to safety was a brief reprieve. You brought me into hiding as your good-luck charm.

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"I failed you as a talisman,

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"so I stand now as your witness.

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"Your death defines my life.

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"I want to find the love we never had and explicate it in YOUR name.

0:12:030:12:09

"I want to take your secrets public.

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"I wanna burn down the distance between us.

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"I wanna give you breath."

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When I was a kid, my old man told me that he used to paw the pork to Rita Hayworth,

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not quite in those terms, but...

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RIBALD LAUGHTER

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"James...I used to have intercourse with Ms Hayworth."

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He said there was a dyke bounty out on her. He never explained what was a "dyke bounty".

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I used to think lesbians went around with butterfly nets looking for good-looking women.

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When I was ten, we went to the Hollywood Ranch Market, a freakshow,

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and he told me any man that wore lacquered sunglasses is a fruit,

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and that they wore them so they can see you but you can't see them

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and they want to check out your crotch bulge covertly.

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And so I grew up, and I'd see the highway patrolmen with the lacquered sunglasses...

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and I figured that they were all fruits.

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I've often been accused of being homophobic. I blame my old man.

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But he told me, "I used to throw the salami to Rita Hayworth."

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"Fuck you, Dad, you did not!"

0:13:290:13:32

He was a bullshit artist.

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OK, he died in '65.

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Ten years later, I see a biography of Rita Hayworth in a store and look up my old man's name in the index

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and he was her business manager in the late 1940s and arranged her wedding to Aly Khan,

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so maybe he did paw the pork.

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You see those three windows there?

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-Right.

-And the little window? That's it.

0:13:560:14:00

That first summer after my mother's death the old man worked late nights

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and I'd stare out those windows and watch the cars in Beverly Boulevard

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and wonder if the old man would ever come back.

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And I'd fantasise about the people in the cars -

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wonder how many of the women were destined to become murder victims, how many of the men were killers,

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and, more than anything else, what sex had to do with all of that.

0:14:250:14:30

Did you ever think about what your dad was doing after your mom was murdered,

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then six months later giving you the Jack Webb book,

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full of horrific murders, which got you go hooked on the Black Dahlia?

0:14:410:14:46

He knew I was developing adult reading tastes.

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He knew, after my mother's murder, I started reading kids' mystery books

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because I wanted to book in my mother's murder, wanted to touch the fabric of death,

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but I was touching it in a contained, kid kinda way.

0:15:000:15:04

-Your dad was as warped as you.

-He was a twisted motherfucker.

-So that's hereditary.

0:15:040:15:11

It's hereditary, but the big question remains, and only my wife knows for sure,

0:15:110:15:17

the old man had an 18-inch schvonce and did it pass down a generation or did it skip?

0:15:170:15:23

Let me make a little tribute here.

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James Ellroy, my friend for several years now...

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This is all seriousness now.

0:15:310:15:34

We that work Homicide, and everybody here's worked Homicide,

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-we're usually one of the few people in the world that care about our victims...

-Right.

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People we work around sometimes don't give a shit. We do.

0:15:440:15:49

-You have always cared about your victims...

-That's true.

0:15:490:15:53

..in your books, your articles, stuff you're doing now.

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So we are going to initiate you into our fraternity.

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So I have something special for you that I went out and purchased.

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It is a badge - LAPD very authentic replica badge,

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that is very hard to find.

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Wow!

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Listen, badge 714. That was Jack Webb's badge number!

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Stand up.

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-And don't use it on a traffic stop.

-It could go on your wall.

-Better yet, on a prostitute!

0:16:230:16:31

Honorary role. It is yours.

0:16:330:16:36

-Hey!

-CLAPPING

0:16:360:16:39

-Thank you. I'm honoured to have this.

-And talk about Jack Webb...

0:16:390:16:44

Actually, the Dragnet thing caught you up into the way you write.

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My old man got me a book... I'll laminate this and put it on my wall.

0:16:490:16:54

My dad got me The Badge by Jack Webb, recently published, Dragnet - Badge 714.

0:16:540:17:00

That's where it had the Black Dahlia case - a ten-page summary of it. To this day, cases in it drive me.

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Here it is, 41 years later,

0:17:060:17:08

and I remain driven, morally and psychically, by what I got out of that book.

0:17:080:17:15

It's fucking astonishing!

0:17:150:17:17

There it is - John Burroughs Junior High School. I was here from September '59 till June '62.

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-Kennedy was elected.

-That was early '60s. That was still the innocent...

0:17:350:17:39

Well, the innocent time, we figured out, in America wasn't fucking that innocent.

0:17:390:17:46

-Outwardly innocent.

-Yeah.

0:17:460:17:49

You know, I've never had a violent sexual fantasy in my life.

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When I was breaking into pads, yeah, not that far from here,

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it would just be real nauseous going in... I mean, it was another era.

0:17:580:18:03

You call up, nobody answers the phone - there's nobody home.

0:18:030:18:08

-You break in, you sniff around.

-HE SNIFFS

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You sniff some panties, raid the medicine chest.

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Everybody had fucking drugs back then - prescription pills.

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You pop a couple... And I'd always cover my tracks,

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because I want to get back in again.

0:18:230:18:26

Take a couple of shots of liquor, make a sandwich,

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and it was, you know, little baby Ellroy - it's Jay Gatsby.

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It's the outsider looking in.

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It was Hancock Park and being hungry for the affluence

0:18:380:18:42

as much as for the girls and the sex.

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These are some pads, man!

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There, that the house there. Not this one - the house next to it.

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Girl I was in love with lived there.

0:19:010:19:04

-Where d'you go in?

-In a side window off the driveway.

0:19:040:19:08

And, of course, that gate wasn't there at all.

0:19:080:19:13

Wherever that woman is now, she is 51 years old, one year younger than me.

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She was a honey blonde

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and she had ama-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-azing dark-blue eyes.

0:19:240:19:31

She wanted none of my shit because she was a born-again Christian

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and she wouldn't go out with "unsaved guys".

0:19:360:19:40

-Motherfucker.

-HE CHUCKLES

0:19:400:19:44

-You know it's a full moon tonight.

-Go ahead!

-Cut loose.

0:19:440:19:48

HE HOWLS

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See I got a bass baritone voice normally... Hang a left here.

0:19:550:20:00

..but I howl soprano.

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MORE HOWLING

0:20:030:20:06

When I was working in Sheriff's Homicide,

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this area was generally known by the investigators as Body Dump Central.

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Right across the street here to my left is the area, and the case, that James and I have reopened

0:20:340:20:41

where the young housewife was found in the gravel pits.

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You come out to an area like this and you have an unidentified body,

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you start trying to identify that person and come back many times to see if you missed evidence at first.

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It becomes a very personal place and you don't identify with the victim,

0:21:020:21:07

but you can feel what the victim must have gone through when you come back.

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Even years later, I'd drive by an area in the mountains with my family

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and mention to my wife, "That takes me back to a case I handled."

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And she would get to the point where she'd say, "Hey, I don't want to hear about your ghosts."

0:21:220:21:29

They're with you forever.

0:21:290:21:31

The detective is the great fictional character of 20th-century literature

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and what I've tried to do is to take a detective who is an alienated individual,

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who seeks to restore moral and psychic order to his own life

0:21:440:21:49

by solving the riddle of other lives in duress.

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And that's part of the big kick of knowing you guys, is that you actually do it,

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and I've never wanted to do it - it's not who I am.

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-I only want to live with it in my head and write about it.

-And make a hundred times more a year than us.

0:22:030:22:10

He had nothing - no memento of her, no photographs.

0:22:130:22:17

I said, "I'll go through the file and pick out the photos that are really ugly to see."

0:22:170:22:23

And he said, "No, I need to see everything."

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So I sat off to the side and let him go through the file,

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and when he was done, he said, "Thank you very much" and folded up the file

0:22:310:22:36

and I walked him out to the parking lot and thought to myself, "What a cold character. No emotion at all."

0:22:360:22:44

I handled the Sheriff's evidence, the ligature my mother was strangled with - a mind-blowing experience!

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I mean, it was cinched down to about that much when they cut it off her neck.

0:22:510:22:57

Astonishing.

0:22:570:22:59

That blew me away, the way you wrote the part about the...touching her clothing that she was w...

0:23:030:23:10

-Oh, yeah, I could smell it...her.

-..all these years later.

-I recognised the dress.

0:23:100:23:17

-Yeah. That's bizarre. That's when Bill left you alone, right?

