'Wyatt Earp' gets an assist from reporter, photographer

Times staff writer Bob Pool's profile of "Wyatt Earp" actor Hugh O'Brian appeared on the cover of Tuesday's LATExtra section. Though O'Brian played the lawman on TV, it was Pool and photojournalist Mel Melcon who found themselves chasing a bad guy as they reported the story.

As Melcon took the photo of O'Brian and his wife, Virginia, that appeared along with Pool's story, a thief made off with Virginia O'Brian's iPhone.

The couple had been sitting at a sidewalk table on Hollywood Boulevard when they leaned over to be photographed with Hugh O'Brian's star on the Walk of Fame. When they turned back, Virginia O'Brian realized her phone had disappeared from the table, and a transient woman who had been sitting near them was sauntering away. 

Pool said Virginia O'Brian shouted to the woman, and Pool hurried over to intercept her.

"She declared she didn’t have O'Brian’s phone and, in fact, didn't have a cellphone at all," Pool said. "I noticed she was carrying a large canvas bag and suggested we look inside."

Pool said the woman suddenly ditched the tote and dashed across Hollywood Boulevard. "That left me holding the bag," Pool said, while Melcon followed her and managed to flag down a passing LAPD patrol car as he crossed the street.

After questioning from the two police officers, Pool said, the woman reached into a lower pocket of her cargo pants and produced the phone.

Relieved to have her phone back, Virginia O'Brian declined to press charges.

As for "Wyatt Earp," the TV lawman was on the viewing end of this crime. For once.


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