by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A post on this blog in October 2018 concerning the 1929 sexual assault trial of Alexander Pantages, accused of an attack on teenage dancer Eunice Pringle led to a presentation last fall on the topic. A surprising and vital last-minute addition to the discussion was the participation of Marcy Worthington, the only child of Eunice and who provided a remarkable personal dimension to the story that largely focused on the prominent Pantages, proprietor of a highly successful chain of theaters throughout the western United States and elsewhere in the country.
The story of Pantages and Pringle will be reprised on Thursday, 13 February at the Orange County Historical Society’s monthly meeting at Trinity Episcopal Church at 2400 N. Canal Street in Orange and Marcy will again be there to take part, so we certainly hope those of you reading this will consider attending. We are also awaiting confirmation of a third presentation in collaboration with the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation, which, if this comes to pass, will take place in one of the old theaters on Broadway.
Moreover, the original Pantages Theater at 534 S. Broadway and long known as the Arcade after Pantages built a much larger and more opulent theater at 7th and Hill in 1920 (later the Warner Downtown Theatre), is undergoing renovation. Gary Leonard, who has been the official photographer at Homestead events for years now, snapped the image here just last week as work has begun. Finally, Pantages completed the theater that still bears his name in Hollywood in 1930 as his legal issues continued.
It was at the original Broadway location where tonight’s highlighted artifact from the museum’s collection is concerned. It is a program for the week of 16 January 1911 with its original owner adding a pencil inscription on the front page: “Jan. 21, 1911, Mama, Walter, Vie and me.”
The “unequalled vaudeville” performed during that week was a typical mix of comedy, music, animal acts, and more that doesn’t measure up to the flaming torches on the cover that include the words “Literature, Art, Music and Drama,” but certainly was the type of menu of entertainment that satisfied a mass audience looking for entertainment, rather than the “legitimate theater” offered elsewhere.
As noted in the October 2018 post, Pantages, a native of Greece, made his modest start in entertainment during the ferment of the Yukon gold rush in the area of Canada next to Alaska and then hit his stride in Seattle. Soon, he had a significantly sized circuit that included, in late 1910, the opening of the Broadway theater. This program, then, came just a few months after his venue opened.
The theater offered a 2:30 matinee and evening shows at 7 and 9 p.m., while weekends and holidays brought performances at 6:30, 8, and 9:30 p.m. These began with the Pantages Orchestra, led by John Mulieri, who was a violinist as well as conductor of the ensemble, performing pieces from popular American composer Thomas H. Rollinson.
After that came a range of vaudeville performers, the descriptions of which sound typical for the genre. For example, there were Burling & Urban, “the dancing comedians;” The 4 Sensational Olivers, billed as “America’s Famous Troupe of Tight Wire Artists;” little person Major James D. Doyle, “The Good Little Man-Comedian” and “formerly star of Lilliputian Company;” and Mademoiselle Hengleur “presenting her troupe of beautiful prize Russian poodles and champion challenge jumping dogs, direct from The Palace, London.”
The headlining performer was Wilson Franklyn, who with a quartet of a supporting cast, performed in “My Wife Won’t Let Me,” a farce about a London vicar and henpecked husband who through a “street accident” is found with a dancer, that is, a “music hall artist” named Princess Ballenio, in his home. Franklyn, with a different cast, performed the piece at the American Music Hall in New York the previous summer and the New York Dramatic Mirror reported that the comedy was a success even if new actors were not as successful as ones in a prior presentation in the city.
Press notices were generally positive of much of the Pantages bill. The Los Angeles Express of 17 January stated that “the audience found it difficult to warm up to the introductory acts” but once Franklyn and company launched into their performance “patrons proceeded to laugh their money’s worth” and the paper proclaimed that the piece “supplies all the excuse for convulsing action.”