-Yes.

0:23:170:23:23

Yeah.

0:23:230:23:25

-How old were you?

-Ten.

-That's that age, man. Suck it in and suck it in.

0:23:250:23:30

-It's an empty computer filling up with everything.

-That's what I was.

0:23:300:23:35

You take that data, process it, and who knows the way it'll come out?

0:23:350:23:40

"You were a ghost. I found you in shadows and reached out to you in terrible ways.

0:23:400:23:47

"You didn't censure me. You withstood my assaults and let me punish myself.

0:23:470:23:53

"You made me. You formed me.

0:23:530:23:56

"You gave me a ghostly presence to brutalise.

0:23:560:24:00

"I never wondered how you haunted other people.

0:24:000:24:03

"I never questioned my sole ownership of your spirit.

0:24:030:24:08

"I wouldn't share my claim.

0:24:080:24:10

"I remade you perversely and sealed you off where others couldn't touch you.

0:24:100:24:15

"I didn't know that simple selfishness rendered all my claims invalid.

0:24:150:24:22

"You live outside of me. You live in the buried thoughts of strangers.

0:24:220:24:26

"You live through your will to hide and dissemble. You live through your will to elude me.

0:24:260:24:32

"I am determined to find you.

0:24:330:24:36

"I know I can't do it alone."

0:24:360:24:39

39th Street and Norton Avenue, the hell of the morning of January 15th 1947,

0:24:490:24:56

Elizabeth Short's body was found...

0:24:560:25:01

roughly at the mid-block point on the west side of the street.

0:25:010:25:06

approximately...right here.

0:25:060:25:09

-Right here?

-Yeah, right there.

0:25:090:25:12

Vacant lots covered either side of the street.

0:25:120:25:17

39th on the south, Colosseum on the north either side.

0:25:170:25:23

How far back was she?

0:25:230:25:25

Her left foot was resting just a few inches off the sidewalk.

0:25:260:25:31

And, of course, as we know,

0:25:310:25:34

a woman was wheeling her child down the street to the store about 10am that morning

0:25:340:25:41

and saw the body, thought it was a mannequin at first, in the weeds.

0:25:410:25:46

"It was the nude body of a young woman, cut in half at the waist.

0:25:490:25:54

"The bottom half lay a few feet away from the top, legs open.

0:25:540:25:58

"A large triangle had been gouged out of the left thigh

0:25:580:26:02

"and there was a long, wide cut running from the bisection point down to the top of the pubic hair.

0:26:020:26:08

"Skin flaps by the gash were pulled back. There were no organs inside.

0:26:080:26:13

"The top half was worse - the breasts were attached to the torso only by shreds of skin.

0:26:130:26:20

"The cuts went down to the bone, but the worst of the worst was the face.

0:26:200:26:24

"It was one huge purple bruise, the nose crushed, the mouth cut ear to ear into a leering smile,

0:26:240:26:32

"somehow mocking the rest of the brutality inflicted.

0:26:320:26:35

"I knew I would carry that smile with me to my grave."

0:26:350:26:39

The reason James identified so strongly with the Black Dahlia

0:26:420:26:46

are the things his father had told him about his mother -

0:26:460:26:50

she was basically a whore and ran out and chased men all the time -

0:26:500:26:55

and when you examine the background of Elizabeth Short, you have a similar situation.

0:26:550:27:01

So it was easy for James to identify with that murder and kinda glom onto his mother's case,

0:27:010:27:07

because as a young man growing up he really knew nothing about his mother's murder

0:27:070:27:13

other than she had gone out that night and she was found the next morning strangled.

0:27:130:27:19

He'd read things about the Black Dahlia case. It was just easy for him to identify with it.

0:27:190:27:25

The Black Dahlia murder case. It's 1947, not a helluva lot's going on in LA.

0:27:250:27:31

The city then, you get about 25, 28 murders a year.

0:27:310:27:36

Mom kills Pop. Pop kills Mom.

0:27:360:27:38

Mom overcooks the steak. Pop's had enough. He wants to limit his options to the gas chamber or life.

0:27:380:27:45

But Elizabeth Short - the guy picks her up, tortures her for two days, taunts the press, taunts the LAPD

0:27:450:27:53

with letters to the LA Herald Express, and then never fucking does it again. Just goes away.

0:27:530:28:00

That's the astonishing thing - that it never happened again.

0:28:000:28:04

-Maybe he died, went to prison.

-Became a writer.

0:28:040:28:08

Beautiful young woman comes out to LA to be a movie star, like 16 million others.

0:28:160:28:23

And if you can believe this - a single sex killing and it's front-page news for ten weeks.

0:28:230:28:31

Dahlia this, Dahlia that.

0:28:310:28:33

"Hunt clues in werewolf's slaying den." That was a newspaper headline from the Herald in that era.

0:28:330:28:39

-Werewolf's slaying den!

-Hearst reporting.

-That's Hearst reporting.

0:28:390:28:44

Larry Harnisch... Brian knows him and Rick knows him as well. He's a writer for the LA Times.

0:28:440:28:51

He's spent probably 20,000, 25,000 of his own money researching it,

0:28:510:28:56

-and he's come up with the most plausible explanation that I've ever heard.

-Absolutely.

0:28:560:29:02

And the way he lays it out and the background he lays on his investigation, it's very plausible.

0:29:020:29:09

Like you said, it's the most plausible theory.

0:29:090:29:12

-Did he go so far as to name somebody?

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

0:29:120:29:18

When my wife and I talk about the grief point of our ultimate parting, when we die,

0:29:180:29:24

we start talking about what's beyond this. Will we be together and what will we learn?

0:29:240:29:31

I hope you all get the knowledge per the specifics of crime that you missed out on while you were here.

0:29:310:29:40

You get to talk to Elizabeth Short. Brian, especially you.

0:29:400:29:44

You say, "Betty, tell me about it. You're back in two parts now. You look good.

0:29:440:29:50

"Nice to see you walking around and not sliced in half.

0:29:500:29:55

"Tell me who is this motherfucker and why did he do it?"

0:29:550:29:59

"Well, Brian, this is the fucking story. How much time have you got?"

0:29:590:30:03

"Betty, I've got eternity."

0:30:030:30:06

Brian'll say, "My wife's not going to be here for another few years. Let's spend some time together."

0:30:060:30:12

-"Betty, you look good, baby."

-GROWLS

0:30:120:30:16

I've thought about that many times. Do we get the answers to all the questions we had through our life?

0:30:160:30:24

-You go to heaven...

-Yeah.

-..and you're talking to your mom...

0:30:240:30:28

What's your biggest question other than who killed her?

0:30:280:30:33

Other than, "Who killed you?" I mean, what, do you catch up?

0:30:330:30:38

I think it's, "Tell me about it. What was your whole life like?"

0:30:380:30:43

I still wasn't sure I wanted to work with him. He spoke very negatively, very ugly about his mother at times,

0:31:060:31:13

calling her an alcoholic and describing her as a whore.

0:31:130:31:17

I wasn't sure I wanted to work with somebody reacting like that.

0:31:170:31:22

I was thinking, "Wow, do I want to walk up on a 80-year-old woman,

0:31:220:31:26

"knock on her door and ask for her co-operation and have James yelling, 'Come on, bitch, give it up!' "

0:31:260:31:33

I wasn't sure how he'd respond once we started the investigation,

0:31:330:31:37

but I told my wife, "Let's take the money he's offering, bank it,

0:31:370:31:42

"and if I don't like what's going on, we'll give him back his money."

0:31:420:31:47

But, as it turned out, I really wasn't prepared for what happened.

0:31:470:31:51

As the investigation went on, he and I became very close, almost like brothers.

0:31:510:31:57

We were sharing a very special thing together.

0:31:570:32:01

I watched a grown man fall in love with his mother for the first time as an adult. It was very moving.

0:32:010:32:08

"You fooled people. You gave yourself out in small increments and reinvented yourself at whim.

0:32:090:32:17

"Your secret ways nullified the means to mark your death with vengeance.

0:32:170:32:22

"I thought I knew you.

0:32:220:32:25

"I passed my childish hatred off as intimate knowledge.

0:32:250:32:29

"I never mourned you. I assailed your memory.

0:32:290:32:33

"You fronted a stern rectitude. You cut it loose on Saturday nights.

0:32:330:32:38

"Your brief reconciliations drove you chaotic.

0:32:380:32:42

"I won't define you that way.

