Beverly Hills is a city built on the Hollywood dream: Make it in the industry and you, too, can live in the giant mansions, eat at the finest restaurants and shop in the exquisite stores of the elite.
So it's only fitting that the tiny town in the middle of Los Angeles is also filled with some of the most interesting crime stories.
Some of these tales are notorious, such as the 1989 Menendez brothers' shooting at their family's home at 722 North Elm Dr. or the 1947 whacking of gangster Bugsy Siegel that was so gruesome and violent it left his body without eyeballs. Others -- like an acid-throwing bride in 1925, who, when asked what made her snap, said "too much mother-in-law!" or a failing actress who got the newspapers' attention by concocting a crazy story of robbers who left threats on her skin -- are just as fascinating, but not as well remembered. All of these ripped-from-the-headlines cases and more are included in Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murders.
"There's something about Beverly Hills," says journalist and documentary filmmaker Barbara Schroeder, who co-wrote the book with Clark Fogg, senior forensic specialist at the Beverly Hills Police Department. "It's a city that the world knows. The stories may be as interesting and compelling in other cities, but a lot of L.A. crime and noir has been done and this has just kind of a special opportunity."
Although having known of each other for years, Schroeder and Fogg officially met when Schroeder was investigating the 2010 shooting of publicist Ronni Chasen. While she wasn't getting much information on that case because it was still ongoing, Schroeder did happen to see the case file for the famous Greystone Mansion murder-suicide (or was it?) that took the lives of Ned Doheny Jr. and his male secretary, Theodore Plunkett. This lead to other police files and more than enough legendary, tragic or just bizarre cases for a book deal.
"I think it was the photos that were so compelling," says Schroeder. "A lot of them haven't been published before. You can get a real sense for early Beverly Hills history. I was pretty enchanted looking at the old pictures of the police officers standing by their cars and the baby bank robbery heist case where this woman and her husband took a child and used him as a hostage in a robbery ... I think of it as like a longer blog with really great photos with the underbelly and glamour of Beverly Hills."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Some photos, like the ones of Laura Schlessinger's estranged mother's mummified remains, were too gruesome to put in the book. Still, the stories, photos and newspaper headlines that do make up the tome offer not only criminal acts, but tales and tidbits about the city's history and culture. Think bean fields and safe robbers at the (yes, pink, even then) Beverly Hills Hotel, plus the short-lived Beverly Hills Speedway that claimed the life of 28-year-old automobile heir Gaston Chevrolet and a story of a "feminine air cop" who enjoyed sunbathing nude on her plane's wings while in flight.
"We wanted to present the cases so that the people who were contained in the stories wouldn't be forgotten," says Fogg. "That their stories could be told over and over again and not put into a file drawer and forgotten. These people were people at one time and they wanted their story told."
Did you or someone you know have run-ins with the people featured in this book? The authors invite you to share your stories on their website.