The last two notorious cases have never been fully exposed.  In the one, Gladys filed a paternity suit against Elijah Muhammad.  Her photo blazed across the front pages of all the newspapers in the U.S. for weeks.  In the photo, she wore a wide black sombrero.  Gladys had been hired by Elijah Muhammad’s mistresses, who, mightily pissed off, wanted to drag him into court to destroy his career and reputation.  Not surprisingly, Malcolm X was behind the entire episode.  His plan worked.  Because of the scandal, Elijah Muhammad faded and the Nation of Islam looked to Malcolm X as its leader.

In the other, Gladys defended Robert Clayton Buick, the CIA’s bullfighter-turned-spy-turned-bank robber.  The case was rife with conspiracy and cover-up and people who knew too much but weren’t saying what they knew. 

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A few months ago, I was reading Boston Teran’s novel Never Count Out the Dead.  In the novel, the protagonist makes reference to Zzyzx and Curtis Howe Springer, the “king of quacks.”  I had no idea who Dr. Curtis Springer was or why he was so notorious.  I did some digging and found out.  He was a charlatan, a seller of snake oil.  Charged with fraud, Dr. Springer needed the best criminal defense lawyer money could buy.  So he hired Gladys Towles Root. 

Gladys Root, in her own way, was even more notorious than Dr. Springer.  For Gladys didn’t seem to fit any ordinary categories.  She was a female attorney at a time when women weren’t supposed to be anything but decorations.  Not only that but Gladys dressed like a Las Vegas showgirl, wearing form-fitting dresses made from shiny purple material, displaying a little too much.  Other times, she wore red sequins.  And her hair was always color coordinated with her outfits.  Then there were the big earrings, and the big hats.  This sort of flamboyance, suggestive of hookers and prostitutes, could not be imagined in a court of law.

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While defending both the rich and the poor, the infamous and the unknown, Gladys married twice and had two children of her own.  Average and boring, her first husband couldn’t handle his wife’s colorful personality, the outlandish clothes and the publicity she attracted.  They divorced after 11 years of marriage.  Gladys’s second husband was as extravagant as she was in dress and personality.  He went everywhere with a large parrot on his shoulder.

To all appearances, Gladys did nothing but work, defending more than 1500 cases per year.  But there were unknown depths to Gladys.  For instance, Gladys raised two fine children, who both became successful adults.  Gladys was the first feminist, battling for the rights of women, while refusing to pander to what Gladys considered to be misguided agendas.  Gladys never accepted popular theories about crime and punishment.  For Gladys, based on her courtroom experiences, knew the truth of the matter.  That many ‘victims’ lied for reasons of revenge.

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Book Proposal: Queen of L.A.


From 1930 to 1975 the best criminal defense attorney was an eccentric Jewish woman who dressed like a Las Vegas show-girl.  When a criminal committed a horrible crime, if he knew anything at all, he shouted, “Get me Gladys!” 

Queen of L.A. is the first book to analyze the public, professional and private life of Gladys Towles Root

My proposed biography, Queen of L.A., is, I believe, a book that will place Gladys Towles Root in the hierarchy of feminism.  And not by distorting or condemning her opinions, but by revealing a complex, powerful and talented woman.  Queen of L.A. is a book that will show the truth behind that commercial on television – ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’  Women are now part and parcel of the American legal system.  The Attorney General of California is a woman.  I believe Gladys blazed the trail.

Gladys Root’s life spanned the women’s liberation movement.  She helped usher in equal rights for women and legalized abortion, and was living proof that women can pursue their dreams, excel in a man’s world, achieve fame and fortune, raise a family, and make a difference. 

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Then the American Medical Association joined in the fray.  They called Dr. Springer the “King of Quacks.”  The AMA accused him of fraud.  A lawsuit was filed against him.

Undismayed, Dr. Springer hired an attorney.  And not just any attorney.  He wanted only the best.  Gladys Towles Root, the famous criminal attorney, represented him.  Gladys was a consummate performer.  She wowed juries as she pranced about the courtrooms of America in outlandish outfits and hats like Cruella De Vil. 