0:32:420:32:44

"I won't give up your secrets so cheaply.

0:32:440:32:48

"I want to learn where you buried your love."

0:32:480:32:52

Tonight you're in for a real treat.

0:32:550:32:57

-Please welcome James Ellroy.

-Let's do it.

0:32:570:33:01

CLAPPING

0:33:010:33:06

Good evening, peepers, prowlers, paederasts, pedants, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps.

0:33:100:33:17

I am the author of Brown's Requiem, Blood On The Moon, Because The Night, Suicide Hill,

0:33:170:33:23

Killer On The Road, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, White Jazz,

0:33:230:33:29

Hollywood Nocturnes, American Tabloid, My Dark Places and Crime Wave.

0:33:290:33:36

These books are written in blood, seminal fluid and napalm.

0:33:360:33:41

These are books for the whole fucking family

0:33:410:33:46

if the name of your family is the Manson family.

0:33:460:33:51

Swingers, huh?

0:33:530:33:55

Yes?

0:33:550:33:57

-Who do you look for feedback?

-Geeks with no lives write me letters.

0:33:570:34:02

It is well known that Ellroy readers are handsomer, for the men,

0:34:020:34:07

more beautiful, for the women, more intelligent,

0:34:070:34:11

thus they are fulfilling their lives and have no time to write letters,

0:34:110:34:16

so the folks who do are usually autograph fiends or fucking gun nuts

0:34:160:34:22

who say, "Dear Mr Ellroy, I have read all 15 of your wonderful books.

0:34:220:34:27

"They were truly masterpieces of a genre form in the overall great form of American literature.

0:34:270:34:34

"However, on page 692 of The Cold Six Thousand,

0:34:340:34:38

"you had the wrong calibre Beretta handgun with the wrong kind of ammunition,

0:34:380:34:45

"thus fuck you, Mr Ellroy,

0:34:450:34:47

"and may you die a painful and protracted death, you piece of shit."

0:34:470:34:53

That's the kind of mail I get.

0:34:530:34:56

Yes?

0:34:560:34:57

-Are you going to write another LA crime novel?

-No.

0:34:570:35:01

Crime novels are dead.

0:35:010:35:04

I need to write historical novels about bad men doing bad things in the name of authority -

0:35:040:35:10

historical novels that detail the demonic thrust of America as a whole.

0:35:100:35:17

All genre and genre-derived fiction is behind me. I've moved uptown.

0:35:170:35:22

"America was never innocent.

0:35:290:35:32

"We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets.

0:35:320:35:38

"You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event

0:35:380:35:44

"or set of circumstances.

0:35:440:35:46

"You can't lose what you lacked at conception.

0:35:460:35:50

"Mass-market nostalgia gets you hottened up for a past that never existed.

0:35:500:35:56

"Hagiography sanctifies chuck-and-jive politicians

0:35:560:36:00

"and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight.

0:36:000:36:06

"Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight.

0:36:060:36:12

"Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.

0:36:120:36:17

"The REAL trinity of Camelot is look good, kick ass, get laid."

0:36:170:36:23

-Next question. Yes?

-How do you avoid libel suits, cos you're putting real people into...?

-They're all dead.

0:36:250:36:33

The real people I use are dead.

0:36:330:36:35

If they're dead, they can't sue you and their families have no recourse.

0:36:350:36:40

Many people ask, "You really ragged the shit out of the Kennedys!

0:36:400:36:45

"How come they don't sue you?"

0:36:450:36:47

If the Kennedys protested everything that was written about them,

0:36:470:36:52

they'd be in court all day every day and they'd have no time to get drunk and rape women.

0:36:520:36:58

-Do you get the death vibe?

-Get the vibe.

0:37:010:37:06

-Now, the car was right in here?

-Yeah.

0:37:060:37:09

Look at my hand. My trigger finger is twitching.

0:37:090:37:13

Here's the travelogue - there's Houston, there's Elm, there's the sixth floor of the depository.

0:37:130:37:20

Big Jack's coming down the kerb lane over there.

0:37:200:37:23

There's the grassy knoll. Old man Zapruder and his secretary are on that landing where those people are.

0:37:230:37:30

-I'd like to look at the film again.

-You can buy the video.

-Yeah.

0:37:300:37:34

-You can probably see it on the Internet.

-Maybe it's interactive.

0:37:340:37:40

You can stand there with your mouse and you can shoot JFK.

0:37:400:37:45

Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood.

0:37:480:37:53

Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame.

0:37:530:37:58

It's time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent

0:37:580:38:06

and facilitated his fall.

0:38:060:38:08

Look through the colonnades there. A fellow named Lee Bowers observed the action here.

0:38:120:38:18

Lee Bowers appears in The Cold Six Thousand, and he saw a puff of smoke

0:38:180:38:24

and some activity right over there at the juncture of the two sides of the stockade fence

0:38:240:38:31

around the time the event occurred,

0:38:310:38:33

so, of course, I've got some good facts to extrapolate.

0:38:330:38:38

I put Bowers, who's dead now, in the book as a fictional character.

0:38:380:38:42

I have him see what he sees. I have my fictional conspirators come in and muscle him.

0:38:420:38:48

Research as to time, place, chronology - buttress your fiction with credibility...

0:38:480:38:55

-Weave it in.

-..and weave it in.

0:38:550:38:57

I gotta say this about myself, although I'll say many great things about myself,

0:38:570:39:03

I got the fucking X-ray eyes for what's usable and for what's not.

0:39:030:39:08

SIREN WAILS

0:39:080:39:11

The attraction of unsolved crimes for novelists

0:39:150:39:19

is their exploitation potential.

0:39:190:39:21

You can take an unsolved crime, you can take a violent moment,

0:39:210:39:26

and fill in all the blank spaces.

0:39:260:39:29

And if you're gifted, if you understand individual psychology,

0:39:290:39:33

if you have a strong moral viewpoint, you can tell one fuck of a good story.

0:39:330:39:39

I knew Freddy Ottash, private eye to the stars, ex-LAPD guy, colleague of yours in his last years.

0:39:390:39:46

And he was the guy who bugged Peter Lawford's beach-front fuck pad

0:39:460:39:51

at the behest of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters and got the goods on Jack playing bury the brisket...

0:39:510:39:58

-That's righteous...

-This is righteous shit.

0:39:580:40:01

-..playing bury the brisket with Marilyn Monroe.

-Pawing the pork.

-He said Jack was hung like a cashew

0:40:010:40:08

-and he was a fucking two-minute man.

-Which is in your book.

-Yeah, Bad Back Jack. He's giving her...

0:40:080:40:15

He's in the saddle, doing it for two minutes... "Agh, shit, my back!" Sorry, Jack.

0:40:150:40:21

Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history.

0:40:210:40:28

He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut.

0:40:280:40:33

He was Bill Clinton minus invasive media scrutiny

0:40:330:40:39

and a few rolls of flab.

0:40:390:40:41

-OK, so everybody comes full circle in life?

-Yeah.

-So when do you start breaking into pads again

0:40:410:40:48

and stalking your junior high girlfriends?

0:40:480:40:52

My junior high WOULD-BE girlfriends are getting a little long in the tooth.

0:40:520:40:58

Besides, I'm in love with Helen Knode, the Cougar Woman,

0:40:580:41:02

and with her, instead of breaking into pads to sniff panties, I can sniff the panties with her in 'em.

0:41:020:41:10

-That's fetishism come full circle.

-I'm getting that visual right now.

-HE GROWLS

0:41:100:41:17

There's the hex of the Cougar Woman, I being the Cougar Woman.

0:41:170:41:22

And the hex before James goes out on the road is like this.

0:41:220:41:26

-And the women...it's hotel keys, right?

-Yes.

-It's phone numbers.

0:41:260:41:31

I can't blame them. Why? He's a big, strapping, handsome guy and he's a literary genius.

0:41:310:41:37

I'd fuck him too, if I weren't already married to him.

0:41:370:41:41

-So I have to hex him before he goes on the road. There's a few stages to the hex. I won't go all the way.

-OK.

0:41:410:41:49

But if you get too close, you start bleeding from the nose and the ears.

0:41:490:41:53

-You too?

-No. And then the ultimate thing really is you die.

-Right.

-Yeah.

0:41:530:41:59

If you come on, come on, come on, the hex kicks in and it's over.

0:41:590:42:03

-Do you want to talk about the intermediate stage?

-All right, but let's be politically correct.

-OK.

