Sunday, September 30, 2012
Robert George Kardashian (February 22, 1944 – September 30, 2003) was an American attorney and businessman. He gained national recognition as O. J. Simpson's friend and defense attorney during the latter's 1995 murder trial.
Robert Kardashian was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Armenian-American parents Helen (née Arakelian) and Arthur Kardashian. His grandparents, Sam and Harom Kardaschoff, were ethnic Armenian Molokan "Jumpers" from Karakale, Kars, Russian Empire (now Turkey). They migrated to the United States in 1913, just before the Armenian Genocide. Their son Tatos anglicized his name to Tom, started a business in rubbish collection in Los Angeles and married another Karakale Jumper immigrant, Hamas Shakarian.
Kardashian earned a law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and practiced for about a decade; after that, he went into business. When he presented the O.J. Simpson case in 1995, it had been over 20 years since Kardashian had last practiced law.
With his former wife, Kris Jenner, he had four children: Kourtney, Kimberly, Khloé, and Robert, Jr., all of whom have achieved fame after his death, mainly through the E! cable network reality television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and related programs.
After Kardashian's divorce from his first wife, Kris, was finalized, he married Jan Ashley. That marriage did not last, and he later married his third wife, Ellen, two months before he died.
O. J. Simpson case
Kardashian and Simpson first met in the early 1970s and became close friends.
Simpson stayed in Kardashian's house during the days following the June 12, 1994, murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Kardashian was the man seen carrying Simpson's garment bag the day that Simpson flew back from Chicago. Prosecutors speculated that the bag may have contained Simpson's bloody clothes or the murder weapon.
Simpson failed to turn himself in at 11 a.m. on June 17, 1994, and Kardashian read a letter by Simpson to the collected media. The letter was interpreted by many as a suicide note.
Simpson was charged with the murders and subsequently acquitted of all criminal charges in a controversial criminal trial. Kardashian had let his license to practice law become inactive before the Simpson case. He reactivated his license to aid in Simpson's defense as a volunteer assistant on his legal team. He sat by Simpson throughout the trial.
The New York Times reported that, "Mr. Kardashian said in a 1996 ABC interview that he questioned Mr. Simpson's innocence: 'I have doubts. The blood evidence is the biggest thorn in my side; that causes me the greatest problems. So I struggle with the blood evidence.'"
Kardashian died of esophageal cancer on September 30, 2003 at the age of 59. He is buried at Inglewood Memorial Park Cemetery.
1.^ "Robert Kardashian, a Lawyer For O. J. Simpson, Dies at 59". The New York Times. October 3, 2003. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
2.^ "Obituaries". The Desert Sun. May 28, 2008.
3.^ "Helen Kardashian - Kim Kardashian: Official website". Kimkardashian.celebuzz.com. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
4.^ Harvey, Oliver (March 16, 2012). "Kim Kardashian is keeping up with the Armenians". The Sun (London). Retrieved September 3, 2012.
5.^ Reed, Christopher (October 6, 2003). "Obituary: Robert Kardashian". The Guardian (London). Retrieved November 22, 2010.
6.^ "O.J. Simpson trial: Testimony about Simpson's trip to Chicago". CNN. October 11, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
7.^ Lowry, Brian (June 21, 2010). "From the couch: O.J.'s legacy continues". Fox Sports. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
8.^ "Former O.J. Simpson lawyer, Kardashian, dies". CNN. October 1, 2003. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
In 1977, a James Dean memorial was erected in Cholame, California. The stylized sculpture is composed of stainless steel around a tree of heaven growing in front of the former Cholame post office building. The sculpture was designed in Japan and transported to Cholame, accompanied by the project's benefactor, Seita Ohnishi of Kobe, Japan, a retired businessman and devoted Dean fan. Ohnishi chose the site after examining the location of the accident, less than a mile away. The original Highway 41 and 46 junction where the accident occurred is now a pasture, and the two roadways were realigned over the decades to make them safer. On September 30, 2005, the junction at Highways 46 and 41 was dedicated as the James Dean Memorial Junction as part of the State of California's official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death.
