How Amazon Controls The Book World

The Secret of “Closed Generic Strings” and the Magic of the Powerful Words They Hide in Their Vault

The most powerful word in the book world is “Book”. It is owned by Amazon. They also own “Author”, “Buy”, “Pay”, “Prime”.
“Song”, “Tunes”, “Wow”, and maybe “Read”.

A Journey into History and Magic by Paul Hunt

The used and antiquarian book business began to change by 2013, into something that looks a lot different today. The 1970’s -1990s were probably the golden years for booksellers in Southern California, for both new and used books. In the 1970s Hollywood Blvd. was packed with bookstores. Pickwick Book Shop anchored the western end of the Street and book stores, back-issue magazine stores, and newsstands spread east to around Argyle Ave. What happened?

A lot of factors went into the turbulent cultural change. Technology and the Internet certainly were, at the end of the millennium, the basic factors. There were others, like an escalating spiral of high rents, the crime wave that hit Hollywood when the Mayor and the big Donkeys decided to push through a “Redevelopment” scam that would work as a regional part of the Great Society’s Urban Renewal, or as the great Jack LeVan said, “Urban Ruin-all”. I was just getting into the used book business in the 1960s when LBJ’s program started to gut out the centers of many major cities across the country, which meant that thousands of older buildings were torn down and hundreds of bookstores were tanked in the process. The same thing happened in Los Angeles.

There were bookstores in downtown Los Angeles and many had spread west on 6th Street in the 1930s. Urban Renewal pushed the survivors westward. Dawson’s ended up on Larchmont, Zeitlin settled into a barn on La Cienega, a few like Caravan managed to hang on until recent times. Hollywood Blvd had book stores from the 1920s on up, and became the mecca of literature by the 1960s.

When high rents and high crime began to force book stores out of Hollywood, many went to Westwood and further to Santa Monica. Others moved to Burbank’s old Outdoor Mall. Unfortunately, the rents continued to climb and the internet experienced massive growth.

There is now little left of the once plentiful book and magazine stores. It was a wipe-out, a cultural destruction of enormous consequences, and continues until today. Society had opened up the floodgates of unlimited immigration which, with redevelopment, drove rents up, while the trillions in printing press money pounded the value of the dollar down. The culture, bookstores, art galleries, small theaters, newspapers, magazines, all buckled under the pressure and many collapsed.

From this wasteland of reality emerged a new world. It is a world that is in the ethos, somewhere in time and space, sometimes called “the cloud”, or generally, “the internet”. It it invisible until you get a device that will connect you to the ethereal realm and make it visible to you. Without a device, you cannot see or hear the new world. It is a new land, with domains instead of cities. It rules commerce and will soon rule the world with the introduction of “artificial intelligence”. And if something ever happens to shatter the connection, humanity will be stripped of everything.

In 1994 Jeff Bezos founded an on-line bookselling company called Cadabra
(you know, like Abracadabra, the old magic word). The usage of the word Abracadabra goes back to the late 1600s. It is said to have originated in the Balkins, and may be traced back to Gnostic teachings and a cabalistic name for Almighty God. It is used in magic and magik, a term meaning a transition, something that is happening, something magical: a rabbit is pulled out of a hat.

Bezos decided early on that just the word Cadabra sounded too much like “cadaver” so he came up with “amazon” named after a legendary race of warrior women living somewhere at the edge of the world. Bezos was into words of power and he soon devised a plan to control the mighty words so that nobody else could use them, in effect pulling them from use in the domains of the internet, the new territory of time and space, and by keeping them locked in his vault in the “cloud”, he would deprive any competitor from using them. If this sounds esoteric, it is.

Bezos is also a Wall Street guy, and worked at a hedge fund, so he had contacts to get financing, to launch an IPO, to sell corporate bonds, etc. He officially launched amazon.com on July 6, 1995. In 1997 he launched his IPO with 3 million shares of stock at $18 per share. The stock closed at $23.25, and Amazon made 54 million dollars in one day, much more than selling books. The stock is now over $174 per share. The market cap for Amazon is now $1.81 Trillion Dollars.  

The new Top Level Domains (TLD)

Around 2012 there began a heated discussion and competition among various companies and persons about the subject of TLDs and gTLDs, (Generic Top Level Domains). The public had been aware of .com, .org, .biz, etc., the original top level domains that most folks were using back in the turn of the century. Even today, .com is still the most popular domain designation. The problem for many folks is that all the “good” and powerful and valuable names have been taken. This has happened in the book business also. For instance, type in book.com. You can’t get this for your domain, because it is actually owned by Barnes and Noble, and book.com will resolve to barnesandnoble.com. The big guys have sucked up all the good .com names.

So the pressure was for the non-profits who run the internet, like ICANN, to make other top level domains, so that a person or company could, for instance have book.academy, or some other top level domain. Book.academy for example, may not be as good as book.com, but it is not bad, assuming someone does not already have it. A great website is TLD-list.com, where you can see an alphabetical list of all top level domains, and if they are active, a chart comparing prices from various registries. Pay particular attention to the “renewal” fee, because unlike .com which is very reasonable, some TLDs have low first year entrance fees but huge renewal fees for year two and so on. You will also notice that a fair amount of the listed TLDs are “not available”.

Closed Generic Strings

There was a private auction in November of 2014 by ICANN of their new generic top level domains (gTLDs). Amazon was a big winner at this auction, bidding through a shadowy branch of theirs in Luxembourg, with an international domain consultant company, and of course, a suitcase full of money to put up the millions of dollars it would need to put the Bezos plan of action into reality. For some time before the auction, there was a lot of debate, because Amazon was accused of planning to buy up certain gTLDs and then keep them in a vault and not release them for use. This is called holding Closed Generic Strings, a technical term. This was exactly the plan that Bezos had, because the words are powerful, and it was worth untold millions to snag them and keep them from use by competitors.