0:42:030:42:09

-You turn into a dyke.

-Yeah. It's actually happened once.

0:42:090:42:14

But it's not happy, gay-pride lesbians. It's very unhappy, closeted lesbianism that you turn into.

0:42:140:42:22

-Get your free white ass up here. Do you love your dad?

-No, I hate him.

0:42:230:42:30

-Who gets the bitches, Stud?

-You.

-You look good.

0:42:300:42:34

-This fucking dog loves you more than he loves me. Look, he's gone back to his mom.

-Cos he's heterosexual.

0:42:340:42:42

People don't understand you're a feminist.

0:42:420:42:45

I talk to people at your signings who go, "Oh, yeah, cool women, yeah."

0:42:450:42:50

-Not just prostitutes, the noir staples, the femme fatales who are so tiresome.

-Phlegm fatales.

0:42:500:42:57

It's easy shit to write the hot, fast love story

0:42:570:43:01

where the man meets the woman and you got to let her...

0:43:010:43:05

-Once only, right.

-But the long haul of monogamy, that's something else.

0:43:050:43:11

This journalist says, "How can you live with a man who has such things in his head?"

0:43:110:43:17

And I said, "Well, you don't know what I have in my head."

0:43:170:43:22

And he honestly said things like, "You are a tormented man.

0:43:220:43:26

"Life must be very painful for you."

0:43:260:43:28

-I said, "No, I'm having a blast."

-That's what people don't get about you - that you're having a blast.

0:43:280:43:35

The books are one thing. Life's another.

0:43:350:43:39

I don't think the books are too depressive.

0:43:390:43:42

The books are about guys with big fucking throbbing hard-ons for life, history, and women as redemption.

0:43:420:43:49

-How is it he turned out normal enough for you to marry him?

-That's kind of a personal question.

0:43:490:43:56

OK, this is the answer to that question -

0:43:560:44:00

is that James believes in reason and he believes that this stuff doesn't have to ruin his life.

0:44:000:44:07

And I think of any man I - I can't say that... But he wants to be reasonable.

0:44:070:44:14

I think that's really it.

0:44:160:44:18

I think there's an unbreachable code of human behaviour that's locked in.

0:44:180:44:22

There are rules. There is a set way to behave.

0:44:220:44:27

I eat soy, I drink health shakes, I keep my weight down, I exercise like a motherfucker

0:44:270:44:35

only, ONLY for two reasons - so I can be with my wife for another 45 or 50 years

0:44:350:44:41

and so I can outlive that misanthropic cocksucker Bill Clinton so I can make him the villain,

0:44:410:44:48

the charmless Dudley Smith,

0:44:480:44:51

of a new Washington in the '90s quartet of books.

0:44:510:44:55

Bill, you cocksucker, you low-life, sexual-harassing, traitor motherfucker.

0:44:590:45:05

I hate you, you cocksucker, and in my novels I will take you down.

0:45:050:45:11

Obviously, your politics are a complete joke and I don't take them seriously and nobody else should.

0:45:150:45:21

You motherfucker.

0:45:210:45:23

And, er...

0:45:230:45:25

I had a buddy named Randy Rice that I hung out with as a youngster,

0:45:250:45:30

and I haven't seen him in years and there's times when I miss him,

0:45:300:45:34

but we developed something that I later termed dog humour,

0:45:340:45:40

which... It's...profane. It's nihilistic.

0:45:400:45:47

-It's sexual. It's...

-Un-PC, before PC was invented.

0:45:470:45:51

Why mince words? It's racist and homophobic

0:45:510:45:56

and full of inventive use of foul language,

0:45:560:46:00

and it celebrates the crassness, the most debased in human behaviour.

0:46:000:46:07

And it's a way of taking the most obvious and broadest strokes of satire

0:46:070:46:14

-and making it funny in context.

-Uh-huh.

0:46:140:46:18

Yeah.

0:46:180:46:19

Yeah.

0:46:190:46:21

-I was horrified when I first heard it.

-You laughed at "motherfucker".

0:46:210:46:26

I was delighted that I was horrified. It was so outrageous.

0:46:260:46:30

So I knew it couldn't be serious.

0:46:300:46:32

The first paragraph of The Cold Six Thousand, set in Dallas on November 22nd 1963, goes as follows.

0:46:320:46:40

"They sent him to Dallas to kill a nigger pimp named Wendell Durfee. He wasn't sure he could do it."

0:46:400:46:47

If that offends you, fuck you. If you think I'm a racist, fuck you.

0:46:470:46:51

I will not justify myself and say, "I am not a racist," because anyone who would say something like that

0:46:510:46:58

sounds like Richard Nixon saying, "I am not a crook."

0:46:580:47:02

If you're prejudiced against the book, YOU'RE the yahoo.

0:47:020:47:06

What's Part III about of the USA underworld trilogy?

0:47:060:47:10

Daddy-O, I know I will see you again. You turn up like a bad penny at all my gigs.

0:47:100:47:16

After you've read The Cold Six Thousand we'll discuss it.

0:47:160:47:20

Read it and you'll know where it's going.

0:47:200:47:23

Book for the whole family, so name your families the Hillary Clinton family.

0:47:230:47:29

Yes? There's a hand way back there.

0:47:290:47:32

We got there - nice-sized crowd - he just started reading it

0:47:320:47:37

and it was just kinda shocking.

0:47:370:47:40

You'll have to have him give you his first line of his reading.

0:47:400:47:46

Six P words, I remember that. And you're kinda of just in there and then...

0:47:460:47:53

I'm listening. Say what?

0:47:550:47:58

He knows how to hold an audience.

0:47:580:48:01

-Do you read his books?

-I have read a few of them. They're really intense.

0:48:010:48:08

The easiest one for me to read...

0:48:080:48:10

Well, hard in many ways, but the easiest one for me to read was My Dark Places, because I could relate

0:48:100:48:18

-and had lived some of the story as well.

-I haven't read one yet. I've started.

0:48:180:48:24

But like Jan says - they are pretty intense.

0:48:240:48:29

"My mother got me a beagle puppy for my tenth birthday.

0:48:290:48:33

"I named her Minna and smothered her with love.

0:48:330:48:37

"My mother laid a mind-fuck on me in conjunction with the gift. She told me I was a young man now.

0:48:370:48:43

"I was old enough to decide who I wanted to live with.

0:48:430:48:47

"I told her I wanted to live with my father.

0:48:470:48:50

"She slapped me in the face and knocked me off the living-room couch.

0:48:500:48:56

"I called her a drunk and a whore. She hit me again.

0:48:560:49:00

"I made up my mind to fight back next time.

0:49:000:49:04

"I could brain her with an ashtray and negate her size advantage.

0:49:040:49:08

"I could scratch her face and ruin her looks so men wouldn't want to fuck her.

0:49:080:49:14

"She pushed me over a very simple line.

0:49:140:49:19

"I used to hate her because my father did.

0:49:190:49:22

"I used to hate her to prove my love for him.

0:49:220:49:26

"She just bought my own, full-tilt, hatred."

0:49:260:49:30

Jan...Brian. ..You must be Mindy. Hi.

0:49:300:49:34

-Nice to meet you.

-Hi, Mrs Hilliker. James Ellroy.

-Karen.

-Karen.

0:49:340:49:39

Please have a seat.

0:49:390:49:41

-So, are you related to me? What's the story?

-We're second cousins.

0:49:430:49:49

-My father was Belden.

-Oh, yes.

0:49:490:49:53

-And Geneva and Leoda were my first cousins.

-So we're contemporaries.

0:49:530:49:58

Yes.

0:49:580:49:59

-Even...

-More or less. I might have a couple on years on you.

-It's OK. You have hair.

0:49:590:50:06

No, your eyebrows would cover my head.

0:50:060:50:10

We can go see some dead Hillikers out here.

0:50:110:50:15

That graveyard off Iowa? Hillikers, Linscotts, Woodards and Pierces.

0:50:150:50:20

Smooth move, Ellroy.

0:50:220:50:24

What does that stone say, Karen?

0:50:310:50:34

The stone standing up, it says GG Hilliker.

0:50:340:50:39

-Uh-huh.

-Gibb, Ida, Ida's mother Mary,

0:50:390:50:43

and buried behind it are my parents and your grandparents.

0:50:430:50:48

-Why isn't your mother here?

-Buried her there. Didn't have any money to ship her.

0:50:480:50:54

She belongs in LA.

