Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood Forever’

Rollin B. Lane, and a little Hollywood magic

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Rollin B. Lane (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

While not well-known today, Rollin B. Lane was an early Hollywood resident; an admitted capitalist and philanthropist who donated large sums of money for parks, libraries and orphanages. However, if he is known at all it would be for a street named for his mother, and for the home he built more than a century ago, which is now one of the oldest standing in Hollywood. In 1909, Lane named his home the “Holly Chateau,” but for the past fifty-five years it has been known by its more celebrated name – the Magic Castle. 

Rollin Benjamin Lane was born on May 28, 1854 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Leonard Lane and Olive Pickett. The family home was located on Algoma Street, however, when his parents divorced (or his father deserted them), Rollins and his mother moved to nearby Pickett when he was two years old. His maternal grandparents, Armine and Anna Pickett, were pioneer residents of Pickett and Winnebago county.

Lane attended school at the old district No. 6 building, built on land donated by his grandfather. In 1872, he graduated from Ripon College and later became associate editor of the old Daily Evening Wisconsin in Milwaukee before settling in Redlands, California in the winter of 1886.

In Redlands, he invested in real estate and owned a 17-acre orange grove. With other investors, he established the Union Bank of Redlands, and was its cashier for five years. In 1890, Lane moved to Portland, Oregon, where he organized the Multnomah County Bank, of which he was president for three years before selling his interest in 1895.

In October 1896, Lane married Katherine Azubah Glynn, a teacher, and the author of the fictional, “The Girl from Oshkosh.” Kate was born in March 3, 1864, in Bucktooth, New York to La Fayette Glynn and Mary E. Perry. She was also the great-granddaughter of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the early American naval officer.

Lane, an ardent Republican, hurried to marry Katherine so he could return to California to vote in the presidential election for McKinley. Katherine evidently sympathized and consented to a quick wedding and the couple left immediately for Redlands. There he purchased a house at the head of Center Street.

The Lane’s slowly made their presence known in Hollywood, moving there around 1902, making friends with influential people of the fairly new community. They attended the formal opening of the Hollywood Hotel’s new addition in 1905. It was then that he became acquainted with local real estate icons such as the Whitley’s, Wilcox’s and other Hollywood pioneers.

Meanwhile, Lane continued with his California real estate investments including projects in the San Fernando and San Joaquin Valley’s. In 1907, Lane became a backer of the new community of Corcoran in central California. Founded by H. J. Whitley, who also had investments in Hollywood (Whitley Heights, Whitley Avenue), many of his co-investors were other Hollywood citizens including General H. G. Otis (Los Angeles Times), Arthur Letts (Broadway Department Store), and Dr. Alan Gardner (Gardner Avenue). Much later, Corcoran became the site of the California State Prison, home to a number of notable inmates including the late Charles Manson, Juan Corona and Phil Spector.

Now a resident of Hollywood, Lane began construction in early 1909 on his elegant Holly Chateau at 7001 Franklin Avenue, at the foot of the Hollywood Hills. The original house was designed by the architectural firm of Dennis and Farwell in the French “Chateau” or Gothic Renaissance style and adapted from a residence in Redlands known as “Kimberly Crest” which is now preserved as a house museum.

Holly Chateau, a two-story frame and cement plaster house, had a large basement and finished attic under a mansard roof. The home initially had seventeen rooms including a roof garden and sun parlor. The basement contained a laundry, fruit and storage rooms and two large gas furnaces which heated the house.

Lane house drawing that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 23, 1910. (click on image to enlarge)

The halls, staircase and library were made of quarter-sawed white oak; the dining room was of mahogany and the den in natural redwood and of Turkish design. The parlor was decorated in white enamel with gold decorations in the Louis XV style, while the balance of the house, including the bedrooms and five bathrooms had white enamel finish. A large billiard room occupied the third floor. Other features included French windows, five or six fireplaces and carved mantels.

The Lanes shared their wealth with causes that were closest to their hearts. Because of her interest in community parks, Katherine was known as the “Tree Lady.” Hollywood’s Lanewood Avenue (named after Lane’s twice-married mother, Olive Pickett Lane-Wood), is still lined with large pine trees which Katherine most likely planted since the Lane’s once owned the land.

Lanewood Avenue, named after Olive Pickett Lane-Wood, in Hollywood. The pine trees that line the street were most likely planted by Katherine Lane.

She was chairman of the tree-planting committee that procured 360 cherry trees from Japan for planting around Griffith Park. Working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Katherine is responsible for the planting of the landmark palm trees that line Wilshire Boulevard.

Katherine was elected president of the Hollywood Women’s Club and was the founder of the Round-the-World Club, Lane Tree Club, Perry Art Club and The Juniors. She also joined such organizations as the Hollywood Club, Oshkosh Club, Ebell Club, Women’s Press Club, Daughters of the American Revolution and Casa Del Mar. In 1932, she hosted the Wisconsin delegates of the 1932 Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles.

Around the time that they moved into the Chateau, the Lane’s adopted a son. The 1910 census does not mention a son, however, in 1920, twelve year-old Rollin B. Lane Jr. appears. Some have assumed that is the reason for a $25,000 donation to construct a building for the Los Angeles Children’s Home Society, but not much is known about the adoption.

Discord came to the Chateau in mid 1923, when Katherine filed for divorce against her 69 year-old husband. In her complaint she charged cruelty and named another woman, asking for $750 a month in alimony. A restraining order was issued to prevent Lane from removing anything from the house. However, after a meeting between the couple and their lawyers, a reconciliation was arranged and Lane returned to 7001 Franklin Avenue. However, Lane atoned for his sins the following January when he took Katherine and their son on a world cruise. A tour of Alaska followed this two years later and another world tour in 1927.

