Seventy-five years later, at least one mystery remains: the identity of the original Lady in Black, who arrived each year on Aug. 23 at 12:10 p.m.–her face obscured by a veil–to silently lay roses at Rudolph Valentino’s crypt. Today, as every year, this question arises as fans, freaks, collectors, an octogenarian silent movie organist–and perhaps a new Lady in Black–gather in the main alcove of the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to mourn the silent screen’s “Great Lover” on the anniversary of his death. The Valentino Memorial Service is part reverence, part cheese. Over the decades, this classic example of Hollywood self-memorialization has evolved a culture of its own, luring cultists, the curious and even the lunatic fringe, eliciting from attendees an almost religious fervor. The spectacle of the memorial service has become outrageous over the years, said Valentino memorabilia collector Tracy Terhune, 44. “It became like a circus,” said Terhune, who works in the accounting department of Universal Studios. People were drinking water out of the wall-mounted vases used for flowers, he said, burning incense and conducting seances. “People were saying they were carrying Valentino’s child, even though he had been dead for 20 years.” The annual ritual–performed at 10 minutes past noon, the exact moment of Valentino’s death from natural causes in 1926 at age 31– is one of Hollywood’s oldest and most famous. The event has continued in one form or another at the cemetery for the last 75 years (only once, when the cemetery was crumbling and close to closing, did the memorial migrate to the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Avenue.) Today, in the mausoleum, the ceremony is to include talks by Hollywood historian Marc Wanamaker and Carrie Bible, a film buff and voluntary Lady in Black, who will talk about her predecessors. Eighty-nine-year-old Bob Mitchell, who claims to be the only silent-movie organist still alive, will accompany a compilation of romantic clips from Valentino films. Then, the Valentino pilgrims will walk down the echoing marble hallways to lay flowers and plant lipstick kisses on the crypt of the world’s first celluloid heartthrob. At dusk, which falls at about 8 p.m., visitors will spread their blankets on the lawn to watch the Valentino movie “Monsieur Beaucaire,” projected on the side of the mausoleum. Mitchell will play a generator-fueled Hammond organ, with a special speaker that will imitate the sound of the Wurlitzer pipe organ once used at all the silent-movie houses in Southern California. Just a few years ago, when the old cemetery was crumbling and close to bankrupt, it looked like the long-running memorial service was nearly dead. But in 1998, a new, publicity-savvy owner gave the cemetery–and the event–a new lease on life. Tyler Cassidy, a Midwesterner from a family in the “pre-need” funeral business, bought the place for $375,000. He saw the potential of the 62 green acres abutting Paramount Studios, and of a place with more dead movie stars than any other spot on the face of the Earth. Interred in its cool mausoleums and smooth lawns are celluloid greats such as Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Cecil B. DeMille, Tyrone Power–and, of course, Valentino. Cassidy had heard tales of the service and the mysterious ladies in black. Still, he was surprised when an old man turned up at his door one day, saying he ran the memorial service, and would like to do it again for a fee. He gave Cassidy his program, which appeared to have remained constant since the 1950s. The man’s name was Bud Testa. “I was very happy to see him,” Cassidy said. “He was such a character. He was definitely old Hollywood, even in his speech and his dress you could tell he was from the Golden Era. He was still charging 1950s prices.” Cassidy listened to the old PR man and decided to take him up on his offer. (Testa lives in a Glendale rest home; he was unable to give an interview.) Cassidy was taken aback the first time he witnessed the event. “It was out there,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what to think. I was new to Hollywood. I didn’t have a sense for that kind of flavor. It seemed like the event had so little to do with Valentino. But it definitely it had its own culture. “Rather than judge it, however, Cassidy decided to respect it. Mitchell has played at the service for two decades, and still plays several times a week at the Silent Movie Theater. In his youth, he played silent films four to five times a week for four years, including for two Valentino films, “The Eagle” and “The Cobra.” That career ended in 1929, the year the last silent were made. Mitchell believes the service, and especially the ladies in black, was always a publicity stunt. “The cemetery wanted to sell graves,” he said. “They hired a woman to be the Lady in Black, to keep the tradition up. Soon there were two women in black. Last year there was a black woman who came dressed all in white.” The genesis of the tradition is