Chapter 1 ~ El Palacio

Driving west on Fountain Avenue, just before reaching La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood, a gracious Spanish Baroque style apartment building rises above street level on the right. The exclusive El Palacio Apartments, home to many celebrities over the years, was also home to young oil heiress Georgette Bauerdorf in 1944.

Georgette, an attractive 20 year old brunette with a big smile and a proper upbringing, lived alone in West Hollywood at the family’s apartment. She kept herself busy with a job at the Los Angeles Times and with volunteer work at the Hollywood Canteen on Wednesday evenings.

Her father, stepmother and sister moved back to New York that summer. Connie, her sister, left her Oldsmobile coupe in California and Georgette drove it around Hollywood, often leaving it parked in front of the El Palacio or just across the street.

The apartment building, built in 1931, which faced Fountain Avenue below, was a spacious upstairs-downstairs arrangement of main room, dining room and kitchen on the lower level, and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper. There was a small patio outside the rear door to her kitchen and there were gardens and outdoor furniture in the front that offered privacy and comfort. From the street level, tenants walked up steps through terraced lawns that led to the fashionable apartments.

Among Georgette’s neighbors was MGM actress Virginia Weidler. “Ginny” Weidler was born in Eagle Rock in 1926 and had a successful film career, appearing as Norma Shearer’s daughter in The Women, Katherine Hepburn’s sister in The Philadelphia Story and Mickey Rooney’s sister in Young Tom Edison. She graduated from the Hollywood Professional School in June, 1944, brief months before Georgette’s death. Ginny retired from motion pictures in 1943 at the age of 16.

Rose Gilbert, Mr. Bauerdorf’s secretary, spent time at the apartment tending to his interests and occasionally accompanying Georgette on shopping trips. El Palacio management employed full time caretakers that lived on the property and Georgette had maid and janitorial service provided for her. It was comfortable lifestyle, and by all appearances, she lived a charmed life.

But on October 11, friends noticed that Georgette seemed agitated.