James Byron Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955) was an American film actor. He is a cultural icon, best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), and as the surly ranch hand, Jett Rink, in Giant (1956). Dean's enduring fame and popularity rests on his performances in only these three films, all leading roles. His premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status.
On September 30, 1955, Dean and his Porsche factory-trained mechanic, Rolf Wütherich were at Competition Motors in Hollywood preparing Dean’s new Porsche 550 Spyder for the weekend sports car races at Salinas, California. Dean originally intended to trailer the Porsche to Salinas, behind his 1955 Ford Country Squire station wagon, driven by friend and movie stunt man Bill Hickman and accompanied by professional photographer Sanford H. Roth who was planning a photo story of Dean at the races for Colliers Magazine. Because the Porsche didn’t have enough ‘break-in’ miles prior to the race, Wütherich recommended that Dean drive the Spyder to Salinas to get more ‘seat time’ behind the wheel. The group had coffee and donuts at the Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine Street across from Competition Motors before leaving around 1:15 p.m. PST. They stopped at the Mobil station for gasoline on Ventura Blvd. at Beverly Glen Blvd. in Sherman Oaks (below) around 2:00 p.m. The group then headed north on CA Route 99 and then over the ‘Grapevine’ toward Bakersfield.
At 3:30 p.m., Dean was stopped by California Highway Patrolman O.V. Hunter at Mettler Station on Wheeler Ridge, just south of Bakersfield, for driving 65 mph (105 km/h) in a 55 mph (89 km/h) zone. Hickman, following behind the Spyder in the Ford with the trailer, was also ticketed for driving 20 mph (32 km/h) over the limit, as the speed limit for all vehicles towing a trailer was 45 mph (72 km/h). After receiving the speeding citations, Dean and Hickman turned left onto Route 166/33 to avoid going through Bakersfield’s slow 25 mph downtown district. Route 166/33 was a known short-cut for all the sports car drivers going to Salinas, called ‘the racer’s road,’ which took them directly to Blackwells Corner at CA Route 466 (later SR 46). At Blackwells Corner (below), Dean stopped briefly only for refreshments and met up with fellow racers Lance Reventlow and Bruce Kessler, who were also on their way to the Salinas road races in Reventlow’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe. As Reventlow and Kessler were leaving, they all agreed to meet for dinner in Paso Robles.
At approximately 5:15 p.m., Dean and Hickman left Blackwells Corner driving west on Route 466 toward Paso Robles, approximately sixty miles away. Dean accelerated in the Porsche and left the Ford station wagon far behind. Further along on Route 466, the Porsche crested Polonio Pass and headed down the long Antelope Grade, passing cars along the way toward the junction floor at Route 466 and 41. Dean spotted a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom coupe, driving at a high speed heading east on Rt. 466 toward the junction. The time was approximately 5:45 p.m., PST. Its driver, 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed, suddenly turned in front of the Porsche to take the left fork onto Route 41. Turnupseed then hesitated as he 'spiked' the brakes just as the Ford crossed over the center line. Dean saw an impending crash and apparently tried to 'power steer' the Spyder in a 'side stepping' racing maneuver, but there wasn't enough time or space as the two cars crashed almost head-on. The Spyder flipped up into the air and landed back on its wheels off in a gully, northwest of the junction. The sheer velocity of the impact sent the much-heavier Ford broad-sliding thirty-nine feet down Route 466 in the westbound lane.
According to a story in the October 1, 2005, edition of the Los Angeles Times, California Highway Patrol Captain Ernest Tripke and his partner, Corporal Ronald Nelson, had been finishing a coffee break in Paso Robles when they were called to the scene of the accident at the Route 466/41 junction. Before Officers Tripke and Nelson arrived, James Dean had been extricated from the Spyder's mangled cockpit, his left foot had been crushed between the clutch and brake pedal. Dean was severely injured as he took the brunt of the crash with a broken neck and several internal and external injuries. Nelson witnessed an unconscious and dying Dean being placed into an ambulance; and a barely conscious Wütherich, who had been thrown from the Spyder, was lying on the shoulder of the road next to the wrecked Porsche. Dean and Wütherich were taken in the same ambulance to the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, 28 miles away. Dean was pronounced dead on arrival at 6:20 p.m. PST by the attending emergency room physician, Dr. Robert Bossert.
