Posts Tagged With: Luther Mahoney

22 Aug 1965 – Luther Mahoney on his friend Rudolph Valentino

Luther Mahoney, of Newport Beach is haunted by the obscurity that has befallen the entombed remains of his friend, confidant and employer of 40 years ago. Several times a year Mahoney, a jolly 72-year-old Irishman, visits that friend’s final resting place–an obscure, borrowed crypt In Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery. “It’s terrible,” says Mahoney. “He deserves something better than that. I think if the public knew he was in a borrowed crypt they might get up a fund and put him into something proper.” That friend was Rudolph Valentino, the dark-haired screen lover with flashing brown eyes who starred in scores of silent films during the twenties. Tomorrow is the 39th anniversary of Valentino’s death, memorial services are expected to be conducted at his crypt. Every year dozens of men, women and children gather at the crypt for the services. But Mahoney won’t be there. “It would be awkward,” he says, “allot of curiosity seekers just asking me questions. I visit the crypt whenever I’m in Hollywood and always make it a point to be there on his birthday. But I never go to the memorial services, I’d rather go when there’s nobody around. I just say a prayer and leave.” Mahoney, who worked as a handyman and personal aide for the actor two years before he died in 1926, is trying to promote a fund to build a memorial tomb for Valentino. Shortly after Valentino’s death, there was talk of building a marble tomb for the actor, but nothing ever came of it. “I’d be happy if I could help to get him a nice place to rest,” says Mahoney. “My idea is to build a tomb with black Belgian marble inside with his solid bronze casket on display. It could then be viewed by the public. Ever since he died and they stuck him in a borrowed crypt it has disturbed me.” He says Valentino’s casket was originally placed in a crypt owned by June Mathis, the screenwriter Mahoney says gave Valentino his first big break In the Valentino represented romance to a world seeking relief from pressures. Above, as “The Sheik,” he rose to the heights of motion picture renown. Friend and former employee of Valentino, Luther Mahoney poses with a picture of film star who tried on an Indian headdress “just for kicks.” When June Mathis died, Mahoney says, Valentino’s body was moved into another borrowed crypt, which belonged to her husband. He later sold it to Valentino’s estate, according to Mahoney. “The unfortunate way they treated his body still haunts me,” he admits. “I’d like to do something about it before I die.” When Valentino died in New York City on Aug. 23, 1926, there was pandemonium. Outside the funeral home in New York where Valentino’s body was taken, thousands of emotional women fans rioted and broke windows. More than a dozen persons were injured. Women wept openly and fainted in the streets as they waited to file past the actor’s open casket in the mortuary. An estimated 150,000 persons viewed the body. During the funeral service at Church of St. Malacy in New York, the crowd outside surged out of control and scores more were injured. Pola Negri, the Polish actress who announced before Valentino’s death that she was engaged to marry him, and Jean Acker, the actor’s first wife, who said she reconciled with him before his death, followed his casket into the church. Then, as eulogies poured in from throughout the country, Valentino’s body, borne in a flower-covered casket, was returned to Hollywood aboard a special railroad car. “Romance is the only thing worth big headlines, and Rudolph Valentino spelled romance,” editorialized one newspaper. In Hollywood, preparations were completed for one of the most lavish funerals in the history of the film capital. There was standing room only in the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills where Requiem High Mass was said for Valentino on Sept. 7. His flower-covered casket rested on a velvet catafalque of royal purple. On each side of the casket stood six lighted tapers. Grand opera star Richard Bonelli sang “Ave Maria.” Grief stricken and under the care of doctors, frail Miss Negri was wracked with sobs during the service. She was among more than 500 persons who jammed into the church to pay their final respects. Outside stood thousands of onlookers, and thousands more lined the route to the cemetery. Mahoney confides that he arranged for Valentino’s chauffeur, a former Royal Air Force pilot, to fly ahead of the funeral procession dropping roses. “At the cemetery he flew very low over the mausoleum dropping roses as they took the casket out of the hearse,” Mahoney recalls. “It was quite a sight.” In the months following Valentino’s death, thousands of women mourned him. And 35 women claimed he had fathered illegitimate children by them. However, all claims came after his death. There were no children from Valentino’s two marriages. VALENTINO’S best known mourner was the woman in black, who- dressed in black dress, black stockings, black hat, black shoes and black veil–appeared for years at his crypt with a bouquet of roses on the anniversary of his death. She hasn’t been seen at the crypt in recent years. Rodolfo Gugliemi Valentino was born In Italy, the son of a farmer, on May 6, 1895. A graduate of Italy’s Royal Academy of Agriculture, he came to the United States at the age of 18 with hopes of becoming a landscape gardener. However, he was unable to hold down a landscaping job, according to his biographers, and for several months scratched out a living washing dishes. Later, he took a job as a vaudeville dancer and migrated to the West Coast with a musical comedy company. That was 1919. Two years later he starred in what was to become his most popular film, “The Sheik.” Mahoney says he met Valentino by chance in 1922 while a policeman in New York City. “I was sent to the Ritz Hotel one night to ride as a bodyguard for Mr. Valentino–I never called him anything but Mr. Valentino although I was older–because I think he had received a threat. We talked quite a bit that night and he told me if I was ever in Hollywood to look him up.” TWO YEARS later Mahoney did. He went to work for a movie studio and eventually was assigned to Valentino’s staff. “I wasn’t his bodyguard. I just handled personal things. I had charge of the house and the domestic help and everything that belonged to him. I never worked for a nicer kinder caring man than him.

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