The passport photo for the Lane’s first world tour. Rollin, Rollin, Jr and Katherine Lane.

As the movie industry invaded Hollywood, the Lane’s kept their distance and refused to hobnob with the communities new residents. There have been urban legends about cowboy star, Tom Mix riding his horse down the mansion’s staircase (this story seems to follow him at several Hollywood residences), but it never happened. Also, the story about actress Janet Gaynor once living at the Chateau are also false.

The closest that the Lanes came to acknowledging the entertainment industry was a party they hosted to celebrate the birthday of composer, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, which was held at the Chateau for several years. Bond, who also lived in Hollywood, was a songwriter probably best known for composing the wedding standard, “I Love You Truly.” It became Katherine’s custom to celebrate Bond’s birthday with a garden party.

During their 1924 world cruise, Katherine was on the Indian Ocean and when the ship’s orchestra played “A Perfect Day,” – another Bond composition – it touched her heart, so if she reached home safely, she would give flowers to Bond, honoring her living presence instead of her memory.

On one birthday celebration, August 11, 1925, more than 300 people gathered on the Chateau grounds to observe Bond’s 64th birthday. Among those attending were George H. Coffin, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; real estate developer, C. E. Toberman; impresario, L. E. Beyhmer, and many others from Hollywood society. While no film people actually attended the festivities (or were invited), telegrams of felicitations were received from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and “other celebrities.”

Unidentified woman, Katherine Lane and Rollin B. Lane at cornerstone laying ceremony for the Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

In May 1929, Rollin Lane presented his alma-mater, the Ripon College Board of Trustees with $100,000, to be used to build the Lane Library. Lane, his mother-in-law, Mary Glynn and Katherine attended the cornerstone laying ceremony in June 1930.

Rollin B. Lane laying the cornerstone of Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

The year before, Lane gave $20,000 for the construction of a new school building and auditorium in his hometown of Pickett, named the Armine and Anna Pickett Memorial School, after his maternal grandparents. Today it’s known as the Pickett Community Center. “It was quite the party when he came back to dedicate it,” said Mary Callies, researcher and treasurer of the Center. “There were endless parties; everyone wanted to be with someone who knew somebody in Hollywood.”

Day-to-day life, though slower, continued at Holly Chateau for the Lane’s. Around 1936, Lane became ill and rarely left the house. On August 23, 1940,

Rollin B. Lane’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)


Rollin B. Lane died of a stroke in a small corner bedroom of the Chateau. He was 86 years-old. Funeral services were held at the Hollywood Cemetery Chapel and burial was in the family plot next to his mother.

Katherine Lane’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)



Katherine lived at 7001 Franklin Avenue until her death at the Glendale Sanitarium on December 9, 1945. She was buried at Hollywood Cemetery between her husband and her mother (who is unmarked).




Lane family marker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

During the years after Katherine’s death, the Chateau was divided into a multi-family home. Following that it was a home for the elderly and lastly it was altered into a jumble of small apartments.

In 1950, Harry Stafford, a stage and screen actor, died in one of the rooms.

In the 1950s, when the house was on the market, Hazel Meadows, Roland Lane Jr’s mother-in-law, stayed alone in the house to show it to prospective buyers. One day, Bela Lugosi came by to view it after working at the studios. Meadows was scared her out of her wits, even though Lugosi was gentlemanly. The Holly Chateau was eventually sold to Thomas Glover in 1955.

The fate of the house remained in question until Milt Larsen, a writer on the NBC game show, Truth or Consequences and his brother William, obtained the house for use as a club for magicians – a long-time dream of their father. After months of restoration, the Lane mansion was transformed into what is today known as The Magic Castle.

On January 2, 1963, at 5 pm, the Magic Castle opened its doors to members. It became a mysterious mansion with secret panels, a piano played by a ghost and weird overtones of magic. The mystifying features of the place began with the entrance, a secret panel known but to members. The “Invisible Irma” room boasts a regular piano and plays tunes at a verbal command.

Original posters of Houdini, the Mysterious Dante, the Great Leon, Thurston’s “Wonder Show of the Earth” and Brush, “King of Wizards,” decorated the Blackstone Room, where card tables are provided for sleight-of-hand experts.

The Magic Castle

The mansion has been altered many times–both inside and out–since the days that the Lane’s lived there. Street lamps that adorn the driveway once dotted the original Victoria Pier in Venice. Decorative cast iron frieze work on the canopy overhanging the door was part of the entrance to the Masonic temple at Wilshire and La Brea. Paneling in the main dining room was taken from the shutters of the Norma Talmadge Building that used to stand on Sunset. And the chandeliers in the Palace of Mystery once hung in the first Bullock’s in Southern California.

What would Rollin and Katherine Lane think of the transformation of their mansion? The room where Rollin Lane died is now the Houdini Séance room – perhaps one day Rollin will attend (or already has) to whatever goes on there and make his thoughts known. In any event, the only way you can see this magical place is if you know a member. If you ever have the chance, take it. You won’t be disappointed.

Special thanks to George W. Siegel, the architectural historian for the Magic Castle and to Bill Goodwin, librarian and Lisa Cousins of the Magic Castle for their help with this article.


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Arthur Carrington Obituary

Thursday, November 15th, 2012


Arthur Carrington, former child star who appeared twice with Bette Davis, dies at 76


Arthur Carrington

By Allan R. Ellenberger


Arthur Carrington, a one-time child actor who appeared twice with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937) and The Corn is Green, died on Wednesday morning of bladder cancer.