0:50:550:50:58

It's a bad deal altogether.

0:50:590:51:02

It says, "Geneva Hilliker Ellroy. 1915-1958."

0:51:030:51:09

And it's a shitty plot, flush up against a chain-link fence.

0:51:090:51:15

There are some haunting things that my mother told my father that were in the divorce records.

0:51:180:51:24

She hinted at horrible things within the family when she was a girl.

0:51:240:51:29

She teamed up with Aunt Norma and got out of here.

0:51:290:51:33

The ink was not dry on her high school graduation certificate

0:51:330:51:37

when she was on a train for Chicago and nursing school.

0:51:370:51:42

I can just so vividly remember this woman. That's how striking she was.

0:51:450:51:50

She would come to visit and, oh, just so glamorous - as glamorous as my mom was plain.

0:51:500:51:57

It was just such a contrast,

0:51:570:52:00

and that alone was just such a novelty in our house, and that really stuck with me.

0:52:000:52:07

All her jewellery and, er... coloured underwear, and Mom always only had white.

0:52:070:52:13

It just really stuck in my mind.

0:52:130:52:17

"I saw my mother half nude and nude, and stripped to her slip,

0:52:170:52:21

"saw her breasts sway, saw her good nipple pebbled up from the cold.

0:52:210:52:26

"I saw the red between her legs and the way steam made her skin flush.

0:52:260:52:32

"I hated her and lusted for her. Then she was dead."

0:52:320:52:36

I think one of the ugliest terms we deal with in Homicide is the term "body dump".

0:52:490:52:55

I mean, it's a human being...

0:52:550:53:01

But they're not human beings when we get there.

0:53:010:53:04

But it's so descriptive. It really describes...

0:53:040:53:08

It's a horrible word, but we get used to saying, "Who's up for trash?"

0:53:080:53:13

But it's non-murder, non-officer involved.

0:53:130:53:18

You look at a body - I don't care how fresh it is - it's still a body.

0:53:180:53:23

There's no life in there and you know that.

0:53:230:53:27

It's like this glass, except this glass is functional.

0:53:270:53:32

We have a very unusual, sophisticated defence mechanism

0:53:320:53:36

that we develop rather quickly...

0:53:360:53:39

-You have to.

-..when you get into this line of work, that allows you to look at the things we look at

0:53:390:53:47

and be able to cope with those.

0:53:470:53:50

I often feel that your eyes can see more than your soul can take.

0:53:500:53:55

You can dehumanise as much as you want to on the surface, but you really don't down in deep.

0:53:550:54:03

It'll bother you, yeah, but... You don't ever forget these.

0:54:030:54:08

When you look at them, no matter what they were, they no longer ARE.

0:54:080:54:13

-You have to say that...

-You detach.

-..because it's the truth.

0:54:130:54:17

What bothers me at these scenes is not... Certainly I feel sorry that their life was cut short,

0:54:170:54:24

but I immediately think about the family - the people that are going to grieve.

0:54:240:54:31

It's June 22nd 1958.

0:54:310:54:33

My old man takes me back to El Monte on the bus,

0:54:330:54:37

puts me in a cab at the bus depot, it drops me at Maple and Bryant, where I lived with my mother.

0:54:370:54:44

I see stern-looking men in plain clothes and uniform cops

0:54:440:54:48

and I know immediately that she is dead.

0:54:480:54:52

I knew it in the moment - 6.22.58.

0:54:520:54:54

A cop said, "Son, your mother's been killed. Where's your father?"

0:54:540:54:59

I said, "He's at the bus depot." I was calculating advantages already as I entered a state of shock.

0:54:590:55:06

A photographer took me aside,

0:55:060:55:08

shot some photographs of me at a woodworking bench in my neighbour's back shed.

0:55:080:55:15

I was performing for the adults.

0:55:150:55:17

What I was really doing was calculating advantages.

0:55:170:55:22

My hated mother was dead. I could go live with my old man full time.

0:55:220:55:26

I was a cold, withdrawn, manipulative, evil little shit.

0:55:260:55:31

It's time to segue to the Black Dahlia.

0:55:310:55:35

Now dig this.

0:55:350:55:38

It's the king of the body dumps. Regretfully, it is an LAPD case as far as the sheriffs are concerned.

0:55:380:55:45

It's unsolved.

0:55:450:55:48

And, of course, Larry Harnisch, my dear friend and esteemed colleague and Black Dahlia obsessee,

0:55:480:55:55

has come up with what I think is the only plausible explanation as to what happened

0:55:550:56:03

to the raven-haired seductress Elizabeth Short, in LA,

0:56:030:56:08

roughly 54 years ago today.

0:56:080:56:12

-She was missing today.

-This was the lost week. She was dropped off at the Biltmore on the 9th,

0:56:120:56:19

her body was found on the 15th.

0:56:190:56:21

Elizabeth Short is a 22-year-old woman from Massachusetts.

0:56:210:56:27

She's one of five girls.

0:56:270:56:30

The dad walked out, so the oldest one, Virginia, raises the other kids.

0:56:300:56:36

Late July, early August of '46, Elizabeth Short comes to Los Angeles.

0:56:360:56:41

She goes up to Hollywood and she somehow gets involved with an outfit called the Florentine Gardens.

0:56:410:56:48

Florentine Gardens is a nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard. It's still there.

0:56:480:56:54

Still called that. It was very racy.

0:56:540:56:57

She rents a room from the business manager at the nightclub.

0:56:570:57:02

He rents rooms to attractive young women who want to be starlets.

0:57:020:57:08

All this time she's in LA, she's not working,

0:57:080:57:11

so where did she get money?

0:57:110:57:14

She was not shy about asking people for money.

0:57:140:57:18

She finally ended up living in a place on Cherokee.

0:57:180:57:23

It was a dollar a day, eight girls in bunkbeds - each pay a dollar a day.

0:57:230:57:28

OK!

0:57:280:57:30

And she's up and down Hollywood Boulevard getting...getting picked up.

0:57:300:57:37

You know. ELLROY GROWLS

0:57:370:57:40

-But no money...

-She's not charging?

0:57:400:57:43

Well, she's letting these guys spend money on her and then stiffing them, so to speak.

0:57:430:57:49

-"Thanks for the lovely meal..."

-It happens.

0:57:490:57:53

She stiffed the wrong guy? >

0:57:530:57:55

So this is like a justifiable... what you're describing here(?)

0:57:550:58:00

-That's how she was existing.

-Do you think she was hooking?

0:58:000:58:04

No, I don't. I think she was shaking guys down...

0:58:040:58:09

-Did she have a guy?

-I think a little bit of hand here, a little bit of head there,

0:58:090:58:15

maybe some intercourse there.

0:58:150:58:18

On and off, ad hoc, according to what was going on in the moment.

0:58:180:58:22

I thought she was a hooker. Yeah.

0:58:220:58:25

But... But in everything you've told me...

0:58:250:58:29

would indicate to me, no offence, whether you believe she's a hooker or not,

0:58:290:58:35

if she's out there every night going with different guys,

0:58:350:58:40

and I believe, as James said, at times if she could get out of it, she will, cos she can go to the next guy,

0:58:400:58:47

but there will be times you can't. Yeah.

0:58:470:58:50

Then what happens? Did she have sex?

0:58:500:58:53

I'd have to reserve judgement. To be clinical about it, I haven't found any evidence...

0:58:530:59:01

Is there a differentiation between...?

0:59:010:59:04

Did she possibly get killed by a trick or by a boyfriend?

0:59:040:59:09

She didn't have a boyfriend per se.

0:59:090:59:13

-She had boyfriends?

-Yeah. > We're almost back to tricks.

0:59:130:59:17

We're in between tricks and... Boyfriends. > Exactly.

0:59:170:59:21

So what didn't she have...?

0:59:210:59:24

You see, this is the way we would kick it around today. > We'd beat her up today.

0:59:240:59:31

We would say, "Come on." Her mother would tell us, "She went out every night with a different guy,

0:59:310:59:38

"but she never had sex with them."

0:59:380:59:40

We'd say, "Fine." And then we'd go on to reality.

0:59:400:59:43

And reality tells us that if a girl today, or 50 years ago,

0:59:430:59:48

is out on the street, going out, getting in a car or doing whatever she's doing with this guy,

0:59:480:59:56

she's doing this for a living.

0:59:560:59:58

She has no job. Yeah.

