Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

The Black Dahlia at 67: Archival photos from an unsolved mystery

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's body, as it was found 67 years ago today, except that it's covered by a blanket, hiding the fact that it had been cut in two at the waist.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Will Fowler (center) from the Los Angeles Examiner was one of the first reporters at the scene of the Black Dahlia murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is refered to as the "Black Dahlia" case. In this picture Daniel Voorhies sits backwards in a chair facing the camera. He was questioned in the murder investigation and reportedly said at one point, "I am sick. I can't stand it any longer. I killed Beth Short".

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

After the murder the police & the newspaper received various letters and notes purporting to give information to help solve the case. Shown here is a letter with pasted letters on it reading "Yes or No?," supposedly as a followup to an earlier letter.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This is a picture of a telegram found in Elizabeth Short's trunk.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

The man looking away from the camera is Leslie Dillon, 27, alias Jack Sands, a suspect in the 2-year-old "Black Dahlia" murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Robert Manley (left), the Black Dahlia murder suspect, undergoes a second lie detector test as Det. F. A. Brown and Ray Pinckert monitor him. The first lie test was inconclusive.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows Robert "Red" Manley embracing his wife, Harriette. A suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short, Mrs. Manley said her husband was at work all day Tuesday, the day before the body was found, and that night the Manley's had visited friends.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Here another Black Dahlia suspect, George Edwin McNally, is being questioned by Det. Sgt. N.E. Finn. Under discussion are the knives lying on the table, which were all found in McNally's room.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows a postcard received by The Evening Herald and Express, supposedly from the killer.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows handwriting expert Henry Silver. After analyzing the patchwork letters received by The Evening Herald and Express supposedly from the killer, Silver says the writer is an egomaniac and possibly a musician.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short, whose murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case, is shown here striking a pose at an unidentified beach.


Wednesday marks the 67th anniversary of the day in 1947 when police found the gruesomely mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, a young woman who would become known as "The Black Dahlia" and whose unsolved murder would fuel noir L.A. tales for decades to come.

To commemorate the day, KPCC contributor Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times:

What combination of circumstances makes us remember an otherwise forgettable event? Here’s the recipe, from 67 years ago Wednesday — the Black Dahlia murder. She was a young nobody, a pretty-ish drifter of a type that filled L.A. just after the Second World War. How she lived was unremarkable, hardly admirable; it was how she died, and what the newspapers said about her, that makes us remember the Black Dahlia. Elizabeth Short’s body was found, naked and cut in half, in a weedy winter bean field that, 10 years later, in the manner of Los Angeles, would be a tidy Crenshaw neighborhood.

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Where's Bruce? Giant martial arts hero disappears from Highland Park restaurant

John Rabe

Bruce Lee, Chinese martial arts hero, adorning now defunct Japanese restaurant.

Many months ago, I posted an Instagram and Facebook photo of Bruce Lee that got a lot of attention.

Eight feet high, Bruce was poised as you see him here, impossibly abbed and nun-chucking on top of a new Japanese restaurant at 4017 North Figueroa Street in LA's Highland Park neighborhood.

You see the problem already: Bruce Lee was of Chinese descent. Born in San Francisco in 1940, raised in Hong Kong, taught by the famous Yip Man. He's iconic, he's beautiful, but passers-by could probably sense that something wasn't quite right.

That restaurant is now gone - replaced by Pasta Fresca Italian Grill - and so is Bruce. Anna Urvina, who was behind the counter this morning, says she doesn't know where Bruce went, and she also smiled at the incongruity.

Pasta Fresca has the usual pasta and sandwich fare, but Anna promises a pizza oven is coming soon. Anna, just a hint: it wouldn't take much to raise the bar for pizza delivered to this part of town. Make a solid pizza and get it to us in 45 minutes and it won't matter if you have a statue of Karl Marx or Sam Yorty on the roof.

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What it's like to be on a Metro Train when an accident happens

Gold Line Accident

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The crash site at sunset after a Metro Gold Line train hit and dragged a pedestrian.

I was on the Gold Line train that killed a man Saturday; it was a strange and awful experience. 

I was riding the Gold Line to Pasadena with my wife and couple friends from out of town. They'd never been on the train in LA before.

A couple miles past the Highland Park station, where the train crosses Monterey and Pasadena Avenue, the train stopped suddenly. That's never a good sign. We heard the driver apply the emergency brake and braced for a hard stop. Instead, the train stopped smoothly. Nobody fell over. The bikes stayed upright. 

We didn't know what had happened — on the train, you can only see out the side windows. But then passengers started relating the reactions of people outside. One shouted that she'd seen a witness outside cross herself. Somebody else saw a woman crying in her car. Something terrible had happened.

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Book Review: 'Chatting with Matisse' gives new insights into the artist's most crucial year

The King's Sadness, by Henri Matisse, 1952

Henri Matisse said if you want to be a painter, the first thing you should do is cut out your tongue. Luckily, he failed to follow his own advice, and so we have this record, interviews made in occupied France in 1941. They show one of the greatest painters of the last century, inside out.

It's “Chatting With Henri Matisse,” a fresh new look at the great painter that gives us new insights into the most crucial year of his life.

Matisse wasn’t a child prodigy. He didn’t get his hands on a box of paints until he was 20. “The moment I had that paint box in my hand," he said, "I thought that this was my life. Like a cow given a sight of grass.”  He’d entered “a kind of paradise.”  He taught himself out of a book called “How to Paint.”  He paid for some drawing lessons.

And that was all it took. His father realized his son would never make it as a law clerk and sent him to Paris, where his teachers included the ultra-formalist Bouguereau and fantasist Gustave Moreau.  In contemporary terms, it was like being taught by Norman Rockwell and Mark Rothko.

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Disney Hall organ spectacular a lesson for the arts: Engage!

John Rabe

Soprano Lisa Christine Thelen, organist David Higgs, and organ builder Manuel Rosales inside the Disney Hall organ. Those think strips of wood behind them are part of the mechanism that plays the 6,000 plus pipes of the organ, which is nearing its 10th birthday.

John Rabe

Organist David Higgs surveys all the signatures on the walls of the Disney Hall organ before adding his, again. You can see at least two of his previous signatures.

John Rabe

Soprano Lisa Christine Thelen signs the great wall of the Disney Hall organ.

John Rabe

LA Phil principal trumpeter Thomas Hooten leaves a left-handed compliment on the wall of the Disney Hall organ.

John Rabe

The final product; evidence of a great show.


Here's another in my long series of screeds on the importance of engaging with your customers -- no matter what field you're in.

(The Disney Hall Organ. Scott Youngren Post Production)

Last night, we went to Walt Disney Disney Hall for the annual Holiday Organ Spectacular, which featured David Higgs on the Disney Hall organ, with soprano Lisa Christine Thelen and Thomas Hooten, the L.A. Philharmonic's principal trumpeter.

They played a range of music, from a Bach sinfonia to the lovely "In the Bleak Midwinter," to the finale of a Widor organ symphony. They also led the big crowd in singing a few Christmas carols, assigning parts to the various sections of the audience.

Higgs' playing was "immaculate," in the words of one onlooker, while Thelen's voice soared, and Hooten trumpeted like an archangel. But that goes without saying at Disney Hall. What mattered last night was the way all three — notably Higgs, as the leader — interacted with the audience. Higgs was our host for the evening, and he made sure it was a party.

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