Wütherich survived with a broken jaw and serious hip and femur injuries that required immediate surgery. Turnupseed was only slightly injured with facial bruises and a bloodied nose. After being interviewed by the CHP, Turnupseed hitch-hiked in the dark to his home in Tulare. Hickman and Roth arrived at the accident scene approximately ten minutes after the crash. Hickman assisted in extricating Dean from the wreckage. Roth took photographs of the accident scene, which are now owned by Seita Ohnishi, a retired Kobe, Japan businessman. Ohnishi, in 1977, designed and erected a stainless steel memorial in tribute to James Dean at Cholame, just a mile west of the accident site (below).
There have been many questions raised over the decades about the accident: who was driving the Porsche? Were Turnupseed and Dean both recklessly speeding? What was said prior to the accident? Some say that Dean's last known words, uttered right before the impact after Wütherich told Dean to slow down when they both saw the Ford Custom coupe about to pull into their lane, was: "That guy's gotta stop... He'll see us." James Dean historian Lee Raskin believes that this is pure conjecture about Wütherich saying anything to Dean, or Dean saying anything to Wütherich prior to the crash. According to the Coroner's deposition taken of Wütherich in the hospital, and later in a 1960 interview given to an official Porsche magazine, Christophorus, he couldn't recall any of the exact moments leading up to and after the crash.
At the Official Coroner’s Inquest, held at the San Luis Obispo Court House on October 11, 1955, Turnupseed told the jury that he did not see the low-profile Porsche until after he was turning left onto Route 41. After other testimony by the CHP, and witnesses to the accident, the coroner's jury retired to deliberate. It came back with a verdict of "accidental death with no criminal intent" finding Donald Turnupseed not guilty of any contributory wrongdoing in the death of James Dean. The deceased Dean was also found not guilty of any criminal intent or contributory wrongdoing for the accident.
Although not charged with (what could have been) vehicular manslaughter, Turnupseed had nevertheless been dealt a devastating blow that would haunt him for the rest of his life. "Not only was he involved in an accident that resulted in one man's death, but it was a death that will never be forgotten, a death whose reverberations are still being felt all over the world."
Turnupseed granted just one interview to the Tulare Advance-Register newspaper immediately following the crash, but after that he refused to speak publicly about the accident. Turnupseed went on to own and operate a very successful family electrical contracting business in Tulare. He died at the age of 63 from lung cancer in 1995. Wütherich, after having several complicated surgeries on his hip and femur, went back to Germany in 1957 with psychological and legal problems. He worked with the Porsche Factory's testing department and international rally and racing teams during the 1960s. Wütherich was one of the first employees of Porsche and worked for the factory eighteen years before being terminated. He died in July 1981, in Kupferzell, Germany, in another auto accident when he lost control of his car and crashed into a residence. Like James Dean in the previous crash, Rolf Wütherich had to be extricated from the wreck and died at the accident scene. He was 53 years old.
James Dean Impersonator at Crash Site 9/30/2010
There is an ironic epilogue to James Dean's fatal crash in 1955: while filming Giant, Dean also filmed a short Public Service Announcement (PSA) with actor Gig Young for the National Safety Council. It featured James Dean dressed as the young Jett Rink talking about how driving fast on the highway can be more dangerous than racing on the track. It ends with Dean, instead of saying the popular phrase "The life you save may be your own" he humorously ad-libbed, "The life you might save might be mine."
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Thomas J. "Tom" Bradley (December 29, 1917 – September 29, 1998) was the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles, California, serving in that office from 1973 to 1993. He was the first and to date only African American mayor of Los Angeles. His 20 years in office mark the longest tenure by any mayor in the city's history before term limits passed by California voters in 1990 came into effect in a voter-approved statewide initiative. His 1973 election made him only the second African American mayor of a major U.S. city. Bradley retired in 1993, after his approval ratings began dropping after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Bradley unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California in 1982 and 1986 and was defeated each time by the Republican George Deukmejian. The racial dynamics that appeared to underlie his narrow and unexpected loss in 1982 gave rise to the political term "the Bradley effect."
