Thursday, December 18, 2008

La Cañada Valley Sun: Around Town: These boots are made for walking

It was a wet evening on Foothill Boulevard. The rain had stopped, but the air was nippy. Miss Audrey Hepburn strained at her leash and Len and I picked up our pace.

Suddenly, a shot rang out.

Actually, it was a not a shot. It was a motorcycle backfiring.

The bike, of course, belonged to the Anonymous Source, an attractive lady in her 40s who keeps me supplied with long-hidden true accounts of local history. Tonight, she was dressed in black St. John’s knit pantsuit, which perfectly matched her helmet and her bike — a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, the world’s finest production motorcycle. (For those of you who read this online, see

She handed me a sheaf of handwritten notes, then sped off.

Len was aghast. Doesn’t she talk to you anymore? he asked.

I replied, I think she’s still upset that we can’t meet at Conrad’s on Sundays.

When I got home, I began to read the notes. They were from 1964. The first page read:

At the age of 21, Keenan had become the youngest member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange. He went into real estate development the next year and suffered a sudden financial reversal. The next year, at the age of 23, Keenan decided that a kidnaping for ransom would be the solution to his economic problems...

Sounds familiar, I said to myself. I continued.

Keenan rationalized that he would be doing the Sinatra family a favor kidnaping Frank Jr. because it would bring the family closer together...In an interview decades later with the Dallas Observer, Keenan said he originally planned to snatch Frank Junior from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on November 22, 1963 because he could go to the USC - UCLA football game the next day and establish an airtight alibi. The JFK assassination intervened.

The rest of the notes were about the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnaping, with mention of Keenan’s co-defendant’s defense attorney, the great, late Gladys Towles Root. There were notes about the trial, the conviction, various appeals, Keenan’s life sentence and eventual release after serving 4 ½ years in prison.

I was perplexed. Apart from the financial similarities — the stagnation in the stock market beginning in 1964, when the Dow Jones was at 875, what did any of this have to do with La Cañada Flintridge?

I put down the stack of notes. That’s when a clipping from the Los Angeles Times fell out.

It was yellowed with age.

To be continued


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a defense attorney with Law Offices of Torres & Brenner in Pasadena.La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

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