WHO KILLED THE BLACK DAHLIA? (Part Two): Beth…

CLEO SHORT: NOT A  VERY NICE MAN...

CLEO SHORT: NOT A VERY NICE MAN… 

Cleo Short, Elizabeth Short’s father, was a selfish and rigid man, who had little time for anyone who wasn’t of some value to him.

In 1941, when Beth Short was 19 years old, she believed that her father had committed suicide 11 years earlier, but the truth would turn out to be worse. While the family struggled and barely made ends meet, Beth’s father, Cleo, was alive, doing well, and simply wanted to be rid of of them and the financial responsibility of maintaining them. He brazenly contacted Phoebe in 1942, apologized for faking his own suicide in 1929, and, to her astonishment, Cleo asked if he could come back home.

You can  read more about Cleo Short, by CLICKING HERE…

Beth’s mother, Phoebe, was appalled and wanted nothing to do with him, but Beth was young, and her friends in Massachusetts described her as; “movie struck,” so she packed her things into a steamer trunk, and headed for Vallejo, CA., to live with Cleo.

Imagine believing that your father had committed suicide, because the financial pressure of raising a family, during the Great Depression, had been too much for him to handle. Then years later, you discover that he ran like a coward, deserted you and left you all to fend for yourselves, while he lived the good life in California.

The relationship was doomed from the start.

CLEO SHORT  SHOWED NO LOVE FOR HIS DAUGHTER, AND LIED ABOUT THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS BREAK FROM THE FAMILY...

CLEO SHORT SHOWED NO LOVE FOR HIS DAUGHTER, AND LIED ABOUT THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS BREAK FROM THE FAMILY…

Narcissistic Cleo didn’t want Beth to pursue an acting career at all, and would do nothing to help his daughter in that regard, in spite of the fact that his suicide-charade, had likely permanently damaged Beth’s self-esteem.

Cleo was only interested in Beth, as she benefited Cleo.

He insisted she stay at home and keep his house clean for him, as if a 19-year-old girl would embrace such an arrangement.

Con Joseph Gordon Fickling

BETH SHORT AND GORDON FICKLING

Beth was young and vibrant, a real head-turner, and one can imagine that she had little, if any, respect for Cleo, considering what he had done to the family. She might have even imagined that the invitation was an attempt, on Cleo’s part, to make amends for abandoning them the way he did.

If she expected any regret or guilt from Cleo, she was bitterly disappointed.

BLACK DAHLIA BROKE

Naturally the sailors stationed at the shipyard, where Cleo worked at the time, were clamoring to ask Beth out on a date. Cleo hated the fact that his daughter garnered so much attention and her popularity angered him. He insisted that she stay at home and clean house.

I doubt if a beautiful, well-traveled young woman in her prime, would want to play housekeeper, to the arrogant old fool who ruined her life.

There is little doubt that Cleo’s act of cowardice, which forced the women to struggle considerably for years, was the subject of many a shouting match.

It makes you wonder what Cleo used as an excuse for his behavior, and where he got the nerve to ask Beth to stay home and clean his house for him.

BLACK DAHLIA CRIME SCENE

Beth left her father’s home and hitched a ride with a friend to Camp Cooke, an armored training base near Santa Barbara, where she took a civilian job, at the Army PX, as a cashier. This qualified her to live on the base, but the army base was new and still under construction, so she was forced to move around until more units were ready.

At one point during her stay at Camp Cooke, a concerned soldier offered to share his quarters with her until she got a unit of her own, however, once she moved in, the Sergeant made unwanted advances. When Beth resisted those advances, he gave her a black eye.

FOX STUDIO in the 1940s

FOX STUDIO in the 1940s

Beth reported the beating, and was immediately moved in with a female, WAC (Women’s Army Corp.) Beth shared her problems with the WAC and talked about her father…men…Hollywood…fame…and all of her desires, dreams, problems and goals, but the female officer was worried about Beth. She didn’t feel Beth was “tough enough” to handle the back-stabbing, rat-race, that was Hollywood.

That is why, when Beth was later named “The Camp Cutie of Camp Cooke,” her WAC roommate advised her to be very careful of the men she may run across.

Civilian cutbacks forced Beth off the base and on August 25, 1943, she moved in with some acquaintances at a ranch, located nearby. Beth was later arrested in a restaurant, sitting at a table full of friends, having drinks.

