Anita Page Christmas

December 6th, 2017

Jim Nabors 1930 – 2017

November 30th, 2017

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something. And, at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.” — Jim Nabors, on his same-sex marriage to life partner Stan Cadwallader in 2013

Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first guest star

November 25th, 2017

The Hollywood Christmas Parade, which takes place on Sunday evening in Hollywood, is its 89th year (except for three years during World War II) with Grand Marshall Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and other celebrities, marching bands and of course, Santa Claus.

The ‘Santa Claus Lane,’ formerly Hollywood Boulevard during the Christmas season of 1928 at Highland Avenue.

The first parade, held on December 5, 1928, was known as “Santa Claus Lane” and featured Santa and Jeanette Loff (a last-minute replacement for Lili Damita), a Hollywood starlet. That evening, crowds thronged Christmas-tree lined Hollywood Boulevard (rechristened Santa Claus Lane) from Vine Street to La Brea Avenue. With Jeanette Loff, Santa Claus drove his reindeer-drawn sleigh east on the brilliantly illuminated course to La Brea, and returned over the same route.

The “parade” continued every evening during the Christmas season with a different prominent film player (Lili Damita showed up the following evening) each night.

Jeanette Loff poses on Santa’s sleigh for the first “Santa Claus Lane” parade in 1928

However, Jeanette Loff, the first starlet of what is known today as the Hollywood Christmas Parade, is probably little known today. At the time of the first Santa Clause Lane, Loff had appeared in twelve films since 1926, working her way up to costarring parts in Hold ‘Em Yale (1928) with Rod La Rocque, Annapolis (1928) with Johnny Mack Brown and Love Over Night (1928), again with La Roque.

Jeanette Loff was born on October 9, 1905 (most records claim 1906), in Orofino, Idaho to Marius and Inga (Loseth) Loff. Studio publicity claimed that her father was a famous Danish violinist, but he was in fact a barber and later a farmer.

Photo from Lewiston High School, Idaho in 1922. Arrow points to Loff.

Attempts by Pathe to make Loff a star.

After living for a time in Wadena, Canada, the Luff’s relocated to Lewiston, Idaho. After her high school graduation, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jeanette enrolled at the Ellison & White Conservatory of Music where she learned to play the pipe-organ. When a local theater needed a pipe-organ player, Jeanette got the position. She worked her way up to playing at bigger and better Portland theaters.

Loff’s nude photograph by Edwin Bower Hesser.

Loff’s discovery in Hollywood is open to several versions. Whatever her introduction to films, in 1926, with her extremely wholesome looks, she earned a bit part in Universal’s The Collegian series followed by another extra part in Young April (1926) a film for Cecil B. DeMille’s company at Pathé, where she was put under contract.

DeMille cast her in two Westerns, followed by leading roles in the two films with Rod La Rocque. Over the next few years, she costarred in several good, but not outstanding films. At some point during her early career, she also posed for nude photographs.

Scene from The King of Jazz (1930).

Shortly after appearing as the first actress to ride in Hollywood’s premier Santa Claus Lane, Loff was brought to Universal to audition for The King of Jazz (1930), a possible million-dollar film they were producing. Executives were doubting their original choice for an important leading female role when producer Paul Bern arranged for her to audition. In the audition, she sang the number, “The Bridal Veil,” in a clear lyric soprano that impressed producers to give her the part.

In 1929, Loff’s parents had divorced, and her mother Inga and two sisters, Myrtle and Irene, moved to Los Angeles (her father, Marius, remained in Oregon until his death). That same year, Jeanette was also divorced from her first husband, traveling jewelry salesman Harry Roseboom whom she had secretly married in 1927. She reportedly had affairs with Gilbert Roland, Paul Bern–who tried unsuccessfully to cast her in a film–and lyricist Walter O’Keefe.

After making three more films over the next year, she grew tired of Hollywood and moved to New York, struggling to find stage roles, appearing only in the short-lived Broadway musical, Free for All, which closed after twelve days.