almost irrelevant now. The event has taken on a life of its own, with intrigues, legends and rivalries. “There were antics, fainting’s, ripping off of veils,” said Terhune, who is hoping to publish a book on the topic. At the center of the service’s mystique, Terhune explained in a room of his house crammed with Valentino memorabilia, were the various ladies in black. Though it is said the first Lady in Black visited the crypt the year after Valentino died, all through the 1930s the black-clad mourners multiplied–and refused to identify themselves. Mitchell, the organist, says silent-screen star Pola Negri, who claimed to have been engaged to Valentino, was the first. (Cassidy had heard that one owner of the cemetery hired his own daughter to be the Lady in Black.) By the 1950s, when Testa began organizing the event, the bizarreness seemed to reach its zenith. An offended member of the Valentino family even threatened legal action to stop it. (“The morbidly emotional gags and sideshow antics that take place annually at the grave of Rudolph Valentino in the Hollywood Cemetery may be halted by legal action,” one newspaper reported in 1951.) “The family not only weren’t involved, but didn’t support the service,” said Jeanine Villalobos, 32, Valentino’s great-great-niece. Villalobos, a doctoral student at UC Irvine, is working on a dissertation about her great-great-uncle, based on newly discovered personal documents. “They felt it was disrespectful and very theatrical. That people were using it for cheap publicity.” She said the family was especially put off by a publicity stunt for a 1951 movie about Valentino, in which actor Anthony Dexter showed up at the crypt in costume with a publicist at his side. Eventually, numerous ladies in black–from starlets to matrons– were turning up on Aug. 23, vying for fame and newspaper coverage. There were so many that they began giving their names, pretending to faint, ripping each other’s veils off, and throwing flowers at each other, each claiming to be the real Lady in Black. “A lot of it actually became humdrum,” Terhune said. “Except for the drama of ‘Would she appear?’ And if she does, what would she do? Faint? Sing? Cry?’ And there was always the hope that two ladies in black would face off.” The names of many of the ladies in black have faded with time. But two of the most ambitious, hard-core mourners’ names have stuck. One is Ditra Flame, who claimed she met Valentino as a teen in a boarding house in Los Angeles before he became famous. He visited her when she was sick in the hospital, she said, and they both pledged that whoever died first would bring flowers to the other’s grave. Flame’s last visit was in 1954. After that, she turned to missionary work, dedicating herself to Jesus, rather than Valentino. The other legendary Lady in Black was Estrellita Del Regil, a movie extra who appeared in hundreds of films. She died last year. She claimed her mother was the original Lady in Black. Several years ago, Terhune obtained the meticulous records of Flame, who kept copies of every letter she sent and received (including those to rival ladies in black), newspaper clippings with personal commentary scribbled in the margins. “J. Edgar Hoover had nothing on her,” said Terhune. “She was going to write a book. “With the passing of Del Regil things have grown tamer. Cassidy says he has tried to put the spotlight back on Valentino. Today’s service, he said, is no longer a publicity stunt, but an effort to keep a tradition alive. Cassidy has even tried to build bridges with the long-alienated Valentino family. Villalobos said that after years of hearing how tacky the event was, she checked it out two years ago. “There was some goofiness,” she said. “But I was impressed that there was still the active fan base, most of whom really do respect him, and really do respect his work.” Still, Cassidy confessed earlier this week, “I’m afraid it might become too sanitized, that we might be removing the fundamental character by making it too tame. At the same time, we must be somewhat respectful to the man who is interred there.”
Posts Tagged With: Valentino Memorial Service
This year’s memorial service a tribute to a great silent film star that brings the Valentino Community under one roof both physically and virtually.
The 92nd Valentino Memorial Service featured a salute to the 100th Anniversary of “Eyes of Youth”. and remembering Jean Acker. From the music selections, to the readers, and guest speakers the audienced was moved and in awe by it all. The time past quickly and it seemed to come and go. My trip was making new memories and enjoying moments with special friends. Another year gone by and as always I am eagerly awaiting the 93rd. Special thank you to Tracy Terhune, Karie Bible, Donald Gardner, and everyone else who tirelessly labored to provide an event worthy.
Every year, the month of August marks a sad occasion for the Valentino Community the death of a silent film actor that we all know, respect and love – Rudolph Valentino.