Here’s a few of the great gTLDs that Amazon owns: .book, .buy, .author, .now, .pay, .prime, .song, .tunes, .wow, and possibly .read. It is hard to track these down, but there’s a partial list. The most important to our book world discussion are .book, .author, and .read. These powerful words are in Amazon’s vault, and have been for years. Despite these having an original rule that whoever buys them can only have them for 10 years, Amazon seems to have figured out how to keep these forever. It’s like when Disney managed to bludgeon the copyright laws of the United States so they could keep Mickey Mouse for additional years. Money, power, and Wall Street talk the big talk.

By using a generic name, like book, we could have potentially thousands of booksellers getting together and registering their names like PickwickBookShop.book, or Antiquarian.book. If the renewal rate was reasonable, a lot of book folks, publishers, writers, and booksellers would be using .book as their domain. But Bezos does not want the competition.

The same is true of .author, another generic name that Amazon has locked up. Many authors and writers would love to have their name and use the gTLD of .author. Example johnsmith.author. The same would be true of .read, but this would appeal to an even broader audience.

It is not enough for Amazon to control the new book market. They also control a huge part of the used book market. And although they have large numbers of independent sellers, they also have ways of putting their own used books first. They also own Abebooks.com, the largest formerly independent platform for used books. Abebooks owns bookfinder, a large site to search for books. Amazon also owns Goodreads.com, a huge site that does book reviews; IMDB.com which houses all the information about films; Twitch.com, a huge gaming site, and through other entities such web sites as Wag.com (pet supplies), Soap.com (household needs), Diapers.com (baby supplies), and BeautyBar.com (cosmetics) and a whole lot more. Amazon has been known to buy up smaller competitor’s sites and then close them.

Before ICANN handed over these powerful names to Amazon, there were a lot of negative comments and warnings from other competitors and community watchdog groups, all ignored, but here is a sampling below:

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Heather Dryden, an Australian consumer advocate: the applicant is “seeking exclusive access to a common generic string .. that relates to a broad market sector,” which Ms. Dryden notes could have unintended consequences and a negative impact on competition. Amazon was subject to a large amount of identical warnings.

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Barnes and Noble sent a scathing letter:

Barnes & Noble, Inc. submits this letter to urge ICANN to deny Amazon.com’s application to purchase several top level domains (TLDs), most notably .book, .read and .author (collectively the “Book TLDs”). Amazon, the dominant player in the book industry, should not be allowed to control the Book TLDs, which would enable them to control generic industry terms in a closed fashion with disastrous consequences not only for bookselling but for the American public. If Amazon, which controls approximately 60% of the market for eBooks and 25% of the physical book market, were granted the exclusive use of .book, .read and .author, Amazon would use the control of these TLDs to stifle competition in the bookselling and publishing industries, which are critical to the future of copyrighted expression in the United States.

Amazon’s ownership would also threaten the openness and freedom of the internet and would have harmful consequences for internet users worldwide. When ICANN announced its plan to increase the number of TLDs available on the Domain Name System, one of its stated goals was to enhance competition and consumer choice. However, if the Book TLDs applications are granted to Amazon, no bookseller or publisher other than Amazon will be able to register second-level domain names in .book, .read and .author without Amazon’s approval, leaving Amazon free to exclude competitors and exploit the generic Book TLDs for its sole benefit

(It must be noted that although I agree with Barnes and Noble’s argument, they themselves have a lock on book.com.)

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The Booksellers Association of Switzerland:

In the case of a closed generic TLD like .books, the exclusivity granted to the winning applicant would de facto strengthen the position of a single big operator in the book industry and would be detrimental to the industry as a whole

There were many more comments against Amazon, including a lot of competitors who applied for the powerful generic names. They were all rejected.

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And so Jeff Bezos said “abacadabra” and now out of the ethereal universe comes to his vault .book, .author, .pay, .now, .prime, .buy, .song, .tunes, and more. It’s magic, folks, and for these powerful words that cannot be touched or used by the unwashed masses, he traded paper tokens produced with more magic by the Federal Reserve. There is a veil over our heads, and it’s hard to peep through the fabric to see the unseen universe and the magik, magic, mystery, prestidigitation, wizardry, sorcery and incantation involved.

Hey, what about .page? Oh, that’s owned by google.com. The good news is that it is available and very reasonable to renew. So kudos to google, and hope this helps some folks travel down their path to finding their very own domain. Just remember, you can trade your tokens to rent it, but you can never actually “own” it. It is only “real” in the alternate universe of the “internet”, and controlled by an entity that used to be referred to as the “I Am” in this world, now called the “I Can” or ICANN in the world of the magical universe.

The Future of Book Shops

What is the Future of American Book Shops?

by Paul Hunt

The dystopian end for literacy.  The very last stage of the retail book business will be Book Tents on sidewalks in the big cities as the huge skyscrapers become empty due to high rent and finally to the massive CME from the Sun.  With 300,000 mainly homeless, destitute, and uneducated people pouring over the border every month, does anybody actually believe that there’s going to be less people living on the streets?  When the internet goes down get ready to shop for books on the sidewalks.

It looks like American society has abandoned it’s own culture.  The demise of bookstores, art galleries and small theaters are sure signs of the decay. Here’s the report card for reading in California schools from CAreads.org:

Reading is the most fundamental skill children must learn to succeed in school and in life.  But today, half of California’s students do not read at grade level.  What’s worse, among low-income students of color, over 65% read below grade level.  Few ever catch up.

Sad news for anyone thinking about trying to sell a book in the future. The trend is also showing up at libraries.  I’ve noticed lately that most libraries have changed their mix, which is now maybe 40% books, 40% audio and video and 20% computers.

Let me know what YOU think.  I have a few ideas for solutions, but I’ll save them until Hollywood starts issuing the book tents with small solar panels to power lights inside.  And a fluffy pillow for an old guy to sit on.

The Book To Get For Holiday Reading

Noel Hart’s Book about Cosmopolitan Book Shop is a hit with book lovers!