St. Louis Woman (1934), Jeanette Loff’s failed attempt at comeback.

In 1933, she returned to Hollywood when she heard that Universal was planning to re-release The King of Jazz. Thinking it would revive her career, she accepted the leading role in St. Louis Woman (1934) with Johnny Mack Brown (she also worked with Brown in Annapolis) for a poverty row studio. The film did poorly, but she made two shorts and three more films that same year, none of them money-makers. Her last film was Million Dollar Baby (1934) for Monogram Pictures.

From then on, she retired from films. In 1935, she married liquor salesman, Bertram “Bert” Friedlob. The following year, Friedlob produced Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Stars in Person revue and included Loff in the cast.

Her marriage to Friedlob was rocky; he was a womanizer who had affairs with Lana Turner and many others.

702 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills where Jeanette Loff ingested ammonia. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. DO NOT disturb the residents)

On August 1, 1942, Loff ingested ammonia at her Beverly Hills home at 702 North Crescent Drive; she was treated for mouth and throat burns at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where she died three days later. Loff was only 35.

Jeanette Loff’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

 

The coroner was unable to determine if her death was accidental or a suicide. Reportedly at the time, she was suffering from a stomach ailment and accidently took the wrong bottle of medication.

However, wouldn’t she have noticed the ammonia smell? In any event, her death certificate called her death a “probable suicide.” Surprising, some in her family maintained that she had been murdered, but never publicly offered proof.

Jeanette Loff’s niche at Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum. Her sister Myrtle is interred with her. (Find-a-Grave)

 

Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first hostess, was cremated and interred at Glendale’s Forest Lawn in the Great Mausoleum (Protection Columbarium).

Bert Friedlob later produced several films including The Star (1952) with Bette Davis and Tyrone Power’s Untamed (1955). Friedlob died in 1956.

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

November 23rd, 2017

David Cassidy 1950 – 2017

November 21st, 2017

“It is difficult to be famous and that successful where you can’t even walk down the street without people chasing you, and having people build monuments to you and worshiping you – all that stuff – but I never took that to a place where I believed it. I saw it as being temporary and a phase.” –David Cassidy

Sir Guy Standing’s mythical death

November 12th, 2017

One definition of a myth is a popular belief or story that is associated with a person, institution, or occurrence. Hollywood, the land of make believe, is full of myths – and this is one: Actor Sir Guy Standing died from a rattlesnake bite while hiking in the Hollywood Hills.

Sir Guy Standing was born on September 1, 1873 in London, the eldest son of actor Herbert Standing and his wife Emilie, and one of several actor brothers (Wyndham, Herbert Jr., Percy and Jack Standing) to appear on stage. His acting debut was in Wild Oats at London’s Criterion Theatre, using the name Guy Stanton.

His first New York acting job was at age 19 as Captain Fairfield in Lena Despard at the Manhattan Opera House. In 1897, he joined Charles Frohman’s company at the Empire Theatre, where he appeared in several plays.

Guy Standing as a young stage actor.

Among the plays he appeared in before World War I were, The Sorceress, Mrs. Leffingewil’s Boots, The Duel, Hedda Gabler, with Nazimova in 1907, and a tour of The Right of Way in 1909. After seventeen years in the States, he returned to England for four years to appear in a steady run of plays.

Standing returned to the United States in 1913, and appeared in Daddy Longlegs at Chicago’s Powers Theatre. Afterward, he signed a contract with Famous Players to star in the film, The Silver King. While preparing for the film, World War I broke out. He asked Adolph Zukor for permission to break his contract, thinking he would come back soon.

Returning to England, he offered his services, which eventually included membership on the British War Mission to the United States. He also served as a commander in His Majesty’s Navy in the Dover Patrol. For his performance of these duties he was created a Knight Commander of the British Empire in June 1918 by King George V.

The Story of Temple Drake, from left, Sir Guy Standing, William Gargan carrying Miriam Hopkins.