In the Bette Davis film, That Certain Woman (1937) co-starring Henry Fonda, Davis has a child who appears at two different ages over the course of the film. The elder child was played by Dwayne Day (his only film according to imdb), however Jackie Merrick as an infant was played by one year-old Arthur Carrington.


Arthur Carrington is probably not a name that film historians can rattle off a bio for, however in his own small way, he contributed to film history.


Carrington was born to Hiram and Pearl Carrington on April 20, 1936 in Willow Brook (near Compton), California. He began appearing in films through his cousin Dawn Bender, who, the same year he appeared in That Certain Woman, was cast as the infant daughter of Kay Francis in the Warner Bros. film, Confession (1937). Bender later appeared in small roles in such films as Till We Meet Again (1944), A Song to Remember (1945) and The Actress (1953). Her last film was the classic, Teenagers From Outer Space (1959). However, she is probably best known for her appearances on radio, specifically for the role of Margaret Barbour on the radio drama, One Man’s Family.


Other family members also had bits in films. His sister Marilyn had a small role in the classic, The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Two other cousins, Bill and Carol Roush also appeared in films.


Arthur Carrington and Bette Davis

One year-old Arthur Carrington with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937)


Carrington received the role as the infant Jackie Merrick in That Certain Woman when a casting call went out and he was placed in a line-up with several other babies. Director Edmund Goulding, walking back and forth, finally proclaimed him as the “most beautiful” of the bunch and a career was born.


Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington


Of course Carrington remembered nothing about the film or of Bette Davis. However, his mother told him that Davis came to her and asked if she would consider letting her adopt Arthur. Mrs. Carrington, who politely turned her down, felt that Davis evidently fell in love with Arthur and thought the family was poor and could use the money. That wasn’t the case.


Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington


There were some films he appeared in that he remembers nothing about. There are memories of meeting the Lone Ranger and getting to hold his gun. At some point he must have appeared in a Randolph Scott film because his mother had some harsh words about the actor. “She said that Randolph Scott was the biggest idiot and never knew his lines,” Carrington recalled. He didn’t know why she felt so strongly.


A year following his stint in That Certain Woman, Carrington was set to appear in a Clark Gable film – presumably Test Pilot (1938) with Myrna Loy. Gable wanted to make sure that Arthur would feel comfortable and carried him around the set and showed him the planes. Little Art clearly embarrassed his mother at one point when the two year-old complained about Gables bad breath.


Regardless, things didn’t quite work out when Arthur came down with Scarlet Fever and the set had to be shut down until it was determined the illness did not spread. Carrington recovered but lost the part.


Carrington was unimpressed with his film appearances as a child. When asked about it, he remembered very little until  his memory was jogged and then would get some nuggets. His mother Pearl, who died in 1998, had all the stories. “My mother was the one you should have talked to,” Carrington said. “She was very much a people person and enjoyed meeting all the actors that I worked with.”


The Corn is Green


He recalled that his mother was not a typical “stage mother” and never pushed him to do anything. This point was proven when he appeared in one of his last films, The Corn is Green (1945), once again with Bette Davis. As an eight year-old playing one of the many students, director Irving Rapper wanted to give Arthur a line.


So his mother took him aside and asked: “Do you think you’d like to say a line?”


“No, I don’t think I would,” Arthur replied. So that was the end of it. He said a ‘stage mother’ would have went berserk.


Summing up his career Carrington said: “Working as a child in films was a great opportunity if you had the talent. I just wasn’t that interested.”


As a teenager, he sometimes tried to impress his friends with his former career. “I once told a buddy that I was in The Corn is Green with Bette Davis,” Carrington recalled. “Evidently he didn’t believe me or wasn’t that impressed because he just rolled his eyes and said, ‘Yeah the corn sure is green.’”


Arthur and Willeta Carrington and Shotzie

Art Carrington with his wife Willeta and their dog Shotsie


Carrington worked as a Long Beach postal worker and in his retirement, spent much of his time traveling across the country with his wife, visiting celebrity graves. Carrington is survived by his wife Willeta, his two children, Debra and Arthur, Jr. and two grandchildren.


Correction 0n the burial location: It will be held Wednesday, November 21 @ 12:30pm at Cypress Forest Lawn Cemetery, 4471 Lincoln Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630.



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83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial

Monday, August 23rd, 2010


Today’s 83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial



 By Allan R. Ellenberger


Once again, this year’s highly attended, 83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service was a complete success. Held at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in the foyer of the Cathedral Mausoleum, today’s service had something for everyone. The life and career of Rudolph Valentino was lovingly remembered in word and song.


It was a warm August day, not at all like most of this summer which has been unseasonably cool. Summer is back! Hollywood Forever Cemetery owner, Tyler Cassity welcomed the audience this year before turning the service over to Tracy Ryan Terhune, the emcee for the day.


Yours truly provided a history of the “Aspiration” statue that stands in De Longpre Park that this year is celebrating its  80th anniversary. Following that, a short video that documented the early history of “Aspiration” was shown. Next the audience was treated to a recitation of three poems from Valentino’s book, Daydreams by Allison Francis, the mother of the 2030 Lady in Black.


The crowd was serenaded to two songs by Frank Labrador: “Candlelight” and “The Angels Above Needed Someone To Love” – the lyrics were reportedly written by Valentino for future Lady in Black, Ditra Flame, who wrote the music. Frank was accompanied on the piano by Garrett Bryant.


The current Lady in Black, Kari Bible, treated everyone to a history of Ditra Flame, the original Lady in Black. Following was a short clip from Art Linkletter’s House Party from the 1950s of Ditra being interviewed about her devotion to Valentino. It was the first public showing of this clip in more than 50 years.