And That Was Only The Front Cover

Noel Hart – And That Was Only the Front Counter: Working in the Used Book Business in Los Angeles.
Contains over 400 pages crammed with intensity from the trenches of the used book business in Los Angeles. This is a SIGNED LIMITED EDITION, which includes a piece of the bookshop tipped in! This is unique to each copy, a portion of a page printed in 1753, sourced from Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Hollywood. Each copy is SIGNED in full by Australian author Noel Hart in black ink on title page. Introductory note by Arnold M. Herr. Cover artwork by Rom Anthonis. This is a NON-FICTION book.
Rear cover blurb: “Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. Around the turn of the millennium. A classic secondhand bookshop, dusty and dirty, shabby with age and happenstance, packed tight with decades of stagnant accumulation. So messy it resembles the aftermath of a major earthquake. Bring a shovel, dig for treasures! Crackly radio jazz can be heard emanating from somewhere. Michael Jackson browses porn in one aisle; a homeless man sleeps on the floor in another; a transvestite hooker works the trade in a secluded corner behind a stack of boxes; a serious collector collates rare seventeenth-century antiquarian volumes near the front counter; a frenetic movie set decorator rents books throughout. All the while at the center of the maelstrom sits 80-year-old owner Eli Goodman, a ruminative, philosophical, New York-born Jew, intelligent and funny, an obsessive hoarder to the extreme, a caricature character who distinctly resembles Woody Allen dropped into a Marx Brothers movie, and who happens to live in a decrepit hovel at the back of the bookshop. For fifty years Eli has presided over the famous and infamous, the bibliophiles, researchers, collectors, decorators, actors, models, musicians, hipsters, the scholarly, shady, and insane, all congealed into a conglomerate crush at Cosmopolitan Bookshop. Longtime store manager Noel Hart, an Australian, captures it all, stuffs it into a mind-blender, then spills it out onto the page. NOTE: What began as a talk given to the Australian Book Collectors’ Society in 2018, then subsequently published verbatim in their journal in 2019, has now been expanded into a book-length narrative by Noel Hart, who managed Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Los Angeles for ten years.”
Printed in Australia. Published in 2023 by Bookwood Press, Melbourne.

Noel hard at work at Cosmopolitan Book Shop

To order a copy, Click Here.

The Enchanters -Behind The Scenes

Ellroy’s Hollywood 1962

by Paul Hunt

James Ellroy’s new book – a brutal tour of 1962

James Ellroy’s The Enchanters is all about Hollywood in 1962. His characters are mainly real historical people. He squeezes his story from all the things that you just can’t prove that his characters were doing at the time. Plus, his real life characters are all dead and aren’t putting up a squawk about any of it. So since I was here in Hollywood in 1962, fresh out of Hollywood High School, and only a mile away from Ellroy’s Fairfax High, I thought I would write about some of the things that did happen to Ellroy’s real-life characters and places in that general time period. Freddy Otash, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, Daryl Zanuck, Lila Leeds and some of the others were not quite in the furnace of fictional horror that Ellroy plunges them into, but many were not far off from shattered life experiences of their own making. Also, a lot of other weird stuff has bubbled up, and worth a nod. So please enjoy The Enchanters! It’s Ellroy on steroids with his favorite corrupt private eye Fred Otash and Hollywood as it might have been.

Ready for The Enchanters

Meanwhile, here’s a few jabs, in no particular order, about what some of The Enchanters were really up to in real life.

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Friend Cole Son once lived in a house where Marilyn Monroe stayed for a while around 1952. He says there was a ghost in the house, maybe it was MM. Look up “Spirit The House of Marilyn” which has a clip of the story. This house was rented by Andre de Dienes, Marilyn’s first photographer. The house, up on Castilion Dr. in the Hollywood Hills, was also, according to one legend, where the photographer buried a box of his early Marilyn pix and then later dug them up. I’m not so sure about that one, because de Dienes was selling nudes of Marilyn from the get go. Tashen publishers put out a nice book of his photos, but the book is pricey on the internet, like $50-100. now. Cole had taken a lot of photos of the ghost, but lost them somewhere years ago. He’s on tiktok with some great songs and poems.

Speaking of Marilyn’s ghost, some 20 years ago when I had a bookstore in Burbank, one of my customers, a young lady who was doing rock music photos, showed me some photos she had taken up at Marilyn’s last place in Brentwood on 5th Helena Drive. She had tried and failed to get inside the house several times, but finally, a young man answered the door and let her go into the bedroom where Marilyn died and shoot some photos. A couple of the photos showed what looked to be a spirit in the room. It was creepy, but I wish I had saved the photographer’s info to take another look. Hopefully she sold the photos somewhere. I’ve seen ghosts, spirits and orbs, and it looked like the real thing. Humans cannot always see them, but the camera does.

The day Ellroy crashed into town the word got out that Marilyn’s house on 5th Helena was scheduled to be demolished. At the same time, the cabin she stayed in up at the Cal-Nev Lodge was also going to be demolished. A protest from Hollywood preservationists has temporarily saved the house on 5th Helena, but all in all, including the brutal reckoning in The Enchanters, Marilyn had a bad week. I would not be surprised to learn how angry her ghost was in mid- September 2023.

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5th Helena Dr. in Brentwood. Marilyn’s house is beyond the wall.

In Ellroy’s book, ex-cop and private eye Fred Otash was deeply involved in the Marilyn Monroe scandals. As Ellroy has said, he had been close to Otash near the end of his life and was going to write a biography. He said he paid some heavy bread to look through Otash’s files and interview him for endless hours, but Ellroy decided finally not to write the biography, he really, deeply, did not like Otash. But armed with immense personal knowledge, he has placed Otash in the spotlight of his historical fiction, and maybe it’s better that way.

Growing up in Hollywood, it was not unusual to hear about Fred Otash, private eye to the Stars, and anyone else who would pay. He worked for Confidential Magazine for years, his job was to check out the scandals and verify them in order to keep the lawyers from suing the magazine out of existence. And one thing was for sure, Otash was mixed up in everything big.

Remember the Lana Turner episode? You know, when her daughter Cheryl allegedly stabbed mobster Johnny Stompinato to death. The first people called in, before the Beverly Hills Police showed up, were Lana’s ex-husband Steve Crane, Cheryl’s father, studio lawyer Jerry Geisler and Fred Otash. The word was that if the Italian mob found out that Lana had killed Johnny, it would have been the end of her. Like really the end. But if the young 14 year old daughter had done it “by accident”, well, she got a pass.