In November 1925, after an absence of eleven years, Standing returned to the American stage in The Carolinian, at New York’s Sam H. Harris Theatre; two years later he appeared with Ethel Barrymore in The Constant Wife.

His stage work continued until 1932 when he met Albert Kaufman of Paramount while on tour in Los Angeles. This led to a contract for his film debut at the age of 60 in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), with Miriam Hopkins. Other films followed: Death Takes a Holiday (1934), The Witching Hour (1934), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Lloyds of London (1936), and his last film, Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937). He was planning to revise his role as Col. Nielson in the next Bulldog Drummond film, Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937), at the time of his death.

Standing took an active part in Hollywood social life as president of the Malibu Lake Club, and boasted that his baseball team, The Paramount Cubs, was the only one in the world with a British president.

Standing was married three times, first in 1895 to Isabel Urquehar, a stage actress, who preceded him in death. The second, Blanche Burton, also died before him. His third wife was Dorothy Hammond (died 1950), an actress and the mother of his three children, Guy, Jr., Katherine (Kay Hammond)–both actors–and Michael, the first live BBC cricket commentator and live radio commentator, among other accomplishments.

The building was originally Hillcrest Motor Company, a car dealership. The second floor, which now houses a Marshall’s, was where the automobiles were parked. The first floor, the site of Standing’s death, is now a souvenir store. (click on image to enlarge)

On Wednesday, February 24, 1937, Standing was at the Hillcrest Motor Company at 7001 Hollywood Blvd. (across from the Roosevelt Hotel) to make a payment on his car. He was chatting with a salesman and was asked how he felt.

“Excellent,” he responded. “In fact, I never felt better.”

A moment later, his legs gave out and he was on the floor clutching at his chest and writhing in pain. He never spoke another word.

Doctors arrived from Hollywood Receiving Hospital and administered adrenaline and other restoratives, but he failed to respond. Standing died a few minutes later. His body was taken to the hospital where his brother Wyndham filled out the death certificate. Afterward, he was removed to the Le Roy Bagley Mortuary (5440 Hollywood Blvd. – demolished) pending funeral arrangements and word from his wife who was in London.

Close friends at Paramount claimed his death was related indirectly to a black widow spider bite he received two years earlier on location for The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. Standing apparently responded to treatment but took the poisoning lightly, according to friends.

Shortly before his death he complained of having leg pains and he walked with a limp. For whatever reason, he neglected medical help, feeling he would recover. The New York Times consulted an expert at the Bronx Zoo who said it was difficult to believe that the cause of Standing’s death was indirectly connected to the insect bite he received two years earlier. He said that he had never heard of a person dying of either a black widows bite or even a snake bite so long after the infliction of the wound. Perhaps this is where the myth of Standing’s death from a snake bite originated. Later reports, and Standings death certificate, noted that the actor died from a heart ailment.

Sir Guy Standing’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

Standing’s funeral was held the following Sunday at St. Stephens Episcopal Church’s (6129 Carlos Street) chapel where more than 250 friends heard Dr. Philip Easley read the ritual. Pallbearers included Philip MacDonald, Henry Herzbrun, Nat Deverich, Christopher Dunphy, Albert Kaufman and Bayard Veiller. At the same hour, employees at Paramount Studios bowed their heads for a five minute period of silence and prayer.

Sir Guy Standing’s grave marker at Grandview Cemetery.

Newspapers reported that Standing’s body would be returned to London for burial, however, that never happened. Instead, Sir Guy Standing was buried at Glendale’s Grand View Cemetery (His son, Guy Standing Jr. is also buried there, reportedly in an unmarked grave). His father, Herbert Standing, died in Los Angeles in 1923, and his cremains are in a vault at the Chapel of the Pines.

Sir Guy Standing did not die from a rattlesnake bite as many biographies state (Imdb lists his death was from a rattlesnake bite). Nor did he die from the bite of a black widow spider as some friends noted after his death. Is that how the myth began – progressing from a spider to a snake bite over the past eighty years? We may never know.