Generations of fans alike from all corners of the globe will come together physically and virtually to mark the passing of a true talent and legend. The memorial service comes to serve us all as a reminder to pause and remember that he has never been forgotten. The purpose of this blog has always been to give the viewer a glimpse into a yester-year. A bygone era of photos, newspaper headlines, articles that give us something new and different to savor and perhaps bring us all a little closer as a community should. But its important to know there are dedicated and humble people who work behind the scenes each year to ensure the Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service is done in a fitting and respectful manner in tribute to one we all come together and celebrate and mourn the passing of a wonderful silent star whose light will never dim. To Tracy Terhune, Ms. Stella Grace and others, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. On 23 Aug 18, 1315 PST, Los Angeles California, Hollywood Forever Cemetery 91st Memorial Service physically and virtually the Valentino Community will once again come together I will see you there.
I attended the 90th Anniversary of the Memorial Service for Rudolph Valentino, Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This year as in the previous years, I always look forward to coming to LA its like coming home seeing Tracy, Stella G, Pam C, Karie Bible who looked amazing. This year, Tracy made a couple of changes bringing a more modern approach. The memorial service was broadcasted via Facebook live offering members of the “We Never Forget Rudolph Valentino” Facebook group a chance to be apart of the virtual audience. The line-up for the memorial service was STELLAR. As always my favorite is the singing…Ms Terry Moore’s god daughter was amazing singing “Ave Maria” as well as Ms. Terry Moore herself, the ever gracious Ms. Sylvia Valentino-Huber, Ms Joan Craig, and others. When the service ends it always brings a sadness because it seems to go by so quickly. Well there will be next year, I wanted to add I finally got to meet Mr. Donald Gardner who is a noted videographer and Allen Ellenberger a noted author who I am a true fan of his books. A special thank you again to Tracy and Stella…See you all next year.
The date was 23 Aug 16, the time 1210 hours, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, was the location for the annual memorial service that was attended by quite a few fans of Rudolph Valentino, including Rudy’s great niece Ms. Sylvia Valentino-Huber and my special correspondent for this event Mr. Bryce Rubie. Once again, a special thank you to Mr. Tracy Terhune’s genius in putting together another memorable tribute.
This year was the 90th anniversary of the passing of Silent Film Star Rudolph Valentino. The featured displays depicted headlines in bold print of Rudy’s passing. So much time, has passed since our favorite actor has died. However, time continues on, with another memorial service with the message “he has not been forgotten”. The montage and the clips from the funeral of Rudolph Valentino were very moving. The featured singer, Mr. Nick Palance whose Songs of Inspiration was very inspiring. Mr. Rudy Freeman was a featured speaker who spoke about his break-out in acting. I was unfortunate to miss out this year and I appreciate Mr. Bryce Rubie attending on my behalf.
My bags were packed and ready to attend tomorrow’s 89th Annual Memorial Service. However, faced with a health issue it was in my best interest not to fly but stay and recover left me feeling sad. I planned all year to come back to Los Angeles and attend this year’s memorial service, take time and visit Rudolph’s grave, and friends. So I have a “special correspondent” who will attend the Memorial Service and give me his report. If you are in the L.A. area PLEASE take the time and attend tomorrow’s 89th Annual Valentino Memorial Service.
I started this blog because of a mutual admiration for a silent film star who lived a brief life long before I was born. Rudolph Valentino he was a dancer, an actor, a producer who I am fascinated by. One evening, 15 years ago, I watched one of his movies “The Sheik” on TCM and I absolutely felt mesmerized about him and by him I never felt that way about an actor before. There was something about him I couldn’t figure out what it was or why but all I know is that I became a fan. Through my journey of discovery has led me to know a bit more now than I knew then. I have met some wonderful people who have passed on their knowledge about him which I am forever grateful.
In Aug 2012, which is the anniversary month of his death. I decided to watch the newsreels of his funeral service. I seen the people crying and frantically wanting to take that last look of his body before being moved to its final resting place at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA but I didn’t “understand” why? On 23 Aug 2012, was when I seen my first Valentino Memorial Service on YouTube. A moving tribute to a man who still shines in the hearts and memories of his extremely large fan base. Finally, I when the service was over with it all clicked and I “understood” why in 1926, and every year thereafter, everyone was crying and felt as though their hearts were broken by the death of a man who they never personally knew but felt they did. You see his death affected me on a personal level because I felt as though I lost someone dear to me to although I never personally knew or met him. In Aug 2014, I made it my mission to visit Los Angeles and my first stop was to visit Hollywood Forever and to visit his grave.. Although I have never been to Hollywood Forever I seem to know exactly where his final resting place was located. I was lucky there was no one around which gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to spend time in silent contemplation and I talked to him. I told him how much he meant to me and that I met some wonderful people because of him. That I wish the world knew more of his talent, that I was sorry that he did not have the love life or the children that he wanted that people loved him today and that he was appreciated for the talent that he had and was. During my brief stay I made a point of going everyday to visit him and my last day in L.A. I told him I would be back and I kept my promise and came back in 2015 and I will in a few weeks time to see him again keeping my word to pay my respects to Rudolph Valentino who has like other fans before me and fans after me a piece of my heart.
