It’s January, it’s raining, and I’m fighting a cold that refuses to leave my body as if I’m slowly turning into a zombie-flu monster, permanently sick — but My Favorite Murder is hosting TNT’s I AM THE NIGHT at the beautiful El Rey Theater, so I drop some Dayquil and order an Uber because there are few things that I enjoy more than comedy or true crime. Thankfully, TNT rolls out some drink cards and I head straight to the balcony, which has red couches and cute cups of free popcorn everywhere with a glass of red.
The El Rey Theater is a huge, beautiful theater with three bars, a VIP balcony, lounge, ballroom, and screening room, built in 1936 by Clifford Balch. It used to be a movie theater in the art deco district of LA but it was converted into a showroom for musical and touring acts in the early 90’s. The El Rey is an historic-cultural building, so thankfully it can never be torn down or plundered like other legendary LA sites. It’s the perfect place to host a podcast about murder, the El Rey reeks of intrigue just like the Black Dahlia case.
My Favorite Murder is a popular true crime podcast hosted by stand up comedian/writer, Karen Kilgariff and host/writer, Georgia Hardstark; it’s been featured in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and The Atlantic, in addition to being a top ten favorite on iTunes. They’ve written a dual memoir called, “Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered,” available for pre-order on Amazon, IndieBound and Barnes and Noble’s website.
My Favorite Murder is a fan favorite because the hosts are interesting, fun people. They talk about murder and their favorite cookies with equal ardor. I also like The Last Podcast On The Left and Sword and Scale but I’ve stopped listening to Sword and Scale because the descriptions of the crimes were too disturbing for me; check out episode 70, if you want to bleach your brain for the rest of your life.
Like many horror fans, I’m also a true crime buff — I’ve spent a good portion of my life reading books about Ted Bundy, The Night Stalker, and The Zodiac Killer, scaring the shit out of myself. But I prefer to study the psychology of sociopaths and the aftermath of trauma, which is why I enjoy My Favorite Murder. The hosts discuss serial killers but they are discerning, intelligent, and funny. The perfect hosts for TNT’s I AM THE NIGHT, a six part, mini-series about the Black Dahlia case.
The limited series, the second offering from TNT’s Suspense Collection, stars Chris Pine and India Eisley, directed by Patty Jenkins (the director of Wonder Woman), Victoria Mahoney and Carl Franklin. The series tells the story of Fauna Hodel, the granddaughter of George Hodel, who was given to an African American woman to be raised her as her own. Fauna, who believed herself to be of mixed race, travels to Los Angeles to find her real mother but she discovers a dark truth about her family.
Hardstark and Kilgariff open the show and Kilgariff kills it, riffing on murderinos and annoying people in Los Angeles. Hardstark is wearing a super adorable dress with patterned white tights while Kilgariff is dressed in all black and god, I love her for that. After they’re seated, I notice that Hardstark pulls a napkin out of her pocket to wipe her nose and I think it’s totally normal for everyone to be sick in early January, it’s like an LA curse.
The hosts go into the background of the case: the sad story of a beautiful woman, Elizabeth Short. She was found naked, drained of blood, and posed as if she was a piece of murder art, or a gruesome, dismantled doll. The murderer bisected the woman and positioned the lower half of the body with the legs spread open — as if to mock her sex. The most chilling part is that the killer cut her mouth into a gruesome smile as a final act of humiliation. And if that sounds frightening then don’t bother watching Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built because there’s a scene in a cold room with a child that I wish I could unsee forever.
The audience is probably bummed thinking about the last moments of Short’s life because the house cheers when they show a photo of the young Elizabeth Short — she was a stunning woman with a cloud of curly dark hair and high cheekbones, nicknamed the Black Dahlia because she wore flowers in her hair. The room is dismayed when they show a picture of her wretched body, but the hosts move on quickly and explain why most people believe George Hodel was the killer — including his own son.
This story about George Hodel gets weirder and weirder, he was a brilliant doctor who lived in the famous Sowden house, designed by Lloyd Wright. He threw parties. He collected art. He sexually abused his daughter. He may have killed women. His son has written a number of books linking his father to the crime; he also believed that his father was the Cleveland Torso Murderer and the Zodiac Killer. The DA has tapes where they recorded him, saying, “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They can’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary anymore because she’s dead. They thought there was something fishy. Anyway, now they may have figured it out. Killed her. Maybe I did kill my secretary.”
They show a picture of George Hodel and the audience recoils. George Hodel seems like the kind of man I instinctively loath: the pampered intellectual. But Hodel was far worse than the annoying guy in English class who thinks he’s an ace when he’s clearly a dunce; he was genuinely gifted and genuinely a sociopath. Just ask his daughter.
They clear the stage and roll the pilot of I AM THE NIGHT and everyone hoots and hollers. I’ve already seen it but watching it on a huge screen at a place like the El Rey is a gift. Man, I’m really loving Chris Pine’s performance, sure we know he can play cocky and charismatic but in I AM THE NIGHT, he digs deeper — he’s sad. He’s a ruined man, a reporter who destroyed his career when he tried to take George Hodel down, but…he might be able to redeem himself when he finds out that Fauna Hodel, George Hodel’s granddaughter is in town.
There are books and books and books about the Black Dahlia story with twists and turns that you never saw coming. Some of the twists are too morbid to repeat. But the pilot stays away from speculation and focuses on Fauna’s journey to self-discovery. The episode ends with a party at the infamous Jaws House, and it’s a gorgeous set — filled with masks and crazy art and an intense musical score that hints at the depravity.
Jefferson Mays, who played George Hodel, shows up in a dapper suit and the hosts interview him. I like Mays because I’m a sucker for a theater trained thespian, a real actor, ya know? Plus, he dresses sharp. He tells a creepy story about filming in the Los Feliz house, and he implies that the house is haunted. What? I gotta drive by this infamous house on Franklin Blvd this week and check it out.
It’s raining at the end of the evening and I head outside to wait for my Uber. I wonder what it might be like to own a house on Miracle Mile and throw wild literary parties with outsider art, but then I think, naw. Hobnobbing isn’t for me. I don’t want to get murdered by a crazy doctor who thinks he’s an artist. Sometimes all you need is a glass of red wine and popcorn in a cool theater like the El Rey to feel grateful. Now if I could only shake this cold.
I AM THE NIGHT debuts on TNT on January 28th. My Favorite Murder is going on tour in late January, check the schedule for dates and location here: https://www.myfavoritemurder.com/events.