Richard Dix’s Childhood Home

November 4th, 2017

dix-portrait

..1208 Raymond Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence–DO NOT DISTURB THE OCCUPANTS.

Richard Dix as a boy

The St. Paul house still stands. Dix inspected it in the summer of 1929 when he spent a week in St. Paul. The apple tree in the yard was bearing fruit, but it was a taller tree than when Dix last plucked a green apple from it.

The Haunted Cemetery

October 30th, 2017

If you want to hear weird tales of something awful, things that will make the very marrow chill in your bones and that will cause the shivers to creep up your spinal column as you look fearful over your shoulder to see, you know not what, then go out to the foothills of Hollywood and talk with the old timers who live about the neighborhood of Primrose and Vista Del Mar where the Krotona Theosophical colony once practiced their religion. For the uneducated, Theosophy is a “collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.”

A leader of this institution, Ernest A. Sydow, was styled in the annals of his faith as a “pioneer of the colony,” a title well earned. In the fall of 1922, Sydow was on an evangelical mission in Northern California when he died and was buried at Vallejo, the scene of his last labors. But after a few years, the Krotona colony asked that his body be exhumed and brought back to Hollywood, his first love.

This was done, and the occasion of the return and reburial was made memorable by a series of phenomena which it is possible may be explained by natural causes, but which have not yet been so explained. This may be due to the unscientific character of the investigators at the colony, inclined by the nature of their calling to believe in a supernatural intervention where a scientist would see only the workings of a mundane force or the misinterpretation of sights and sounds. But I will relate the tale as a respected Hollywood centenarian told it, and the reader can draw their own conclusion.

After its arrival, the casket containing the body of Mr. Sydow lay for a time in the offices of Hollywood Cemetery, at its eastern entrance, and watchers sat with it. On the night before the reburial, the watchers were Jeremiah Altman, a member of the Krotona colony and Harry Westfield, an employee of the cemetery. Along in the hours near morning, Altman stepped out for a breath of fresh air, but in a moment, came rushing back with the exclamation: “Westfield, Westfield, the cemetery grounds are full of ghosts.”

Both men went out. In every direction through the tombstones they saw figures darting hither and thither in a wild and fitful dance. The men approached, but the figures drew back before them, forming to the left and right of them, and it was impossible to get within close range.

In the morning, when the casket was lifted, the floor beneath was found to be blackened by fire, and a hole was burned clear through to the stone foundation. How did this happen? No one has ever tried to offer a speculation.

This was not the end. That night, several members of the Krotona faculty sat in the cemetery’s office with manager Theodor Piltz discussing the strange events that perplexed them. Suddenly, their discussions were abruptly terminated by a startling and tremendous racket just outside the door, a clattering and whacking that was deafening. Piltz threw open the office door. Not a soul was outside the building. He returned to his office, but hardly had he sat down when the noises began again. Again, a sudden dash outside failed to reveal any one. Nor did a search of the building reveal any intruders. A third time the noises began, and this time Piltz spoke outside to the cemetery grounds: “If you are gentlemen, be still.” The noise stopped.

Coming at another time, all this might not have occasioned any mystification, but in conjunction with the other strange and unexplained happenings, it assumed an importance it would not have assumed alone.

After the reburial of Ernest Sydow, a photograph was taken of the cemetery. One of the cemetery staff was the photographer. In the foreground of the picture can be seen two graves, just as they appear in the cemetery. But at the foot of each grave stands something no visitor has ever seen, and for the peace of his mind it is to be hoped never will see. At the foot of one grave stood Buren Pratt, a well-known Hollywood practitioner of the mystical arts, dressed in his psychic garments. At the foot of the other grave stood the counterfeit presentment of its occupant, Charlotta Sweetwood, a woman who in life was a benefactor of the psychic.

When these startling things appeared at the time the photograph was developed, the cemetery management decided that possibly some well-timed conjunction of sunlight and foliage was the cause of the images; that they had no real existence—were only shadows. So, they had the picture thrown on a screen by stereopticon. But the figures came out more plainly—so plainly that there was no denying that they were the well-remembered features of Pratt and his benefactress, Charlotta.

