The Books: Hollywood Babylon

When I first started blogging (back on Blog-spot) I posted a daily excerpt from any one of my 20,000 books. Sometimes a fiction excerpt, sometimes non-fiction … As is obvious, I enjoy putting book excerpts up here. It seems to me that they usually generate some pretty cool discussions.

So. I am going to do the “daily excerpt” thing again. Only with this method behind it, because I think it will be interesting:

I am going to post an excerpt from every book I have read, going from bookshelf to bookshelf through my house. One a day. This obviously will take me until 2017 probably, but that’s all right. I will start at the top of one bookshelf, and go book by book til I get to the bottom and then move to the next one.

Why will I do this? Because it seems like it would be fun.

So. I will begin at the top of Bookcase # 3 in the kitchen.

This will be the beginning of my books about Hollywood. We’ll come back to it.

HollywoodBabylon.jpgFirst book on the top shelf? The underground trash classic: Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood’s Darkest and Best Kept Secrets

Here’s an excerpt from it. This is from the chapter on the life and death of silent screen film star and heartthrob Rudolph Valentino – he died in 1926.

Apparently, a “lady in Black” still visits his mausoleum on the anniversary of his death, to this day. The tradition carries on.

Here’s a still from Valentino’s biggest hit, The Sheik:

And, for your continued reading pleasure, here is a list of Valentino trivia from IMDB:

Ranked #80 in Empire (UK) magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” list. [October 1997]

In 1923 he recorded two songs for Brunswick Records, you can actually hear his heavly accented voice 73 years later.

A portion of Irving Boulevard in Hollywood, California, was renamed Rudolph Valentino Street in 1978.

Considered to be the first male sex symbol of the cinema during the silent era.

Published a thin volume of sentimental poetry titled “Day Dreams” in 1923. The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

For many years on the anniversary of Valentino’s death, a mysterious woman, dressed all in black, was seen laying a wreath of flowers on his grave. Her identity was never established.

Following his untimely death, a bogus, composite photograph of Valentino ascending up to heaven was released for sale, and was snatched up by his legion of fans.

After Valentino’s death, his family announced that his body would lie in an open casket in order to be seen by his fans. However, the family was worried that grief-stricken fans might rush the casket and damage the body, so they had a sculptor fashion a lifelike wax dummy of Valentino, and that was the “body” exhibited in the casket. Valentino’s real body was kept in a hidden room in the funeral home.

He was half French and half Italian

Pictured on one of ten 29? US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.

Valentino and Jean Acker had one of the shortest celebrity marriages on record – six hours. After courting for just a few days, they impulsively married November 5 1919, but Jean locked him out of their hotel room later that night after a spat. They separated, and their divorce was finalized in 1922. Ironically, after their divorce, they became good friends.

At the time of his death, Valentino was severely in debt, and his heirs could not afford a burial plot for him. June Mathis, screenwriter of Rudy’s hit films The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and Blood and Sand (1922), graciously agreed to temporarily loan him a space in her family crypt at Hollywood Park Cemetery so he could be interred upon his body’s arrival in Los Angeles following a coast-to-coast funeral train ride from New York. Valentino’s body remains in that “borrowed” crypt, interestingly placed between Ms. Mathis and her last husband, to this day.

A few months before Valentino’s death, a Chicago newspaper columnist attacked his masculinity in print, referring to him as a “pink powder puff.” A lawsuit was pending when Valentino was fatally stricken. One of his last questions to his doctor was, “Well, doctor, and do I now act like a ‘pink powder puff’?” His doctor reportedly replied, “No, sir. You have been very brave. Braver than most.”

At the height of his popularity, Valentino went on a brief sojurn in his native Italy to visit friends and family and, in general, to get a much-needed rest. When he returned to Hollywood, friends asked him if he’d been mobbed by fans while on vacation. Valentino said no, explaining that, “over there, I look like every other Italian fellow on the street.”