A movement is being launched in Hollywood to erect a new memorial to Rudolph Valentino. It will take the form of a sarcophagus mausoleum in which Valentino is to be entombed. According to current plans, the building will cost around $40,000. The chap who imparted this information to me did not know whether a fund existed to erect the mausoleum or whether the money would be obtained by popular subscription. A difference of opinion arose regarding the latter course of procedure. It was my contention that some difficulties would be encountered unless large individual amounts were subscribed. After all, Valentino has been dead 5 years and these are times of stringent financial difficulties. “Forty thousand is a mere drop in the bucket”, my friend informed me. “Four hundred thousand could be raised in a short time if necessary”. Quite apparently you haven’t followed the legend of Valentino. Even in death he remains the screen’s most popular male star. The idolatry accorded Garbo is the only approach to the tremendous tradition of Valentino. “Pilgrimages to his grave rival those of history. Five years? What are five years? It will take a generation to dim his shining star and at least another generation to eclipse it even partially. If the people behind the memorial ask the public to subscribe, they can have the money almost over-night. “Do you know that there are nearly a score of Valentino Associations whose memberships are pledged to keep his crypt ever beautiful with flowers? Do you know that no less than ten people daily appear at the offices of the Hollywood Cemetery to inquire specifically where they might find the Valentino burial place? These folks are the new pilgrims and their number multiplied many times by the regulars. Five years and don’t talk to me about five years. Go talk to Pete at the mausoleum. He will give you a story of the Valentino’s tradition that will, if I am not mistaken amaze you. It seemed like good advice. I found that Pete was the diminutive of Roger Peterson, a big blond Scandinavian from Minnesota. He is the attendant at the Hollywood Cemetery mausoleum where Valentino is buried. In many respects Pete belies the conception of what a cemetery attendant should be. He is not a taciturn unsmiling individual but rather a loquacious, pleasant chap as jovial as he is big. Very frankly, Pete was a revelation to me. The major part of his duties have to do with inquiries concerning Valentino. It is therefore, an authority on the film star. Visitors, genuinely interested in Valentino and they number thousands find Pete a sympathetic confidant. Unfortunately, he also has to deal with hysterical, sometimes unbalanced people who make a Roman holiday of their visits to Valentino’s crypt. His handling of each semi-psychopathic cases would do credit to a physician. Pete has kept a diary since he has been on the job at Hollywood Cemetery. Like all diary-keepers, he has not made entries every day. There are long stretches of blank pages when the diary was forgotten in the press of other duties or pleasures. Not all the dates are accurate to the exact day. Pete was careless about dates. The document, nonetheless, presents an intensely vivid picture which I have taken but few liberties in transcribing. There are several points of Pete’s story to which I have added facts. The reporting of contacts with individuals, however, is entirely his own. The first date that concerns us is;
7 Sep 1926 – Rudolph Valentino was laid to rest in the mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery today. Crowds estimated by the newspapers to number in excess of 20,000 lined the sidewalks as his funeral cortege passed from church to cemetery. Nearly 5000 people surrounded the church while last services were held. The scenes here must have duplicated the public demonstrations in NY where Valentino died on 23 August. His church services were attended by all the great of filmdom, but only his brother Alberto and Pola Negri came to the cemetery to witness the sealing of his crypt. Miss Negri later collapsed and had to be helped from the mausoleum to her car. The tremendous amount and great beauty of Valentino’s floral offerings defy description. The cards bear loving messages from Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Jack Dempsey, and Estelle Taylor, Bebe Daniels, Kathlyn Williams, Antonio Moreno, Buster Keaton, Reginald Denny, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, James Rolph Jr, June Mathis, and others. Pola Negri’s blanket of flowers that read POLA, June Mathis had a wreath of roses on which was the name Julio. Julio was the name of the character in the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. It was in this role, written by June Mathis that Rudolph Valentino won undying fame. The crypt in which he now lies belonged to Miss Mathis. In the tier below lies her mother and step-father. The space next to Valentino lies Miss Mathis.