Bradley, the grandson of a slave, was born on December 29, 1917, to Lee Thomas and Crenner Bradley, "poor sharecroppers who lived in a small log cabin outside Calvert, Texas." He had four siblings — Lawrence, Willa Mae, Ellis (who had cerebral palsy) and Howard. The family moved to Arizona to pick cotton and then in 1924 to the Temple-Alvarado area of Los Angeles, where Lee Crenner was a Santa Fe Railroad porter and Crenner was a maid.
Young Bradley attended Rosemont Elementary School, Lafayette Junior High School and Polytechnic High School, where he was the first black to be elected president of the Boys League and the first to be inducted into the Ephebians national honor society. He was captain of the track team and all-city tackle for the high school football team. He went to UCLA in 1937 on an athletic scholarship and joined Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity. Among the jobs he had while at college was as a photographer for comedian Jimmy Durante.
Bradley left his studies to join the Los Angeles Police Department in 1940. He became one of the "just 400 blacks" among the department's 4,000 officers. He recalled "the downtown department store that refused him credit, although he was a police officer, and the restaurants that would not serve blacks." He told a Times reporter:
When I came on the department, there were literally two assignments for black officers. You either worked Newton Street Division, which has a predominantly black community, or you worked traffic downtown. You could not work with a white officer, and that continued until 1964.
He and Ethel Arnold met at the New Hope Baptist Church and were married May 4, 1941. They had three daughters, Lorraine, Phyllis and a baby who died on the day she was born. He and his wife "needed a white intermediary to buy their first house in Leimert Park, then a virtually all-white section of the city's Crenshaw district."
Bradley was attending Southwestern University Law School while a police officer and began his practice as a lawyer when he quit the department. Upon his leaving the office of mayor in 1993, he joined the law offices of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, specializing in international trade issues.
He was stricken with a heart attack while driving his car in March 1996 and endured a triple bypass operation. Later he suffered a stroke "that left him unable to speak clearly." He died on September 29, 1998, and his body lay at the Los Angeles Convention Center for public viewing. He was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery. Bradley was a Prince Hall Freemason.
His entry into politics came when he decided to become the president of the United Club. The club was part of the California Democratic Council, a liberal, reformist group organized in the 1950s by young Democrats energized by Adlai E. Stevenson's presidential campaigns. It was predominantly white and had many Jewish members, thus marking the beginnings of the coalition, which along with Latinos, that would carry him to electoral victory so many times.
His choice of a Democratic circle also put him at odds with another political force in the African American community, representatives of poor, all-black areas who were associated with the political organization of Jesse M. Unruh, then an up-and-coming state assemblyman. The early stage of Bradley's political career was marked by clashes with African American leaders like onetime California Lieutenant Governor and former U.S. Representative Mervyn Dymally, an Unruh ally.
Bradley applied for the 10th District seat in June 1961, when he was still a police lieutenant living at 3397 Welland Avenue; the post had been vacated by Charles Navarro when he was elected city controller. The City Council, which had the power to fill a vacancy, instead appointed Joe E. Hollingsworth.
He ran against Hollingsworth in April 1963. There were only two candidates, Hollingsworth and Bradley, and also two elections — one for the unexpired term left by Controller Navarro, ending June 30, and one for a full four-year term starting July 1. Bradley won by 17,760 votes to 10,540 in the first election and by 17,552 votes to 10,400 in the second. By then he had retired from the police force, and he was sworn in as a councilman at the age of 45 on April 15, 1963, "the first Negro ever elected to the council."
One of the first votes he made on a controversial subject was his opposition to a proposed study by City Attorney Roger Arnebergh and Police Chief William H. Parker of the Dictionary of American Slang, ordered in an 11-4 vote by the council. Councilman Tom Shepard's motion said the book was "saturated not only with phrases of sexual filth, but wordage defamatory of minority ethnic groups and definitions insulting religions and races."
Bradley told Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Bergholz the next month that he "has been asked why he doesn't participate in public demonstrations. His answer: His power as a councilman can best be used in trying to bring groups together, and that's where his time and energy should be spent." He said he would work to establish a human relations commission in the city.
