Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Peroxide Blonde (Haunted Hollywood Part I)

"Open the fucking door!"

A chilly breeze enveloped Thelma Todd's scantily clad body.

The glittering lights of Hollywood danced around the building, but the gorgeous starlet was too drunk and too cold to care. After a night of partying at the hottest nightclub in town (and had she gone to a few other places? She couldn't remember. The whole night was a blur), she was now at her boyfriend's apartment. She didn't even know how she got there.

She banged on the door again.

"Let me the fuck in, Roland!"

No answer.


She burst into tears and finally turned around and stumbled down a never-ending staircase. She tripped on the last step and fell down, scraping her bare knee. The world seemed to be spinning. God, she felt like puking. All over Roland's doorstep. Maybe his crazy wife would step in it.

The thought made Thelma smile.

As she walked over to the garage, the star-lit sky faded into pitch black.

The next morning her dead body was discovered inside her running Lincoln convertible, sitting in the garage. Her favorite slinky cocktail dress was clinging to her body. An expensive fur coat wrapped her body protectively.

Despite the bruises on her throat, the two cracked ribs, and the broken nose, the police determined the 28-year-old's death was an accident. She must have gone to her car, turned it on inside the garage, and then passed out drunk, dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, they stated in their report, ignoring the fact that she had clearly been beaten up beforehand.

But people in Thelma's life knew better. And when the details of the peroxide blonde's scandalous adventures were revealed, the public became obsessed.

This was not a girl who died of carelessness.

This was a girl who died of murder.

And there were many people who wanted her dead.

A decade before, when Thelma was a 19-year-old beauty queen on the East Coast, a talent scout encouraged her to try her luck in Hollywood. Upon the move, she quickly discovered fame and fortune in the movie industry. She played the sexy blonde in a string of hit comedies.

But behind the camera, the vivacious actress was a hot mess.

Thelma was dangerously attracted to older, rich men who physically abused her, just like her own father had years before. And she was obsessed with sex, constantly spreading her legs for every guy who offered a simple compliment. She couldn't help it. She craved feeling gorgeous. She needed to feel desired. Without sex, she felt worthless and that was a feeling which terrified her.

She was also addicted to diet pills, stemming from her studio contract, which stated that if she ever gained more than five pounds, her career would be immediately terminated.

Her partying lifestyle introduced her to a rough crowd. Her first husband was a gangster who beat the shit out of her. When Thelma finally left him, she secretly worried that one day he would take revenge. It was a fear always nagging in the back of her mind.

In 1931, Thelma fell in love with her married director, Roland West. His wife, Jewel, didn't bother her. She was annoying and her looks were fading and she clearly couldn't please him in bed. Obviously, no competition.

Plus, she wasn't planning on being entirely faithful either. Thelma couldn't help being attracted to other men and was too weak to fight off her sexual temptations.

In fact, it was her unfaithfulness which was the reason Roland never opened his door for her that crisp December night. He was inside, bitterly ignoring her drunken pleas, too proud to take her back.

And then there was Lucky. Thelma didn't even know how she got herself wrapped up into that mess. Lucky Luciano was the scariest mobster in the Los Angeles area.

When Thelma and Roland opened up their restaurant, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, a year before, it had become an overnight success, attracting the Hollywood in-crowd and tourists. Thelma couldn't have been more proud. Here she was, proving to the world that she was more than just a pretty face and nice piece of ass. She was a businesswoman. A real powerhouse!

But one day Lucky just appeared in her life. They'd slept together a few times, after downing bottles of Dom Perignon. He'd rough her up a bit, but nothing she couldn't handle. Then, one afternoon Lucky told her he wanted to take over her nightclub for the mafia. Outraged, she told him to fuck off. The look in his eyes told her she might have taken things too far.

And amidst this mess, this circus of a life she'd created for herself out in paradise, Thelma wound up dead.

The fake friends she'd collected at her side wept for the cameras and told reporters it was a "shock."

Almost exactly two years later, Thelma's ex-husband murdered an actor at the very same nightclub where she had last been seen.

Her lover, Roland, became a recluse and never made another film. He later confessed to murdering her on his deathbed in 1952, but since he was mentally unstable from a stroke, the police dismissed it.

Her money-hungry mother, Roland's bitter wife, and a string of lovers also appeared as possible suspects. But nothing could be proved. And the police, eager to wrap up the media frenzy, stopped analyzing the situation by labeling it an accident.

To this day, nobody knows what really happened to Thelma that night in 1935.

Nobody knows who did it.

But that person got away with it. And they took the details to their grave.

Leaving Hollywood with the mystery.


ravenlocks said...


Okay, I'm ready for Part 2 now ;) When I first started reading this, I thought it was a modern day story. The way you painted out the visuals made me think it was another Paris Hilton or Lindsay. The first part makes it so much more real.

Who do you think did it? I want to say it was her lover, the one who admitted it later. But this is really weird.



Bunny Moreno said...

Fabulous! Very well written!! I am soo ready for part 2, bring it on!

Such a shame. The cops were obviously covering it up-sounds fishy. Who knows who it could have been. Very sad-Roland and his wife Jewel's lives were tragic afterwards. She never remarried or had children and they both went into seclusion...maybe it was both of them? Maybe she beat her up til she was unconscious and he put her in her car etc.

I also wonder why she slept around so much. Why she needed so much attention. She was stunning though and those! 1930s actresses were not built like her hehe xox

Shybiker said...

What a sad story. And so frighteningly true. You told it beautifully.

Most of us have psychological troubles (e.g., need for attention) but it's tragic when those weaknesses are exploited by others (e.g., predatory men). This story is a cautionary tale about what's wrong with our society (i.e., deeply-engrained sexism).

Sherin said...

What a story! And what a mystery. It's always interesting to read about the starlets of yesteryear.

Meri said...

I feel guilty but I get so wrapped up in these soap-opera esque stories! What a sad story of another woman getting ripped apart by hollywood. Very nicely written!

Couture Carrie said...

OMG what an amazing and haunting story, darling, and so beautifully told by you!


Carolyne O' said...

Wooooow! I want the second part! Write it soon!
I'm your 887 follower if you like my blog too I'm waiting for you :)


The Dainty Dolls House said...

I need part two now...loved this :))) x

Cafe Fashionista said...

This is one of those unsolved mysteries that is going to eat away at me. It's so obvious that foul play was involved; I cannot stand that a further investigation wasn't conducted. Part 2, please! :)

Selma @ Crazy Little World Of Mine said...

Old Hollywood and its craziness...oh where am I? This never fully ends. :(

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

It was THE MOB!!! Oh gosh, you definitely don't tell them No. No is not in their vocabulary. She lived and died on the edge. Great story Jen!!!

A BRIT GREEK said...

So ready for part deux...
Such an old school beauty and tragic story, still don't know how you find these random young starlets with disasterous lives!

Anonymous said...

When will we read part 2? Can't wait. You have such a talent for telling thrilling stories!
Poor Thelma... Reality behind sotlights... She was obviously meant to have a miserable ending. It was her destiny.

Anne (Playing With scarves)

Amy K said...

Great blog. Would you like to follow each other?

Much Love,

Oh to Be a Muse said...

Thelma's story, and all the other similar stories that you feature on here, are now starting to make me feel like Lindsay Lohan isn't that bad. It seems she is just living the Hollywood starlet life, and she might end up being written about on your blog one day. You always write the life stories of these women so well.

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