The possibilities of photography were not so well known then as now. The superimposing of one negative upon another and the resulting “ghost photographs” that have been the stock in trade of so many imposters was an art not well known then. Still, there were those who suspected the photographer of a trick and charged him with it. He denied the charge and offered this unassailable plea of innocence: Because he was a man of unscrupulous character, there was no such thing as a photograph of Buren Pratt in existence and nobody had ever heard of one.

What of these ghosts? What explanation can be offered? The writer confesses he is unconvinced. Yet he has personal acquaintance with persons who claim to have seen them, with clergymen on the one hand, with university-bred agnostics on the other. So, there you are, and from the evidence presented can render your own verdict.

 

Dear readers, please note that this is a story of fiction to celebrate the Halloween holiday. Names, characters, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. 

Is a Hollywood film studio a set for the paranormal?

October 28th, 2017

 

Many locations around Hollywood are reported to be haunted, especially at Halloween. There are theaters, hotels, night clubs and studios that have their share of ghost stories. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the possibility of a spirit continuing on after death is fascinating.

There are countless paranormal stories about Hollywood’s past. One story in particular, which originally had nothing to do with ghosts, had the blaring Los Angeles Times’ headline: “Death After Studio Party Called Accident by Police.” The story reported that a 31-year-old studio electrician was fatally injured after a wrap party attended by several well-known film stars.

According to the news report, Edward W. Gray, the father of three, was found near death on the floor of a film stage near midnight on April 3, 1946. He was dead on arrival at Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Original accounts stated that Gray may have been murdered, but a deputy coroner eventually discounted that theory. Upon examination, it was found that Gray suffered a fractured pelvis, numerous internal injuries, a skull fracture and facial lacerations. The coroner said that such injuries could only be attributed to falling from a great height or, — being run over by an automobile!

A ghostly image of Edward Gray from the Los Angeles Times report on his death.

Gray was found on the studio floor below a catwalk, 65-foot above. A ladder rose to the catwalk at one end, and police theorized that Gray had climbed to the top, then tumbled off.

Supporting this theory was the discovery of blood on a two-by-four jutting from the backdrop fifteen-feet above where Gray’s body was found, and would have been in the direct line of a fall from the catwalk. It was also found that Gray’s blood registered an alcohol content of .29 – today a .08 is considered intoxicated.

The studio where this happened was a rental lot at 1040 N. Las Palmas Avenue, which at the time was called General Service Studios (later known as Hollywood Center Studios). In May 2017, the lot was sold and renamed Sunset Las Palmas Studios.

Founded in 1919 by set designer John Jasper (1876-1929), three production studios were built on 15 acres south of Santa Monica Boulevard. Billionaire-producer, Howard Hughes filmed Hell’s Angels here; the television shows, Ozzie and Harriett, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and the first two years of I Love Lucy (Studio 2) also called this lot home. Shirley Temple made her film debut here, and it may also be remembered as the ill-fated Zoetrope Studios founded by Francis Ford Coppola in the early 1980s.

Author and film historian, Laurie Jacobson, who with historian Marc Wanamaker, are the authors of Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland. Jacobson claims that stories have circulated about phenomenon on that particular lot, including “cold spots, unexplained noises, unusual shadows on sound stages, lights going on and off, things being moved, etc. all reported by guards, workers, maintenance workers and film workers on the lot.”

“There were also ‘problems’ with Stage 5,” Laurie recalled, “where Ozzie and Harriet was produced. Many say it happened all through the production. Others believe it is Ozzie himself — a workaholic who died before his time — who haunts the set.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, the lot was known as Metropolitan Studios. In later years, office workers reportedly heard talking in the empty offices on the second floor. “Those offices were occupied by film pioneer Al Christie from 1925 to 1932,” Jacobson said. “Second to Mack Sennett, Christie lost everything in the stock market crash, including his studio. He tried, but never regained his success or wealth. Now in death, he continues the work he’d been forced to give up.”