0:59:581:00:01

There are not too many guys out there before she runs into somebody that's gonna say,

1:00:011:00:08

"I'm not giving you 5 or 500 or whatever it is unless we get it on."

1:00:081:00:12

She says no and he kills her. Boom - she's a dead whore.

1:00:121:00:18

Nick!

1:00:181:00:19

-I'm just going to sit in.

-Grab a chair!

1:00:191:00:24

-Why are you limping?

-Pulled a nerve.

1:00:241:00:27

I'm getting that fixed.

1:00:271:00:29

-Then I had those 60-year-old age spots removed, so it looks like I got in a fight.

-You look about 40.

1:00:291:00:38

They're making some fucked-up movie about me.

1:00:381:00:42

Here are my policemen and journalist friends. We had a long recitation on the Black Dahlia murder case.

1:00:421:00:48

-You wanted to hear it all.

-No, no, Larry has probably solved the case.

1:00:481:00:54

Larry... These guys are tormenting him because they are empiricists.

1:00:541:01:00

These guys - half of them are half-lit - are interested in deconstructing Larry's theory

1:01:001:01:07

and going at it with established police methods, step by step.

1:01:071:01:12

Yeah. 4980 Beverly Boulevard.

1:01:131:01:16

This place, right here.

1:01:161:01:19

After my mother died, my old man was living in the small, back upstairs apartment.

1:01:191:01:25

I moved in with him there. We had Minna, our beagle dog,

1:01:251:01:30

and she immediately went to work...

1:01:301:01:34

on urinating and defecating with abandon all over the place.

1:01:341:01:41

The place where he had the heart attack, was that a second place?

1:01:421:01:47

We got booted out of 4980 Beverly in the summer of '63.

1:01:471:01:51

We moved to this place further east, a smaller place with fewer rugs,

1:01:511:01:56

so the dog shit got that much more concentrated

1:01:561:02:00

and the place allegedly had to be fumigated after we left.

1:02:001:02:05

-Did you get your deposit back(?)

-No.

1:02:051:02:09

-So that was '64?

-Spring of '64.

-When did he die?

-June of '65.

1:02:091:02:14

-His last words were, "Try to pick up every waitress who serves you."

-From his hospital bed?

-Yeah.

1:02:141:02:21

He died 20 minutes later.

1:02:211:02:24

OK. Now, the body is very, er...

1:02:261:02:30

been uniquely carved. First of all, it's cut in half.

1:02:301:02:34

She had a tattoo on her leg that has been, er, to be a little evasive, it has been cut out of her leg.

1:02:341:02:42

-It had been removed.

-It had. So the guy took souvenirs. >

1:02:421:02:46

AND the... I'll phrase it as the newspaper did of the day - it was recovered during her autopsy.

1:02:461:02:53

-He stuck it in her vagina.

-Yeah.

1:02:531:02:57

-Yeah.

-No.

-No? Where did he put it? It's not found on the body?

1:02:571:03:03

-No, it is. Not in the vagina.

-Where?

1:03:031:03:05

- In her ear? - Keep guessing!

1:03:051:03:08

< Don't tell 'em? OK, I won't tell you.

1:03:081:03:11

-What is the cause of death?

-Choked on her own blood.

-Asphyxiation.

1:03:111:03:16

-That's what they think it was.

-But there's no beatings?

1:03:161:03:20

< Anything other than cut marks? Uh-uh.

1:03:201:03:22

-She did get a beating...

-There are stab wounds.

-On the back.

1:03:221:03:26

No, she was hit on the head.

1:03:261:03:30

Part of one breast was removed...

1:03:301:03:33

-What part?

-Up here. Not the nipple, but just over.

1:03:331:03:37

And probably the most unique thing was her mouth was cut like this...

1:03:371:03:43

and like that. Both sides.

1:03:431:03:46

-All the way up.

-Like a smile.

-Exactly. Like a smile.

1:03:461:03:50

The body is, er, washed clean, completely drained of blood.

1:03:501:03:55

The investigators find like one drop of blood on the sidewalk.

1:03:551:04:01

It's clearly done by somebody who knew how to cut somebody in half.

1:04:011:04:06

A magician(!)

1:04:061:04:08

They think it was with a big knife and he went right between the vertebrae.

1:04:081:04:15

The guy who used to be head of LAPD crime lab, Ray Pinker, he's dead,

1:04:151:04:20

but his widow said he always said it was a clean, professional job.

1:04:201:04:25

-Maybe a doctor, with some medical background?

-Ah...

1:04:251:04:29

-We're right on the cusp...

-You're holding back from us.

-..of part two.

1:04:291:04:35

Two-second intermission. We're on the cusp of part two,

1:04:351:04:39

which is Larry's suspect and how Larry put it together

1:04:391:04:44

and how it conforms to everything we know about the case and answers the question,

1:04:441:04:50

why did this motherfucker dump the two parts of Elizabeth Short specifically at 39th and Norton?

1:04:501:04:58

-Let's forget Elizabeth Short. Let's leave her lying...

-In two pieces.

1:05:071:05:12

Yeah. Let's go back to her older sister. Remember Virginia? Let's go back to 1945.

1:05:121:05:19

When I started doing research, people sent me things.

1:05:191:05:23

This box of stuff shows up.

1:05:231:05:26

One thing is the marriage certificate of Virginia Short and Adrian West.

1:05:261:05:31

I decide to go find the house where they got married,

1:05:311:05:35

and I'm looking at the certificate

1:05:351:05:38

and down at the bottom, where we've got the address of where they got married,

1:05:381:05:44

one of the witnesses has signed. It's real hard to read what it is.

1:05:441:05:49

It says, "Barbara Lindgren."

1:05:491:05:52

And, hard to read,

1:05:521:05:55

"Norton Avenue."

1:05:551:05:57

-Now, I've talked to John Douglas.

-The celebrated FBI profiler.

1:05:571:06:02

Everybody has a different opinion of him,

1:06:021:06:06

but he said, "There's something about that neighbourhood.

1:06:061:06:10

"When you get a killer with a car, he makes a decision why he leaves the body there and not somewhere else.

1:06:101:06:17

"In 15 minutes, he could've been in the mountains, the desert, nobody would ever have found her."

1:06:171:06:24

"But he didn't do that. He goes to a residential neighbourhood, right off of Crenshaw,

1:06:241:06:30

"there's houses one block south and north of there.

1:06:301:06:35

"Not a good spot to leave a body. So, what is it about this neighbourhood?"

1:06:351:06:40

So I'm looking at the certificate - not just Norton Avenue,

1:06:401:06:45

but 3959 South Norton Avenue. That is a block from the crime scene.

1:06:451:06:50

-Bingo.

-Now you've got something totally different.

1:06:501:06:54

Elizabeth Short is lying in the 3800 block, the sister knows somebody a block away.

1:06:541:07:01

That's too good not to follow.

1:07:011:07:03

Never reported in the Black Dahlia literature. Completely unreported.

1:07:031:07:09

I go to the Hall of Records, down to the basement,

1:07:281:07:32

and find out who owned the property in 1947, this address.

1:07:321:07:36

Long story short, it's a woman named Ruth Bayley. B-A-Y-L-E-Y.

1:07:361:07:41

Go back to the Times clip files and look up Ruth Bayley.

1:07:411:07:46

And what do we find?

1:07:461:07:49

Ruth Bayley, first of all, is the mother of the gal who signed the marriage certificate as the witness.

1:07:491:07:56

Ruth Bayley is married to not only a doctor, but a surgeon.

1:07:561:08:02

-Ah.

-His name's...

-You're talking clean-cut!

1:08:021:08:06

You're talking about a guy named Walter Bayley,

1:08:061:08:10

former Chief of Staff at County Hospital,

1:08:101:08:14

on the staff of USC Medical School,

1:08:141:08:17

but Walter, his life is unravelling.

1:08:171:08:20

-Oh, yeah?

-He's got... We would recognise it today as Alzheimer's.

1:08:201:08:25

He's not all there.

1:08:251:08:28

He dies, as it turns out, in 1948,

1:08:281:08:31

not quite a year after the Black Dahlia case.

1:08:311:08:35

Did he leave a note saying, "I wish I wouldn't have done that"(?)

1:08:351:08:40

< Larry, go more into his medical condition.

1:08:401:08:44

Yeah. He had a, er, he had a...

1:08:441:08:47

a thing called encephalomalacia, which is actually a softening of the brain tissue.

1:08:471:08:54

Dr Bayley's brain condition was known to produce homicidal behaviour in normally passive individuals.