Unfortunately, she was still a juvenile.

It would be this mug shot, and the accompanying arrest record, that the police would later use to identify her body.

DAHLIA_beth_id_MUGSHOT

After the arrest, Cleo characteristically refused to take custody of Beth, who now had no legal guardian, until Mary Unkefer, a kindly Santa Barbara policewoman, offered her a place to stay.

The policewoman put Beth on a bus to Boston, but it wasn’t long before Beth hit the road again, traveling to Miami Beach, where she got a job at Rosedale Delicatessen.

BETH SHORT AND MATT GORDON

BETH SHORT AND (Unidentified) FRIEND

 

In March of 1944, on New Year’s Eve, Beth was staying with a Mrs. Devaul, when she met a soldier who was about to go overseas, named Matt Gordon. Gordon quickly became Beth’s fiancé and by mid-January 1945, she was back in Massachusetts, happily awaiting Matt ‘s return, and working at St. Claire’s Restaurant, in Boston.

ELIZABETH SHORT AND MATT GORDON

ELIZABETH SHORT AND MATT GORDON

At the end of the war, in August, Beth received a telegram, telling her that Matt Gordon had been killed in combat.

After Gordon’s death, Beth left her job at St. Claire’s in despair, and by December 1944, she was living in Jacksonville Florida.

75ada4ceada9b9c5e8c2a25860231c88

For the next year, Beth roamed aimlessly around the country, and lived with anyone who would allow her to stay.  She struck up a relationship with another soldier named Gordon Fickling, and things looked promising, but after leaving Chicago and moving to Long Beach to live with Fickling, Beth realized that Gordon couldn’t offer her any stability, and the two went their separate ways.

The movie “The Blue Dahlia” came out in July, while Beth and Fickling were still an item. It was at this time, Beth’s friends nicknamed her; “The Black Dahlia.”

DAHLIA_THE BLUE DAHLIA

 

 

On August 20, Beth Short’s tenuous life began to unravel.

Sadly, the interviews with her friends and family, indicate a heartbroken young woman, completely unaware that she is recklessly careening towards disaster.

Much of the information was unflattering towards Beth, and even the police reports contained disparaging comments about her, calling her a “a leech,” a “mooch,” and in some instances a “prostitute,” seemingly because they could find no sources of income for her during this time.

I was shocked when I read the nasty words used in the police reports, to describe a victim, and felt that law enforcement was attempting to blame Beth for her own murder, while at the same time, cover up for a sloppy investigation, that was out of control from the beginning. The barbs, digs and innuendo continued in the press:

“…the victim had ‘many boyfriends,’” the word “boyfriends” often in quotes.

One newspaper described Beth, calling her:

“…a man-crazy adventurous, who came to California for her health in 1943, and spent the next 3 years as a ‘Hollywood Party Girl,’”

These types of negative, suggestive descriptions, depict Beth as someone who was “asking for it,” in so many words.

It’s also false, that she came to California for her “health,” but then so many things you read in the press about Beth were false.

Another paper described Elizabeth Short as a:

“pleasure-loving, raven-tressed victim,”

while another article stated that her picture albums:

“…were filled with photographs of boyfriends, from coast to coast.”

There was a lot of conflicting information at the time, 30-plus false confessions, a police force in chaos, over 120 suspects, missing evidence, and a constant stream of detectives, being removed and replaced .

Clues were ignored, simply because one set of investigators didn’t want to share their information with the “new guys.” Each team was afraid that the “new team” would get all of the credit for solving the crime, and make the original detectives look like a bunch of rubes.

DAHLIA_HL FAINT CLUES

 

Beth’s roommates told the investigators “… Beth wanted to get a good job to prove to her mother that she could look out after herself, but she never did get a job.” These same girls reported that her part time jobs included “nude modeling,” and being a “Hollywood extra.”

Those words, which were Beth’s own words, leave a lot to the imagination, as it became evident, the further I dug into her life, that Beth lied a lot.

The girls went on to say, that she always seemed to come up with the funds for groceries and rent.

In another interview, 44-year-old Hollywood Hairdresser, Alex Constance, who styled Beth’s hair occasionally and also took her out to eat once and a while, remembered that; “She sometimes played her many men against each other, making dates and then breaking them. I warned her that this could get her into trouble.”