Campaign for mayor
In 1969, Bradley first challenged incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty, a conservative Democrat (later Republican) though the election was nonpartisan. Armed with key endorsements (including the Los Angeles Times), Bradley held a substantial lead over Yorty in the primary, but was a few percentage points shy of winning the race outright. However, in the runoff, to the dismay of supporters such as Abigail Folger and Los Angeles area Congressman Alphonzo Bell, Yorty pulled an amazing come from behind victory to win reelection primarily because he played racial politics. Yorty questioned Bradley's credibility in fighting crime and painted a picture of Bradley, his fellow Democrat, as a threat to Los Angeles because he would supposedly open up the city to feared Black Nationalists. Bradley did not use his record as a police officer in the election. With the racial factor, even many liberal white voters became hesitant to support Bradley.
It would be another four years, in 1973, before Bradley would unseat Yorty.
Mayor of Los Angeles
Powerful downtown business interests at first opposed him. But with passage of the 1974 redevelopment plan and the inclusion of business leaders on influential committees, corporate chiefs moved comfortably in behind him. A significant feature of this plan was the development and building of numerous skyscrapers in the Bunker Hill financial district.
During Bradley's tenure as mayor, Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympic Games and passed Chicago to become the second most populous city in the country. The 1992 Los Angeles riots — in which some critics said Bradley might have "actually made the already tense situation that much worse" — and the formation of the Christopher Commission also occurred on his watch.
Bradley helped contribute to the financial success of the city by helping develop the satellite business hubs at Century City and Warner Center. Bradley was a driving force behind the construction of Los Angeles' light rail network. He also pushed for expansion of Los Angeles International Airport and development of the terminals which are in use today. The Tom Bradley International Terminal is named in his honor.
Bradley served for twenty years as mayor of Los Angeles, surpassing Fletcher Bowron with the longest tenure in that office. Bradley was offered a cabinet-level position in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, which he turned down. In 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale considered Bradley as a finalist for the vice presidential nomination, which eventually went to U.S. Representative Geraldine Ferraro of Queens, New York.
Although Bradley was a political liberal, he believed that business prosperity was good for the entire city and would generate jobs, an outlook not unlike that of his successor, Riordan. For most of Bradley's long administration, the city appeared to agree with him. But in his fourth term, with traffic congestion, air pollution and the condition of Santa Monica Bay worsening, and with residential neighborhoods threatened by commercial development, the tide began to turn. In 1989, he was elected to a fifth term, but the ability of opponent Nate Holden to attract one-third of the vote, despite being a neophyte to the Los Angeles City Council and a very late entrant to the mayoral race, signaled that Bradley's era was drawing to a close.
Other factors in the waning of his political strength were his decision to reverse himself and support a controversial oil drilling project near the Pacific Palisades and his reluctance to condemn Louis Farrakhan, the Black Muslim minister who made speeches in Los Angeles and elsewhere that many considered anti-Semitic. Further, some key Bradley supporters lost their City Council reelection bids, among them veteran Westside Councilwoman Pat Russell. Bradley chose to leave office, rather than seek election to a sixth term in 1993.
Bradley ran for Governor of California twice, in 1982 and 1986, but lost both times to Republican George Deukmejian. He was the first African American to head a gubernatorial ticket in California.
In 1982, the election was extremely close. Bradley led in the polls going into Election Day, and in the initial hours after the polls closed, some news organizations projected him as the winner. Ultimately, Bradley lost the election by about 100,000 votes, about 1.2% of the 7.5 million votes cast.
Tom Bradley speaking at AIDS Walk LA at the Paramount Studios lot in 1988. These circumstances gave rise to the term the "Bradley effect" which refers to a tendency of voters to tell interviewers or pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, but then actually vote for his white opponent. In 1986, Bradley lost the governorship to Deukmejian by a margin of 61-37 percent.
1.^ Jane Fritsch, "Tom Bradley, Mayor in Era of Los Angeles Growth, Dies," New York Times, September 30, 1998
2.^ Jean Merl and Bill Boyarsky, "Mayor Who Reshaped L.A. Dies," Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 5
3.^ Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 6
4.^ Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 7
5.^ Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 8
6.^ Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 10
7.^ Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998, screen 11
9.^ Gray, David (2012). The History of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio FM-AM 1971 – 2011: The Fabric of Freemasonry. Columbus, Ohio: Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio FM-AM. pp. 414. ISBN 978-0615632957.