Tracy then read excerpts from an unpublished manuscript by Paul Ivano who was a close friend of Valentino. Special guest, Donna Hill, the author of the just published Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol spoke about her book and showed a video of rare Valentino photos from her book.


Perennial favorites, Ian and Regina Whitcomb once again entertained the crowd with the songs, “There’s a New Star in Heaven Tonight” and “Sheik of Araby.” Valentino Memorial Committee icon, Stella Grace led the audience in a reading of the 23rd Psalm to end the service.


Once again, many thanks to this year’s committee members: Channell O’Farrill, Tracy Ryan Terhune, Stella Grace and Marvin Paige. And thank you to everyone behind the scenes — you all did a great job as usual.


Following are some photos from todays events:


Rudolph Valentino’s crypt




Donna Hill (left), Kari Bible and Garrett Bryant



Frank Labrador sings “The Angels Above Needed Someone to Love”



 Donna Hill, Tracy Ryan Terhune and Ian Whitcomb



 Allison Francis reads poems from Valentino’s Daydreams



Visitors explore the Cathedral Mausoleum 



Visitors peruse Valentino memorabilia 



 Allan Ellenberger holds the  future Lady in Black-2030, Olivia Francis



 Tracy Ryan Terhune and Stella Grace



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Rose Williams at Hollywood Forever

Saturday, March 27th, 2010


Rose Williams, the little old lady in red



 By Allan R. Ellenberger
March 27, 2010 


Rose Williams spent her life dusting other women’s homes so she could indulge in what her few acquaintances believed was her solitary love: wearing red – red dresses, red hats, red shoes, red nightclothes. Red, for Rose.


But after her death on December 30, 1964, her acquaintances learned she had another love. For money.


Since arriving in California in the early 1930s to work as a domestic, the tiny English-born spinster had amassed $133,638. When county officers opened her safety deposit box after her death, they found it contained that much in gilt-edged securities. “And there may be a lot more in other banks,” one officer said.


How “The Little Old Lady in Red,” as she was known in the community, had saved to buy the stocks was anyone’s guess since no one really knew her.


“I wish I knew who her financial adviser was,” said Dep. Public Administrator Glenn Coffey. “She didn’t have a bad stock in the bunch. What bugs me is that I don’t know what she did with her dividends.”


When Rose was entombed in the Abbey of the Psalms on January 13, 1965, about two dozen persons, mainly those curious about the tiny woman who dressed all in red, were present. Also attending were Rose’s stockbroker, representative of the public administrator’s office and another little old lady, this one in black.


Just before Rose’s red casket was placed in the crypt, the latter put three red roses at the foot of the coffin with a note which read, “To an English rose from an English lady.”


A year later, based on a vague will that was found in the safety box, a Superior Judge divided Rose William’s fortune between the American Cancer Society and CARE, Inc.



To Find Rose Williams, the little old lady in red, go to Clifton Webb’s crypt in the Abbey of the Psalms, walk past it several feet and look up about two crypts from the top and you will find Rose.



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Pepi Lederer’s 100th Birthday

Thursday, March 18th, 2010


Pepi Lederer: ‘Marion Davies’ Niece’




By Allan R. Ellenberger
March 18, 2010


Today is the 100th birthday of Pepi Lederer, who is the niece of actress Marion Davies. What little that is known about Pepi comes from Louise Brooks’ autobiography, Lulu in Hollywood. In it she devotes an entire chapter to Pepi, Marion and William Randolph Hearst.


Pepi was born Josephine Rose Lederer on March 18, 1910 in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother, Reine was the older sister of Marion Davies, and an actress and writer in her own right and was the first to use the Davies name professionally. Married twice, first to Broadway producer and director, George Lederer, they had two children – Pepi and Charles, who later became a successful screenwriter. Reine divorced George when Pepi was two years-old and later married actor George Regas.


Pepi was given the nickname “Peppy” as a child because of her high spirited personality. When she turned 18 she changed the spelling to Pepi and legally made it her real name. She hardly ever saw or spoke about her father, and was embarrassed because he was Jewish.


Pepi and her brother Charlie were favorites of both Marion and Hearst. They in turn, preferred Marion to their own mother. When she turned twelve, Pepi was spending most of her time with Marion at San Simeon and the Lexington Avenue mansion in Beverly Hills, rarely seeing her mother. Once, years later when Pepi was living in a New York apartment building owned by Hearst, Reine unexpectedly stormed in drunk, calling Marion a scheming bitch for having robbed her of her children. The episode left Pepi sobbing and racked with guilt.


At Hearst’s San Simeon, Pepi had free run of the ranch. Visitors usually had to obey Hearst’s rules about liquor rationing (because of Marion’s excesses) and the insisted-upon early rising to have breakfast. Pepi, on the other hand, had no problems obtaining liquor since she had her own private boot-legger – Hearst’s executive secretary who had keys to the wine vaults and could not resist Pepi’s charm and flashing blue eyes. Louise Brooks said that Pepi “and her group of pansies and dykes could drink and carry on all night…” As long as Marion’s drinking was under control and no one was breaking up Hearst’s art collection, he didn’t care about their drinking or sexual activities.


In the great dining hall at San Simeon, Pepi and her friends would sit at one end of the long wooden table while Marion and Hearst would face each surrounded by their guests in the middle. Pepi’s friends usually included her brother Charlie, Louise Brooks, Sally O’Neil, William Haines, and Lloyd Pantages, son of the theatre mogul. The guests called them the Younger Degenerates.


