Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ice Cream Blonde

By Courtney Sheets

I was surfing the TV the other night in a fit of rampant insomnia and I ran across a movie called, Clear Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd, starring Loni Anderson. This was not the first time I'd seen this made-for-TV 1980s gem, but it had been awhile. (If you haven't seen this film, check it out. It is a fun flick with Loni looking gorgeous and over acting).
Thelma Todd was a movie star in the Silent Era. She was known as the Ice Cream Blonde and Hot Toddy to her friends. She was in several movies, 119 in all, during the course of her career and starred with some of the best comedic stars of the Silent Era. For example, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon and Laurel and Hardy.  She had an affair with her director Roland West of the movie Corsair.
In August of 1934, she opened a successful cafe in the Palisades called, of course, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe. She attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood elite, tourists, and..... (drum roll, please) gangsters.
Toddy had a penchant for drinking and dangerous men. She had so many drunken car crashes going from party from party; the studio demanded she have a chauffeur. After opening the cafe and moving into the apartment above with West, Todd began an affair with Charles "Lucky" Luciano. (Yep, that Lucky Luciano)
Lucky got Toddy hooked on  amphetamines in order to keep her line. He kept pressuring our Ice Cream Blonde to let him use one of the upstairs rooms as an illicit gambling den, but she flatly refused. After one such row with the notable gangster, Toddy shouted in the middle of the Brown Derby, "Over my dead body!" Supposedly, Lucky responded "That can be arranged."
Sure enough on December 16th, 1935 Thelma was found dead by her maid, May Clearhead, slumped over the steering wheel of her convertible. The ignition was on, but the engine was not. There were two gallons of fuel inside the car, and a smudged handprint on the door. She was 29-years-old. She had blood on her forehead.
The L.A. Surgeon estimated the time of death between 5 and 8 am on Sunday morning. He explained the blood as being a result of Thelma hitting her head against the steering wheel.
No one really knows what happen to Thelma Todd. Some say that she was killed by Lucky and his men. Some say accident.
    Thelma Todd was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery and you can visit her grave if you ever visit.
Hollywood is full of unsolved mysteries and mayhem. As a writer I love exploring the darker aspects of human nature and the darker sides of history. What stories intrigue you most?

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