08 Sep 1926 – The public, denied admittance yesterday, are thronging in today to view Valentino’s burial place. Hundreds of people have passed down the corridors of the mausoleum to pay last respects to their screen idol. The crowd as an average had been well behaved, but a few hysterical women have prostrated themselves, crying aloud their love for “Rudy”. Such demonstrations are embarrassing to the cemetery authorities but it is difficult to know how to combat them.
09 Sep 1926 – More people and more demonstrations.
10 Sep 1926 – Still more people and a particularly violent fit of hysteria. It is a shame that sincere affection for a public figure such as Valentino must be besmirched by exhibitionists.
11 Sep 1926 – The souvenir hunters have been at work. They have torn buds and ribbons from the floral offerings until little remains of the magnificent wreaths. It will be well to keep constant watch for vandalism ghoulishness may be a better word.
Specific stories of certain of thousands of people who daily thronged the mausoleum are lacking in the early chapters of this account. Pete did not “take his pen in hand” to report contacts with individuals until a later date. Perhaps the more vastness of the multitudes who came to pay homage precluded “human interest” reporting. The daily total of thousands was reduced to hundreds as time wore on, but the hundreds remained faithful. Valentino Associations were formed in various sections of the country. The next item to beg inclusion here has to do with the auction sale of Valentino’s Estate. It began 14 Dec 1926, with the sale of some five thousand items of his personal possessions. These items ran from small trinkets to expensive pieces of furniture, paintings, and tapestry. The auctioneers valued his personal belongings at $25,000 they brought in $125,000. It was the trinkets and intrinsically valueless properties that sold for many times their worth. Single handkerchiefs brought bids of as much as $25.00. A pair of salt and pepper shakers were purchased by a man for $12.50. He was the manager of a hardware store that sold identical pepper and salt shakers for 75 cents. But the merchandise he sold so cheaply had not once belonged to Valentino. The auction sale of course, stimulated additional interest in Valentino’s burial place. The crowds that visited the mausoleum again increased, but in a few weeks they had returned to normal. The cemetery officials grew to expect hundred or more people daily. The number varied but little until the first anniversary of Valentino’s death. Then the crowds were swelled again. Joseph Scheneck, present of United Artists Studio was chairman of the first memorial committee. Rudolph Valentino had died at noon and exactly at noon, one year later, work ceased at all studios. The afternoon was devoted to memorial services at the Church of the Good Shepard, attended by everyone of consequence in Hollywood. That was 23 Aug 1927. A month later, came a weird occurrence.
30 Sep 1927 – A woman came to the mausoleum today with the wildest delusion yet. She claimed she was about to become a mother and Valentino was the father of her child. This thirteen months after his death. The woman asked for permission to have a cot placed before Rudy’s crypt where she might stay until her baby is born. She went up to the cemetery office, and somehow or the other they got rid of her.
10 Dec 1927 – Souvenir hunters are at work again. Noticed today they have been chipping away at the small statue on the pedestal in Valentino’s corridor. I don’t mind them taking flowers but why must they spoil a beautiful piece of statuary?
03 Feb 1928 – There is a whole hand gone from that statue now and a new other parts broken. I had better not catch anyone chipping it, but I can’t stay around all day. I have other work to do.
08 Mar 1928 – I heard a crash this morning. It was the marble statue. Someone must have knocked it down trying to chip off a souvenir. By the time I got there, not a soul was in sight, but the statue did not fall down by itself. I had put it away in the shed. It’s too bad, but I suppose I should be thankful that there is one less thing to watch.
01 Jun 1928 – The people you have to keep your eyes on are the ones that come in laughing and joking. I don’t believe this is the place for wise-cracking and I am beginning to be suspicious of those who do it. The ones who show proper respect for the dead are usually above suspicion. When they tiptoe quietly down the corridors, scarcely speaking above a whisper, I know they are all right. It’s the kidders that need watching. Probably one of them broke the marble statue.
