January 18, 2021 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

WeHo Fighting Climate Change

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is currently updating its Climate Action Plan — an effort called “WeHo Climate Action” —...

The Center Offered Free Meals For Those In Need

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

With the unemployment rate in Los Angeles County rising due to the Corona-virus pandemic many are struggling to make ends...

Two New Council Members Sworn-In To The City Council Of WeHo

December 20, 2020

December 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has sworn-in two newly elected Councilmembers: Sepi Shyne and John M. Erickson. Each Councilmember took...

L.A. Makeup Artist Is First Trans Man To Compete On “RuPauls Drag Race”

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The cast of RuPauls Drag Race Season 13 has been announced this week revealing its first trans man contestant will...

Weho Celebrates 30th Annual Toy And Food Drive

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The 30th Annual West Hollywood Toy and Food Drive will be accepting monetary donations until Friday, Dec. 18th, 2020 with...

The Center Long Beach Brings Diversity To The Board

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The Center Long Beach has announced the addition of three new members to the board of directors: Long Beach business...

PIQUE Health – Specialized Treatment Plans to Optimize Male Health

December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020

Beverly Hills-based practice helping men come up with a plan to fully optimize their health Now more than ever, amid...

Local LA Teen Named Member Of HRC Foundation Youth Ambassadors

December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

The Human Rights Campaign have announced that Nico Craig, an 18-year-old DJ and music producer from Los Angeles, has been...

Real Housewives Star Comes Out As A Lesbian

December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

Braunwyn Windham-Burke star of Real Housewives of Orange County has come out as a lesbian.  In an interview with GLAAD...

LGBTQ Latinx Bar Noa Noa Place Opens

December 6, 2020

December 6, 2020

Noa Noa Place, a new bar dedicated full time to the LGBTQ Latinx community, has opened in Boyle Heights.  As...

Wet For Her The Perfect Gift For Your Lover

December 6, 2020

December 6, 2020

Wet For Her is an online retailer designed specifically for lesbian and queer communities offering a new approach to sex...

The Facts And Health Benefits Of Masturbation

December 5, 2020

December 5, 2020

We know about the pleasures associated with masturbation, but are there health benefits of masturbation related to it as well?...

World AIDS Day

December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

World AIDS Day, designated on Dec.1st each year, was first observed in 1988.  This year, similar to previous years, organizations...

Laverne Cox Gives Details On Transphobic Attack

December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

Trans Actress Laverne Cox star of the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black” took to social media to detail...

Actor Elliot Page Announces He Is Transgender

December 2, 2020

December 2, 2020

Canadian actor Elliot Page announced on social media that he is transgender.  The 33 year old Oscar nominee and ‘The...