Pepi‘s sense of humor gave her every chance to expose a guests vanities while humoring the rest. Claire Windsor’s falsies and writer Elinor Glyn’s red wig would mysteriously disappear from their bedrooms while they slept. An “exclusive” item would appear in Louella Parsons’ syndicated Hearst column, which would later have to be retracted. Once, when a group of Hearst editors, dressed in business suits and seated at a liquor-loaded table visited the ranch, Pepi organized a chain dance. Ten beautiful girls in wet bathing suits danced round their table, grabbed a bottle here and there, and then exited, leaving a room full of astonished men, who inquired, “Does Mr. Hearst know these people are here?”


Pepi was charismatic, but undisciplined with a gluttonous appetite for rich food, alcohol and eventually drugs – specifically cocaine. Once in an attempt to lose weight and quit liquor, she convinced Louise Brooks, who she first met at San Simeon in 1928, to join her at a friend’s duck blind in Virginia, where she hoped the seclusion away from her temptations would help kick her habits. Upon their arrival she had the liquor cabinet locked and spent her time listening to Bing Crosby recordings. After only a few days, she raided the kitchen, eating cold chicken and half an apple pie, then went for the liquor and was shocked that it was locked up. “You told him to lock it,” Louise told her.


“I’ll fix that,” she mumbled, and went to the kitchen and returned with a hatchet, and with three robust whacks, opened the door.  For the remainder of the week, she satisfied herself with good whiskey, mouth-watering Southern cooking and Bing Crosby songs.


Pepi was also a lesbian. Though Louise Brooks never publicly admitted to an affair with Pepi, she once told a friend that Pepi said, “Let me just fool around a bit,” and Louise said, “Okay, if it’s anything you’re going to get some great enjoyment out of, go ahead.” And so they fooled around, but said she got nothing out of it.


Pepi secretly yearned to be an actress so she was thrilled when she was given a small comedy part in Marion’s picture The Fair Co-ed (1927) that was directed by Sam Wood. During filming she was told how good she was, but when the film premiered, her part had been cut. Marion consoled her with the promise of a better part in her “next” picture, but the next picture never materialized. Pepi realized that no one had been serious about her career and that was just a joke.


In 1929, Pepi visited MGM during the last day of filming of King Vidor’s Hallelujah. Conveniently, Marion, Charlie, and Rose were absent; so on an impulse, Pepi invited several of the cast members, including Nina May McKinney, to the house on Lexington Avenue. After three days, a neighbor, shocked by the sight of black people running in and out of the mansion, telephoned Marion, who sent Ethel to end the party. Pepi told friends she would never forget the look on Ethel’s face when her aunt opened the door and found Pepi in bed with Nina May. Pepi was immediately banished to New York as a punishment.


At the end of March 1930, Pepi was in New York and was concerned that she had not menstruated in three months. Finally, desperate for a reason, she called Marion about her condition. Marion told her to stop wasting time and to make an appointment to see an abortionist at once. He found that Pepi was pregnant, and aborted the fetus the next day.


A few days later, Louise Brooks visited her and found her in bed, sick, feverish, and frightened. She was hemorrhaging badly and told Louise about the abortion. “This was the most astonishing piece of news since the Virgin birth,” Louise said, “because, as far as I knew, she had never gone to bed with any man.”


When Pepi explained, Louise asked if she knew who the man was. “No I don’t,” Pepi said violently. “And I don’t want to know the name of a man who would rape a dead-drunk woman.” Pepi continued, saying that it had to happen on New Year’s Eve, when she got drunk at a party given by Lawrence Tibbett and someone had to take her home. “But I don’t remember who it was,” she said, “and I don’t want to remember who it was and that’s the end of it.” (After Pepi’s death, a mousy, deranged friend of hers told Louise with a smirk that it was he who had taken her home on that 1929 New Year’s Eve and raped her. He also admitted to escorting other drunken women home and performing in the same manner).


The following June, a recovered Pepi accompanied Marion and Hearst to Europe on the Olympic. While in England, she convinced Hearst to give her a job on one of his English magazines, The Connoisseur and ended up staying there for five years. In London, she wrote to Louise that she was now a person in her own right, not a way station for would-be friends of Marion and Hearst. And she said that she found a lovely companion, Monica Morris, who now shared her flat, her generous allowance, and Marion’s charge accounts.


Louise was apprehensive of Pepi’s taste in girlfriends and asked around about Monica Morris. When asked, one friend exclaimed: “My God, the Stage-Door Ferret! Don’t tell me Monica has latched onto Pepi!” It seemed that Monica had earned her nick-name because she was the most predatory among the group of girls who had fought over Tallulah Bankhead when she became a star of the London theatre in 1923.


Regardless, they remained an item until Pepi’s return to the United States on April 15, 1935. They spent two weeks in a suite at Hearst’s Ritz Tower Hotel on Park Avenue before going to Hollywood. It was Monica’s first time in New York but the first thing she asked Louise after they met was “Will you take me to Harlem to get some cocaine?” She evidently lost her stash while on board the ship and was most urgent to replace it. Louise referred her to Tallulah Bankhead at the Gotham Hotel, and Monica hurried out, leaving Pepi and Louise to have their last serious talk before Pepi’s death.


Though they laughed together, Louise could see the cocaine addiction in her eyes and the reason why she wanted to avoid Marion and Hearst. She had also lost weight, which Louise attributed to the cocaine.


When Pepi and Monica arrived in California, they stayed at the Lexington Avenue house. Marion and Hearst were at San Simeon but no directive came for Pepi and Monica to join them there. Weeks passed and there were no fancy parties, and Monica grew ever more bored among the Davies relatives. Then, without warning,  Marion and Hearst decided to have Pepi committed to the psychiatric section of Good Samaritan Hospital for a drug cure. Pepi only had time to slip her diamond ring (a present from Marion on her 18th birthday) from her finger to give it to Monica before she was taken away.  