Cheryl Crane

Mobster Mickey Cohen was enraged to hear about the killing. He was a long time pal of Johnny S. and was suspicious of the fast Court inquiry, where Cheryl did not have to testify. He also saw the professional hand of Fred Otash, because long before the cops showed up, Freddy could have been moving bodies and evidence around. Otash later admitted he wiped fingerprints off the knife. The crime scene was suspicious. But that’s why the Studio lawyers paid Otash the big bucks. And when Freddie was a cop, he bragged that he and his partner had grabbed Stompanato and taken him up into a remote area of the Hollywood Hills and beat him badly. Then they stripped him naked and filed a report of a suspicious naked man running around the hills.

Meanwhile Mickey Cohen paid for the funeral. Stompanato was sent back to his home town in Woodstock, Ill., where he was somewhat of a hero, being an ex-combat Marine and veteran. Cohen paid for everything, and word had it that he later had Johnny’s ex-wife file a lawsuit against Lana Turner. The press said it was later settled out of Court for about $20,000. Mickey Cohen was a powerful crime boss at that time, he was making a lot of money book making and betting, among many other scams. It was rumored he had the Sheriff’s Office on the pad, but he also had the Italian mob after him. He survived more attempts on his life than can be believed. But he and his boys would also take jobs from the mobs back east, including the big one: Mickey whacked Bugsy. Click here to read the comments and see the video about that.

Mickey even managed to cheat the radical Zionists. In the late 1940s the radical Jewish community was raising money to send guns and ammunition to Palestine. They were arming Jewish settlers and mercenaries to push the Palestinians off their land in order to create their vision of paradise called Israel. So Cohen hosted a big event in Beverly Hills to raise money for guns for the Zionist armies. Hundreds of rich Jews gave generously and Mickey collected a huge amount of cash. Nothing ever got shipped to Israel, as Cohen says in his autobiography, he just paid off a guy at the Examiner to concoct a story about a ship loaded with guns and ammunition that exploded and sank off the coast of California.

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Jeepers Peepers

One day, I think it was in 1961, my cousin and I were walking home from Hollywood High School, and when we got near my house on Hawthorne Ave, we were shocked to see that in the yard of the bungalow next door was a near-naked young woman running around the yard being chased by an older woman who was hitting her with a strap and yelling a lot of bad things at the younger girl. We were stunned, things like that never happened in those days.

I then noticed that a small group of young women had moved in next door, and a lot of men were coming by at night to visit them. Party time every night. I called my cousin and told him to come over after dinner, that I had noticed there were no curtains up in the house next door, so we could stand in my driveway and see what was really going on there. At twilight we made our way to the driveway and the house next door was only a few feet away, seperated by a 4 foot high chain link fence. As we peered into the bedroom to see what kind of party was going on, I heard a noise a few feet away at the beginning of the driveway. Two burly men in suits hustled up the driveway, putting their fingers up to their lips as if to say “shush”. They jammed badges at us and pushed us aside. Hello Hollywood Vice Squad and goodbye to our observation post. The detectives had tape recorders, cameras and other surveillance things and they spent some time taking photos and sound tapes at the bedroom windows. The next day the cops raided the joint and arrested everyone.

I heard from a neighbor that one of those was Cheryl. She later claimed that she was just at a party at her grandmother’s house that got a little out of control. The neighbor told me that Steve Crane came by in a big car and picked up Cheryl and took her to Beverly Hills. She later worked at the Luau and became a successful realtor. I always felt sorry for her but also admired her bravery. I think she was innocent of the Johnny Stompanato murder, but took the rap for her mother, and suffered a lot for her entire life. When I heard that Johnny was really fond of Cheryl and had given her a horse as a gift, I knew there was no way she would have killed him. She was sent to reform school type places, sent to live with her grandmother, ran away from school a few times, and was spiraling out of control when her dad intervened. I wanted to tell this story to Ellroy, he would appreciate my failed efforts as a peeper, but I never got to talk to him about it. I still feel Cheryl was heroic. How many young girls would take a rap like that for mom?

The end of June, 1962 was to be a turning point of sorts for Cheryl. She got a job up on the Sunset Strip at the Summit Club modeling swimsuits from 5 to 7pm. on Fridays. The Press took notice, she was now 18 years old and described as “shapely”. The ads created a stir and the club would have been packed with men ogling young Cheryl and others parading around in bikinis. Alas for the men, Steve Crane put it to a stop. She was to be a well-dressed hostess at the Luau, and no bikinis, thank you. The Summit had to eat the contract.

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Lila Leeds looked great in bathing suit

In The Enchanters, Ellroy piles on the characters, including Hollywood pin-ups like Lila Leeds and Barbara Payton. They play minor roles with Otash in the story, but they were both real hot properties in Hollywood, and both trashed in the press and scandal mags. Lila Leeds had a good start to her career, but a small party with Robert Mitchum and some pot-smoking led to a vice squad arrest. Mitchum became a Hollywood Bad Boy, and his career soared, but poor Lila was convicted and lost her contracts with the studios. Now there is a strange intersection of events, like for real, that just makes you wonder how in the world this small group of people crossed paths. Dig it:

**Steve Crane married Lana Turner, who divorced him after a short marriage.

** In March 1943, Lana remarried Crane because she had become pregnant.

** Cheryl was born July 25, 1943.

**Lana and Steve Crane divorced in August of 1944.

** In the late 1940s Crane is dating Lila Leeds. They were engaged in 1948.

** Lila had also dated Peter Lawford in the 1940s.

** Lila had a part in Green Dolphin Street starring Lana Turner.

** August 1948 Lila is busted with Mitchum at a pot-smoking party.

** Steve Crane decides it is best to go to Europe for a few years, rather then suffer through all the bad publicity. Amazing how much Lila resembled Lana.

** Lila was convicted and then actually banished from California by the Judge until Feb. 1954. This is the first I ever heard of an individual, especially a celebrity being banished from California. I can’t even imagine if it was legal.

**In 1954 Fred Otash was living at 8640 Wonderland. Weirdly it was just around the corner from 8763 Wonderland where the famous Eddie Nash and John Holmes were involved in the Wonderland murders in 1981.