03 Jun 1928 – I am sure I’m right about jokers. A fellow came in today and told me a joke. A few minutes later, I caught him trying to get away with a small potted plant. If people want souvenirs why don’t they ask me? I would be glad to let them have a flower when I know it means so much to them. Cut flowers have to be thrown away so soon anyway. There was a girl in yesterday who asked for a rose from Valentino’s crypt. She was from Chicago and was going back in a few days. She said her boss had visited the mausoleum last year and had brought back a rose. He gave a rose petal to every girl at the office the gift had been so greatly prized by the girls that this young lady had been made to promise she would attempt to get another rose. Of course, I have her several roses and a few beads from the wreaths a Valentino admirer had sent from the old country. When we found that people were destroying the wreaths Alberto Valentino gave them to me for safe keeping. He told me to give some of the beads to the folds that really loved Rodolph. There are thousands of small beads on each wreath, plenty to go around. If anyone is decent enough to ask for a souvenir, they are welcome. But I’m not going to have things stolen if I can help it.
23 Aug 1928 – It is the second anniversary of Valentino’s death. Memorial services are being held again and beautiful memorial services are being held again. You might believe that after two years the memory of this great star would have dimmed. I can’t see that it has. Of course, most of the curiosity seekers have forgotten, but his real admirers have remained faithful. There must have been between four and five hundred people here today.
24 Aug 1928 – I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of these flowers. George Ullman, Valentino’s former manager sent over a lot more today. He gets letters and telegrams from all over the world containing remittances for floral tributes. His secretary sees that everyone is represented by some blossoms. This she does with great care, as she holds it a high honor to serve the ones who loved Valentino. She personally selects the floral arrangements and spends hours helping me arrange them. That is, she arranges them and I help if I can. We had our usual group of hysterical women yesterday and today. I am becoming accustomed to women screaming and crying for their “Rudy”. But when men do it sort of gets me. There was a little foreigner in today, a Frenchman. He burst into tears and kissed the cold marble of Valentino’s crypt then turning he practically ran from the building.
15 Oct 1928 – I met Mrs. Coppola today. She is the mother of the baby named for Rudolph Valentino. Of course, being Italian, the name is spelled Rodolfo. The baby died at birth, 29 Sep and is in a crypt on the top tier of the Valentino corridor. The mother came today and stayed several hours reading her bible and praying. I wish I could do something to comfort her in her grief.
21 Nov 1928 – Mrs. Coppola happier today than I have ever seen her. I asked her why and she told me a strange story of Valentino coming to her last night talking to her. She said his spirit came to her house and knocked on the door. When she let him in, he told her that her baby was happy and not to grieve so much.
16 Jan 1929 – I have not written anything in my diary for some time. Mrs. Coppola and I have become great friends. She calls me “Mr. Pete”. She comes regularly at least five times a week and always brings flowers from her own garden. These she divides equally between her baby and Valentino. I found out today that she never saw the Valentino crypt on the screen. When he died, she sold her home in San Diego, and moved to Hollywood, taking a house within walking distance of the cemetery. She used to come over often, even before her baby died, but she came over so early in the morning or late at night that I missed seeing her. She tells me that she seen Valentino’s spirit occasionally in her dreams and frequently hears him walking about the house at night. She has met Valentino’s brother and sister who come often and once in a while they all pray together.
There is another woman who comes regularly once a week. She is always dressed in black and always brings flowers. Valentino’s crypt will never lack floral tributes as long as his relatives and Mrs. Coppola, the lady in black and the various Valentino organizations keep his memory alive. There is a group in London that has the cemetery florist deliver a basket of flowers every Saturday.
07 Mar 1929 – The lady in black is no longer a person of mystery. She told me a lot about herself today. She is very poor, which explains why she always wears the same black dress every week. A black and white hat and a long cape, reaching to her ankles, complete her costume. Her husband left her several years ago with a small child to support. She earns all she can by doing housework of the hardest sort. Valentino represents the only romance in her life. She went to the studio once to see him work, but was too bashful to ask for an introduction. She says, however, that he glanced her way and smiled while looking directly into her eyes. That moment she will treasure forever. A few weeks later, he left for New York, where he died. She failed in her endeavor to meet him while he lived and now she spends what time she can by his side in death. The flowers she brings she feels are a pitiful offering as compared to the gorgeous wreaths she sees by his crypt. She seems furtively to slip her few blossoms among the others as though she is ashamed of the house-grown tribute. I know of none more sincere.
3 Apr 1929 – My lady in black came today. She kissed the marble in front of Rudy’s crypt, as she always does, and her face was still pressed to the cold surface when Valentino’s brother came in. She must have recognized Valentino’s brother from his pictures, for she seemed paralyzed by embarrassment. She simply cowed in a corner as if to hide from him. I know she would like to meet Alberto, so I made a point of introducing them. When I told him how she came regularly to bring flowers, he thanked her graciously. I have never seen anyone so pleased.
