Monday, December 06, 2004
Black Dahlia Mailbag
I received a very nice letter from Elisabeth Reynolds concerning my post about the CBS "48 Hours" Black Dahlia program. She's graciously allowed me to share it with you.
I read your blog entry "Black Dahlia Revisited". I also saw the "48 Hours" show in question, and read Steve Hodel's book.
You wondered what CBS's lawyers thought of Tamar Hodel calling director John Huston a raping pedophile. I think I know the answer to that: nothing. That's because, unless there's been some big, recent change in the law that I've somehow missed, dropping dead ends all one's legal protections against libel. It doesn't matter if you're long dead, like Huston, or still warm. As soon as you kick it, you're fair game for anything. Tamar could have said she saw Huston eating pan-fried baby-brains at center stage in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and nobody could do anything about it.
For what it's worth, my reading of Lawrence Grobel's biography of the Huston family would seem to indicate John has a pretty good chance of being out of the country at the time that Tamar's (calculatedly?) vague account places the alleged crime. But who's counting.
Likewise for Tamar contention that "dirty old" Man Ray took naked pictures of her pubescent self. Tamar and Steve present no evidence that this actually happened (like, say, any record of, you know, the pictures), but they don't have to. I'm sure the fact that Man Ray's oeuvre evinces no interest whatever in photographing or otherwise depicting nymphet types, clothed or not, won't slow them down, either.
It's enough to make you think that maybe there's a reason that two psychologists and half Tamar's relatives (including her maternal grandmother, accused molester George's ex-mother-in-law!) testified in court that she was a pathological liar.
Actually, the nekkid pictures story is nothing compared to some of the stuff about Man Ray that Hodel passes off as fact, as if nobody could catch him on it. Suffice it to say that if Man Ray were alive to sue, he and his libel lawyer would be rolling in dough faster than you could develop a rayograph.
Here's my favorite: The bit about how Man Ray had to hightail it back to France at the end of in 1949, because the cops were closing in on George and Man Ray knew he might be next. The Hodels' former boarder, Joe Barrett, vividly remembers the long talk he personally had with Man Ray in the Hodel house, on the very day Man Ray cleared out of town. Steve eagerly reports this as fact, and Tamar backs him up on it, too. Great story, right? Too bad that in what we laughingly call "real life", Man Ray didn't go back to France until March of 1951, a year after George Hodel had left the country and sold the house this conversation supposedly took place in. Old Joe gives Steve plenty of other juicy first-hand accounts for the book. I'm sure they're all just about as valid.
At any rate, I'm glad you enjoyed Hodel's book. In my own weird way, I did, too. But it should be remembered that any resemblance therein to any persons living or (especially) dead is strictly coincidentally. Or at least non-actionable.
Thanks for the letter, Elisabeth.