**Lila’s life just kept getting worse. After starring in the famous marijauna movie, she got into heavy drugs. Toward the end of her life she had come back to Hollywood and opened a thrift shop and helped folks get off drugs.

** Meanwhile, in The Enchanters, Lila and Barbara Payton are working as car-hops at Stan’s Drive in Across from Hollywood High School in August of 1962. We sometimes went to Stan’s on a Saturday date night. And yes, the girls who worked there were hot, although I’m pretty sure Lila wasn’t one of them. But she could have been.

Ellroy loves The Losers Club. This was at 881 North La Cienega on “Restaurant Row.” It was famous for its Loser of the Week sign out in front. In The Enchanters, Fred Otash is working with his crew as bodyguards for Eddie Fisher who actually did appear at the Losers around that time. Ellroy said the Fisher Combo “were all in tight black suits and fruit boots and half on the nod.” Fisher at the Losers while his ex, Elizabeth Taylor was acting like a spoiled Cleopatra at the time with Burton and driving the studio nuts in costly delays. According to Ellroy, Fisher’s Rabbi said of Liz, that she was “the poisonous fruit of the Goyishe Tree.” Indeed, a thought surely shared by Zanuck.

A weird thing happened a couple of weeks after Eddie Fisher made the Loser of the Week on the famous sign out front. As the owner was letting patrons out of the club for the evening, three masked men with pistols robbed the place. They made the patrons lie on the floor while one gunman jumped behind the bar and got the money out of the cash register. The other robber made the manager open the safe in the office and made off with a total of about $700 (over $7,000 in purchasing power in 2023). They did not rob the patrons. The owner said that they were going to put U.S. Steele up as Loser of the Week, but instead had to put themselves on the sign, the big losers was the Loser Club itself.

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An earlier robbery of a nightclub comes to mind. Christmas Eve, 1945. Eddie Nealis owned the Clover Club at 8477 Sunset Blvd., and an nearby gambling joint that was “un-named” at 9216 Sunset. Some masked gunmen robbed the gambling joint and the patrons, including movie star Betty Grable, getting away with an estimated $75,000 in cash and jewelry. Mickey Cohen later admitted to this one, which he said he did “as a favor” to Bugsy Siegel. Club owner Eddie Nealis produced the film Johnny O Clock in 1947. (Film Noir Crime Drama. Interesting Camera Work, watch it on youtube.) He was also, coincidentally married to Doris Hauck, Fred Otash’s ex-wife.

Fred and Doris

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So the first thing of importance that went down in 1962 was on January 2nd, when Jerry Geisler died. He was one of the greatest defense attorneys of the previous decades. He was the link in the chain of life between the family of outlaws, celebrities, cops and mobsters. That small group of people who all knew each other and played off each other like some twisted Shakespearean play. There was a lot going on in 1962. James Ellroy explores what might have been going on behind the scenes, and his character Fred Otash was right in the middle of the soup.

Ellroy’s story goes deep into Hollywood’s woes in 1962. Both Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were causing 20th Century Fox to bleed money and put the studio at risk. Otash is wiretapping Marilyn and spying on Fox and Zanuck. Monroe was a mess and in the midst of torrid relationships with both the Kennedy brothers. Ezra Goodman, author of The Fifty Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, hints that Zanuck gave Marilyn a $450,000 under the table cash bonus to stick with 20th. She showed her gratitude by not showing up on the set and finally getting the boot.

Marilyn’s one time agent, Charles Feldman told Goodman that Marilyn had purchased the rights to the screenplay “Horns of the Devil” for $25,000 from Feldman. For those who think she was just a looney blond, consider that she could be very shrewd behind the little girl next door demeanor. She sold the screenplay later to Fox for $250,000.

Billy Wilder, interviewed by Goodman, had a brutal insight on Marilyn. “The question is whether Marilyn Monroe is a person or one of the greatest Dupont products ever invented. She has breasts like granite and a brain like swiss cheese, full of holes. She defies gravity. She hasn’t the vaguest conception of the time of the day. She arrives late and tells you she couldn’t find the Studio that she’s been working at for years.”

Goodman wrote that Southern California was littered with the remains of people who were involved with her. Marilyn acquires people then gets rid of them — in shifts. She likes to change people in her life like other women change hats. Her last sweeping change exiled her agent Charles Feldman, columnist and very close confident Sidney Skolsky, her close friend and drama coach Natasha Lytess, and her personal West Coast lawyer Frank Delancy. All gone and blocked out of her life in an instant.

Zanuck and Lawford research o’rama.

Back in the real world of 1962 Darryl Zanuck saved the Studio by his obsessive push to produce The Longest Day, shot in black and white and starring a fabulous cast that also included some of the characters in The Enchanters, like Peter Lawford and Richard Burton, who had flown in to shoot some scenes because he was bored with the slow pace of filming Cleopatra.

Looking at 1962, the Kennedy’s had their hands full. The Cuban Missile crises built up from the beginning of the year and almost ended all civilization in a nuclear war in October. In addition, there was JFK’s challenge to go to the moon in September, and the whole segregation system in defiance in early October with James Meradeth escorted to school by Federal Marshalls. The last thing the Kennedy’s needed was Marilyn’s threat to go to the press and expose her affairs with the brothers.

The end was on August 5th when she was “found dead” in her house by her housekeeper. Was she murdered? The Kennedy’s had motive. RFK was in town that night, in fact stopped by a cop. He was allegedly up at Marilyn’s house on 5th Helena early that evening, in a screaming match with Marilyn. And where was Fred Otash? From various sources, Peter Lawford may have been at Marilyn’s after she had overdosed and although he was near drunk or hopped up, he tried to remove anything that would implicate the Kennedys. Later, around 3 am he got in touch with Otash and met him at his office on Laurel, asking him to go up to the house and make sure all matters Kennedy had been removed. Otash refused to go, saying that everyone in town knew him, but that he would send one of his guys up to the house. Too late, the cops were already there with others, so there was no second chance to clean up loose ends.

