"Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead..."-- Dr. George Hodel
The grisly murder of a young actress and the dumping of her body in a vacant lot in Los Angeles in 1947 is infamous as the Black Dahlia murder. Dahlia: A Very Nearly True Theatrical Fantasia is based on the 2003 best seller "The Black Dahlia Avenger" by retired Los Angeles Police Detective Steve Hodel in which he attempted to prove that his own father was guilty of the murder. P. Seth Bauer's play is a veritable who's who of Hollywood celebrity
It's free, but you need tickets. Final show is 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27.
The book's Web site has more than a dozen Frequently Asked Questions files about the case, which it describes this way:
On January 15, 1947, the body of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short -- dubbed the Black Dahlia because of her black clothing and the flower she wore in her hair -- was discovered on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles, her body surgically bisected, horribly mutilated, and posed as if for display. Even the most hardened homicide detectives were shocked and sickened by the sadistic murder. Thus began the largest manhunt in LA history. For weeks the killer taunted the police -- and public -- much as his infamous English counterpart Jack the Ripper had done in London 60 years before, sending tantalizing notes, urging them to "catch me if you can." And for weeks and months the LAPD came up empty. Charges of police ineptitude soon gave way to rumors of corruption and cover-up at the highest levels. Meanwhile, between the Hollywood and downtown areas of Los Angeles, a dozen lone women were brutally murdered, and their cases also remained mysteriously unsolved. Could the Black Dahlia Avenger be, in fact, a serial killer stalking the city streets?
Mr. Hodel also takes credit for coining the forensic term "thoughtprints" [Word Doc] in the book.
Others have apparently expanded on the concept.
Update: We went on Saturday night, and this was surprisingly better than expected. The writing was good, and witty, and even though it was billed as just a reading, the actors did a first-rate job keeping it interesting. The first act in particular was riveting. The story is autobiographical, mostly about the lead actor, Joshua Hodel Spafford, the grandson of George Hodel, and his struggle to deal with the accusations in his uncle's book about his beloved grandfather. The second act -- a series of hallucinatory dream sequences -- was not as strong. The Hodel Black Dhalia theory involves the surrealist Man Ray and the director John Huston. The play was preceded by remarks by Mark Nelson, a co-author of the art book "Exquisitive Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahila Murder." I came away interested in learning more about this old crime. Supposedly, there is a movie coming soon based on the "Black Dahila Avenger." (Different from the Brian Depalma version of 2006, based on the James Ellroy book).