Hollywood Speakeasy Prohibition

Bizarre Tales: Speakeasy Murder of Eddie Diggins

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Bizarre Tales: HUNT SLAYER OF MOVIE STUNT MAN
Famous Cinema Figures Involved In Fatal Row At Hollywood Night Club

HOLLYWOOD, March 26, 1927 –(UP)—Equipped with a list, said to include several prominent screen and stage actors, detectives began a search here today for eye-witnesses to the murder of Eddie Diggins, movie stunt man and former prizefighter.

Eddie Diggins
Eddie Diggins

Diggins was stabbed through the heart in a free-for-all fight in the Crescent Club, alleged film colony bootlegging establishment, earlier today.

Six gallons of wine, five gallons of alcohol and 21 bottles of gin were confiscated following a raid on the resort, police said. 

After taking depositions sworn to by Lloyd Hamilton, noted screen comedian: Billy Jones, stock player and companion of Diggins; Jimmie [sic] Sinclair and Jack Waggoner [sic], movie directors, and Mrs. Charles Meehan, declared the stabbing resulted from the efforts of an organized gang.

“It appears from what the witnesses say that the fight was started by a gang,” Captain Edward Slaughter, chief of the Hollywood detective division announced after questioning six principals and ordering the arrest of ten other witnesses.

“It is possible that the Crescent club management brought into play its bouncing gang to end the fight and caused the lights to be turned out,” he said.

Charles Meehan, who told police he was a brother of E.O. Meehan, Jr., special agent of the Department of Justice here, was being held as a suspect.

According to the deposition made by Jones, the fight started when Meehan and Diggins engaged in an argument.

“I saw my pal Diggins fighting with Meehan and rushed in. The fight started in a flash and someone hit me over the head with a chair and I went down,” Jones said.

“I felt somebody kicking me and when I got up the lights went off and then flashed on again. There was Diggins on the floor and I rushed over to aid him when Lloyd Hamilton came in and helped me.

“Hamilton was really the goat because he had gone out of the room and came back just as the fight ended. We were trying to revive Diggins when the police came,” Jones said.

Lloyd Hamilton
Comedian Lloyd Hamilton

The night club patrons who were taken into custody by police were William Jones, Joe Santinelli, John F. St. Claire[sic], Jack Wagoner [sic] and Mrs. Irene Meehan.

Recently, Diggins had been playing in motion pictures and was seen usually in the company of persons engaged in the film profession. According to associates, he had appeared in several recent productions and was on the threshold of a promising movie career.

****

The Crescent “Athletic” Club was originally located at , and is now part of a parking lot belonging to Selma Avenue Elementary School. It was a typical Hollywood bungalow “reconstructed to make space for one large and two smaller dining rooms, a bar, and a kitchen.”

Cherokee Street
1626 Cherokee Street

The owner of the property was J.S. Mecks, who leased the bungalow to L.V. Martin for the purpose of opening a “tea shop.” Mecks told police that he had no idea at the time that the Crescent Club operated as an illegal speakeasy, despite its nightly overflow of expensive cars parked near the premises.

About 20 – 30 people were said to have been at the club the night Diggin’s died, but most of them fled soon after the lights turned off. The ruckus started around 3:00 a.m. in one of the side rooms.

Crescent Club employees interrogated by the police include Joe Santinelli, chef; Louie Minney, doorman (later admitting to being the mysterious Crescent Club owner, L.V. Martin); Walter Erickson, bartender (who turned himself into the police saying that he was the owner of the liquor); Rosie St. George, a hat check girl, and her sister Josie, possibly another hat check girl.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Diggins, a 24-year-old ex-prizefighter who had worked as a stunt man in the movies for six months, had entered the club along with Charles Meehan, a Hollywood bootlegger with an arrest record, and his wife, Irene Dalton Meehan, a former silent film actress. Lloyd Hamilton, William “Billy” Jones and Johnny Sinclair ( both stunt men), and Jack Wagner (comedy gag man and screenwriter) also entered.  (Note: At the coroner’s trial, Sinclair testified that he had entered the Cresecent Club with Diggins and Jones but did not mention the others.) Hamilton told police that soon after he had entered the Crescent, he had heard angry voices inside one of the small rooms. Out of curiosity, he had entered the side room just in time to see someone hit Meehan over the head with a chair.

According to hat check girl Rosie St. George, Diggins and Wagner (not Meehan) had argued, whereby Diggins knocked Wagner down with a punch. Then Charles Meehan and Billy Jones supposedly got into a fistfight that quickly became a free-for-all. After someone had smashed a chair over Meehan’s head, Meehan’s wife, Irene, claimed that she last saw Diggins “squaring up” to fight a half dozen unidentified persons who were charging him.

Dalton Meehan
Irene Dalton Meehan

As soon as the lights turned off, Sinclair quickly took Irene out of the club and they both drove around the block. When they returned, the side room was in shambles and Hamilton was holding the corpse of Diggins in his arms. Charles Meehan, who was lying dazed near a broken chair, was later treated for a head injury. At the scene of the crime, Meehan told police that he had hit Diggins before being knocked down. When sober, Meehan claimed not to remember anything.

“I must have been thrown through a window,” Meehan told police. “I got a good crack on the head and that put me out. That is all I know”

“Who were the motion picture people at that place?” police asked.

“Why, I saw several, as I remember, but I can’t recall their names right now.”

“What started the fight in the first place?”

“I can’t tell that either.”

Charles Meehan after Diggins’ murder.

Division District-Attorney Dennison led the police investigation.

“From my observation of the barroom, I would say that the fight was much more fierce than at first thought,” Dennison said. “Legs were torn from heavy tables for clubs, bottles were used and hurled in every direction and chairs were broken in the melee.”

At first, Dennison believed that Diggins was stabbed below the heart with a pocket knife shortly after the lights had turned back on. Then Dennison changed his mind by saying that Diggins had died from falling on top of a broken glass chandelier that had been ripped from the ceiling during the fight. He based his theory on the following observations:

1. No pocketknife was found at the scene of the crime;

2. The fallen chandelier had two sharp jagged edges;

3. Diggins’ fatal wound was made from a double-edged object, about an inch in width and penetrating an inch and a half deep;

4. The fatal cut was made by an object with two points, one sharpened point smaller than the other; \

5. There were two additional cuts to Diggins’ clothing above the fatal wound, suggesting a “bridged cut or two separate cuts.” 

The autopsy report supported Dennison’s theory…with reservations. It concluded that Diggins could have died from a glass cut despite the fact that there were no glass fragments found inside the wound.

On March 28, 1927, seven members of a Coroner’s Inquest Jury concluded that Diggins had died from “a sharp instrument in the hand of a person or persons unknown to us, with homicidal intent.” An eighth jurist concluded that the death had been accidental involving broken glass.

The crime remains and unsolved murder.

So…what do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Bizarre Tales: Speakeasy Murder of Eddie Diggins

  1. Do you have a clearer picture of Eddie Diggins? I’m his grand-nephew. I own the pocket watch he was wearing when he died. I have no photos of him and I’d like a clear photo to go with the watch.

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