The paper liked “The Great American Four,” which were advertised as “some singers singing some songs and some comedy,” but complained “they are inclined to cut their act too short.” The dog act of Mlle. Hengleur was “remarkably clever” and it managed to “hold the interest of the audience for 15 minutes” while doing this “prettily and gracefully, without the usual fuss and snarling.” Doyle, while “comical in appearance,” likely due simply to his size, “should learn a funny monologue.”
As for the Los Angeles Times, it began its analysis with the observation that, “in reviewing a popular priced vaudeville bill, one must of necessity consider the cost of admission to the patron.” Given this, it went on, “the programme at [the] Pantages this week is well worth the charge at the box office.”
Notably, however, the unnamed reviewer wrote “there is but one act calling for serious consideration or special commendation and strange to say, it is an animal act.” The show put on by Hengleur, said here to be British, and her pooches “is by all odds the classiest dog act upon the vaudeville stage today.” Hengleur “makes a nice appearance” while “the dogs do everything that has been seen here before and a few dozen tricks that have never been exhibited in this city.”
Not much was said about the Franklyn troupe, other than that they “present the broadest farce. As for the Great American Four, they were “big, good natured fellows, whose splendid voices are a delight and whose comedy efforts are painful.” Little was said about Burling & Urban while the Four Olivers “have nothing startling to offer.” Doyle got better reviews than in the Express to the extent that in the telling of stories “those told upon himself” led to “getting the greatest number of laughs.”
Invariably, advertisements in publications like this can also be interesting as windows into what was happening in a city or town at a given time. There is a quite a variety in the program, including clothing-related businesses like tailors and milliners; barbers and hairdressers; public baths; a candy and ice cream shop; a bar; a kosher restaurant; Peco’s Dancing Academy; and others.
A couple, however, that stand out for their grand promises of medical treatments. One simply states that “no matter what ails you, consult the great specialist of Berlin, Germany, now located at Walker Auditorium” on Grand between 7th and 8th “and we assure you that if your disease is curable, he certainly will cure you, as he positively takes no incurable diseases.”
Yet, this miracle worker wasn’t even named, which should have been a red flag. But, it seems likely that at least a few people “who patronize our theater” and, therefore, got a free consultation with the mystery healer, took the offer.
Then there was Dr. Galen R. Hickok, who claimed nearly a half-century of “curing cancer” with 23 years experience in Los Angeles and whose office was in the Bryson Block at the corner of Spring and Second streets, where a Los Angeles Times annex was built in the 1930s.
The good doctor used an image of an octopus to claim that “cancer and tumors cured by our dissolvent injection methods, and healing plasters.” He also touted the fact that “breast cases CURED WITHOUT deformity or bad scar” and offered that there was no payment without a successful treatment and “written guarantees in each case.”
To lure his potential patients, including those who suffered from “diseases of women” or who need “confinements with or without adoption,” Hickok warned that “delays are dangerous and mean surgical operations and the use of THE KNIFE” so free consultations and examinations were offered 9 to 5 daily and 10-12 on Sunday.
The reference to confinements is simply a reference to abortions performed by Hickok, who was considered a “naturopath” using such alternative treatments as herbs, massage, and other natural remedies. In 1920, the California State Journal of Medicine presented a “Historical Sketch of Galen R. Hickok,” which contained the fantastic story of stolen identity by a man only identified as Thompson or Zangwell, who assumed the name of a Kansas mortgage company president, who, however, did graduate from a medical college and practiced in about a dozen states in the Midwest and South between 1899 and 1902.
His diploma and state board certifications, however, were stolen from his hotel room in Ulysses, Kansas by a man (Thompson/Zangwell) described as “a little, dark Hebrew” assumed to be of Polish or Russian heritage, though he claimed to be born from a German father and an English mother in England. Census and other records, however, indicate he was born in Missouri with the 1910 in Los Angeles saying his father was born in England and his mother in Hungary, though the 1920 and 1930 enumerations show both parents as also born in Missouri. In 1904, a license to practice medicine was issued in Nevada to the fraudulent Hickok.