Fred Otash on TV

The blame for Monroe’s death went down a lot of different paths. Shift the scene to Cosmopolitan Book Shop on Melrose Avenue a few years after Marilyn’s death. Book Shop owner Eli Goodman had been forced to hide his brother Ezra in the back of his book shop. Ezra was a noted Hollywood author and for years was Hollywood correspondent for Time Magazine. Ezra was convinced that the Hollywood Moguls had put out a contract on him for his revelations in The Fifty Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, which came out in 1962, before Marilyn’s death. I had met Ezra there in the shop but had no idea who he was. Wearing an old somewhat shabby suit, a little unshaven, hiding out in the back of the shop (where I would work years later), we got in a heated discussion about his pricing of books. I didn’t know it was Eli’s brother, in mufti, hiding out from Studio Assassins. I just assumed that Eli had hired another eccentric character to work in the shop.

Goodman’s book is a great read – His files may reveal more secrets.

Ezra Goodman had spent months investigating Marilyn Monroe for a big special piece in Time Magazine. He interviewed over 100 people who knew Marilyn, including friends, foster parents, agents, acting coaches, attorneys, directors, producers and others. His report was almost a book length feature story. But as some wags said, Time spelled backwards is emit. The well-documented story that Goodman sent to the editors at Time was emitted in a form that had little or no relation to what he had written.

What Goodman found in his research, was that none of Marilyn’s stories matched up with any reality. Facts, friends and events were nebulous. He pieced together a fascinating portrait of Marilyn which can be read in a shortened version in his book. Natasha Lytess, an important figure in Ellroy’s The Enchanters, was interviewed, and Ellroy has done a superb job of fictionalizing this strange woman who, for a time, was very close to Marilyn. She was always on the set of any filming and was actually paid by Fox for a while, but eventually fired and then dumped by Marilyn. Strangely, Marilyn needed someone she trusted to help her keep it together during filming, and Paula Strasberg later filled in the shoes of Natasha Lytess so to speak.

One of Eli’s best customers was Lee Strasberg, who with his wife Paula exerted tremendous influence on Marilyn Monroe. Paula was on the sets of Marilyn’s films, trying to work with her and keep her focused. The Studio Directors hated it but had to put up with the situation. Anyway, Lee Strasberg would descend on Cosmopolitan once or twice a year and spend a lot of money buying books on acting, celebrities, film history, biographies and such. One of these bight sunny California days, Lee’s driver pulled up his car in front of Cosmopolitian and Lee rushed in and started piling up books to purchase.

Cosmopolitan Book Shop

At this moment, out of the back of the store burst Ezra Goodman, looking like a mad Rasputin. He yelled at Lee “You…..you killed her you bastard! You’re responsible for Marilyn’s death.!” He shouted at Strasberg and lunged toward him. The shock of this attack, coming out of the darkened black pit of the bookstore, put the big fear in Strasberg, who ran out the front of the store with Ezra behind him screaming at him, and jumped into his car and had his driver zoom away at high speed. Eli was devastated. His brother had just run off his best customer, a wealthy Hollywood power broker, who would never return to the shop again. It should be noted that the Strasbergs had a huge influence over Marilyn, and she left them a large portion of her wealth in her will.

I wish I had known about this incident before Ezra died. I would like to have explored why he thought Lee Strasberg was somehow responsible for Marilyn’s death. Ezra knew them both, and knew everyone in Hollywood, so is there something behind all the shouting? I can’t imagine what it would be. Maybe it was just jealousy. The Strasbergs were such close friends with Marilyn. And Ezra at that point in his life, hiding out from mysterious thugs gunning for him, was on the ragged edge himself. We’ll never know what that was, unless Ezra left something in writing, which is possible. His effects were boxed up and are now piled in the rafters of a Quonset hut in the Valley, under the protection of a guy who got all of Eli Goodman’s belongings when he died a few years ago. Some of us would like to look through Ezra’s files if they ever surface. In fact there might be a line of folks who would like to see those files, for many reasons. It’s like the Otash files that got sold to the Hollywood Reporter. We would all like to get a glimpse of them, and see what the Enchanters were really up to in those exciting days of 1962.

Click Here to see video of Ellroy at Chevalier’s Book Shop.

James Ellroy’s dynamic talk at Chevalier’s Book Store

New Bookstore Opens in Downtown Los Angeles

Broadway Goes Beat and Pop Culture

by John Aes-Nihil

Broadway’s New Books Shop

Beatology Vintage/Aes-Nihil Productions Super Store 737 S. Broadway Los
Angles open daily from 10AM to 7PM.  Featuring huge collection of Books,
Records, Tapes, Videos, Hi Fashion, Low Fashion the Photography of
Aes-Nihil-Sun Ra, Stooges, VU, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg,
John Waters, NYC Punk Bands,  and the Aes-Nihil Collection of Sharon
Tate photos from original transparencies & slides.   The only truly
glamorous store left in Los Angeles, amidst the Ultimate Collection of
Remaining Movie Palaces.

Books, collectible and scarce. This Beat’s for you.

An Australian Bookman in Hollywood

Noel Hart Came All The Way From The Land Down Under to Spend Years Working for the Most Eccentric Bookseller Since the Founding of Ancient Rome:  Eli Goodman of Cosmopolitan Book Shop, a Rabbit Hole of Chaos that Even Alice Would Not Dare Go Down.

by Paul Hunt

Cosmopolitan Book Shop

I admit it, I was wrong.  When Arnold Herr wrote his epic book The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookseller, I said that it would be the last book ever written about Cosmopolitan Bookshop.  Arnold Herr’s book is now out of print, and copies are selling for around $100 if you can find one.  But just in time, Noel Hart, another poor soul who suffered for years as an employee and then manager at the book shop, has written a large tome chronicling his years of Melrose madness.  The only catch is that the book is not published in the U.S. and is only available through the author in Australia.

I thought that most of the old time employees were gone to the bookseller’s party in the land of fluffy clouds and ladies playing harps.  I had forgotten about Noel Hart, who had fled Los Angeles and returned to Australia to regain his sanity and sainthood.  Although I had known Eli Goodman for some 20 years, I only had the honor of working at the shop for the last couple years of it’s existence, along with a dear friend by the name of “Five”, and of course, an energetic Arnold Herr who stayed until the end as Store Manager.  Folks in Los Angeles will remember Five during the years that he worked at Bodhi Tree Books in West Hollywood.  He was a writer, a podcaster host of a fun show called Token and Talkin’, an actor, comedian, and great guy.  He has since sadly passed, but I’ll put in a few links to some of his work at the end of this screed.