A few days later, on June 11, 1935, Pepi was propped up in bed reading a movie magazine in her sixth floor room at Good Samaritan when she asked her nurse for something to eat. The nurse stepped to the doorway to call a floor nurse and order something, when suddenly, she heard a noise and turned to see Pepi plunge through the window, carrying the screen with her.


Six floors below, in a thicket of shrubbery, Pepi’s body was picked up. Hospital attendants said she only lived a few minutes. She was dead before they could carry her to an operating room, her neck broken.


Marion, Hearst and Reine were at San Simeon when they received the news. Reine took the news more calmly than Marion, who lost control, as she always did when confronted by death. Louise Brooks was in her dressing room at the Persian Room of the Plaza, getting ready to open her new act when she was informed of Pepi’s death. “Looking in a mirror as I checked my hair, makeup, and costume for the dinner show” Louise said, “I thought, her dreaded visit to Hollywood had lasted exactly six weeks.”


As for Monica, her trunk was searched by Hearst’s people and a bundle of Pepi’s letters was taken from it – she felt it was because they feared blackmail. The ring that Pepi had given her was snatched from her finger. She was given a steamship ticket to Southampton and a thousand dollars in cash and was told she was being deported immediately after the funeral.



St. Mary’s of the Angels Church, 4510 Finley Avenue, Hollywood where Pepi Lederer’s funeral was held


Newspaper reports said that Pepi was suffering from acute melancholia, the usual public reason for drug abuse. Pepi’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s of the Angels Church in Hollywood. Her bronze casket was placed in a crypt in Marion’s private mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.


On the 100th anniversary of her birth, it’s hoped that Pepi has found some peace.



 Marion Davies’ private mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Pepi’s is the first bottom crypt to the left of the door.


Information for this article was taken from “Marion Davies’ Niece” by Louise Brooks and from “Louise Brooks” by Barry Paris (1989).



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James A. Whitaker at Hollywood Forever

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


James A. Whitaker, founder of Buena Park, California




By Allan R. Ellenberger


James A. Whitaker was a successful businessman and the founder of Buena Park, California, the home of Knotts Berry Farm. Whitaker was born near Cherry Valley in Otsego County, New York on April 8, 1827, the son of James T. and Prudence (Sydleman) Whitaker. His grandfather, Maj. Thomas Whitaker, was a soldier in the Revolutionary Army.


His father died when he was a child and this limited his education to the local Cherry Valley Academy. However, he quickly moved forward in business, first in Norwich, Connecticut where he formed the firm of Whitaker & Price for a $500 investment. After eight years of profitable trading, the firm dissolved leaving him with a profit of $8,000 cash.


In 1853, Whitaker moved to Chicago and formed Whitaker Bros., a wholesale grocery business. Later he joined Loomis & Whitaker, and within two years he bought out his partner.  Over the years Whitaker continued to merge with other companies and rapidly forged a successful name for himself in the commercial world.


In 1885 Whitaker moved to what is now Orange County, California and acquired 690 acres for raising cattle. However, George Fullerton, a land agent for the Santa Fe Railroad, persuaded Whitaker to subdivide his property as an alternative. Since Whitaker’s property surrounded the rail route, the deal included a rail terminal to be built later. On June 17, 1887, when Whitaker registered his platted map with the county, he used the name Buena Park (the city was incorporated in 1953).


Though the exact derivation of the name Buena Park is uncertain, a grassy area where Artesia and Beach Boulevards (formerly Grand Avenue) now meet had been named Plaza Buena (the “good park”) by early Spanish-speaking settlers, so Whitaker apparently adopted the name “Buena” for his town. Within a short time, a little business district sprang up at Ninth Street and Beach Blvd. around Whitaker’s General Store, near the railroad depot. 


Another theory is that Whitaker used the name of a Chicago suburb — Buena Park, Illinois. Both communities were named in 1887, and Whitaker’s brother, Andrew (who is also buried at Hollywood Forever) lived in Buena Park, Illinois before moving to California to join his brother.


In 1888, Whitaker allowed a group of local worshippers to use a room above his general store for holding church services and then donated $3,000 and 100 square feet of land at Tenth Street and Beach Blvd. for a new church. The church became the First Congregational Church of Buena Park and is still worshiping at this location today.


Twenty acres of land within the subdivision was sold to one of James’ two brothers, Andrew. Andrew was an experienced farmer who later helped James operate the Pacific Condensed Milk Company after a local group of investors took over its operation in the early 1890’s. This company was Orange County’s first non-agricultural industry and was commonly referred to by its brand name as the Lily Creamery.


In the early 1900’s, Whitaker and his wife Ella, moved to Highland Park, near Pasadena, where he died on March 13, 1908 and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery.





Whitaker’s imprint can still be seen in Buena Park. Whitaker Street is named for him as is the James A. Whitaker Elementary School on Montana Avenue. The home of his brother, Andrew Whitaker, is now known as the Whitaker-Jaynes Estate, and has been restored and moved to become the cornerstone of Buena Park’s newly established Historical District.


Whitaker’s grave is located at Hollywood Forever in Section 7, behind the Griffith obelisk and facing the sandy path.



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Hollywood Cemetery

Saturday, February 20th, 2010


Beautiful Hollywood Cemetery…



By Allan R. Ellenberger


Someone once asked me what it would have cost to be buried at Hollywood Cemetery back in the early days. I have an ad for the cemetery from an old 1931 Los Angeles telephone directory that listed the prices for the various ways to be interred there.


