Almerdell Forrester, using the name Ann Forst, first made headlines in Los Angeles in April 1940 for her involvement in a large prostitution syndicate. LA County sheriff George Contreras seems to have given her the nickname “The Black Widow” apropos of nothing. The press ran with it and the name stuck.
In his “as told to” memoir, In My Own Words, Mickey Cohen recounts the time he held up a brothel, run by a woman he calls Hollywood’s “top madam,” noting that he became friends with the madam’s brother, whom Cohen calls a fellow criminal. Some sources have presumed the madam he refers to was Lee Francis. But he could have been talking about Ann Forrester. Her brother, Orville, was definitely a criminal. Or, as he saw it, the victim of vendettas and political frame-ups just for trying to be a good citizen who simply had the bad luck to be around when guns were being fired.
Olive Day was the madam involved in the 1931 prostitution ring newspapers called the Love Mart/Love Market/Love Bazaar/Girl Bazaar. Like others before her and those still to come, the story played out the same way: lurid headlines, young girl victims’ parades for the photographers, a little black book containing the names of wealthy and/or famous men clients said to be shaking in their boots for fear of exposure (which never came), the madam is left holding the bag while the underworld bosses behind the operation are not charged (or even named) and simply start again with a fresh madam and new girls once the public outcry dies down.
Though primarily remembered as a deputy sheriff, George Contreras (in white hat, above, center) began his law enforcement career in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office during the administration of DA Thomas Woolwine. Continue reading
A typical reaction from anyone who reads Geoffrey Homes’ hard-to-find 1946 novel Build My Gallows High (basis for the film noir Out of the Past) is: how on earth did he come up with a name like Mumsie McGonigle? The short answer is: he didn’t. There was a real Mumsie McGonigle, and she was much in the news in early 1940s Los Angeles. Her story involves depravity and corruption to equal any hardboiled fiction plot.
How a cafeteria owner took on the underworld and brought down a mayor.