1:08:541:09:01

-< A lot of guys in Homicide had that!

-How did you find that out?

1:09:011:09:06

Well, it's... It's on his death certificate.

1:09:061:09:10

Let me ask you this. The sister, Virginia, is she ever interviewed? She was...

1:09:111:09:18

The first thing a detective will say is, "Who do you know that she knew in LA?"

1:09:181:09:23

Virginia Short or Adrian West told sister Betty,

1:09:231:09:27

"If you're ever down and out in LA, call Dr Bayley. He's the guy."

1:09:271:09:32

Larry interviewed Barbara Lindgren, on the wedding certificate,

1:09:321:09:38

and questioned her about her time around the Dahlia death

1:09:381:09:43

and she disingenuously contended that she didn't recall it,

1:09:431:09:47

when it happened a block from the family homestead.

1:09:471:09:51

When I talked to her, I said, "You were at a wedding with these people.

1:09:511:09:57

"Did you know that this lady's younger sister was found killed a block from your house?"

1:09:571:10:04

-"No. Mother never mentioned it."

-The most celebrated unsolved homicide in American history.

1:10:041:10:11

-She'd never heard of it.

-A block from the family pad.

1:10:111:10:15

The reason we know about Walter is because after he died

1:10:151:10:19

his widow sued his girlfriend over his estate.

1:10:191:10:23

What happened with Walter is,

1:10:231:10:26

-Walter...had originally befriended a nurse...

-The devil!

1:10:261:10:31

..from Vienna - a graduate of the University of Vienna Medical School, who'd come to the US as an emigre.

1:10:311:10:38

-You know those Viennese(!)

-She worked as a nurse and then became a partner in his practice.

1:10:381:10:45

-Originally, she had just befriended him...

-A partner?!

-Yeah.

1:10:451:10:50

-Yeah. She's a doctor.

-Yeah. She's another surgeon.

-Oh, my God.

1:10:501:10:55

-Maybe SHE did it!

-The kind of practice Walter Bayley does is,

1:10:551:11:01

he does mastectomies, hysterectomies, and the surgical removal of fat.

1:11:011:11:07

-In 1947?!

-They were doing it earlier than that.

1:11:071:11:11

He had walked out on the wife for the girlfriend

1:11:111:11:15

-in October '46...

-'46?

-Yeah, October '46.

1:11:151:11:20

-Right before...

-We're three months away.

-Yeah.

1:11:201:11:24

Died in January '48. The girlfriend and the wife start this lawsuit.

1:11:241:11:29

What the wife says in the lawsuit over his estate is that he had a secret,

1:11:291:11:37

and the girlfriend had learned this secret and he had lived in terror that she was going to reveal it

1:11:371:11:45

because it would ruin him.

1:11:451:11:47

Every time he wanted to return to his family, she'd bring up this secret.

1:11:471:11:53

-Where's he living?

-I tried to find out. The address he used was a medical office right down the street.

1:11:531:12:01

His receptionist told me that what he and his girlfriend liked to do of an evening...

1:12:011:12:08

They were in the Professional Building on 6th Street, and there was a restaurant on the first floor.

1:12:081:12:15

They would have their dinner sent up and he had a projector and a screen

1:12:151:12:20

and they would put on classical music and eat dinner

1:12:201:12:25

-and would watch movies of surgery. That was their entertainment of an evening.

-Really?!

1:12:251:12:32

The doctor and his girlfriend, for kicks, used to get bombed together, watch autopsy films,

1:12:321:12:39

-while they blasted off on classical music.

-Is that strange, or what?

1:12:391:12:45

What did the profiler say about he cuts here,

1:13:001:13:03

the breasts, and especially about the tattoo?

1:13:031:13:07

He said, "It tells me it's personal, that they spent some time together,

1:13:071:13:13

"that there was personal anger directed at her."

1:13:131:13:17

-This was, she said something.

-She said no.

1:13:171:13:21

She said something. She laughed, she made fun of him or something.

1:13:211:13:26

-It was personal?

-Yeah, it was personal.

1:13:261:13:30

The important thing is it was personal.

1:13:301:13:33

If you've got this kind of anger, it isn't just, "I won't sleep with you."

1:13:331:13:39

This is something deeper.

1:13:391:13:41

This is something that's gotta keep the rage going long enough

1:13:411:13:46

to cut her in half, to mutilate her.

1:13:461:13:49

Apparently, you have to drain the blood from somebody as soon as they're killed.

1:13:491:13:56

The time that it takes, you've gotta keep the anger going.

1:13:561:14:01

So...what could it be?

1:14:011:14:04

You look at this guy - he's a doctor, his oath is to save lives.

1:14:041:14:09

What could possibly make a human being do this?

1:14:091:14:13

Well, how did Elizabeth Short get money? She had a sob story, OK?

1:14:131:14:18

This is how it went. Her fiance killed himself in the war. True.

1:14:181:14:24

Well, he got promoted to husband got killed in the war,

1:14:241:14:29

but a lot of women's husbands got killed, so the story gets better.

1:14:291:14:34

They had a kid that she had to give up. Then the final version was,

1:14:341:14:40

her husband was killed in the war, they had a son who died.

1:14:401:14:45

What do we know about Walter Bayley?

1:14:451:14:48

One thing we know is he had a son, named Walter.

1:14:481:14:52

What we know about Walter is...

1:14:521:14:54

that he was killed in a car accident down on Vermont, where they used to live.

1:14:541:15:01

He was riding his bicycle...

1:15:011:15:03

The Bayleys adopted two girls. The younger one signed the certificate.

1:15:031:15:08

There was an older girl. In 1920, she was two years old.

1:15:081:15:13

This girl was on the street corner and wanted to cross the street.

1:15:131:15:18

This boy, 11 years old, Walter Junior, rides his bicycle over to lead her across the street.

1:15:181:15:25

He's run over by a truck and killed.

1:15:251:15:28

They take him to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital.

1:15:281:15:33

Walter Bayley is a surgeon. Where is he? In surgery.

1:15:331:15:37

So he's doing his operation. His beloved son,

1:15:371:15:41

-the centre of his life...

-The apple of his eye.

-..is dead

1:15:411:15:46

He's in the operating room. They don't tell him.

1:15:461:15:50

-Oh, cool(!)

-Because he's in the middle of an operation.

1:15:501:15:54

The operation's a success, he comes out. BOOM - "Your son is dead." He's devastated.

1:15:541:16:01

When you talk to the Bayley family, who are not crazy about my theory,

1:16:011:16:07

they still have the dead son's stuff.

1:16:071:16:09

-This is from 1920.

-Really?

-They still have it.

1:16:091:16:13

I think if there's one thing that's going to send Walter Bayley off.

1:16:131:16:19

He's devastated by his son's death. You've got Elizabeth Short with her story to get money - the dead son.

1:16:191:16:27

But Walter, unlike every other pigeon, is a doctor.

1:16:271:16:31

-He's gonna ask her...

-How did he die?

1:16:311:16:34

Yeah. How did he die, or about her pregnancy or something. When did he take his first step?

1:16:341:16:41

-He figures it out.

-She gives him a bullshit story.

-Right.

1:16:411:16:46

And he goes, "This isn't a story. MY story is real.

1:16:461:16:51

"Her story is not real."

1:16:511:16:53

And the other thing is, when is Walter Junior's birthday?

1:16:531:16:59

-January 13th.

-Oh, my God.

1:16:591:17:01

-Her body is found on the 15th.

-Oh, my God!

1:17:011:17:05

-So we're right there.

-A terrible coincidence.

-Yeah.

1:17:051:17:09

Which it may just be. >

1:17:091:17:12

Two days from now. I'm going home(!)

1:17:121:17:15

This guy's been taking a ribbing,

1:17:211:17:24

-but the theory's great and it's just about watertight in most ways.

-Yeah.

1:17:241:17:30

There's a lot of coincidences,

1:17:301:17:33

and when you go into coincidences in Homicide, you go, "Wait a minute."

1:17:331:17:38

And that's what it's made me do.

1:17:381:17:41

I think you're ball-parking it, you're in that vicinity.

1:17:411:17:46

But the problem is... The problem is time. Yeah.

1:17:461:17:50

What you have is time is your enemy.

1:17:501:17:53

-'Yes?

-Has that woman who thinks that her dad killed the Black Dahlia AND your mom talked to you?

1:17:591:18:07

'Oh, Lord...'