The trial took place and received vast media coverage.  In the end, Dr. Springer was convicted of false advertising.  Gladys Root filed an appeal.  After two years of hearings and counter-motions, Dr. Springer’s appeal was denied. 

Dr. Springer went to jail, serving 49 days of a 60-day sentence.

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Miracles like this didn’t come free, they told each other.  God’s work would continue only with their help.  So they gave.

But that wasn’t all.  Dr. Springer had his own publishing company and his own radio station at Zzyzx.  Flyers, pamphlets and booklets churned off the printing presses.  And the radio station blazoned Dr. Springer’s Christian messages to the faithful and to those still seeking for light in a dark world.  Dr. Springer delivered his messages in a good-old-boy, folksy manner.  They were easy to understand and very non-threatening.  There was not a hint of hell, fire and damnation.  Only a heavy dose of the healing power of Jesus, which could be found by one and all in the Antediluvian Tea, the ‘Hollywood Pep Cocktail,’ which was nothing more than the juices of carrots, celery, turnips, parsley and brown sugar.  Manna was the real name of the Pep Cocktail. 

Dr. Springer neglected to mention what was in the cocktail.  That wasn’t important.  What was important was that it worked!  A miracle straight from heaven.

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Many of the men told Dr. Springer to take a hike because they didn’t like his rules.  The one that irritated them the most was the no-alcohol policy.  But many decided to work for this happy Jesus-freak and save their money.  Then they could quit and go buy booze. 

So they built and built and built.  Working for the man who was working for The Man.

Dr. Springer called his Utopia Zzyzx, because he wanted it to be the last word in spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. 

Zzyzx had a chapel.  It had a fancy mineral pool with soaking tubs, where the miracle cures took place.  Naturally, the pool was shaped like a cross.  Cleanliness was next to Godliness at Zzyzx.  There was an artificial lake, made by men for men.  Here the new believers could be baptized just like Jesus.  And Dr. Springer would play the role of John the Baptist.

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BOOK PROPOSAL: King of Quacks: Salvation and Snake Oil in the California Desert (Part 1)

Zzyzx.  The word looks like something Einstein scribbled while trying to prove his famous theory of relativity.  But it’s not.  It’s a place in Death Valley in southeastern California. 

The only reason anyone goes there is because of a rare and bountiful spring located at the girdle of chocolate colored mountains.  The Spaniards were the first.  Then in 1860, the U.S. Army had a fort there.  It was called Hannock’s Redoubt. 

Fame came to the area when Curtis Howe Springer arrived.  According to some people, Dr. Springer as he called himself, was a flamboyant maverick.  Others just called him a charlatan or a con-man.

Dr. Springer became a minor celebrity because of his gift of gab.  He was a radio evangelist at radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh in the 1930’s.  The business of saving souls destined for Hell was booming and Dr. Springer needed room to boom.  The year was 1944 and God had given Curtis a ‘word of wisdom,’ which is where God whispers in the ear of the pious.  God told Curtis to “go into the desert,” because the war would soon be over and His work needed to be done.  God would bring the people to Curtis. 

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Hard Time: A Brit in America’s Toughest Jail

By Shaun Attwood

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Most people are happily ignorant of the difference between the term ‘jail’ and ‘prison.’ And since you don’t learn the difference until after you’ve been arrested, ignorance is indeed bliss. Jail is where prisoners are held while their cases are pending. If convicted, prisoners are sentenced and shipped off to prison, where they serve out their time.

Most prisoners, whether in jail or prison, are not inclined toward literary endeavors. Which pretty much explains why so few jail or prison memoirs are published. Of those that are published, only a few are good. Two ‘good’ ones that immediately come to mind include Kenneth Hartman’s Mother California and Jimmy Lerner’s You Got Nothing Coming.

A third one can now be added to the list – Hard Time.

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