Friday, May 13, 2011

Dead Hollywood Starlet Still Spotted at Old Haunt?

17575 Pacific Coast Highway, once home of silver screen star Thelma Todd.
Quite by accident I had the opportunity to tour a historic L.A. crime scene this week. I'd seen pictures of the place a thousand times, but I didn't recognize it until my host pointed out the tawdry historic significance of the location -- and that's right up my alley.

I found myself walking the hallways of the apartment and former speakeasy operated by 1920s-'30s screen siren Thelma Todd. The place is a sprawling art deco remnant of the silent film era located at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway. It's got a breath-taking view of the ocean.

Lucky Luciano
According to legend, Todd was a bit of a wild woman. Among the list of notable characters she associated with was notorious gangster Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.

Luciano is alleged to have pressed Todd to allow him to open a gambling den on the top level of her speakeasy. The actress balked.

Theories abound about Todd's death, and aside from Luciano, other suspects include:

- Todd`s ex-husband, Pat DiCicco, a self-described agent with underworld connections. After one too many beatings, Todd divorced him. He felt humiliated and may have sought revenge.

Slumped behind the wheel.
- Roland West, a failed director and Todd`s occasional lover. They were co-owners with West`s wife in the Malibu restaurant, Thelma Todd`s Sidewalk Cafe. The three partners lived in a duplex together above the eatery. It was an uncomfortable arrangement, and West bitterly resented Todd`s numerous affairs.

- Jewel Carmen, West`s wife. She didn`t object to her husband`s liaison with Todd, but when the restaurant started to lose money, she threatened to kill Todd for squandering her investment.

On Dec. 16, 1935 after a night of partying at the Trocadero nightclub on Sunset Blvd., Todd was found asphyxiated behind the wheel of her Lincoln Phaeton touring car inside her garage, the doors pulled shut. Her
nose was broken. The death was called accidental, but understandably doubts linger -- with no less than four suspects who could have helped her take that last big curtain call, you'd have to wonder. But the case remains unsolved.

They say the building is haunted by Todd's ghost. I peered through the garage door windows at the scene of the actress's death. It looks very much the same as those 1935 crime scene photos. I did not see Thelma's ghost -- of course, it was the middle of the day.

Maybe another visit, sometime in the early morning hours next Dec. 16 might be a better time to catch a glimpse of the departed actress's restless spirit.

Listen and watch as "Mysteries & Scandals" host A.J. Benza runs down the details of Todd's demise:

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