The Black Dahlia’s Los Angeles was far from glamorous. The landscape Elizabeth Short navigated in the postwar city was desperate, crude, and precarious, a dangerous place for a lonely young woman in 1946. There is also little to no evidence that the Massachusetts native vied for Hollywood stardom, as has been popularized in multiple accounts.
“The biggest myth is that she’s a starlet who failed to make it in Hollywood,” says Kim Cooper, who runs the popular, long-running Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour with husband and Esotouric business partner Richard Schave. “You can’t read anything about this case without someone throwing out that lazy line, ‘Oh, a Hollywood wannabe, a would-be actress, failed startlet.’ And she, as far as we’ve been able to determine, never expressed any interest in acting. Never signed up to even be an extra.”
Regardless of the truth, the upcoming TNT limited series I Am the Night (debuting January 28) is primed to stoke the legend even further. Starring Chris Pine as a disgraced journalist who comes to suspect wealthy doctor George Hodel (Jefferson Mays) of Short’s murder, the 1965-set series is based on Fauna Hodel’s 2008 memoir One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.
Fauna (played by India Eisley) is the lost young woman at the center of this particular narrative, but the Black Dahlia legend looms large over the series. George Hodel has in recent years become the most popular suspect in the 72-year-old slaying thanks to his son Steve’s bestselling 2003 true-crime book Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, which pegs his late father as the killer. Despite its grip on the popular imagination, Steve’s theory has been disputed in some quarters, and the mystery surrounding Short’s death seems likely to endure.
Putting aside the endless rumors and half-baked theories, this map is focused on illuminating the real Elizabeth Short by highlighting a few of the confirmed places where she lived and played in the City of Angels.
True to the outsized myth that has eclipsed the woman herself, Short apparently frequented every major nightclub, hotel, and restaurant left standing from that era, making it impossible to include them all. While a couple of notable unconfirmed locations are incorporated (“Please don’t say she was at the Cecil Hotel!” Cooper mock-begs), the majority are locales she was reliably placed at either by those who knew her or from official records.
Note: Some of the locations listed are private residences. Please be respectful.