May 30, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

The Gay Side of L.A. Noir

Men in hats and trenchcoats standing over a crime scene. A shady femme fatale with something to hide. A body by a river. No matter how many times you see the same succession of images straight out of a ‘40s noir, it never stops feeling like the essence of truth when capturing the good old days of a crime-ridden, scandal-saturated L.A., simply bursting at the seams with controversy, murder, secrets, and lies.

This uniquely Angelean concupiscence for crime is, happily, the subject of a new book from Taschen, set for release on December 20. “Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir” is writer and Taschen Executive Editor Jim Heimann’s glossy look at the gangsters and scandals that made up old L.A. in its golden age of crime, from roughly 1920 to 1950. Starting in the silent era of the 1920s, a decade defined by screen star scandals with cocaine, rape, and murder, Heimann goes through all the crimes and subcultures that defined L.A. in those formative years, when the movie industry and Hollywood itself was still, for most Americans, a town synonymous with unspeakable vice.

Photos: Taschen.

Starting in with Roscoe Arbuckle’s controversial rape trial and film star Wallace Reid’s death by speed overdose, “Dark City” breaks apart all the elements that made early L.A. a perfect den of vice. Hollywood women of loose morals and men with questionable ethics? Check. Queer film stars living closeted lives and dying shocking deaths? Check. Sex murders like those of the infamous Black Dahlia and Thelma Todd redefining the idea of the femme fatale? Check and check. Heimann’s tome covers corruption within the LAPD starting from the ‘30s onward, while laying out all the ways in which Hollywood culture gave the city its reputation for being a dark, desperate underworld that was still a highly desirable place in which to live. “Dark City” discusses the crimes that served as inspiration for some of the best L.A. noir films, like the adaptations of the L.A. crime writer James M. Cain’s “The Postman Rings Twice” and “Double Indemnity,” along with Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” and Curtis Hanson’s “L.A. Confidential.”

Heimann doesn’t just stick to the script when it comes to L.A.’s many-checkered history. In addition to the stories everybody knows, “Dark City” delves into a few deep cuts, like the story of the cult of husband-and-wife con artists Guy and Edna Ballard, who created a “Church of I Am” and offered to save lost souls in return for “love offerings.” He also dips (if slightly) into the world of queer controversy in old Hollywood, where top-billed stars like William Haines and Ramon Novarro had to live undercover lives and present as straight for the cameras to avoid scandal.

Photos: Taschen.

L.A. has never been a city to shy away from the grotesque, the obscene, the licentious and the depraved. That’s why so many of us love it so dearly. Even during the high point of L.A.’s crime streak, the city has stayed true to the loners, the drifters, the queer folk and the glamorous denizens of the city who will never tire of living in its dark, deep shadows.

Related Posts

(Video) Dayglow Coffee Opens New Location in Larchmont

May 29, 2024

May 29, 2024

The specialty coffee shop that serves premium coffee as drip or hand brew coffee, canned cold brew and espresso drinks....

Join Chef Rashida Holmes for a One-Night-Only Caribbean Feast at Connie & Ted’s

May 28, 2024

May 28, 2024

Six-Course Culinary Collaboration Highlighting Afro-Caribbean Flavors on May 30 As summer approaches, Angelenos are invited to a unique culinary event...

Thousands of UAW Members Join Strike at UCLA and UC Davis Over Unfair Labor Practices

May 28, 2024

May 28, 2024

Union Demand UC Respect Free Speech Rights and Provide Safe Work Environments Thousands of UAW Local 4811 members at UCLA...

Murder Charge Added in Venice Canals Assault Case After Victim’s Death

May 28, 2024

May 28, 2024

Anthony Jones Now Faces Life Sentence Without Possibility of Parole  Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today that...

Celebrate National Burger Day with Free Burgers and Special Deals on May 28

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

From Arby’s to Wendy’s, Find out Where to Score the Best Burger Deals As National Burger Day approaches on May...

Pultizer Prize Winning Rapper Signs Deal To Purchase Pricey Brentwood Estate

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

Deal Would Be One of the Biggest Real Estate Sales in 2024  Pulitzer Prize winning rapper Kendrick Lamar has agreed...

SaMo Pride to Illuminate Santa Monica with June Celebrations for the Whole Family

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

Drag Queen Storytime, Musical Performances to Honor LGBTQ+ Community The annual SaMo Pride celebration is set to paint the city...

Measles Case Reported in Traveler at LAX: Health Officials Issue Exposure Warning

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

Fourth Infectious Case of Measles in Los Angeles This Year, Third at LAX The Los Angeles County Department of Public...

West Hollywood’s Arts and Culture Industry Generates $12.4 Million in 2022

May 24, 2024

May 24, 2024

Industry Supports 248 Jobs and Contributes $3.4 Million in Tax Revenue The nonprofit arts and culture sector in West Hollywood...

UCLA Police Make First Arrest in Attack on Palestine Solidarity Encampment

May 24, 2024

May 24, 2024

18-year-old Charged With Assault with a Deadly Weapon; Bail Set at $30,000 By Dolores Quintana After three weeks, the University...

UAW Local 4811 Calls for Strike at UCLA and UC Davis Over Unresolved Labor Practices

May 24, 2024

May 24, 2024

UCLA Administration Calls in Riot Police Over Brief Establishment of Second Encampment The Executive Board of UAW Local 4811 called...

Woman Charged After High-Speed Pursuit, Multi-Vehicle Crash on 405 Freeway

May 23, 2024

May 23, 2024

Preliminary hearing set for June 20, Suspect Faces Multiple Charges Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced that a...

UCLA Police Chief Reassigned After Assault on Palestine Solidarity Encampment

May 22, 2024

May 22, 2024

Acting Chief Named as John Thomas Reassigned to Other Duties on Monday By Dolores Quintana In the aftermath of the...

(Video) The Long Awaited Opening of @Something About Her. The line was down the block for most of the day. Huge success

May 22, 2024

May 22, 2024

If you look closely you can see the owners in the video, who were so very gracious and genuine to...