Holidays

Deadly Hotels

by Ralph Martin

HACIENDA, Los Angeles

The best hotel managers are invisible, making their hotels run with the appearance of effortless ease. And then there are the managers who take a gun and shoot you between the ribs. This was Sam Cooke's experience in L.A.'s former Hacienda Motel, now called the Polaris. The truth about the night Cooke died remains as murky as any show business death story: Although he was enjoying a huge run of success—You Send Me was already a hit single—and was learning to like the high life, he checked into the Hacienda, a "$3 hotel" as his brother later called it, with a strange woman, and was shot there on December 11, 1964. The elderly hotel manager, Bertha Franklin, told a story that now comes off as utterly absurd: Cooke burst into her office wearing only one shoe and a sport coat, grabbed her, and threatened her with violence. In the struggle, Franklin said she picked up a gun as well as a broomstick, shooting Cooke and whopping him on the head with the broom for good measure. The L.A.P.D. never seriously investigated the case, ignoring evidence such as bloodstains and skin found on the sidewalk outside, as well as a serious welt on Cooke's forehead that was unlikely to have been inflicted by a broom-wielding old woman. It just goes to show that you should always tip hotel staff.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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