1:18:071:18:09

HE GROANS

1:18:091:18:11

'This man is talking about a woman who labours under the misconception

1:18:111:18:16

'that not only did her father kill my mother, but killed Elizabeth Short, the ill-fated Black Dahlia,

1:18:161:18:23

'the subject of my brilliant masterpiece, The Black Dahlia.

1:18:231:18:28

'I have not talked to the woman in 15 years.'

1:18:281:18:32

The truth about the Black Dahlia, metaphysically, is this.

1:18:321:18:36

We'll never know. We were not meant to know.

1:18:361:18:40

It will continue to inspire writers who riff on misogynistic violence

1:18:401:18:46

and writers who take the facts to conform to their own theses as to why something so horrible happened.

1:18:461:18:54

When I was thinking of Elizabeth Short's death,

1:18:581:19:02

imagining the various ways she ended up at 39th and Norton,

1:19:021:19:07

I never thought about what happened to my mother,

1:19:071:19:11

because Betty Short was, in places, my mother's stand-in.

1:19:111:19:15

Her purpose was to shut Geneva Hilliker Ellroy out.

1:19:151:19:19

The mutilations inflicted on Betty Short were so hyperbolic compared to what happened to my mother.

1:19:191:19:26

My mother was prosaic and in every way mundane by comparison.

1:19:261:19:31

I always thought that she fought the guy,

1:19:371:19:41

that there were beard fragments under her fingernails.

1:19:411:19:45

It was the way I wanted to see her.

1:19:451:19:48

I didn't want her to be a rape victim,

1:19:481:19:51

and everything we've put together about her makes it appear she was.

1:19:511:19:56

I had revised the story of her death with a novelist's aplomb, to hold back the worst from myself.

1:19:561:20:04

So these weren't things that your father told you over the years?

1:20:041:20:09

My father told me it was probably a three-way gone bad, which enticed me as a kid, just learning about sex.

1:20:091:20:16

That was his take on it.

1:20:161:20:19

"My mother's last night alive defied strict interpretation.

1:20:311:20:36

"She left the house in her car. She was at the Manger bar alone.

1:20:361:20:40

"She met the swarthy man somewhere. She dropped her car off somewhere and got into his car.

1:20:401:20:46

"Yvonne Chambers served them in his car. They left Stan's Drive-in.

1:20:461:20:51

"They went to the Desert Inn. They picked up the blonde en route. They went back to Stan's in his car.

1:20:511:20:58

"Her car was found behind the Desert Inn.

1:20:581:21:02

"She could have met the swarthy man at his pad or at a cocktail lounge.

1:21:021:21:08

"She could have left her car at either location. They went to Stan's in his car.

1:21:081:21:14

"She could have picked up her car right after. He could have picked up the blonde, or she could have.

1:21:141:21:22

"They partied at the Desert Inn. They left together. They could have gone somewhere as a group.

1:21:221:21:28

"The blonde could have gone off. My mother and the swarthy man could have fondled in his car, or her car.

1:21:281:21:36

"They could have gone to his pad, could have fondled in the Desert Inn parking lot before the 2am nightcap.

1:21:361:21:43

"She could have turned off the sex in his car or her car.

1:21:431:21:47

"She could have shut him down at his pad or at the blonde's pad.

1:21:471:21:53

"They went back to the Desert Inn.

1:21:531:21:55

"They could have gone back from the blonde's place or the swarthy man's place or another cocktail lounge.

1:21:551:22:02

"My mother could have left her car at the blonde's place or the swarthy man's place.

1:22:021:22:08

"She could have left it at either location during any of the evening's reconstructive time gaps.

1:22:081:22:15

"The swarthy man could've retrieved the car after he killed her, could have dumped it at the Desert Inn.

1:22:151:22:22

"The blonde could have dumped it. They could have run a two-car convoy.

1:22:221:22:29

"They could have split the scene in the blonde's car or the swarthy man's car.

1:22:291:22:34

"It's 2.40am. My mother and the swarthy man split Stan's Drive-In.

1:22:341:22:39

"Her car's parked behind the Desert Inn or parked somewhere else.

1:22:391:22:44

"He's bored and sullen. She's half drunk and chatty.

1:22:441:22:48

"They go to his place or the blonde's place, or Arroyo High School, or some place.

1:22:481:22:54

"She shuts him down again or says the wrong thing,

1:22:541:22:58

"or looks at him the wrong way or enrages him with a barely perceptible gesture.

1:22:581:23:04

"You had a seven-hour time span and a geographically localised series of events that resulted in murder.

1:23:041:23:12

"You could extrapolate off the extracted facts and interpret the prelude

1:23:121:23:17

"in an infinite number of ways."

1:23:171:23:20

Yes?

1:23:211:23:23

Since the publication of My Dark Places has there been any developments in your mother's case?

1:23:231:23:29

My Dark Places is the story of my search for the man who killed my mother. It's also my autobiography.

1:23:291:23:36

Bill Stoner and I decided to frame an 85-year-old senile male Caucasian for the murder of my mother...

1:23:361:23:44

..to put the book back on the New York Times' bestseller list.

1:23:451:23:50

We figure we'll get some down-in-the-mouth old wino

1:23:501:23:55

and frame this old cocksucker.

1:23:551:23:58

We'll put some pictures of my mother in his pocket.

1:23:581:24:02

We'll grab him off skid row.

1:24:021:24:05

We'll get him strung out on crack cocaine for a couple of weeks and log the information.

1:24:051:24:12

If God exists, what would you like him to say to you?

1:24:121:24:16

"Welcome, Daddy-O.

1:24:191:24:22

"Here you will get your questions answered.

1:24:221:24:27

"They will be etched in bas-relief. They will be precise. They will be philosophically defined..."

1:24:271:24:34

MICROPHONE SCREECHES

1:24:341:24:37

-"You'll find out who killed the Black Dahlia..."

-SCREECHES AGAIN

1:24:371:24:43

"You will be reunited with your mother and the dogs that you loved.

1:24:431:24:48

"If Helen Knode predeceases you, you will find that sex exists in heaven."

1:24:481:24:56

I'll step back, I'll assess this a little bit,

1:24:561:25:00

and then God will say to me, "Thanks, Daddy-O, you worked hard and you tried to tell the truth."

1:25:001:25:06

-Ladies and gentlemen! Yeah!

-WHOOPING AND APPLAUSE

1:25:061:25:11

Peepers, prowlers, paederasts, pedants, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps, I thank you.

1:25:111:25:18

"I'm with you now. You ran and hid and I found you.

1:25:341:25:38

"Your secrets were not safe with me.

1:25:381:25:42

"You earned my devotion. You paid for it in public disclosure.

1:25:421:25:48

"I robbed your grave. I revealed you.

1:25:561:26:00

"I showed you in shameful moments. I learned things about you.

1:26:011:26:06

"Everything I learned made me love you more dearly.

1:26:061:26:11

"I'll learn more. I'll follow your tracks and invade your hidden time.

1:26:111:26:17

"I'll uncover your lies.

1:26:171:26:19

"I'll rewrite your history and revise my judgement as your old secrets explode.

1:26:191:26:25

"I will justify it all in the name of the obsessive life you gave me.

1:26:251:26:30

"I can't hear your voice.

1:26:331:26:36

"I can smell you and taste your breath.

1:26:361:26:39

"I can feel you. You're brushing against me.

1:26:391:26:43

"You're gone and I want more of you."

1:26:431:26:47

Yeah!

1:27:051:27:07

I see Ls.

1:27:191:27:21

Nah.

1:27:211:27:23

This...

1:27:251:27:26

Somebody named Smith.

1:27:261:27:29

Sounds like an alias to me.

1:27:291:27:32

Somebody named Smith.

1:27:321:27:34

No.

1:27:391:27:41

T-H...

1:27:431:27:45

I...

1:27:451:27:47

No, it's Hilliker reversed!

1:27:471:27:49

Subtitles by Carolyn Donaldson and Neil Gemmill BBC Scotland - 2001

1:29:291:29:35

E-mail us at [email protected]

1:29:351:29:39

A programme exploring the work of crime writer James Ellroy, whose credits include LA Confidential, The Black Dahlia and My Dark Places, the latter a harrowing memoir of his own mother's murder. Ellroy later moved on from crime writing to pen his own secret history of the United States. As the second volume of his 'Underworld USA' trilogy - The Cold Six Thousand - was published in the UK in 2001, the film takes a tour of Ellroy's often disturbing world.


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