Reportedly, a former stage manager also claimed the lot was haunted, “particularly on Stage 6, where a gaffer fell to his death decades ago.” He described the happenings:

“…when you went in to close up the stage for the night, turn off the work lights, secure all the doors, etc., you could hear foot steps in the perms (rafters) above you, following you as you moved from one part of the stage to another. When you stop, it stops. Freaking scary.”

Edward Gray fell to his death in Stage 4 (highlighted). The studio entrance is only a short walk from there.

Laurie Jacobson recalled a similar story, but it happened on a different stage. “In 1946, a studio worker fell to his death on Stage 4 making the film Stairway to Hell,” she said. “For many years after, there were technical problems on that stage.” That was the year (1946) that Edward Gray, the electrician in the Los Angeles Times article, fell to his death during the wrap party for Angel on My Shoulder, which, at the time had the working title – Stairway to Hell.

There were enough questions about Gray’s death that an inquest was held. Reportedly, Gray and another friend were “uninvited guests” at ‘a gay party’ that was hosted by the film’s star, Paul Muni to celebrate the completion of the film. Neither Gray nor his friend had worked on the film, but showed up anyway.

The party began at 6pm with a bar set up on the sound stage. More than a score of tables had been arranged in front of the papier-mâché reconstruction of “Hell” – a familiar scene in the film.

Angel on My Shoulder’s stars, Paul Muni and Anne Baxter were both called to testify at the inquest. Muni stated that he felt he could be of very little help, having left the party early. “What was called ‘a gay party’ didn’t seem gay to me as I had been working all day and was very tired,” Muni told the jury. “Without seeming facetious, if that was a ‘gay party,’ I wonder what a dull one would be. All the people were tired. The idea was just to throw a little shindig to show good will. We were very tired, dog tired.”

The interior of Stage 4 where Edward Gray’s body was found and the “Hell” set for Angel on My Shoulder was located. (Sunset Las Palmas website)

“Did you see any drinking?” asked Dep. Dist. Atty. S. Ernest Roll.

“Oh, yes,” Muni replied. “Miss Baxter had milk, Miss (Joan) Blair had Coke, I had a scotch and soda, and Mrs. Muni had a sherry. Others went to the bar. I don’t know what they were drinking.”

Muni told the jury that he didn’t know Gray, although other witnesses said he sat at Gray’s table for a while. Muni and his wife Bella left about 7:45pm. Muni added that he didn’t see anyone intoxicated.

Anne Baxter said she also left the party early after posing for pictures on the film set where the bar and tables had been set up. “Some people were drinking, others eating at steam tables,” she recalled.

Three cases of Bourbon, a case of Scotch and four cases of beer were consumed, according to the caterer.

“Wasn’t there any liquor left?” inquired Deputy Coroner Frank Monfort.

“Oh no, nothing was left,” the caterer replied.

Several witnesses agreed that Gray was intoxicated, although not quarrelsome. Along with other technicians who worked on the film, he had been invited to attend, “as is custom.”

Edward Gray was escorted by a friend to this gate (above) to get a taxi but instead was seen by the gate guard returning to the studio where he eventually met his death. (click on image to enlarge)

A recent image of the studio’s entrance.

One friend, Allan Seiger, a property man, said that Gray was hardly able to walk from the party, so he assisted him to the studio gate to call a cab. But as soon as Seiger walked away, Gray ran back into the studio, according to the guard, who said that earlier in the evening he had seen Gray fall down “two or three times on the set.”

Further testimony disclosed that after the taxi incident, Gray had climbed the high backdrop, and from there he either stumbled or fell, even though no one actually witnessed Gray climbing to the catwalk.

According to other testimony, it was common for studio workers who had been drinking to climb up high to “get out of sight.”

Studio officials emphasized that everyone had left the studio long before Gray was found. According to the caterer, the party ended at 8:45pm when the liquor supply was exhausted.

