Perhaps 78 Years Ago Today… Weegee the detective… “One case that I broke concerned a girl…”

“One case that I broke concerned a girl who was going around holding up only Child’s Restaurants. (She must have like their blue-plate special.) She was making a monkey out of the cops… I remembered having photographed a girl about a year before [1936], who had gotten into a knife fight with another girl over the affections of their mutual ‘Pineapple’ (pimp). Even true love can be overdone, and the unromantic cops pinched her. On the way to the court I photographed her in the patrol wagon, smiling brazenly with a rose between her teeth. ‘Spanish Rose’ was my title for the shot and it made the front pages…”
“On a hunch, I showed the picture of this girl to a detective friend who was working on the case. We went around to the different Child’s Restaurants. One cashier after another identified her as the gun-girl. Soon she was picked up and brought to the West Sixty-fifth Street stationhouse. Her gun turned out to be wooden. While the other photographers were waiting to get her picture, and while she was telling her life story to the cops, I was out selling my picture of her. It made every New York paper but one… The Times ran four lines on the story, but no picture…”
Weegee by Weegee, 1961, pp. 61-62

Elevator to the Gallows, 2009, p. 127


“I once helped the cops capture a gun-girl. A very beautiful brunette was going around upper Broadway holding up Child’s restaurants. The cops were at their wits’ ends as it made them look very foolish. I was getting annoyed because every time a restaurant was held up I had to go and make pictures which distracted me from Murder Inc., which was my true love. On a hunch, I remembered that some months ago, I had taken a picture of a girl, “Spanish Rose,” who had a little knifing match with another girl over a boy friend. I had taken pictures when the girl was arrested. I played detective and took the photos of the pretty knife-wielder around to the restaurant cashiers who had been held up. They all identified her as the one who had been taking their cash. The cops picked her up quickly and it turned out she had been terrorizing the cashiers with a wooden gun. I think I did her a great favor. The sob sisters went to work on her. She sold her confession to the New York Sunday Mirror, made guest appearances on radio and TV, programs and retired to a life of ease.”

What in the world is Weegee talking about? Perhaps Weegee is talking about Norma Parker, the Broadway Gungirl, the coy moll who chewed gum and dressed in black… There are a few similar details: stabbing a girl over a guy, a toy gun, 65th St., West 65th or West 68th St police stations, holdups in restaurants or cafes, etc… Perhaps, 24 years later, Weegee gilded the rose (“to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow”) a bit… The tellings in 1953 and 1961 are very similar. In the next few posts we’ll look a Norma Parker’s arrest in a few tabloids of the time…

Daily News, February 16, 1937 (NEWS foto) – Weegee photo
[Norma Parker, the Girl in Black, in a West 68th St. police station.]

Screenshot from a museum’s website… Weegee’s photos of Norma Parker…

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