So, was I surprised to hear that Noel had written a book of over 400 pages about Eli Goodman and Cosmopolitan?  Yeah, shocked that someone was even loonier than me or Arnold Herr, and not only had worked at the shop for 10 years but then spent another number of years mulling it over and actually daring to reveal his experiences to a lethargic public, most of whom have never set foot in a book shop in their entire miserable lives.

I remember once when Arnold Herr and I were having lunch at a landmark coffee shop in Burbank when the waitress asked us what we did for a living.  My first thought was that she was trying to assess just how much service she was going to waste her time on us, or whether her two diners, bearded and shabbily dressed, with books and papers piled on her table, were so suspicious looking that she might dial 9-11 before even giving us a menu.  I piped up that we were booksellers.

“What does that mean, “bookseller”? she said.

“We work in a book shop,” said Arnold.

She smiled and proudly announced that since graduating from high school, she had never read even one book, and I noticed that she was pushing late 50s.  I was trying to calculate roughly how many years that was, between the High School graduation and the current year, how many decades of not reading a book.  My mind locked up at that moment, the silence broken by Arnold.

“That’s OK honey, we won’t hold it against you.  You have that whole stack of menus to read every day.  That’s an ordeal enough for anyone.”

My thought is that all those think tanks pondering the great decline of American education, all the books published trying to determine why our country is behind Peru in reading and Samoa in mathematics.  All the chatter about the declining levels.  My message to all those eggheads is stop gnashing your teeth about it.  Just join Arnold and me for lunch once and you will understand the situation entirely.

And yeah, we still left the old gal a tip.  It wasn’t her fault.  It’s the system. And what difference does it make?  There’s hardly any used book stores left in any big city in America.  And there’s hardly anyone left alive who’s actually worked in one.  Which takes us back to the subject at hand, Noel Hart’s new book.  I’m waiting for my copy to arrive, at which time I’ll have a few more words to say.  A picture of the back cover and the lengthy blurb gives us a preview.  And Noel said he is working on volume 2, which will include a lot of photos.

The back cover.

Contains over 400 pages crammed with intensity from the trenches of the used book business in Los Angeles. SIGNEDLIMITED EDITION, which includes a piece of the bookshop tipped in! This is unique to each copy, a portion of a page printed in 1753, sourced from Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Hollywood (see photographs). SIGNED in full by Australian author Noel Hart in black ink on title page. Introductory note by Arnold M. Herr. Cover artwork by Rom Anthonis. This is a NON-FICTION book. Rear cover blurb: “Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. Around the turn of the millennium. A classic secondhand bookshop, dusty and dirty, shabby with age and happenstance, packed tight with decades of stagnant accumulation. So messy it resembles the aftermath of a major earthquake. Bring a shovel, dig for treasures! Crackly radio jazz can be heard emanating from somewhere. Michael Jackson browses porn in one aisle; a homeless man sleeps on the floor in another; a transvestite hooker works the trade in a secluded corner behind a stack of boxes; a serious collector collates rare seventeenth-century antiquarian volumes near the front counter; a frenetic movie set decorator rents books throughout. All the while at the center of the maelstrom sits 80-year-old owner Eli Goodman, a ruminative, philosophical, New York-born Jew, intelligent and funny, an obsessive hoarder to the extreme, a caricature character who distinctly resembles Woody Allen dropped into a Marx Brothers movie, and who happens to live in a decrepit hovel at the back of the bookshop. For fifty years Eli has presided over the famous and infamous, the bibliophiles, researchers, collectors, decorators, actors, models, musicians, hipsters, the scholarly, shady, and insane, all congealed into a conglomerate crush at Cosmopolitan Bookshop. Longtime store manager Noel Hart, an Australian, captures it all, stuff s it into a mind-blender, then spills it out onto the page. NOTE: What began as a talk given to the Australian Book Collectors’ Society in 2018, then subsequently published verbatim in their journal in 2019, has now been expanded into a book-length narrative by Noel Hart, who managed Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Los Angeles for ten years.” Printed in Australia. Published in 2023 by Bookwood Press, Melbourne. A Blurb Production. Bound in publisher’s original pictorial wraps. A LIKE NEW very nice clean tight solid softcover copy. Uncommon Signed Limited Edition.

Click here to see the actual website of Cosmopolitan Book Shop.

Click Here to see the video I shot during the final days of Cosmopolitan, featuring Captain Jack LeVan and Julie Webster.

Click Here to read RIP Eli Goodman by Paul Hunt and Arnold Herr.

Click Here to read Eli Goodman laid to rest, with photos of Eli, by Paul Hunt.

“Five” catching up on his reading at Book Soup.

Click Here to read “Swami Anaconda Bananarama Answers the Question Who Are We?” (Written by Five, in full costume). Thanks to CartoonBazooka.com.

Click Here to watch the video Swami Anaconda Bananarama Meditation in Griffith Park.

Click Here to read We The Sheeple by Five.  Thanks to CartoonBazooka.

Click Here to read Breakfast With Jesus Freaks.  Thanks CartoonBazooka.

AND FINALLY  Click Here to order the book And That Was Only The Front Counter on Abebooks.com

 

 

J. J. Lally Reference Library Up For Grabs at Christie’s

Lally Dealt in Oriental Art Objects

J.J. Lally

For nearly forty years, J. J. Lally & Co. presented exceptional Chinese works of art to collectors, connoisseurs and museums worldwide. Established in 1986, the gallery was at the forefront of a pivotal moment in time, when New York City emerged as an important center of Chinese art. Situated in the jewel-box gallery in the Fuller Building on 57th Street, J. J. Lally & Co. became known as the intimate space where Chinese masterworks could be admired, contemplated and studied in the tradition of China’s ancient literati. Carefully planned exhibitions accompanied by catalogues with in-depth scholarly research defined the impeccable reputation of the gallery and the esteemed dealer who created it. In the following years, this dedication to quality and scholarship led to the placement of important objects in top museums and collections across the globe.

