Monday, September 12, 2011

"A CASTLE ROCK STORY", by Cal Porter


(Photo by Will Maguire)

It happened early in the morning of December 16, 1935. It involved the building in the lower corner of this photo above, to the right of the lifeguard tower on the opposite side of PCH, owned and lived in by Thelma Todd, a beautiful and famous movie actress of the 1920’s and early 30’s. The building is there to this day. Thelma lived in a luxury apartment on the upper floor, where it is said that she entertained many a gentleman caller. On the bottom floor was her racy roadhouse called “Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk CafĂ©”, a hangout for the movie crowd where a drink was easy to come by even in those days of prohibition. Directly across Pacific Coast Highway from her place was Castle Rock Beach and the county lifeguard tower. The tower was of the small open box type standing on four legs that was common up and down the beaches in those days; the enclosed types in the photo above were many years in the future. The lifeguard stationed at Castle Rock in 1935 was Christy Miller, who had been with the County Lifeguards since its inception a few years earlier and maintained that Thelma never invited him across the street for a visit, although she did chat him up a time or two on the beach. Christy and George McManus, who worked down the beach at Santa Monica Canyon for the County, had been lifeguards since 1910, mainly at the old Venice Salt Water Plunge, where they knew and swam with George Freeth. The lieutenant in charge of the Will Rogers area at that time was Ted Warren, who worked out of the lighthouse building that stood where the headquarters is today. I became a lifeguard in 1939 but didn’t work Castle Rock under Lt. Warren until 1946, where I soon learned from Christy what happened that morning in 1935.


(Photo above shows a present day shot of Thelma's building at left. Photo by Will Maguire.)

Thelma

It was a Sunday morning when Christy arrived at his lifeguard tower, a winter day with no one on the beach. Later on that morning he noticed increasing activity across the street at Thelma’s building, policemen and plainclothes types. It wasn’t too unusual that official interest was occasionally shown toward Thelma’s roadhouse, where her boyfriend “Lucky” Luciano was said to be running an illicit gambling den among other activities. Later that afternoon Christy learned the facts. The night before, Thelma had been out doing some serious drinking at the Hollywood Trocadero and other watering holes which was a usual evening out for her in her riotous private life. At 10:30 the next morning as the maid went upstairs to clean the apartment she glanced into the garage. There slumped dead at the wheel of her Packard Convertible lay Thelma in her mink coat and diamond jewellery with her face bloodied. Had she suffered an accident, was it suicide, or had one of her many jealous suitors or enemies committed murder? The autopsy found that her blood alcohol was way above the legal limit. The grand jury investigation yielded conflicting results but they eventually decided to rule her death a suicide, but doubts remain and the mystery lingers to this day.

Thelma Todd was only 29 years old. Between 1926 and 1935 she appeared in over one hundred movies, starring in most of them. During those living life for all it’s worth years Thelma gave herself a nickname: “Hot Toddy”.


Thelma’s today. Her apt. upper right

"A CASTLE ROCK STORY", by Cal Porter. Copyright Cal Porter 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Thanks Cal for another great story!

10-4


Until next time.....


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

How about up dating the Thelma Todd story like the History Channel did in 2007. It was not suicide, as my parents always told me, but murdered by a disgruntled boyfriend. In his 90s, dying of cancer, be volunteered that he put her in the car and closed the door. His reason? "I thought that I was THE boyfriend, only t find out that I was A boyfriend. There now you don't have to update the story.