Trouble at the Bella Napoli


Location: Second and Hill Streets
Date: September 2, 1917

When George Luvich walked into the Bella Napoli Cafe with the intention of encouraging Mrs. Ethel Vluanik to leave with him,  he certainly didn’t expect to make the next morning’s headlines as a "crazed Austrian" who had "[run] Amuck." But you know how these things can escalate.

Sure, Ethel didn’t want to go, but she would have, if it wasn’t for that do-gooder movie actor Eugene Corey (presently residing at the Hotel Northern, real name Gino Corrado), who took it upon himself to come to the lady’s aid and remove Luvitch from the building.  

Well, what would you do? Luvitch pulled a gun, went back in and chased Corey out the back door, where he hopped the fence and went straight to the cops, the dirty fink. Patrolman R.P. Marks, several colleagues and a few newspapermen drove towards the Bella Napoli, arriving on the scene just after Luvitch shot at a man standing across the street, then ran south down Hill Street. As Marks pursued him, Luvitch wheeled out of a doorway and pulled his trigger twice, but the gun misfired. Marks managed to disarm the gunman, and he was marched off to the pokey on charges of attempted murder and assault.

If you’re a serious L.A. crime buff, you have been reading this tale with a slight sense of familiarity. Bella Napoli, you muse, isn’t that the place where the visiting New York mobsters got it and went face down in their ragu? Ah, but that was a different Bella Napoli, on Vermont Avenue, in the distant year 1933. Here’s a nice little apology ad the proprietor took out in the Times after the incident.

And the photo at the top is Eugene Corey in middle years, channeling George Luvich for a role.

Author: Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.