Gray’s widow was represented by future Los Angeles mayor, Sam Yorty, who argued that the dead man may have been in a fight, or run over by a car. However, expert medical, scientific and police testimony claimed his injuries were most likely caused by a fall.

Edward W. Gray’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge).

And in fact, the nine-man jury found Edward Gray’s fatal injuries were “received from a fall while intoxicated.” To this day, family members still dispute the jury’s findings.

Could Edward Gray be haunting the sound stages of the Sunset Las Palmas Studios? Perhaps he was murdered and his soul can not rest. Unlike the characters of the film whose wrap-party he crashed, instead of hell, he chose to walk the rafters of the studio that was his last memory.

So this Halloween, take a walk past the gates of Sunset Las Palmas Studios, and perhaps you will see the ghost of Edward Gray hailing a taxi instead of returning to the studio – and to his death.

The Story of the Sacketts of Hollywood

October 21st, 2017

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The extended Sackett family in front of the Sackett Hotel, in 1898. From left to right: Betsy Otis, H.D. Sackett’s aunt; Mrs. Sackett; Lyman Hathaway, cousin of Mary Sackett; William H. Sackett; unknown; Mary Sackett; Zella Sackett, married to George Dunlap; unknown; Lilly ? ; Dora Miller. (LAPL)

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Horace David Sackett, whose family came to America from England in 1831, was born in Blandford, Massachusetts on December 29, 1843, the son of Leverett and Mary Culver Sackett. When he was eighteen years old, he went to Suffield, Connecticut and started a flourishing general merchandise and farming business that lasted for several years.

On January 15, 1873, Sackett married Ellen Minerva Lyman (b. July 24, 1848) and became the parents of five children, Mary Mariah (b. July 8, 1875), William (b. June 22, 1876), Warren Lyman (b. August 30, 1882), Zella Myra (b. June 11, 1883), and Emily (b. March 1885).

Sackett was a squat, spare, busy man with a short beard. He was cheerful and kindly but firm in his convictions. In 1887, with $10,000 in his pocket, he left Connecticut with his family and moved to Los Angeles. There he heard about land in the North Cahuenga Valley being subdivided for business and residential purposes. This new development called Hollywood was without lights, telephones, paved streets or other modern improvements.

The developer, Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife Daeida were looking for men willing to build up the area and attract new residents. Sackett’s daughter Mary recalled that her family was one of the first families in the area. “Mr. Wilcox subdivided his 160-acre ranch and named it Hollywood,” Mary recalled years later. “Both our families settled down there in May, 1888 when I was 12.”

Each lot was going for a fixed price of $1,000 each. But Wilcox gave Sackett, free of charge, three, sixty-five foot lots facing the assigned business area at Cahuenga Avenue and the southwest corner of Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard), if Sackett made certain improvements before the dummy line (the old steam engine with the open car) reached Wilcox Avenue. .

sackett-store2

By 1888, the railroad was functioning, and Sackett built a three-story hotel building (above) of wood with a mansard roof, consisting of a corner store, and Prospect Avenue lobby and parlor. Behind that was the culinary department. The stairway in the lobby led to the upper two stories with eighteen rooms and a bathroom. Behind the hotel was a barn and corral; surrounding the store and lobby front was a cypress hedge and several two-year-old pepper trees planted by Wilcox, giving the place a very cozy appearance.

The Sacketts ran the first hotel in the Cahuenga Valley, and the second general merchandising establishment within the corporate limits of Hollywood. He also kept a few horses for his clientele and gardens to the blocks east and south of the store, to sell produce in his store.

Sackett bought the lot south of the hotel, two lots facing west on Wilcox Avenue, and south of the two northern lots in the row. Here he ran an overnight and breakfast place for city visitors and a bachelors’ roost for the young single men of the village. At his store, Sackett sold butter and eggs, crackers and cheese, overalls, jumpers, boots and shoes, ribbons and yardage, and canned goods that were becoming popular.

Another Hollywood pioneer associated with the hotel was Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, who later wrote a history of the area. Upon his arrival in California, he rented a room and an office there for his medical practice.