Five years later, “Dr. Hickok” showed up in Los Angeles and submitted the 1899 diploma as part of his application for a license to the Naturopathic Association of California. He was approved and registered with the state but “was subsequently expelled from the association for unprofessional conduct.” From 1909 to 1914, he practiced in Los Angeles, but “during the entire period he was frequently under investigation as an alleged abortionist.”
A specific example from March 1911, just two months or so after the ad in the Pantages Theater program, involved a Los Angeles woman who went to Hickok’s office in the Bryson Block seeking an abortion. He replied that he would immediately perform the procedure and that “he had a home that was all prepared for confinement cases.”
Two months later, H.T. Morrow, a lawyer who handled prosecutions for the State
Board of Medical Examiners in Southern California, reported that Hickok was “one of the worst abortionists in town and against whom we have devoted a great deal of effort” and that he “closed his office and left this city.” He then decamped to San Francisco, where he was arrested in 1913 for “committing an unlawful operation.”
In 1914, however, Hickok was back in Los Angeles and in partnership with three men, but went back to San Francisco the following year where he had a fifty-fifty profit sharing arrangement with another alleged abortion provider. While the journal indicated that the state board sought a revocation of Hickok’s license from 1911, he proved particularly adept at evading the serving of papers and at going in hiding for long enough for a citation to become void. He was arrested four times between 1916 and 1918 on suspicion of performing abortions.
After efforts to publicly serve papers at Berkeley, San Francisco and what was known as the “Mystery Castle” (built by a San Francisco lawyer) at Salada Beach in Pacifica southwest of San Francisco, Hickok was finally served in October 1919. “Legal obstacles were immediately forthcoming,” the journal added, and in June 1920, after a hearing at which Hickok sent his attorney, “through default of witnesses it was found necessary to dismiss the charge.” Notably, Hickok, in the federal census that year taken in January, stated he was a “financier.”
After another doctor, Ephraim Northcott, was convicted that year of murder in the death of a woman on which he performed an abortion, Hickok abruptly closed his practice and went underground for a few months, but resurfaced in September. When San Francisco police went in search of a missing married woman treated by Hickok, they raided the “Mystery Castle’ and found three females, aged 14, 18 and 21 “confined to bed, alleged to have been criminally operated on by the alleged spurious Hickok.”
The doctor was found at his Berkeley home and arrested on the charge of performing an abortion and another for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This time, Hickok could not slip from the shackles of the law and was convicted at a San Mateo County court trial. A 1921 issue of the state board journal reported that he was “sentenced to serve from two to five years in San Quentin for performing an illegal operation.”
The article noted that Hickok had long been covered in the press for his “escapades” and which led to the impression among some that he was a legitimate doctor. It went on to note that “if it were not for a vigilant State Board of Medical Examiners drugless Hickoks would be attempting all kinds of operations with impunity” and that they were “a constant menace to the public health.”
Hickok arrived at San Quentin in March 1922 and served three years and seven months, being paroled in October 1925. He returned to San Francisco and was shown in the 1926 city directory as a tailor. In the federal census in 1930, however, he was listed as a physician and surgeon.
He died in November 1938 at about age 68, but amazingly, the prior year, his son Max, a 30-year old Oakland chiropractor, was convicted of second-degree murder in a horribly botched abortion of a 46-year old woman. Like his father, Max, after an appeal, went to San Quentin, arriving the day his father died, and served three years of a five years to life sentence before being paroled.
This program, interesting as it is for its association with Alexander Pantages and as a snapshot into vaudeville and Los Angeles theaters in the early 1910s, is yet another example of how an artifact can reveal surprising, hidden stories, evidenced by the Hickok advertisement. On the surface, it seemed to be just another of the many quack medicine ads readily found at the time, but, with a little searching, it proved to have a much deeper and darker historical story behind it.