THE DEATH OF THE ICE CREAM BLONDE

She was “Hot Toddy”, and “The Ice Cream Blonde”. Film fans never would have guessed that the beautiful blond in the Marx Brothers films had mob ties that would eventually lead to her demise.

Thelma Todd was born on July 29, 1906. She started out as a teacher before winning “Miss Massachusetts” in 1925. It was here she was spotted by Hollywood talent scouts, and in 1927 she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. Her career began as the silent era was starting to die, and “talkies” were just starting to be produced. She was in a couple of short films before landing her first full-length feature Fascinating Youth (1927). She was in films of every genre, but is best known as a comedienne. She shared the screen with the biggest names in comedy including Laurel & Hardy, (“The Bohemian Girl” & “The Devil’s Brother”), and of course the Marx Brothers (“Horse Feathers” & “Monkey Business”).

With producer Roland West, (director of the great silent horror film “The Bat” go check it out its great), she decided to cash in on her famous name by opening Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe, a nightclub/restaurant in Pacific Palisades. The cafe got its fair share of famous customers, but also attracted the criminal element. This criminal element was the mob, led by Lucky Luciano, who wanted Todd and her partner/boyfriend Roland West to sell the place to them. They wanted the place to turn it into an illegal casino, Todd and West refused to sell making enemies with the wrong people. One night Todd went out to party at another nightclub, the Trocadero on Sunset Boulevard, and when she was dropped off at 3:00 am, her driver reported she was “rather subdued.”

The next morning, December 16, 1935, Todd’s maid discovered her body in the garage slouched on the front seat of her Lincoln convertible. She was still dressed in her party clothes, a mink coat and evening dress, and there was blood on her face and clothing, her lip was bruised, her nose broken and a dental filling dislodged, but her make-up was perfect. The autopsy listed cause of death as suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was laid to rest in Bellevue Cemetery in Massachusetts.

The sad fact is with this case, is there many suspects:

 

1) Pasquale DiCicco-Thelma’s ex-husband who she had argued with that night at the Trocadero was angry that she was out partying, to teach her a lesson he locked her in the garage not realizing the motor was on.

 

2) Roland West– The famed director who was trying to end their relationship (quite a way to do it!!) Oddly enough I’ve read that West confessed on his deathbed, I think he was being a bit of a confessing Sam. However there are rumors of a cover up. Given the fact that all major studio bosses,(under the studio system), were corrupt enough to protect one of their directors even if he had killed somebody, it doesn’t explain how a protected director simply faded into obscurity.

 

3) Lucky Luciano- the famous mob boss who was trying to persuade Todd to turn part of her restaurant into an illegal casino. He’s my pick! One night at the Brown Derby, while talking about the casino, she screamed at him, “Over my dead body!” to which he replied, “That can be arranged.” She also was having an affair with him, oddly enough, and it was Lucky who got her addicted to amphetamines in order to keep her in line.

 

 

 

4) Another theory was that she committed suicide. Other than the fact that her career was going great, and she owned a popular restaurant, the trunk of her car was filled with Christmas presents-yeah that doesn’t really add up. Why would she go Christmas shopping then kill herself? This theory is a bit ridiculous to me.

 

“Life isn’t worth the candle. While we’re here we should laugh, be gay and have fun.”-Thelma Todd

 

 

Written by: Brian McTamaney 6/7/17

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HOLY ROLLERS-THE UNDOING OF JOSHUA THE SECOND

Once there was a man in Corvallis, Oregon who could certainly fight for the title of “strangest figure in the history of the American west.”  His name was Edmund Franz Creffield, and he claimed he had been given divine powers.  After which he proclaimed himself a prophet, and instructed his followers to call him “Joshua The Second”. This is his story, and the story of the “Bride of Christ Church”.  Don’t believe everything you hear kids, and don’t join cults!