Sackett’s daughter, Mary and her siblings, attended the old Temple Street School through grade school, but didn’t go to the downtown high school because they couldn’t get there on time. Later, Sackett added another store, where in a corner nook he opened Hollywood’s post office; Mary became Hollywood’s first postmistress, running her practiced eye over the little rack of boxes. For her duties, Mary was paid as high as $5 per month.

Tragedy hit the Sackett family in 1899 when his son, William died unexpectedly at 23 years of age and was buried at Rosedale, as there would not be a cemetery in Hollywood for another two years.

Due to competition from the new Hollywood Hotel, built three years earlier at the northwest corner of Prospect and Highland, Sackett closed his hotel in 1905. He sold the property to Henry Gillig, but it remained unoccupied for the next five years except for one store room on the first floor.

In 1907, Sackett built a six bedroom house on property he had bought at 1642 Wilcox Avenue. Later that same year, in the reception hall of their home, Sackett’s daughter Zella, married George Dunlap, the mayor of Hollywood at the time, and the city’s last since Los Angeles annexed Hollywood in 1910.

In 1910, J.P. Creque, one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood, bought the former hotel property for $28,000 from the estate of Henry Gillig, who was now deceased. Creque razed the abandoned hotel and erected a fireproof two-story cream brick structure that cost approximately $30,000. The Hollywood National Bank leased a portion of the new building; there were three other stores facing on Prospect. The second floor had offices with wide hallways and tile flooring. .

The J.P. Creque Building being built in 1911 on the site of the Sackett Hotel at the southwest corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga.

In 1931, the Creque Building was enlarged by adding two stories; the Art Deco building at 6400-6408 Hollywood Boulevard, is still on the site. .

The Creque Building as it appears today on the site of the Sackett Hotel.

Now retired from the mercantile business, Sackett devoted himself to the management of his private interests and several properties that he owned. He took an active part in the public affairs of Hollywood and Los Angeles for many years and was a man of ability and worth. He was a staunch democrat and was interested in politics, especially in local matters.

It was in their Wilcox Avenue home that Horace Sackett died in 1918, and was buried next to his son at Rosedale. In 1929, his wife Ellen followed him in death at the age of eighty from heart disease.

At the time of Ellen’s death, the area around Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox had become mostly commercial, and land was being bought for business purposes. Mary Sackett was living in the family home, but instead of demolishing the house, she sold the property in 1929 and moved the house to the San Fernando Valley which was residential.

Remarkably, the old Sackett house is still standing at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. The 1908 residence looks somewhat out of place next to the small bungalow homes built mostly in the 1930s. .

The altered, but original Horace Sackett home, once located at 1642 Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood, is now at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. DO NOT DISTURB the occupants.

The rear of the former Sackett home.

On Wilcox, a row of storefronts still stands in place of the old Sackett homestead.

Mary Sackett never married, and in her old age claimed that she never touched liquor, tea or coffee. “I’m an old maid and proud of it,” she insisted to a reporter in 1950. “I’ve never worn a bit of make-up, yet I had three proposals. Men have taken me out but usually with a chaperone. I wouldn’t let them kiss me good-night and to this day no man has ever been allowed to put his arm around me.”

In 1954, at the age of 78, Mary appeared on an episode of the  You Bet Your Life television show with host Groucho Marx and laughingly ruffled the comedians feathers. She asked Groucho to put away his trademark cigar, either lit or unlit, and he grudgingly complied. .

Mary Sackett, 74, spars with comedian Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life.”


Click HERE to watch the episode. Mary’s segment begins at 18:45

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When asked if a man might yet come along and sweep her off her feet, Mary replied, “Not a chance. I’m too set in my ways. I don’t want any man cluttering up my house.” When Mary died on January 31, 1969 at age 93 in Rosemead, California, she was the last remaining Sackett. She was buried in the family plot at Rosedale Cemetery. .

The Sackett family marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

Mary Sackett’s marker at Rosedale Cemetery.