Here’s a place I never thought I’d hang out…
Cops usually scare me. All that government-enforced authority, the weapons, the power over regular people…frightening.
You know who else is frightening? James Ellroy! He’s a towering loose cannon of a man who speaks in dark, haunting poetry as if it were regular conversation. He writes wildly popular crime fiction that gets made into movies regularly. I’ve begun to spend a tiny bit of time with him, which mostly involves me wincing while he torments me with right-wing-isms that it’s never clear he actually believes. There’s a good reason he’s nicknamed The Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction. He’s also one of my husband’s best friends. And a proud supporter of the L.A.P.D. museum.
I faced both these fears last Friday night when Ellroy invited us to a film noir screening at the museum, which, having spent a lot of time in Highland Park, I always thought was just a police station. I never noticed the ‘museum’ part of the sign.
We took a tour before the screenings. Here’s Richard getting booked and thrown in the slammer, old school style.
Aside from the retro jail cell exhibit, there was also a whole section about the North Hollywood shoot-out in 1997 at the Bank of America. For forty-five minutes these two dudes pictured below terrorized a bank full of citizens and the cops had a hard time nabbing them because they were decked out in full armor and armed to the teeth.
Ultimately it was a huge victory for the L.A.P.D. because there were no civilian deaths, and the criminals were shot dead.
There was also information about the first female police officer in Los Angeles, apparently the first in the whole nation, Alice Wells. She petitioned the mayor in 1909 requesting an ordinance to providing for women on the force. It was indeed adopted, and in 1910, she became part of the L.A.P.D.
A new exhibit about the Gangster Squad of the mob era tied in with the new Gangster Squad movie, based on the book by Paul Lieberman. All kinds of memorabilia chronicling what the cops knew about Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen and a host of other fedora-wearing mobsters is on display, as well as a big blow-up photo of the L.A.P.D. squad that was assigned to clean up the crime. You can read more here.
Ellroy introduced the films in his signature style, addressing us all as “peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps” and talking about himself as “the Demon Dog with the hog-log.” Truly, he’s fucking hilarious. He rattled off his impressive list of books including L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, and set up the two films for the night, Dragnet and Crime Wave. I loved Dragnet! Here’s my favorite scene, where Joe Friday breaks down his paycheck to the criminal who’s talking down to him:
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for Crime Wave because we had to get the kid, but thanks to James for a fun film noir night! Not to mention pizza from Eagle Rock’s Casa Bianca. Yum.
As we left, we looked back at the old police station that was in active service between 1930 and 1985, and we noticed how perfect the rainy night was for the occasion.