10.^ "12 Apply for Navarro City Council seat," Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1961, page 21 Library card required
11.^ "New Councilman," Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1961, page 13 Library card required
12.^ "Complete Returns," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1963, page 2 Library card required
13.^ "First Negro Elected to City Council Sworn In," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1963, page A-2 Library card required
14.^ Library of Congress reference
15.^ "Council Asks Dictionary of Slang Study," Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1963, page A-1 Library card required
16.^ Richard Bergholz, "Tough Job Confronts Negro Councilman," Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1963, page A-4 Library card required
18.^ Trying to Win the Peace
19.^ Rick Orlov, "L.A.'S `GENTLE GIANT' REMEMBERED." Daily News, found at The Free Library website. Accessed September 15, 2009.
20.^ Fighting the Last War - TIME
Friday, September 28, 2012
Norma Crane (November 10, 1928 — September 28, 1973) was an actress of stage, film and television. Among her best known roles was that of Golde in the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. She also starred in Tea and Sympathy, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! and Penelope. Crane was born in New York City but raised in El Paso, Texas.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971) with Topol
Born as Norma Anna Bella Zuckerman. She was Jewish. She studied drama at Texas State College for Women, in Denton, Texas, and was a member of Elia Kazan's Actors Studio. She made her debut on Broadway in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.
TEA AND SYMPATHY (1956) with John Kerr
Throughout the 1950s, she appeared on a variety of live television dramas, first gaining recognition in a televised adaptation of George Orwell's 1984. Crane guest-starred four times on the TV series Have Gun – Will Travel. She also appeared on an episode of the Untouchables as Lilly Dallas The Flying Nun as a woman who sells the convent a foul-mouthed parrot, as well as in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "There Was an Old Woman" (1956). She guest-starred in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in a 1967 episode called "The Matterhorn Affair."
She married writer-producer Herb Sargent; however, the marriage ended in divorce.
She died of breast cancer, aged 44, in Los Angeles, California.
PENELOPE (1966) with Natalie Wood and Ian Bannen
1.^ "Broadway, Film Actress Norma Crane." Washington Post: pp. D11. 1973-09-29. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
2.^ Biography at IMDb.
3.^ "Norma Crane, Star in 'Fiddler on Roof', Dies." Los Angeles Times: pp. C7. 1973-09-29. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
4.^ "Norma Crane dead; played Tevye's wife." New York Times: pp. 34. 1973-09-29. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Aimee Semple McPherson (October 9, 1890 – September 27, 1944), also called Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-born evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church. McPherson has been noted as a pioneer in the use of modern media, especially radio, which she drew upon through the growing appeal of popular entertainment in North America.
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
Weary of constant traveling and having no place to raise a family, McPherson had settled in Los Angeles, where she maintained both a home and a church. McPherson believed that by creating a church in Los Angeles, her audience would come to her from all over the country, she could plant the seed of the Foursquare gospel and tourists would take it home to their communities, thus taking the traveling out of her preaching, while still reaching the masses. For several years she continued to travel and raise money for the construction of a large, domed church building in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, named Angelus Temple. She raised more than expected and altered the original plans to build a "megachurch" that would draw many followers throughout the years. The church was dedicated on January 1, 1923. It had a seating capacity of 5,300 people and was filled to capacity three times each day, seven days a week. At first McPherson preached every service, often in a dramatic scene she put together to attract audiences. The church eventually evolved into its own denomination, called the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which focused on the nature of Christ's character, that he was savior, baptizer with the Holy Spirit, healer and coming king. There were four main beliefs, the first being Christ's ability to transform individuals' lives through the act of salvation. The second focused on a holy baptism, the third was divine healing and the fourth was gospel-oriented heed to the premillennial return of Christ.