8 Jun 1929 – My lady in black did not come this week or last. I miss seeing her and hope she is not ill. She cannot afford to be sick form what she told me.
23 Aug 1929 – Third anniversary of Valentino’s death. Again, the flowers are being received in tremendous quantities. Perhaps a few less than last year. All the regulars came except the lady in black, I am worried about her. Wish I knew where she lives. (Note I never heard from her again).
4 Oct 1929 – There must be a convention of spiritualists around here some somewhere. I have met more people who have talked of having seen Valentino’s spirit recently than I have since I have been with the mausoleum. They tell very convincing stories. I wonder what it is like to have the power to peer into the mystic realm of the dead. On an average, I like these folks who talk of spirit form. They are generally very quiet and well-mannered. Some are rather weirdly dressed, but there’s probably for effect.
16 Dec 1929 – We had a real spiritualistic manifestation today. A woman came in and introduced herself as a medium. She said she had spoken with Valentino upon numerous occasions, but he always disappeared before she could ask him everything she wished answered. She had, therefore, travelled from somewhere in New England that she might hold a séance by his crypt. Perhaps she wasn’t asking my permission, but I told her to go ahead. I really don’t care what people do just so they aren’t noisy and don’t steal or break anything. This woman started to go into a trance when something happened. IA series of knocks were actually heard from above the crypt. The medium ran around in circles, crying “Hear Hear’ He knocks. Rudy knocks. She behaved like an insane person. Others, attracted by her cries came running down the corridor. Sure enough, there was a tap, tap, tap to be heard from above. We investigated and found a large yellow-hammer had gotten into the attic of the mausoleum. How that bird had been able to get in remains a mystery to this day. But he was flying around crazily and the beating of his wings caused the tapping noise. The bird and the spiritualist left the cemetery about the same time. I don’t know which was the most crest fallen but neither returned.
21 Jan 1930 – Some people don’t realize when they are well off. A young lady came in today, who had quarreled with her husband over some silly trifle. The argument started when she informed him that Rudy would not have treated her as he was treating her. He replied that, if she did not like it, she could go live with Rudy. So she took his advice and left home. She spent all day crying by the Valentino crypt.
22 Jan 1930 – The same girl has been around all day again. She says she is going to get a job in the movies.
23 Jan 1930 – The girl did not show up today.
24 Jan 1930 – She did this morning when I came in, I found her asleep on the cold marble alongside Valentino’s crypt. She came around last night and finding the mausoleum closed, she climbed through the window. Apparently, she was attempting to follow her husband’s advice about living with Rudy. She was warned that if she tried the stunt again she would be liable to legal prosecution for unlawful entry. This isn’t the first time somebody has tried to spend the night in the mausoleum and it won’t be the last. Before closing up, we always look for people who might be hiding.
31 Jan 1930 – Heard today, that the girl who climbed into the mausoleum window had returned to her husband. He came to get her and take her back to the mid-west.
2 May 1930 – For more than a week, a very pretty young lady has been manufacturing her own souvenirs. Like the other girl who collected rose petals, she is from Chicago. These people from Chicago, seem to do allot of travelling. This particular young lady, has been bringing a large bunch of yellow roses on her daily visits. She puts them in a receptacle by the crypt and clips off the dying buds from previous contributions. These flowers she intends to take home as souvenirs from Valentino’s crypt. She put them there who has a better right to take them away.
14 Jul 1930 – I heard one of the strangest stories of my experience today. A middle-aged woman came in with an enormous bunch of lowers and made her way directly to the Valentino corridor. She seemed to know where she was going and I followed to offer her what assistance I could with her flowers. As she neared Valentino’s crypt I heard her cry “At last, Rudy, at last I have come. Your spirit has led me on, ever on, to view your final resting place. Rest, dear heart, rest” there was a lot more in the same vein. While she rested, she told me her story of how Valentino’s spirit had come to her as she lay ill on her hospital bed in a Southern city. Valentino whispered that she would get well immediately, but the must make a pilgrimage to his tomb before she could find happiness. The vision disappeared and she fell into a deep restful sleep. When she awoke she felt strong enough to leave the hospital. They discharged her two days later. As she needed funds for the trip to California, she sought an office position and obtained one as a secretary to a business executive. It was practically a case of love at first sight, and when the executive was called to Europe on business he proposed they take a trip for a honeymoon. The only cause of a rift is their first months of happiness is the vision of Valentino. Her husband scoffed at the vision calling it a hallucination of the sick room. But she was unable to dismiss it so easily. When they returned from Europe, she insisted on following the advice of her vision. Her insistence forced a separation and in a small car she set out for California narrowly escaping death in three separate accidents. Arriving in Hollywood she drove straight to the cemetery. She summed up her story by saying “Here I am at the end of my pilgrimage, exhausted but happy in the of my success. My task is done, I have kept faith. My plans for the future are not made but if I can find work, I hope to remain in California.
