Everyone who has seen the legendary film Chinatown often wonders if L.A. was really such a corrupt place in the 1920’s and 30’s as it was portrayed in the movie. In A word; yes. Aside from all the positive aspects to living in Southern California at the time, it was also a haven for the underworld and corrupt politicians fairly ruled the city and just about every aspect of it.
Fighting that corruption was difficult, often dangerous and sometimes had deadly results. One such person who went after City Hall was Clifford Clinton. Clinton, who gave L.A. Clifton’s Cafeteria, was also a tireless muckraker around Metropolitan L.A. – himself the object of an assassination attempt and one who managed to expose much of the corruption in L.A. during the 1930s and early 40s.
One figure that was prominently fixed in Clinton’s radar was District Attorney Buron Fitts, one of the most corrupt public officials in California history. He had succeeded Asa Keys, who was also covered in corruption.
Clinton ran a three-times-daily radio program, sometimes co-hosted with his son, and ceaselessly hammered over the corrupt officials and politics which ran the city.
This broadcast, from August 20, 1940, has Clinton and his son describing the palatial digs of Buron Fitts’ home in Arcadia, and goes through a laundry list of connections who provided this “civil servant” the funds and the ability to live in this mansion.
For all the nostalgia about Los Angeles before it became a clogged Megalopolis, the fact that it was a hub for the Entertainment world and rear-round ideal weather didn’t hide the reality that it was a corrupt little place going back a very long time.
Here is that broadcast as it was heard on the afternoon of August 20, 1940.