He is responsible for bringing the Argentine Tango to America, first performing the famous dance in his film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), and later in a successful American national dance tour with his wife, Natacha Rambova, who, like Valentine himself, was once a professional dancer.

He was voted the 32nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

Excerpt below:

EXCERPT FROM Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood’s Darkest and Best Kept Secrets

While Rudy may have been maneuvered into matrimony with an assist from Alla, there is no doubt he sought women stronger than himself and was attracted to “butch” ladies. Valentino called Natacha “the Boss” and she lived up to the name so well — constantly high-handing her husband’s career at Paramount — that Zukor resorted to a contract with a clause barring her from the set. She retaliated by ordering Rudy to leave Paramount. She then wrote a screenplay for Valentino, The Hooded Falcon, which proved “unproducible” after a considerable investment in time and money. One collaboration of Natacha and Rudy saw the light of day, a slim volume of verse entitled Daydreams, whose closing lines are:

At times
I find
Exquisite bitterness
Your Kiss.

Whatever his private accommodations with his virile wives may have been, the public slurs on his manhood caused him such bitterness that even as he lay dying, fighting stoically against terrible pain, he asked the physicians at his bedside: “And now, do I act like a pink powder puff?”

At the news of Valentino’s death, two women attempted suicide in front of Polyclinic Hospital; in London a girl took poison before Rudy’s inscribed photograph; an elevator boy of the Ritz in Paris was found dead on a bed covered with Valentino’s photos.

While Valentino was lying in state at Campbell’s Funeral Home, New York streets became the scene of a ghoulish carnival as a mob of over 100,000 fought for a last glimpse of the Great Lover. The body was flanked by phony Fascist Black Shirt guards at attention, with an equally phony wreath labeled “From Benito” nearby — a press-agent stunt by Campbell’s whose cosmeticians really made Rudy’s corpse resemble a “pink powder puff”.

Among those who won admittance to the candlelit bier were his ex-wife Jean Acker, whose display of grief at the coffin’s edge might have been tempered had she known Rudy left her a solitary dollar in his will, and Pola Negri, who upstaged everybody by rushing in from Hollywood decked out in chic-est mourning weeds. She sobbed and fainted before the coffin … and the photographers. Between sobs, Pola claimed she had promised her hand to Rudy. Another claim was immediately filed in the papers by Ziegfeld Girl Marion Kay Brenda, who stated Valentino had proposed to her in Texas Guinan’s night club the evening before he was stricken.

As Rudy’s body was shipped west for entombment in the Court of the Apostles of Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, a commemorative song was crooned by Rudy Vallee over the nation’s radios: “There’s a New Star in Heaven Tonight — R-u-d-y V-a-l-e-n-t-i-n-o.”

Valentino’s demise at thirty-one left inconsolable paramours of both sexes, to judge by the tear-streaked testimonials. Aside from the “Lady in Black” bearing flowers annually to the mausoleum on the anniversary of his death, the memory of Rudy was cherished by Roman Navarro, who kept a black lead Art Deco dildo embellished with Valentino’s silver signature in a bedroom shrine. A present from Rudy.

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6 Responses to The Books: Hollywood Babylon

  1. Stevie says:


    Isn’t there an epilogue regarding the dildo?

  2. Scotter says:

    The cemetary where he’s at was falling into disrepair until being bought out a little while ago. Now it’s been spruced up considerably, and best of all, they set up a big screen and show old movies. Yes, you camp out among the tombstones while watching.

  3. red says:

    Scotter: I so want to do that.

  4. Scotter says:

    2 Saturdays a month during the summer.

    No calender up as of yet.

  5. Fayez Abedaziz says:

    That’s interesting Sheila and, let’s face it, also fun.
    Having just completed a book about the 60’s ‘scene,’ which includes a general look at
    show biz people, I included those in Laurel Canyon, you know the pop stars there.
    There was a lot of funny goings on there too.

  6. Gloria says:

    Jean Acker was not the wife left one dollar…it was Natacha Rambova…the 2nd wife who “bossed him” and then cheated on him and ghosted the marriage until she left in August 1925.

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