By this time, Leo had put Beth on notice. He felt no remorse what so ever for leaving the family, that he only wanted her there to do his dishes, that he disliked her as a person, that her goals were meaningless and comical to him, that he wasn’t going to help her in any way, that he owed her nothing, and had no feelings for her as a daughter. If Beth did play tricks on men, who could blame her?

She told many people that she was close friends with actress Ann Todd, however, after her murder, when Ms. Todd was interviewed, she told the police that she never met Beth.

BETH SHORT TOLD MANY FRIENDS THAT SHE WAS CLOSE WITH ACTRESS ANN TODD, HOWEVER TODD DIDN'T KNOW HER.

BETH SHORT TOLD MANY FRIENDS THAT SHE WAS CLOSE WITH ACTRESS ANN TODD, HOWEVER TODD DIDN’T KNOW HER.

After Cleo threw her out onto the streets, and a soldier, who offered to help her, gave her a black eye instead, it’s no wonder that Beth, seemingly, had a bad attitude towards men.

Beth was also lying, about her life in Los Angeles, to her mother Phoebe.

Phoebe believed that Beth had a good job at the Naval Hospital, and was shocked to find out that Beth was basically homeless. “Her letters were always so cheerful,” she told reporters.

BETH'S FRIEND 15-YEAR OLD LYNN MARTIN

BETH’S FRIEND: 15-YEAR OLD LYNN MARTIN

Marjory Graham and Lynn Martin, Beth’s roommates at the time she was murdered, asked their boyfriends if Beth could come along with them, whenever they went to dinner:

“The kid is broke and hungry, and she’s starting to get behind in her rent,” they implored.

 

YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL, BETH SHORT MET THE WRONG PERSON, AT THE WRONG TIME.

YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL, BETH SHORT MET THE WRONG PERSON, AT THE WRONG TIME.

 

An ominous story emerges, as one good friend describes Beth the way he remembered her:

“She was very good looking, with beautiful dark hair and fair skin,” the young man told a reporter, “She dressed nicely and was a long way from a barfly. She had a rose tattoo on her left leg, and she loved to sit with her leg crossed over, so her tattoo would show.”

The killer gouged the tattoo out of her leg, with a knife, and it was found in Beth’s vaginal  cavity, at autopsy.

CRIME SCENE PHOTO

CRIME SCENE PHOTO

When Mrs. Keeling, Beth’s former boss at the Camp Cooke commissary, was questioned, she described Beth as a “model employee in all respects…” but went on to tell detectives that after a month, Beth began to change.

The French family, who invited Beth to stay at their house for one night, but after a month had to ask her leave, told police that Beth had told them; she was the widow of an Air Corps Major killed in a plane crash, and that she had born him a child, who later died.

There was conflicting evidence of the supposed marriage, in two other trunks that the victim owned, not to mention the fact that her own mother, Phoebe, knew nothing of a marriage and a child.

ELIZABETH SHORT

ELIZABETH SHORT

Who could blame Beth Short for rewriting her dismal life, to include a few enhancements, such as a wedding and a child?

There was also the matter of her laughing at men. On the one hand, you understand her distain for men, but on the other hand, you can see where this might incite a dangerous psychotic, into a murdering narcissistic rage.

In one story told to a reporter, by a young man who was present at the time, Beth was traveling up the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles with a group of friends, when she began mocking a young man, who she claimed was hopelessly in love with her. Beth continued to make fun of her love-struck admirer, ridiculing him and devising a cruel joke, where the group could all join in together, and compose a post card to the unfortunate man, informing him that Beth had married someone else.

 

BLACK DAHLIA CRIME SCENE

BLACK DAHLIA CRIME SCENE

Laughing all the way to Los Angeles, the group of friends stopped at a post box and mailed the postcard, then carried on towards LA, laughing about it the entire time.

Then again, at this point in her life, one can hardly blame Beth for having a cruel side either.

That being said…when the autopsy report was released, it appeared that Beth’s ego was a cover-up. It was noted that many of Beth’s teeth were rotten and, not having the funds to get them fixed, she had been using wax to plug up the decay. Perhaps her vanity was a defense mechanism? Perhaps she didn’t want people to get too close?

