By John Geirland
trailing Robert Blake down Ventura Blvd. Blake is looking sharp
in a black coat and a baggy pair of gray slacks. He sports thick
black-frame glasses that give him a surprisingly intellectual air.
At his side is a middle aged blonde woman, a bit on the frumpy side,
dressed in a tan pants suit that doesn't flatter her. She leans
in on Blake as they walk, chattering away. The blonde radiates happiness.
She is trying to keep from bursting into an uninhibited smile.
Blake is not so full of light. He strokes his chin and says nothing.
He avoids making eye contact with the blonde, staring down at his
black leather shoes as the two saunter down the boulevard in the
direction of the Killer Shrimp restaurant at the corner of Colfax
and Ventura. He looks as if he's trying hard to vanish into thin
Six months later, the blonde has a hole in her head and lays dying
in Blake's 1991 black Stealth Dodge. The hit occurs in my neighborhood
on the chilly evening of May 4, 2001. The Stealth is parked on Woodbridge
Street, a block and a half from Vitellos, an Italian eatery in Studio
City popular with the polyester crowd. Blake took his wife there
for dinner. He is a Vitellos habitué. The restaurant has
a dish named in Blake's honor (tomato and spinach pasta). You know
Call the sighting on the Boulevard a prologue to my encounter with
the Blake murder case. File it under The Confessions of a True Crime
wasn't actually "trailing" Robert Blake -- star of Baretta,
In Cold Blood and the Our Gang series -- and his wife.
It's more like I happened to be barreling by the couple behind a
two-seated stroller loaded with my then two year-old twins. I don't
get to prowl anymore, so the strolls are essential for my mental
health. As a domiciled pater familias, I stay at home with the kids.
My wife dons the suit and I wave to her as she drives off in the
Merc every morning. I work at home, make lunches, slap bandages
on my kids' "boo-boo's" and brood. In my darkness I indulge
in True Crime stories.
For the connoisseur of True Crime nothing beats a Hollywood murder.
I know all the cases. 1922 -- Paramount director William Desmond
Taylor is shot in his fashionable Westlake Park bungalow. 1935 --
Film comedienne Thelma Todd is found in her Palisades garage slumped
over in her Packard convertible. 1959 -- boozy partygoers at George
Reeves' Benedict Canyon home find the original TV Superman sprawled
across his bed buck-naked with a bullet wound to his head. Then
there was OJ. I've read all the books, know every detail and nuance
of the cases. Sometimes late at night, after the wife and kids are
asleep, I escape to my home office, open the window to let in the
night, pop the Doors into the CD player and morph into a suburban
So you can imagine how I felt on the morning of May 5, 2001, when
I learned that the next big Hollywood murder case had gone down
the night before, a mere 300 yards from my armchair.
called Max. He lives in the neighborhood, too. Max Marx is a successful
TV producer, my best friend, and a person with impeccable noir creds.
He knows Kenneth Anger, author of Hollywood Babylon. He's
been held at gunpoint for hours by a certain notorious entertainment
figure. He possesses a letter from Charles Manson. Brando's dogs
viciously attacked him. He has a removable gold tooth with a diamond
in it -- how noir is that?
Max loves True Crime, too. During the OJ trial, he and I drove far
out of our way to take our weekly walk in OJ's Brentwood neighborhood,
for which we were deeply ashamed. Max Marx isn't his real name.
He doesn't want you to know who he is.
Max answered the phone, yawning. It was 9:30 am.
"I've been up for hours," I flustered. "Don't tell
me you just woke up."
"OK," he said. "I won't tell you that."
"Did you hear about Robert Blake?" I asked.
"His wife was murdered a block from Vitellos," I said.
"This is a good one, Johnny," he purred. "We need
to take a walk."
reasons so trivial I no longer recall them, we didn't actually hit
the pavement until the next day, 36 hours after the crime. Max showed
up at my house wearing three layers of sweat clothes and a huge
straw hat. He'd applied several coats of sun block on the off chance
that a ray of sunlight might reach his face. He had a gob of it
on the tip of his nose.
Max smiled. He was wearing his gold tooth with the diamond. "Let's
go crack this case," he said.
It was a cool, sunny morning. The air smelled like freshly baked
bread. The bees were buzzing happily in well-tended flowerbeds.
Max and I were filled with a joie de vivre we hadn't felt since
the OJ walk. We took broad strides in the direction of Woodbridge
The murder occurred in a Studio City neighborhood called Colfax
Meadows -- which I always confuse with Carfax Abbey, Count Dracula's
London residence. Unlike Carfax Abbey, there's nothing creepy about
Colfax Meadows, unless you find something menacing about real estate
agents hustling door-to-door with sackfuls of promotional calendars.
A lush and woodsy district of modest '40s era single-family dwellings,
the homes in Colfax Meadows are rapidly being bought up, torn down
and replaced with bloated Mediterraneans, faux California craftsmen
and towering Cape Codders.
"So I understand they haven't found the murder weapon,"
Max observed. He'd come up to speed on the case since I'd called
him the day before. "I think that should be our mission."
"We'll collect clues and make inferences," I said. "We'll
"This could be big, Johnny," he huffed in a thick Brooklyn
brogue. "Very, very big."
We reached the spot where Blake parked the Stealth, a block and
a half from Vitellos. The homicide detectives had already packed
up the crime scene, but the place was bustling. Curiosity seekers
strolled down the street while others cruised past in SUV's. News
helicopters hovered far off in the sky.
"Look at those lookie-loo's," I said, pointing to the
Max shook his head. "It's disgusting."
We saw a makeshift shrine on the sidewalk near the spot where Bonnie
Lee Bakley had been killed. Passersby had left flower arrangements,
votive candles and handwritten notes in remembrance of a woman they
didn't know. On the street sat a rusty-brown dumpster that looked
like it might have once been a D-Day landing craft. The house nearest
the murder site was being torn down and would later be replaced
with a behemoth Mediterranean.
We stopped. I pointed to the shrine.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|