When Edmund, or Joshua first came to Corvallis in 1903, he was mostly preaching about the “beauty of the full gospel.”  He had recently left the Salvation Army because he thought they weren’t holy enough.  As these things go-his followers (mostly women) started believing he was receiving messages directly from God, and Joshua would preach for hours while his followers prayed face down on the floor, gnashed their teeth, and rolled around; thus the term “holy roller”. As these loud meetings would go on into the early morning hours, Joshua was soon banned from holding these meeting within city limits.  No matter! Soon, Joshua and his followers camped out on Kiger Island in the Willamette River, and by Fall followers Sarah Hurt and her three children invited him and about twenty others to move into their house just outside Corvallis.  Families were broken apart, as Joshua taught that believers were to have nothing to do with unbelievers.  He also preached to his followers of the evils of life’s fineries, and by October the group burned most of the house’s contents including furniture, utensils, heirlooms, a cat, and a dog.  I guess Joshua missed that whole “thou shall not kill” part when he was gifted with divine power.  He also told his followers  “Clothing is vanity — let’s all get naked and roll on the floor!” Sounds like a fun party!

The idea of a man living in an empty house with females, some of which were no more than children certainly raised some eyebrows in Corvallis.  In January 1904, twenty men called the White Caps (husbands of the women in the cult) tarred and feathered Joshua and  told him to leave town and never come back.  Joshua, or by this time he was also referring to himself as the second Elijah, responded by appearing the very next day at the courthouse in Linn County. His skin was still red and raw from scrubbing and he reeked of the turpentine used to remove the tar, and marrying one of his followers — Maud.

The next month Joshua was accused of having an affair with Maude’s aunt, 23-year old Donna Starr in Portland.  As adultery was a criminal offense at the time, a warrant was put out for Joshua’s arrest.  As a statewide manhunt commenced Joshua’s followers began to fast and spent their days lying on the floor praying.  Most of them were committed to insane asylums.  In July, Joshua was discovered naked and starving under Sarah Hurt’s house.  He was found guilty and served seventeen months in the Oregon State Penitentiary.  What was his reason for committing the act of adultery, you may ask.  It had been part of a vital, God-ordered purification ritual, of course!  As one does, when he was released from prison he claimed that he was Jesus Christ and that his resurrection was his release from prison.  Perfectly reasonable! When the adultery charge was made, nearly all the men had left the Bride of Christ Church, leaving only Joshua and one other man as leaders of a flock of exclusively women.  I’m sure a lot of purifying went on!

In 1906, Joshua condemned San Francisco.  When the earth quake that killed thousands of people happened, his followers (recently released from the asylum) believed him.  One follower, Cora Hartley  was quoted as saying ” he is Jesus Christ. He condemned the city of San Francisco and brought the earthquake; he has condemned the city of Corvallis and an earthquake will destroy this place.” Like good followers, they obeyed Joshua’s command to evacuate the coast.

In April of that year, Cora Hartley and her husband went to Newport to meet up with Joshua.  As they boarded the ferry, Cora’s husband Louis (an unbeliever) fired a revolver four times at Joshua.  Fortunately for Joshua, Louis had put the wrong type of bullets in the gun-so the gun was useless.  I’m sure Joshua claimed another miracle after that.

After the attempt on his life, Joshua and Maude fled to Seattle.  There, another shooter gunning for Joshua II was waiting for him.  George Mitchell, the brother of one of Joshua’s followers named Esther Mitchell, found him and shot him dead in front of multiple witnesses.  Multnomah County’s DA, John Manning, sent King County’s prosecuting attorney, Kenneth Mackintosh, this letter about Joshua: “I investigated many, many charges against him while he was on his Holy Rolling tour in Oregon, the character of which were perfectly awful, in so far as being low, degenerate and brutal, and if permitted, I would like an opportunity to testify before the grand jury, before Mitchell is indicted.  I think the taking of the law in one’s own hands, under such circumstances, to mete out summary justice is almost excusable.”.