There’s no doubt that whoever did this to Beth Short was extremely enraged, and that rage was aimed directly at her.

 

ELIZABETH SHORT, WEARING FLOWERS IN HER JET-BLACK HAIR, AS WAS HER TRADEMARK

ELIZABETH SHORT, WEARING FLOWERS IN HER JET-BLACK HAIR, AS WAS HER TRADEMARK

 

It’s more likely that whoever did this knew her.

Beth loved to show her ankle tattoo off. It was something her friends noticed. The tattoo was viciously carved out of her leg and crammed into an orifice.

Beth also had a habit of laughing at men, using them for money and favors, and playing them for fools. Beth’s killer brutally slashed a permanent smile into her face.

Could the understandable chip on Beth Short’s shoulder, and her occasional poor treatment of men, have been one of the things that triggered a killer into a murderous rage?

Dahlia Letter

 

About LindaP

Broadcast veteran. Over 20 years: CNN, MSNBC, LIFETIME, ESPN. NBC. ABC, CBS as Producer, Art Director, Animation Specialist. Over 16 years as a freelance writer: Jezebel Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, Creative Loafing, Southhampton Press. Currently writing a book about a bizarre series of unsolved murders, that began in 1931 and ended in 1970, I have linked the crimes to one forgotten suspect.
This entry was posted in AMERICAN OUTRAGE, BETH SHORT, BLACK DAHLIA AVENGER, BROKEN SYSTEM, CRIME NOIR, ELIZABETH SHORT, HISTORICAL CRIME, HISTORICAL CRIME STORIES, LOS ANGELES CRIME NOIR, SCARY JUSTICE, THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, VINTAGE MURDER MYSTERIES and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to WHO KILLED THE BLACK DAHLIA? (Part Two): Beth…

  1. Jersey says:

    The more one looks at Elizabeth Short, the more one has to wonder
    just what this woman was about. I feel very sorry for her ending up the way she did,
    but she did not seem to be an innocent woman making an effort at living a good life.
    I’ve been reading up on her for years, and she was known for never holding a job,
    dodging the landlord when the week’s rent was due, her roommates accused her
    of being lazy and sleeping all day while being out with a different man each night.
    She knew MANY men, spent hours putting makeup on each afternoon and doing
    her hair to go out at night, dressed in flashy outfits and seemed to be seeking
    alot of attention, which she definitely got.
    My opinion, after reading up on all the theories of who performed this horrific
    murder (so many suspects!) is that she unfortunately drifted into the wrong person,
    a stranger who she enraged. Or she owed some major money to a loan shark or
    man who wanted to teach her a lesson.
    The woman was young and desperate, with a mouthful of cavities and no future,
    such a shame she didn’t pick up a waitressing or bartending job, it would have
    been easy for such a pretty girl to make an honest living.
    http://www.theblackdahliainhollywood.com/

    • LindaP says:

      Excellent comment…and very close to the truth in all respects.

      I look at what her father did to the family (her,) and the life she must have she led (Phoebe didn’t seem to have much control over her,) and I cut her a break, but the sisters seemed to have turned out well.

      I do believe, in the end, she was a wild card, careening towards ANOTHER wild card…and something like this was bound to happen, if she kept it up, but this murder is particularly calculated and brutal.

      HARSH.

      You just don’t see murders like this every day.

      I do think he knew her…for how long, before he killed her, is a good question, but long enough for her to completely outrage him.

      I’m familiar with that website BD in Hollywood…it’s one of the better sources out there!

      • Jersey says:

        The really telling thing about the whole case is how one of Short’s sisters lived in California & had nothing good to say about her, only that she hadn’t seen or heard from Elizabeth in years.
        To me, Elizabeth was covering up what she was doing, didn’t want the family to know anything. And she lied to everyone, telling different stories to each person. Weird.
        Wonder if she was stealing any money she came across along the way – some people actually tried to be really good to her, yet she didn’t reciprocate. Can’t help wondering if money had something to do with that horrible murder.
        Disturbing how the files on the case have disappeared, along with any dna evidence………….

  2. Melissa says:

    I can’t wait for Part III!! :-)

  3. dancehappy says:

    Oh Linda, I didn’t want it to end … anxiously waiting for the next part !!!!

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