Saturday, August 01, 2009

The wild and crazy funeral of a very quiet and shy man. Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926)

Below these words is a photo of the marker to the grave of Rudolph Valentino. He is honored today by the image of what people thought he was, but not who he was.
Almost everything about his history and story was fabricated for the public. He was not from a poor family, he was not trying to find riches, he was looking for adventure to be honest. Even his name was created.
However, his real last name is listed here on his grave as his middle name. But what finally set Valentino apart from the wild image made of him as the great Latin lover, was his funeral. Which took place in New York City and in LA. But we will focus mainly on his funeral in New York.Valentino's vault in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He was originally buried one vault over to the left but was moved a year later. Due to the death of a dear friend of his.
This was the real Valentino. He is making some real good spaghetti. He would often make it between movies and for friends. He would always get the real long spaghetti and teach people how to eat it. It is funny that Spaghetti was not a common staple in most homes outside of Italian ones in the early days of the 20th century. Valentino was half Italian and half French. But truly loved good pasta.
He was a rather private and quiet man. What's more a very sad and lonely man. He was chased and followed everywhere. Yet while every woman fancied him her lover, he was never happy. When he thought he was, it turned out all wrong. Valentino who said of himself, that women were not in love with him, but his image on the screen.
June Mathis, who was Rudy's real close and good friend. Perhaps his closest friend in Hollywood. When he died she let him rest in the vault she had bought for herself. But she was only 37 at the time and there were plans for a massive Valentino Mausoleum. So she knew he would not be there long.
As fate would have it, in 1927 Mathis died from a heart attack at the age of 38. Therefore Rudy needed to move as Mathis's vault was needed. So it led to Rudy being moved to Mathis's husband's vault. Once again the two good friends were together.

Eventually The Valentino family ( as they were now called) bought the vault and he has rested there ever since. The ideas for a massive memorial died as fast as the fickle public lost interest in the dead super star. Of which he was truly the first. His hammered bronze casket was amazing in it shinny brilliance. Makes one think of the funeral services and memorial to Michael Jackson. In many way the public acted as bad during the Jackson funeral and moments in the hospital as they did in Valentino's day.

Valentino made a picture in 1926 called the Son of the Sheik, It was blockbuster hit and it was suggested that he travel around promoting the new film.
He was staying at the Ambassador Hotel in New York City, when on the 15th of August he was suddenly taken with terrific pains in his mid section. He was taken to Polyclinic Hospital, where he was worked on and taken care of by star studded and frightened hospital workers.
In fact he was found to have perforated ulcer. No one was ready to operate on him till more famous and well known doctors arrived. All this time the poisons were leaking into his system. Finally surgery was done but to no avail. He developed pleurisy and was dead the 23rd of August. He was 31 years of age.It was sad case of the doctors and staff were worried about the chances of bad reviews for them if their case was not handled well. But once he dead, everything changed.

The best way to put it was a media circus started from the moment he died, that did not end for days. When the word came out on his death which was at 12:10pm on the 23rd, there were thousands of people all around the hospital.
In fact, they were causing a near riot over the death of the man they thought they knew. He was the first superstar in the world of film to die.
What was worse with all of this was how many people made careers and money from the death of this young man. The newspapers for days ran stories on him as he was lingering between life and death. Once death came he had become an ICON and immortal. But first they needed to get his dead body out of the hospital.

The police used a plan that actually worked so that a hearse could arrive and take the body out of hospital. It was whispered that the body was going to be taken out through the front of the Hospital and this whispering campaign worked as the masses all ran to the front.

At this point a hearse arrived at the back door and Valentino's body was taken down an elevator in a wicker basket with gold cloth on top. They had him in the hearse before the people in the front of the hospital got wise. At the hospital 2 women tried to commit suicide. This was crazy! All these mad wild and hormone driven women were on the warpath as the sexiest man in the world was dead and they were not happy!

At 2:00 Pm the body arrived at Campbell's funeral home on 66th Street and embalming started immediately. Being that Valentino was quite muscular rigor mortis started very quickly. He was very well embalmed and prepared for the rigors of his last performance which would be perhaps his most well attended. His funeral.
This is a staged picture of the funeral bier at Campbell's Funeral Home. First off what I do not see is a casket? I see a well set up bier for a grand show that was planned by Campbell's.

What they did not plan on was 10,000 women were outside and wanted to see Rudy right away. It soon got ugly. Women charged the funeral home to get inside. Soon the large plate glass windows in the front of Campbell's were smashed and a large group of women stormed the funeral home. It took a long time to control them.
In fact the body had to be moved to protect it. Over 100 police were brought in to control what had effectively become a riot. It just got worse from there. A large number of people were injured and the funeral home was ransacked by souvenir hunters.
People were on line to get in with scissors in their hands to cut off some of Valentino's clothes. There were lines down Broadway and 6th Avenue of mainly women and children in the thousands to see their hero. Not to say there were no men at this affair, there was. In fact many of the men were dressing like Valentino. It was crazy.
The lines that seemed to go on forever as people waited to see Valentino. It was said that 100,000 people were waiting to see Rudy. Many saw him, but many did not. For a while there were 4 brown shirt's from Italy around the coffin. Supposedly sent by Mussolini. But soon it was found out that it was all cooked up by Campbell's. It was even suggested that a body double was used instead of the corpse. But all of that was not true. Just good stories.
Here is a flapper who passed out in the mayhem around the funeral home.
There was a High Mass said at St Malacky's, the actor's chapel for Valentino. There were mounted Police called in to keep order. After this Valentino was packed in his casket, placed in a shipping container and a cross country train carried him back to California. But where? No one knew where to send him? That is when June Mathis came to the rescue. Because outside of there being no place to send Valentino, he was also broke at the time of his death. What is interesting is that the studios who made a fortune out of Valentino and had several million dollar life insurance policies on him, never bothered to even find him a grave. They were looking at how they could make more money out of him, but he ended up in a $100.00 vault. So much for the last resting place of the great Latin lover.
Valentino's casket is carried into the mausoleum at what is now Hollywood Forever in LA. This was after another massive funeral in California. That is where he rests today in absolute silence. I would think that would make him very happy. Because Rudolph Valentino's life became as much a hell as a heaven for him. Today he rests in the solitude of silence.