Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Death of Sam Cooke

No-Tell Motel

The Hacienda Motel
The Hacienda Motel

No one but Cooke and Boyer could have known the nature of their plans that night as they left PJ's, but it wouldn't have been the first third-rate romance for either of them. Boyer had made the rounds with any number of men at Sunset Strip hot spots. And Cooke had a clear record of uncontrolled sexual drive that had left him with offspring scattered along the routes of his concert tours.

Cooke and Boyer drove some 17 miles south from Hollywood that night — a peculiar move for a man and woman looking for a bed. They could have stopped at any of a dozen different hotels in Hollywood or the countless motels they passed as he drove along the Harbor Freeway.

But Cooke clearly had a destination in mind — the Hacienda Motel, in gritty south-central Los Angeles.

It was as though he had been there before.

The Hacienda didn't get a lot of customers in red Ferraris. It was a $3-a-night dive on South Figueroa Street — the sort of place where the desk clerk kept a pistol handy.

"Everyone Welcome," read the sign out front. "Everyone" meant blacks.

Bertha Franklin
Bertha Franklin

Bertha Franklin was working the overnight shift when Cooke's sports car zipped into the parking lot at 2:35 a.m. Franklin watched as a man with show-business good looks glided into the office. He was paying in cash when his companion walked into the office. Franklin pointed out that motel policy required them to register as husband and wife.

So he signed in: "Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cooke."

He was as famous as any black musician in the world. He had appeared on The Tonight Show and Ed Sullivan many times, and most Americans would know his name, if not his face. But Cooke apparently felt no compunction about using his real name at a hot-sheets motel.

He was unpretentious — and wasted.

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