McPherson often based her sermons around events that took place in her life and then acted them out on Sunday evening. In August 1925, McPherson decided to charter a plane so she would not miss a Sunday sermon. Aware of the opportunity for publicity, she had at least two thousand followers and members of the press at the takeoff site. The plane failed after takeoff and the landing gear collapsed, sending the nose of the plane into the ground. McPherson boarded another plane the same day and used the experience as the narrative of an illustrated Sunday sermon called "The Heavenly Airplane." The stage in Angelus Temple was set up with two miniature planes and a skyline that looked like Los Angeles. In this sermon, McPherson described how the first plane had the devil for the pilot, sin for the engine and temptation as the propeller. The other plane, however, was piloted by Jesus and would lead one to the Holy City (the skyline shown on stage). The temple was filled beyond capacity. On one occasion, she described being pulled over by a police officer, calling the sermon "Arrested for Speeding." McPherson employed a small group of artists, electricians, decorators and carpenters who built the sets for each Sunday's service. Religious music played by an orchestra. Biographer Matthew Avery Sutton wrote, "McPherson found no contradiction between her rejection of Hollywood values for her use of show business techniques. She would not hesitate to use the devil's tools to tear down the devil's house." Collections were taken at every meeting, often with the admonishment, "no coins, please."
McPherson became a strong supporter of William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes Trial, in which John Scopes was tried for illegally teaching evolution at a Dayton, Tennessee, school. Bryan and McPherson had worked together in the Angelus Temple and they believed social Darwinism had undermined students' morality. According to McPherson, evolution "is the greatest triumph of Satanic intelligence in 5,931 years of devilish warfare, against the Hosts of Heaven. It is poisoning the minds of the children of the nation" She sent Bryan a telegram saying, "Ten thousand members of Angelus temple with her millions of radio church membership send grateful appreciation of your lion hearted championship of the Bible against evolution and throw our hats in the ring with you." She organized "an all night prayer service, a massive church meeting preceded by a Bible parade through Los Angeles."
On May 18, 1926, McPherson went with her secretary to Ocean Park Beach north of Venice Beach to swim. Soon after arriving, McPherson was nowhere to be found. It was thought she had drowned.
McPherson was scheduled to hold a service that day and her mother Minnie Kennedy preached the sermon instead, saying at the end, "Sister is with Jesus," sending parishioners into a tearful frenzy. Mourners crowded Venice Beach and the commotion sparked days-long media coverage fueled in part by William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner and stirring a poem by Upton Sinclair to commemorate the tragedy. Daily updates appeared in newspapers across the country and parishioners held day-and-night seaside vigils. One parishioner drowned whilst searching for the body and a diver died from exposure.
Kenneth G. Ormiston, the engineer for KFSG, had also disappeared. Some believed McPherson and Ormiston, who was married, had developed a close friendship and run off together. After about a month her mother received a ransom note (signed by "The Avengers") which demanded a half million dollars, or else kidnappers would sell McPherson into "white slavery.." Kennedy later said she tossed the letter away, believing her daughter was dead.
Shortly thereafter, on June 23, McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured and held for ransom in a shack by two people, Steve and Mexicali Rose. Her story also alleged that she had escaped from her captors and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.
However, her shoes showed no hint of a 13-hour walk in the desert but rather, carried grass stains. The shack was not found. McPherson had vanished wearing a bathing suit. She returned fully dressed, wearing a wristwatch (a gift from her mother) which she had not taken on the swimming trip. A grand jury convened on July 8, 1926, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed.
Five witnesses claimed to have seen McPherson at a seaside cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea. One claimed to have seen Mrs. McPherson at the cottage on May 5 (he later went to see her preach at Angelus Temple on August 8, to confirm she was the woman he had seen at Carmel). His story was confirmed by a neighbor who lived next door to the Carmel cottage, by a woman who rented the cottage to Ormiston (under the name "McIntyre"), by a grocery clerk and a Carmel fuel dealer who delivered wood to the cottage.
The grand jury reconvened on August 3 and took further testimony along with documents from hotels, said to be in McPherson's handwriting. McPherson steadfastly stuck to her story, that she was approached by a young couple at the beach who had asked her to come over and pray for their sick child, that she was then shoved into a car and drugged with chloroform. However, when she was not forthcoming with answers regarding her relationship with Ormiston (now estranged from his wife), the judge charged McPherson and her mother with obstruction of justice. To combat the bad newspaper publicity, McPherson spoke freely about the court trials on her private radio station.
