Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Omaha put the 'drag' in Dragnet. Classic crime history.

How can a law enforcement agency capture a “degenerate?" In Omaha, 90 years ago, the answer was cops in drag.

The vintage headline alone is Twitter-worthy:

Jimmie Lindsey, Impersonating Girl, Tells of Dodge Road Kisses.

This classic Nebraska crime-stopper story was reported by the Omaha World-Herald on the front page of the June 17, 1920 edition. Unfortunately, because the paper did not give reporters bylines at the time, I am unable to give full and admiring credit to the original writer; a master of leering innuendo. 

It seems during the spring of 1920 police heard several complaints about “the degenerate who has been terrorizing roadside lovers.” It’s not spelled out , but a reader assumes Omaha had a prowling “peeping tom” or what present day law enforcement officials characterize as “a perv.” The Douglas County Sheriff assigned two deputies to the case, Charles T. Johnson and James “Jimmie” Lindsay.

Here’s the World-Herald’s account:
Omaha World-Herald, June 17, 1920
It was decided that Lindsay should don the festive garments of a June girl and that Johnson, who lacks the primness and distinctive lines of his mate, should act as the ardent wooer. The deputies repaired to Lindsay's home. Mrs. Lindsay was aghast, but she was prevailed upon to produce an “outfit.”
It seems Deputy Jimmie’s wife did not share her husband’s taste in clothes. He rejected her choices as “not sufficiently ‘jazzy.’” Eager to make a good impression on the degenerate, Jimmie consulted the girl next door. She selected something more “chic” from her closet.
After a few moments in his boudoir, he appeared dolled out in a silk sports skirt, georgette blouse, silken petticoat, clocked stockings, white silk gloves, and earrings.   
(I had to check on the fashion definitions. Clocking a stocking means embroidering around the ankle. And the blouse? Georgette is a sheer, silky fabric with a crinkled finish. Now we both know. Back to the story.)

Deputy Johnson’s wife wasn’t buying her husband’s far-fetched explanation about spending the next several nights at work with a cute girl who was just a male officer in disguise.  Johnson took Deputy Jimmie home in full drag to prove it. Only after the decoy took off his ribbon-wrapped hat did Mrs. Johnson believe he was a he.  How successful was the sting?
For 10 nights the two have sat and spooned along the Dodge Street road with large caliber guns "planted." They sat and talked and giggled and kissed. Well it seems hard to believe of course but they say they were all for ‘art for art’s sake,’ as well as for the degenerate. 
They did admit kissing "a time or two." Both men blushed when they admitted it. "We didn't see the degenerate," they said. "But we certainly carried our part through."
The photo next to the article is precious. The poor quality of the archived scan makes it difficult to fully appreciate the beauty of the moment. Deputy Jimmie, in his ‘festive’ disguise, sits on the knee of Deputy Charlie. The couple, perched on the running board of a snazzy convertible, hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes.

“Some Like It Hot” meets “Dragnet.”

Omaha World-Herald, June 17, 1920