George was defended by attorney O.V. Hurt (Joshua’s own father in-law).  The witnesses who took the stand told detailed stories of “free love” taking place within the group.  They talked about Joshua claiming  that Christ would be reborn and one of the Brides’ of Christ would be the new Mary and that he needed to lay his hands upon them and purify them.  Most damning for Joshua was the claim that daughter’s were forced to watch their mothers have sex with the male members of the cult.  Lastly, George was told that Joshua had named then-16 year old Esther Mitchell as the new Mary.  George was found not guilty by reason of insanity and released. Two days later, Esther shot and killed him.  Before the case of George Mitchell’s murder went to trial Joshua’s wife Maud took her own life.  Esther, like her brother was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  She was committed to an insane asylum in Washington, and released in 1909.  She committed suicide in 1914. When we remember the fate of others at the hands of  true evil like Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite, don’t forgot those who were fooled into believing the maniacal ravings of  Franz Edmund Creffield (1870–1906)

 

 

URBAN LEGEND: THE SWEATER

One of my personal favorite urban legends/folk tales.  Here’s how I remember it:

One night a man was traveling alone down a back road in a convertible.  suddenly it started to rain, and as he got out to lift the hood he noticed a boy walking ahead.  Not wanting the boy to catch pneumonia the man drove up and asked if the boy would like a ride.  The boy said he would, and climbed into the passenger seat.  He was shaking profusely, and had a hard time saying “thank you” through his chattering teeth.

“You’re soaked from head to toe,” the man said.  “Here, take this sweater before you catch cold.”  The boy took the sweater, and said thank you.  As they drove the man asked the boy where he lived and the boy said “Maple Ave, a few blocks away”.  The man asked his name and he said it was Eddie.  As they drove on the man could tell the boy was finally warming up.  On Maple Ave Eddie pointed out his house to the man, a red brick house with white shutters. The porch light was on. He pulled into the driveway and Eddie started to take off the sweater.  “No kid,” the man said.  “Wear it in so you stay warm.  I”ll pick it up tomorrow afternoon, okay?”  “Sure,” he said, then, “and…thanks for the ride, sir.”  When he reached the door, under the porch lamp he turned back to the man and waved, and the man waved back and left.

The next day around noon the man made his way back to Eddie’s house.  The man rang the doorbell, and an older woman came to the door. She almost seemed surprised to have company, so the man smiled and introduced himself.  “Good afternoon, mam. Are you Eddie’s mother?” “What’s this about?” she said.  She looked frightened and began to back into the door.  The man quickly explained how He’d given Eddie a ride the night before in the pouring rain, and had lent him his sweater.  “I’m just here to pick up the sweater.”  She stood still, staring at the man, her eyes watery with tears.  Tears of sorrow? Tears of rage? Maybe a bit of both.

“I’m sorry sir,” she said.  “My son Eddie died 20 years ago”.

Confused, and even a bit frightened the man gave his condolences, and left the property.  He caught site of the mail box out front.  EVERETT.  Getting what little signal he could on his phone, the man ran a search.  Eddie Everett born 1986 died 1997, buried in the Greenwood Cemetery.  “That was where I stopped to put my car’s top up”, the man thought.  He drove back down the same stretch of road he had the night before, and made his way into the Greenwood Cemetery.

Walking back and forth he checked the tombstones and markers, finally there it was.  It was small tombstone, almost forgotten by the years past.  And lying on the ground over Eddie’s grave was the man’s sweater.

Origins & Variations:  This type of tale is what’s known as the “vanishing hitchhiker” story and has multiple variations.  In most, a ghost takes the form of a human and is offered a ride home by a non-ghost.  In one version, the young man upon hearing that his passenger was really a ghost loses his mind.

This is a tale that probably dates as far back as ancient Rome.  There was a story of a young woman named Philinnion who died, then was seen with the man she loved who had no idea of her death.  When her parents find out that she has “come back” they rush to see her.  Philinnion accuses them of interfering with her “life? and dies a second time. Typical teenager!

In other forms of media:  This urban legend, having the long history it does, eventually made it’s way to 45 rpm.  The late 50’s and early 60’s was the time of dead teenager songs.  This morbid phenomenon saw big hits for: J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers (Last Kiss), Mark Dinning (Teen Angel), and Jody Reynolds (Endless Sleep)-and for Dickey Lee in 1965 Laurie (Strange Things Happen).  In this variation of the tale the singer falls in love with an “angel of a girl” only to find out “she died a year ago today.”  Bummer!

Brian McTamaney, 5/27/17

 

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Who hasn’t been interested in things that go bump in the night? Things that aren’t there, or things that ARE!! Here are stories of true crime, and stories we’ve all heard from a friend of a friend…

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