Theories and innuendo abounded, that she had run off with a lover, that she had gone off to have an abortion, taken time to heal from plastic surgery or had staged a publicity stunt. The Examiner newspaper then reported that Los Angeles district attorney Asa Keyes had dropped all charges, which he did on January 10, 1927.
The tale was later lampooned by Pete Seeger in a song called "The Ballad of Aimee McPherson," with lyrics claiming the kidnapping had been unlikely because a hotel love nest revealed "the dents in the mattress fit Aimee's caboose."
Milton Berle's claim
In Milton Berle: An Autobiography, Milton Berle claimed he had a brief affair with McPherson in 1930, saying he met McPherson at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles where both were doing a charity show. Upon seeing her for the first time, Berle recalled, "I was both impressed and very curious ... She was all dignity and class when it came her turn. The house went wild when she walked out into the lights." Backstage, she invited him to see the Angelus Temple. Instead, Berle wrote, the two of them went to lunch in Santa Monica, then to an apartment of hers where McPherson changed into something "cooler [...] a very thin, pale blue negligee." Berle said he could see she was wearing nothing underneath and that she only said, "Come in." Berle said they met for the second and last time at the same apartment a few days later, writing, "This time, she just sent the chauffeur for me to bring me straight to the apartment. We didn't even bother with lunch. When I was dressing to leave, she stuck out her hand. 'Good luck with your show, Milton.' What the hell. I couldn't resist it. 'Good luck with yours, Aimee.' I never saw or heard from Aimee Semple McPherson again. But whenever I hear 'Yes, Sir, That's My Baby,' I remember her." Biographer Matthew Avery Sutton commented, "Berle, a notorious womanizer whose many tales of scandalous affairs were not always true, claimed to have had sex with McPherson on this and one other occasion" both during a year when McPherson was often ill and bedridden. Sutton also wrote that Berle's story of a crucifix in her bedroom was not consistent with the coolness of Pentecostal/Catholic relations during that era.
Later life and career
McPherson carried on with her ministry but fell out of favor with the press. She became caught up in power struggles for the church with her mother and daughter and suffered a nervous breakdown in August 1930.
On September 13, 1931, McPherson married again, to actor and musician David Hutton. The marriage got off to a rocky start. Two days after the wedding Hutton was sued for alienation of affection by Hazel St. Pierre (Hutton claimed he had never met her). He eventually settled the case by paying St. Pierre US$5,000. While McPherson was away in Europe, she was angered to learn Hutton was billing himself as "Aimee's man" in his cabaret singing act. The marriage also caused an uproar within the church: The tenets of Foursquare Gospel, as put forth by McPherson herself, held that one should not remarry while their previous spouse was still alive and McPherson's indeed was. McPherson and Hutton separated in 1933 and divorced on March 1, 1934.
Drawing from her childhood experience with the Salvation Army, in 1936 McPherson opened the temple commissary 24 hours a day, seven days a week and became more active in creating soup kitchens, free clinics and other charitable activities as the Great Depression wore on. With the later outbreak of World War II, she became involved in war bond rallies, with sermons linking the church and Americanism.
On September 26, 1944, McPherson went to Oakland, California, for a series of revivals, planning to preach her popular "Story of My Life" sermon. When McPherson's son went to her hotel room at 10:00 the next morning, he found her unconscious with pills and a half-empty bottle of capsules nearby. She was dead by 11:15.
The autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death. She had been taking sleeping pills following sundry health problems (including "tropical fever") in the 1940s. The pills found in the hotel room were Seconal, a strong sedative which had not been prescribed for her and how she obtained them was unknown.
The coroner said she most likely died of an accidental overdose compounded by kidney failure. Seconal has a hypnotizing effect which can make a person forgetful about how much medication has been taken and lead to an overdose. There was some conjecture of suicide but most sources generally agree the overdose was accidental as put forth in the coroner's report.
McPherson is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. The Foursquare Gospel church was led by her son Rolf McPherson for 44 years after her death and claims over eight million members worldwide.