Just as the cost of real estate in the living world depends on “Location, Location, Location,” the same holds true once you pass to the other side.


The ad qualifies the price by saying “and up” which probably means that it depends on where the “inurnment” is. For example, the price for crypts would depend where on the mausoleum wall it was. Crypts that are around eye level are usually more expensive than those at the top. The same would apply to niches. Outside graves would also depend on location: those that surround the lake would cost more than those in the rear of the property next to the wall. Remember, these are 1931 prices!


Mausoleum, private — $1,800 and up

Crypts — $225 and up

Family Plots — $162 and up

Graves, Single — $42.50

Cremation: Adults — $50 / Children — $10 to $25

Niches — $35.00 and up

Urns — $12.00 and up



 Hollywood Cemetery circa 1925 (LAPL)



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Gideon Curtis Moody at Hollywood Forever

Sunday, January 17th, 2010


Gideon Curtis Moody, first Senator of South Dakota, and former state justice


 Gideon Curtis Moody


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Gideon Curtis Moody was a forceful, brilliant speaker, a man who detested shams and subterfuges, whose professional and private reputation was stainless. He commanded the profound admiration of his neighbors and friends, and his vigorous, pleasing personality made him a figure of prominence in the Northwest. He was South Dakota’s first Senator and that states Moody County is named in his honor.


Moody was born in Courtland, New York on October 16, 1832 where he spent his early years. He studied law at Syracuse and was admitted to the bar when he was only 21. He practiced law there and moved to New Albany, Indiana in 1852 and was appointed prosecuting attorney for Floyd County in 1854.


Moody married Helen Eliot of Syracuse on September 21, 1855. In 1860 he was elected to the Indiana State Legislature and served until the outbreak of the Civil War. In  April 1861 he enlisted in Co. G, Ninth Indiana Infantry and was commissioned a Captain. He was with that unit until the fall of 1862 when he was promoted to Colonel and assigned to the command of the Nineteenth United States Infantry, which was stationed at Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.


Moody was given a command at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and was named chief mustering officer with Major-General George H. Thomas.


After the Civil War he moved to Yankton, Dakota Territory and took an active part in the development of the Northwest. He was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court by President Rutherford B. Hayes, and his district at that time comprised all the territory west of the Missouri River. He filled this position from 1878 to 1889.


On November 2,1889, as a Republican, he was elected the first United States Senator to the new state of South Dakota along with Senator Richard F. Pettigrew. He remained a senator until 1891. He was also a member of the Territorial Legislature for two years, and was Speaker of the House. He was a member of the State Constitutional Convention and was the first provisional Senator.


Moody’s specialty as judge was in corporation law and riparian rights and he ruled on many important cases. For many years he was the confidential attorney of the Homestake Gold Mining Company at Deadwood, South Dakota, which was the richest gold mining corporation in the world, and of interest to then Senator George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst. Until his death, Moody was the confidential attorney of Hearst’s mother, Phoebe.


Around 1899, Moody began making occasional visits to Los Angeles and found the climate beneficial to his health. After his daughter and her husband settled here he spent the last nine months of his life with her while building an elegant mansion next door at 1019 Beacon Street. He and his wife moved into their new home only two months before his death.


On March 17, 1904, Moody died at his new residence from Bright’s Disease; he was 71. He was survived by his wife Helen and five children: Helen Dickenson of Los Angeles; Charles, editor of the Sturges Record (South Dakota); James, an attorney at Deadwood; Burdette, a civil engineer with the Homestake Company, and Warner, recently graduated from Yale and in a law office in Deadwood.


Gideon Curtis Moody grave



Gideon Curtis Moody grave



Moody children also buried at Hollywood Forever


Moody’s grave is located at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the Chandler Garden’s (Section 12) just east of the Harrison Otis obelisk and a short distance from the road.


For the past 105 years, all published biographies have stated that Moody was buried at Rosedale Cemetery. This error is included in the official Biographical Directory of the United States Congress and is listed as such on Findagrave. The confusion probably came from his obituary which noted that his body was “placed temporarily in a receiving vault at Rosedale.” Hopefully that inaccuracy can now be corrected.


To read more about Gideon Curtis Moody, check out this article at Deadwood Magazine.



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Caryl S. Fleming at Hollywood Forever

Sunday, December 13th, 2009


Caryl S. Fleming, an immortal of magic


Caryl S. Fleming

Caryl S. Fleming (above) does not find a rabbit in his hat (Photo:  IBM Ring #21)


The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion on January 2, 2010, the 47th anniversary of the organization’s opening. Today, the last in a series of articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood, is about Caryl S. Fleming, a banker and one-time film director whose true love was magic!


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Since the early days of film, Hollywood has always been the land of make-believe where tricks and sleight of hand are evident in almost every frame. Hollywood has also been a friend to the magical arts – Harold Lloyd was a lover of magic and held meetings in his expansive estate in Beverly Hills. Other Hollywood celebrities such as Chester Morris, Sterling Holloway, Ramon Novarro, Johnny Mack Brown, Gene Raymond, Max Terhune, Bert Kalmar and Edgar Bergen also had an interest in magic.


Caryl Stacy Fleming is a name which may not be as familiar to the magically-challenged, but yet he was the major reason for the well-being of conjuring in the Los Angeles area from 1933 to 1940.


Fleming was born on October 13, 1890 (although his grave marker reads 1894, official records give his actual year of birth as 1890) at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank Fleming and Grace Rosemary Stacy. As a child he moved with his family to Chicago, where his parents were divorced by the time he was 10 and his mother ran a boarding house on Michigan Avenue.