Visitors to J. J. Lally & Co. will remember the iconic reference library, which also served as a quiet, private space for first-hand viewing, study and discussion. The sale of the library will comprise 116 lots of essential volumes for the new and experienced collector, including reference books, scholarly journals, museum exhibitions, auction catalogues from the 1970s-2021, as well as a complete set of J. J. Lally & Co. exhibition catalogues.

The sale will be open for bidding from 15 March, 8:30 AM to 30 March, 8:30 AM (EDT).
Contact
Margaret Gristina

asianartny@christies.com

+1 212 636 2180

Thomas Pynchon Archive

Huntington Library Gets Pynchon Archive

SAN MARINO, Calif.—The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced today that it has acquired the archive of American author Thomas Pynchon, considered by many to be among the greatest novelists of our time. Comprising 70 linear feet of materials created between the late 1950s and the 2020s—including typescripts and drafts of each of his novels, handwritten notes, correspondence, and research—Pynchon’s literary archive offers an unprecedented look into the working methods of one of America’s most important writers.

The author of eight novels thus far and one short story collection, Pynchon, whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages, has influenced generations of diverse and important writers. “Bringing a writer of Pynchon’s caliber to The Huntington is an expression of our long-standing investment in American
history and culture, while underscoring our commitment to 20th-century and contemporary literature,” said Karen R. Lawrence, president of The Huntington. Lawrence, a literary scholar whose research focuses on James Joyce, noted that The Huntington’s support of advanced research in the humanities, as well as the depth and breadth of the library’s historical collections, will enable contextual and sustained inquiry into Pynchon’s work. The author’s son, Jackson Pynchon, compiled and represented the archive. “When The Huntington approached us, we were excited by their aerospace and mathematics archives, and particularly attracted to their extraordinary map collection,” he said. “When we learned of the scale and rigor of their independent scholarly programs, which provide exceptional resources for academic research in the humanities, we were confident that the Pynchon archive had found its home.”

Born on Long Island in 1937, Thomas Pynchon attended Cornell University and served two years in the Navy. While working as a technical writer for Boeing, he wrote his first novel, V., which was published to immediate critical acclaim in 1963 and won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for best debut novel. Pynchon’s follow-up novel, The Crying of Lot 49, became an instant cult classic. Published in 1966, it has since become one of the most frequently adopted American novels in university courses worldwide. In 1974,
Pynchon received the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow, a touchstone of American postwar literature that Tony Tanner deemed “one of the great historical novels of our time and arguably the most important literary text since Ulysses.” The author received a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1988, and his most recent novel,
Bleeding Edge, was short-listed for the National Book Award in 2013. When critic Harold Bloom was asked in 2009 which single work of American fiction he would choose from the last century for his “canon of the American sublime,” he said, “It would probably be Mason & Dixon, if it were a full-scale book, or if it were a short novel it would probably be The Crying of Lot 49. Pynchon has the
same relation to fiction, I think, that my friend John Ashbery has to poetry: He is beyond compare.” An author who defies easy classification, Pynchon wrestles with the transcendence and the tragedy of American history, his voice marked by a yearning for the beauty of America’s ideals, a frustration with the depth
of the nation’s contradictions, and a cautious optimism in the promise it offers the world. As Anthony Lane wrote in his review of Mason & Dixon, “The novel is as tolerant and capacious as its creator would like an ideal America to be.”
Unlike many American novelists who are associated with only one region, Pynchon has set his novels from coast to coast and beyond. However, “Pynchon’s interest in American history has also been one that returns repeatedly to California—from The Crying of Lot 49 to Vineland to Inherent Vice,” said Karla Nielsen, The Huntington’s curator of literary collections. Inherent Vice, his 2009 private-eye novel set in 1970s Los Angeles, was adapted into a film by Paul Thomas Anderson in 2014.

“We expect Pynchon’s archive to attract profound attention from those wishing to better understand his work,” noted Sandra Ludig Brooke, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. “We are honored that Pynchon has entrusted his papers to The Huntington and look forward to stewarding them into a long future
for American cultural history.” The Huntington is home to more than 11 million library items and annually provides access to some
2,000 scholars, who use the collections in their research projects and many of whom are funded through a robust fellowship program. The Library holds significant manuscripts by the most important writers of the 15th through the early 20th centuries, ranging from Chaucer to Shakespeare, Mary Shelley to Charles Dickens, and
Edgar Allan Poe to Jack London. Later 20th-century literary archives include the papers of Kingsley Amis, Christopher Isherwood, Charles Bukowski, and Octavia E. Butler.

The Pynchon archive is currently being processed and is slated to be opened to qualified researchers within the next year.

# # #

Lawyers of Los Angeles

New Book Digs Deep Into the Dramatic History of the Lawyers of the L.A. Bar Association and Some of the Cases that Shaped Jurisprudence

Kathleen Tuttle has written an historical history of the Lawyers of the Los Angeles Bar Association. It is not a dry history of certain lawyers, but a dynamic look at many of the court cases that shaped our history and culture. She dug through old oral histories and found the answers as to why certain law firms, judges, and lawyers got involved with some of the biggest cases in Los Angeles local history. A great read and a book packed with local history.  Click below to watch the video Interview of Kathleen Tuttle. She is interviewed by Judge Marc Marmaro (ret). here in Los Angeles, Sunday August 15, 2021.

The book is available at Chevalier’s Book Store in Los Angeles.

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Dan Glickman: Laughing At Myself

New Book Presents Highlights From a Career in Government and Industrry

Mr. Glickman appeared at Los Angeles Book Shop Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont on June 21st.  He was in conversation with Daniel Weiss and spoke about his lengthy career.  Click below to hear his talk – this is an audio recording with a few photos. Mr. Glickman and Mr. Weiss were introduced by Book Store owner Bert Deixler.  The store recently moved into a beautiful location on the west side of Larchmont, a village-like shopping area teaming with shoppers.

Chevalier’s Books, 133 S. Larchmont, Los Angeles.

Dan Glickman

Dan Glickman in conversation with Daniel Weiss