Hollywood scandal: The nation's newspapers respond

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It's fascinating to comb through the raw server logs for my website. awstats does a pretty good job of summarizing who's visiting, where visitors are coming from, and what they're looking at, but the detail in the raw log allows me to put it all together.

For example, it allows me to see that someone behind the Tulsa Whirled's firewall ( got to BatesLine via Google searches for "Bobby Lorton" (on June 2) and "robert e. lorton iii" (on June 3). A bit of vanity Googling, perhaps? BatesLine is the first result for both of those searches, thanks to tulsaworld.com walling itself off from the Internet and sounding retreat in the battle for Googlespace.

Then there was this intriguing search: lorton tulsa klan. On my site, that leads to a couple of category archive pages, where the words are all mentioned, but nowhere near each other.

Just below my result was this: A 1993 issue of a newsletter devoted to the murder of Hollywood silent film star, director, and Casanova William Desmond Taylor, shot to death in 1922. Taylor's death came not long after the trial of Fatty Arbuckle, and Hollywood was regarded around the country as a modern day Babylon.

The newsletter includes a collection of headlines, editorials, and one-liners from newspaper coverage of the Taylor murder. Within days of the killing, newspapers from Boston to Seattle to Wichita to Savannah were responding with pointed, punny comments about Taylor, Hollywood morals, and the investigation:

February 4, 1922, DES MOINES REGISTER: The recent movie tragedy was too realistic for the director's health.

February 6, 1922, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH: The question now is, who saw Director Taylor last. Until recently, the burning issue among the movie queens was, who saw him first.

February 7, 1922, PITTSBURGH SUN: Nowadays a great many screen luminaries are being tried and found wanton.

February 8, 1922, BOSTON HERALD: A "gruelling" examination, as the police employ the term, is one expected to put its recipient in the soup.

February 9, 1922, INDIANAPOLIS STAR: A movie funeral seems to be one thing that will get the Los Angeles people out to church.

February 16, 1922, BOSTON ADVERTISER: Police in Hollywood have not thought of questioning the movie bathing girls. Experience proves they conceal little.

Apparently there was a flimsy but important piece of evidence in the case:

February 10, 1922, COLUMBIA STATE: In the modern murder case it is not only cherchez la femme, but cherchez la lingerie.

February 11, 1922, DES MOINES TRIBUNE: Incidentally, the Hollywood tragedy has brought home to some women the advisability of omitting initials from nighties.

There's more from the nation's newspapers in that issue, including a short excerpt from a Tulsa World writer named Otis Lorton.


Warren said:

Bates: "Then there was this intriguing search: lorton tulsa klan."

What, pray tell, do you find so intriguing about it? Are you saying there is some real connection, or are you merely happy to associate the two because you dislike the Tulsa World?

I was intrigued by the fact that someone got to my site by using that combination of words and wondered what else they may have found. (I happened to use the words in different entries in the same category, so Google pulled up a couple of my category archives as results, even though I hadn't used the words anywhere near each other.)

I don't think there was ever a connection between the Lortons and the Klan -- in fact I'm pretty sure the World condemned the group back during the Klan's greatest period of influence -- but the book Death in a Promised Land (on p. 29) presents an editorial written by Eugene Lorton during World War I, in which he advocates vigilante action against members of the IWW who were trying to organize oil workers.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 8, 2005 12:05 AM.

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