It was in Chicago that a family friend — the dean of magicians, Harry Kellar — sparked his interest in magic. He would spend time at Ed Vernello’s magic shop, learning the basics of conjuring.


Caryl S. Fleming


In 1910 he moved to New York and was educated at Columbia University. He soon found work on the legitimate stage and in early motion pictures. Around 1916 he married Constance Ethel Norton and they had a daughter, Marjorie Gladys Fleming in August 1917. That same year, he was employed by Film Craft Corporation in New York City as a motion picture director. His final film as a director was The Devil’s Partner (1923) which starred Norma Shearer. This was Shearer’s last film before being signed by Louis B. Mayer Productions (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios).


Eventually Caryl and Constance were divorced and he left for California in 1927 while Constance and Marjorie remained in New York. By all accounts it was a bitter divorce and reportedly he never saw his ex-wife or daughter again.


In California, he became involved with banking and was a director of several institutions, while still devoting himself to the organization of magicians. He was president of the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians and the associated International Alliance of Magicians and was a member of more than fifty magic clubs.


He was one of the founders and a one-time president of Los Magicos which met on Wednesday nights, sometimes at his Beverly Hills home. Caryl was the perfect host and loved to manufacture gimmicks in quantity and pass them out to his friends. He was a true friend to magicians everywhere and wanted to have the whole world share the fun he had found in magic. A lover of animals and an ardent amateur photographer, he also dabbled in chemistry and developed a rope cement and several chemicals for use in card tricks.


Fleming and ess Houdini

Caryl Fleming, 2nd row, far left with glasses. Bess Houdini in center front row. 


In October 1936, Fleming attended the tenth, and final, Houdini séance which was held atop the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. A close friend of Bess Houdini, Fleming sat in the inner circle with her and other distinguished magicians in a final attempt to contact her husband. However, no message was received from the great Houdini and it was announced that no further attempts would be made by his widow.


Many individual magicians were helped by Fleming’s counsel and directions. His advice was always constuctive, and usually in a humorous way. When he did not like some part of an act, he would say so and then do everything to help the magician change the act for the better. He was a stickler for accuracy. He credited audiences with having too much knowledge to allow a magician to get away with false claims.


On Labor Day, September 2, 1940, Fleming was entertaining at his Beverly Hills home (924 N. Beverly Drive). He was showing some card tricks to a friend, Joe Evedon when he suddenly complained of indigestion. He drank a glass of bicarbonate of soda but said that it didn’t seem to help. Then without warning, he slumped into Evedon’s  arms and died from a heart attack just a month shy of his 50th birthday.


Tributes poured in from around the country:


“Caryl S. Fleming was the true magician,” wrote Edward Saint, past-president of Los Magicos. “He recognized neither race, creed, nor color; and his magic vision drew no geographical borders. Anyone, anywhere in the world, if they had the love of magic in their heart, Fleming called them ‘brother.’ He was of the world, for the world, of magic.”


Bess Houdini wrote:


“Marble may coldly mark the name and passing of our friend Caryl, but the memory of his prodigious efforts and intense love of magic, the warmth of his handclasp, and his kindly friendliness is engraved on our hearts as one of the Immortals of Magic.”


Fleming’s funeral service was held on September 4th from Dayton’s Mortuary in Beverly Hills. Amidst an array of floral tributes, more than 250 magicians gathered to pay last homage. A Universalist minister spoke first (Fleming’s great-great-grandfather established the Universalist church). Then, Bill Larson (the father of Milt and William Larson, founders of the Magic Castle in Hollywood) spoke to those gathered:


“Caryl would have been successful in anything he wanted to undertake,” Larson said. “His achievements in the fields of the theater and motion pictures were pronounced. Retiring, he turned his genius to magic. In a few short years he built, in the West, one of the largest and most prosperous organizations of magic the world has ever seen.”


Gerald Kosky then gave the S.A.M. ritual and wand breaking rites. Later Caryl S. Fleming was interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.



Caryl S. Fleming grave



Caryl S. Fleming grave



Fleming left an estate worth almost $100,000 to his mother, Grace R. Glaser but bequeathed only one-dollar to his daughter Marjorie, who resided in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. It was understood that a property settlement, making provisions for his daughter and former wife, was effected when the Flemings were divorced several years earlier.



Caryl Fleming and mother graves

Fleming’s mother, Grace is interred below him. She remarried shortly before her death in 1948.


In 1947, Fleming’s mother, Grace, married James E. Miller. When Grace died just a few months later in February 1948, she left her considerable estate to her new husband. Grace’s secretary, cousin and Irva Ross, Fleming’s fiance at the time of his death, all were named benefieciareis under an earlier will. They contested the new will, claiming that Miller, who also had an alias, had married the wealthy widow in order to obtain control of her property. The court awarded each of the three contestants a specific amount and allowed Miller to inherit the remainder of the estate.


The Caryl S. Fleming Trophy for the most original amateur trick of the year was soon created and awarded yearly. In 1938, Fleming had helped charter the International Brotherhood of Magicians Hollywood RING 21 which, after his death, was changed to the Caryl Fleming RING 21 and is still in existence today.




A year after his death, a tribute in Genii magazine memorialized Fleming saying:


“Years will pass. But the name Caryl Fleming will remain firmly in the minds of magicians. We, along with hundreds of others of our conjuring craft, will see to that.”


I would like to thank Bill Goodwin of the Magic Castle for providing  biographical information on Caryl S. Fleming for this article.



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Douglas Fairbank’s 100th Birthday

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009


Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.


Douglas fairbanks Jr






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