Know Your Bunker Hill B-Girls

Meet Ruth Winters, 31, of 350 S. Figueroa (site of the Bowman brothers’ asphyxiation by cyanide gas poisoning), an angular blonde with a naughty smile and a way with the fellas. Despite her considerable charms, Ruth is on of the most detested women on Bunker Hill, or at least she is if you judge her by the names bestowed upon her by the Times and the thick stack of hysterical city ordinances set forth to curb her profession.

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Yes, Ruth is one of those "harpies of Main Street," a B-girl at Marco’s Cafe at 513 S. Main, and Ruth is one of the best in the business (she’s the one with the world-weary eyes sitting in the front row, above).

When Marco’s makes a new hire, bartender Patsy Figlio always tells the girls to follow the "experienced bust-out girl" Ruth’s lead. Pick your mark, clean out his wallet, and get rid of him fast. And if he leaves with so much as a dime in his pocket, you’d better believe you’ll catch hell from Patsy.

Marco’s owner Louis Lobel told the girls to lay low when the heat was on, and Patsy made sure they worked the crowd hard when it wasn’t, and the whole thing works out just grand provided that the poor sap with the empty wallet is too embarrassed to let on to anyone that he got fleeced.

But then Marine Sergeant William R. Okerman decided to visit Marco’s with $10 in cash, and 6 $20 traveler’s checks in his pocket. Ruth moved in, embracing Okerman as he entered the bar and asking him how long since he’d had a woman. What happened next was all a blur. Ruth teased, Patsy poured champagne cocktails, and in a scant 30 minutes, the pair had taken Okerman for all he had.

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The shameless Sgt. Okerman made a complaint to the police, right around the same time that Kathleen Krischenowski, a former Marco’s waitress, went in to apply for a job. She was horrified by what she saw, and connected with the LAPD vice detail. She and two other waitresses turned undercover informant, and told the police what was going on at Marco’s.

Their reports led to the arrests of Figlio, Lobel, Winters, and another b-girl, Beverly Reed. They were charged with violation of 8 municipal laws, including indecent exposure, being lewd and dissolute, and conspiracy to violate the city’s b-girl ordinance, including 44 overt acts too filthy to print.

It was the first time that the District Attorney’s office had sought felony charges in a case involving violation of the b-girl ordinance, which had been in effect since 1939 (and drastically expanded after b-girls moved their trade to soda shops).

In the end, all four entered guilty pleas, though Winters and Reed were allowed to plead to misdemeanor charges. Lobel and Figlio were sentenced to 3 years in Chino, while the women faced 6 months in the city jail.

Dome Denizen Smith

July 14, 1949

Grace E. Smith made the Dome her home. From there she made the trek to work down to the Belmont Grill. It’s 1949. She’s a B-girl.

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Vice has been coming down on prosties of late and joints like the Belmont that run B-girl operations are a thorn in the side of decent society. The racket is simple: the gals chat up the fellas, and as a gal mingles with the patrons she induces them to buy more drinks. Her bourbons are colored water or ice tea; she gets a commission of those sales. And if she takes off with her new friend, we’ll call him, oh, John, the tavern owner gets a cut of her earnings. Repeat.

After a while Vice gets tired of dealing with pimp beat downs, or customers given the mick finn, so it’s time to round up the ladies. Grace E. Smith, 28, won’t get to go home to her little room at the Dome tonight, popped as she was at the Belmont for violating the municipal B-girl ordinance. Tomorrow morning she’ll be out on $100 bail.

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Grace’s boss Nathan Bass, owner of the Belmont, has been supbeanoed to testify before the county grand jury in its current vice inquiry into the Brenda Allen police pay-off probe. (Bass had been in the news last month when he, as a pal of LAPD Lieutenant Wellpott, had wiretaps of his phone calls played at the PD/Allen vice hearings.) Bass went on to testify that famously dirty Sgts. Stoker and Jackson would meet in the Belmont.

The next mention of Grace E. Smith—one wonders if it’s she and the same—is in 1953: a Lena S. Reed, 72, was to leave her $8,000 estate ($61,857 USD 2007) to her family but just before her demise opted to bequeath it to Mrs. Edna W. “Mail Fraud” Ballard (aka St. Germain, aka Joan of Arc, aka Lotus Ray King), cofounder of the I AM religious movement. A judge blocked probate when the family filed contest, accusing Mrs. Ballard of “exerting undue influence on Mrs. Reed while she was in ill health and mentally disturbed.” The same accusations were made against the secretary of the organization’s St. Germain Foundation, and executor of the will, one Grace E. Smith.

No mention as to whether this Grace E. Smith lived in the Dome.