Monday, May 21, 2012

True Crime: Beverly Hills' Dark, Dark Past

Lana Turner home, where Johnny Stompanado got it.
Sunday afternoon is a time for barbecuing and lazing around in the hammock ... for some people. Yesterday, I took a self-directed walking tour of a scary little town called Beverly Hills. In an area of just a handful of blocks there have been some of the most notorious crimes on the books. If you decide to visit on your own, don't be fooled by the neighborhood's sedate appearance.

Johnny and Lana.
Movie industry people and gangsters just naturally go together. Take Lana Turner and mobster Johnny Stompanado (right), an enforcer for L.A. mob boss Mickey Cohen. Johnny and Lana had a tumultuous relationship, until April 4, 1958, when Lana's daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed and killed Johnny as he was attacking Lana. Stroll past the scene of the crime, at 730 N. Bedford Drive (above), and you'll see the house that looks much the same as it did on that day in 1958.

Bugsy's last stand.
Then there was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who has appeared in these dispatches previously. Bugsy, an operative for the Genovese Crime Family, met an untimely demise on the evening of June 20, 1947, as he sat in his girlfriend Virginia Hill's Beverly Hills home, at 810 N. Linden Drive (left). Walk by the front of the house, where the living room is located, and you just might see inside, where Bugsy took some bullets to the head fired by an unknown sniper.

Last but not least is the former home of the Menendez family. Sons Lyle and Erik were convicted of the shotgun murders of their parents, Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menendez. On August 20, 1989, the brothers gunned down both parents in the living room of the home at 722 North Elm Drive (below). They ditched the shotgun on Mulholland Drive and bought tickets to a movie, "License to Kill," as their alibi -- bad movie choice for an alibi.

The police bought their innocent act at first, but when they went on a million dollar Rodeo Drive spending spree soon after the killings, law men took another look. They were later convicted of the twin murders and sentenced to life in prison. They're still there. And so is the house where the murders occurred.
Chez Menendez.

You can also view the home that was the scene of actress Lupe Velez's suicide ( 732 North Rodeo Drive), chronicled by Kenneth Anger in "Hollywood Babylon." However, Anger's version of the suicide was debunked recently by the Huffington Post. And there's the home at 600 Cañon Drive, where Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood lived when Natalie accidentally drowned during a party on the couple's yacht. That's a case the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept. recently re-opened.

There are plenty more infamous Beverly Hills sites much like these, and they deserve a visit on another day. After a busy afternoon of hoofing it around to crime scenes it was time time to get out of that bad area.

Coincidentally, it was the afternoon of a solar eclipse. That explains why the sky got dark all of a sudden in the middle of a sunny California day.
Or does it?
Maybe there's something about that neighborhood that makes it seem especially shadowy.

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood's former residence at 600 Cañon Drive.










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