21 Jul 1930 – It has been a week since the lady with the vision came. She appeared again this afternoon with more flowers. She told me that she had obtained work in a studio and planned to settle here. She was assured she would find happiness promised to her by Valentino’s spirit.
31 Jul 1930 – A man has been haunting the mausoleum for the last two days. I wonder who he is.
2 Aug 1930 – The mystery man has been identified. He met his wife this morning who was none other than the vision lady. They talked for some time in a secluded corner and apparently patched up all their differences. He waited for his wife outside while she knelt by Valentino’s crypt to say a last good-bye. She kissed the marble, whispering “Farewell Rudy, dear heart, farewell”. She did not stay long. Smiling she followed her husband into the sunlight.
23 Aug 1930 – Fourth anniversary of Valentino’s death and a repetition of all others. Flowers a little less profuse, but no other change.
3 Sep 1930 – Among today’s visitors was a delightful little lady who informed me proudly she was 80 years of age and a great-grandmother. She wanted to buy the crypt directly over Valentino but when I told her he might be moved later on, as he was merely occupying a section of the June Mathis groups she decided not to buy. “He was so sweet” she said. I loved him like one of my own children. If I cannot be near him always here I will wait awhile until they decide where he is to be moved. Then perhaps it can be arranged. This at 80 years of age. Peter’s diary ends here inasmuch as it concerns Valentino. But he informs me that the fifth anniversary in fact, was observed with greater interest than any since the first. I withdraw all my contentions regarding the advisability of launching a $40,000 Valentino Memorial at this time. The public, if invited, would undoubtedly subscribe $4,000.000, so dear is the memory of Valentino in their hearts.
Every year on 23 Aug at 12:00 p.m. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA is the annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service. I have been privileged to attend that last two events and I will be back in Los Angeles next month reporting for the 89th Annual Valentino Memorial Service. Mr. Tracy Terhune does a spectacular job in putting together a memorial service that is tasteful and reverent to the memory of a Silent Film actor that is beloved by thousands today.
This event is free and I hope to see everyone there.
23 Aug 15, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, was the location for the annual memorial service that I attended for a second year. What a difference from last year to this year, I felt it was a meeting of old friends and with Mr. Tracy Terhune’s genius in putting together another memorable tribute.
This years tribute was the 90th anniversary of Rudolph Valentinos movie “The Eagle”. The montage and the clips from the movie were very moving. The featured singers the talented “The Wegter Family” were once again a true delight to listen to. Mr. Ellenberger spoke of Historical Valentino Sites was very interesting. However, hearing Mr. Zachary Kadin talk about the story behind the Valentino Eagle Coin was new and insightful.
I wanted to take a moment to give a personal thank you to Mr. Tracy Terhune for his continued kindness, Mr Christopher Riordan for being gracious to a fan of his, to Ms. Sylvia Valentino-Huber for taking time for a photo with me and especially to everyone else I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. I will see you all again next year at the 89th.
The month of August will be dedicated to the passing of Rudolph Valentino.
Our month is going to start off with a series of articles that have to do with an imposter who portrayed himself as a friend/personal physician of Rudolph Valentino at the time of his death. The articles are going to start from 1910 and onward to show how this person used deception as an advantage to fool Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, Douglas Fairbanks, Norma Talmadge, George Ullman, Presidents, Princesses and more. Also, there will be articles from the various annual memorial services held over the years, and in memoriums dedicated to Valentino from his fans that were posted in their local newspapers from 1926 and on.
Later on in the month, I will be back in Los Angeles to attend the Valentino Memorial Service and write about my personal experience while there. I am thrilled to be going again because last years service was very moving and I was able to meet some truly wonderful people who I have the hope and privilege of seeing during my time back west.