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4 Unbelievable Facts from Los Angeles' Scandalous History

4. Griffith Park Was Donated to L.A. By a Convicted Criminal

griffith j griffithGriffith Park was donated to the city of Los Angeles by mining magnate Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. He purchased 4,000 acres of the Rancho Los Feliz in 1882. In December of 1896, he donated 3,015 of the ranch to Los Angeles to be used as a public space, which became Griffith Park. However, in 1903 Griffith shot his wife in the face at the Arcadia Hotel. She survived the shooting, surprisingly, although lived without her right eye and was forever disfigured. A highly publicized trial followed and Griffith was convicted for assault with a deadly weapon. Even though the public initially thought he abstained from alcohol, the trial unearthed his violent drinking problem. He was sentenced to two years in San Quentin State Prison and was treated for his "condition of alcoholic insanity." After leaving jail, he tried to build a theater and observatory in Griffith park, but the donation was blocked by the city due to his sullied reputation. However, the philanthropist let the offer stand in his will, and after he passed away in 1919, the city used the money offered in his estate to build the Greek Theater and Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, which are used to this day.


3. L.A. Times Bombing was Inspired by the Newspaper's Anti-Union Views

la times bombingIn the 1960s the Los Angeles Times became an internationally renowned newspaper under new management and it earned 4 Pulitzer Prizes in that decade alone. However, decades earlier, the newspaper came to financial prominence under editor Harrison Gray Otis, who took the Times over in 1882. Otis crafted the paper to appeal to Republican readers, and at the turn of the century, as the labor movement was gathering steam on the west coast, the LA Times took a strong and very public anti-union stance, which rendered it very unpopular with the working class. Although the LA Times was instrumental in promoting the growth of the new city, two union leaders James and Joseph McNamara placed dynamite outside of the newspaper's headquarters in 1910 in protest to its right wing politics. The bomb detonated earlier than expected, causing an explosion which, in turn, sparked a fire that killed 21 employees and hurt 100 more. An incredibly controversial trial followed. The McNamara's were represented by legendary defense attorney Clarence Darrow who allegedly tried to bribe a juror as the case took a turn for the worse. The brothers ended up pleading guilty to the charges, avoiding the death penalty.



2. The Auto Industry Conspired to Bury L.A.'s Public Transportation System

streetcarIf you have seen Robert Zemeckis' iconic 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you may have some recollection of this gem from Los Angeles' history. While LA is now famous for being an overpopulated auto town, this was not always the case. In 1910 the southern California metropolis was home to the world's largest electric transit system. However, problems with the public transportation system allowed it to slowly degrade over the years, and public support for it gradually dwindled. The nail in the coffin for public transportation came however in the 1940's, when the Yellow Car system was sold to American City Lines, which was a subsidiary of National City Lines. The larger Chicago based corporation was funded by major players in the auto industry, like General Motors, along with other oil and rubber companies. As National City Lines began to own more and more transit networks, including 46 in the Midwest and West, they began dismantling the electronic systems in favor of diesel buses, to benefit the auto, oil and rubber interests. However, the U.S. government soon got wind of the monopoly and filed an antitrust lawsuit against National City Lines. The group of oil, rubber and car companies immediately sold their holdings in the corporation, and the results of the trial were mixed, but the damage was already done. Public transportation was virtually dead in Los Angeles, and freeways were getting built instead.



1. MGM Studios Was a Hub of Hedonism

mgm 1Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, also known as MGM, was the largest and most decadent of the film studios in the golden era. Known for their beautiful movie stars, exquisite sets and melodramatic story lines, MGM movies dripped with glamor and Hollywood excess. At its height in the 1930s, the MGM lot boasted 167 acres of land and 30 sound stages total. It had its own barbershop, police force and a kitchen that served chicken soup 24/7. However, the opulence of the film industry also had a dark side at the MGM lot. For a time, there was a bookie that worked on the lot and even an opium den, which was frequented by its staff screenwriters. MGM's Christmas Eve party was renowned around town for its salacious activities. However, it was by no means the only studio that participated in such illicit activities: across town at the 20th Century Fox, the movie studio employed its own on-staff abortionist.

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