It was Wednesday, October 30, 1968. In Los Angeles, the temperatures had peaked around 75 degrees — a wonderful autumn day — dropping to 59 degrees once the sun had set. The American Basketball Association, famous for Dr. J and the L.A. Stars, was in town for a brief stop. “Hey Jude” by the Beatles sat atop the record charts and dominated the radio airwaves while Airport by Arthur Hailey was the current New York Times fiction bestseller.
3110 Laurel Canyon Drive was a Spanish Colonial residence designed by Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, it had been owned since 1927 by former stage, screen and television star Ramon Novarro.
Ramon was now sixty-nine years old, frail, and many days away from his life as an MGM sex symbol, who followed in Rudolph Valentino’s vaulted footsteps after the infamous Valentino had died unexpectedly, and acted opposite such legends as Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Myrna Loy. Despite being retired from acting for a handful of years, Ramon had made wise real estate investments with his movie earnings, allowing him to live very comfortably.
On the evening of October 30, Ramon, in a red and blue robe, welcomed brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson, twenty-two and seventeen years old respectively, into his home. The brothers Ferguson had gotten the former star’s phone number from a previous guest. Both hustlers, they knew Ramon Novarro had used agencies for sexual escorts in the past.
Ramon, always the gracious host, served beverages — liquor — to the brothers and read older brother Paul’s palm, ironically predicting a bright future. He played his piano for the Fergusons, sharing with them a tune he had composed and written. He showed them promotional photos of himself as a young and virile MGM star. It’s likely that the former heartthrob engaged in sexual activity with the older brother and then, at some point during the evening, the elder Ferguson demanded that Ramon hand over the $5,000 he was rumored to keep hidden in his home.
Ramon truthfully stated he never kept such large sums of money in his residence. Tom Ferguson, who had been speaking to a girl in Chicago from Ramon’s phone, joined his older brother in jostling, shaking and shoving the older man. When that…