Tuesday, May 17, 2022

I Pose a Question

In the introduction to Affairs Valentino, Rudolph Valentino's cousin, Chicca Guglielmi Morone writes the following which I share because I found it interesting in regards to the last few months of Valentino's life:

"The ease with which he (Valentino) passed from one screen character to another, the ability to immerse himself into his disparate acting personalities, was always dominated by an absolute love. His successes, which were often followed by serious practical problems, gave him a life of highs and lows rendering it difficult for him to ever maintain a total equilibrium."

With this in mind, I pose a general question to readers: 

What do you think contributed to making Rudolph Valentino such an enduring icon? 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Can't Blame it On the Pups

November 22, 1925 was the day Natacha's dogs made news. Both Natacha and Rudy made bitter comments about their separation and it is not, imo a simple story. So many factors factoring in. But the press seized on her calling her dogs her "babies" and that was the theme in the syndicated articles. I think it unfair the press does not mention the stature of her career which they demean. When Valentino met Rambova she was working on DeMille and Nazimova projects, placing her at the top of her field and a success at a young age. But imo her marriage to Valentino cost her that career but she could not see that here. Love is blind. 


Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Line in the Sand

I will admit I really felt the podcast we just posted on the Pink Powder Puff Editorial. The bullying aspects of the entire incident are something all too familiar to us. Baltasar Cue called it Valentino's "transcendental anguish", a phrase we understand. 

It was all too easy to mock Valentino during that summer of 1926 and this snarky cartoon (see below) is a prime example I think. Mocking his line in the sand and his, "I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore". 

I guess the joke is that editors are notoriously scrawny so now they have to beef up to defend their writing. I wonder if Valentino saw this cheesy and insulting cartoon which demeans his reaction entirely. 

They Told the Story

It has been an interesting insight into Rudolph Valentino for me, to know the children and grandchildren of people he chose, admired, trusted and those he affected. I am now convinced you can know someone by knowing their children.

George Ullman's two children were serious, impeccably well-mannered and gracious hosts always. I did change their lives in a way because when I came along they did not really know the details of their father's executorship. Bob Ullman was determined I find the records so they could know the truth. As the truth rolled out, they learned a real truth about the injustice done to their father. They told their father's story with curiosity.  

Frank Mennillo's family were Italian hosts of the highest order; gregarious, very upbeat and fun. They invited me out to eat, entertained me once with a BBQ and bottomless drinks. They put on the dog and I could see that Frank's generosity with Valentino was a family tradition of generosity. They told Frank's story with love and gusto. 

Norma Niblock's children were extremely intelligent in the process. Both were ready with new things to tell me and many times they fine-tuned or expanded on things they told me previously. They really tracked everything well and the book excels for their great desire to tell this story. Sally an engineer, a designer and Roger a military mind certainly made the book magic. They told their mother's story with precision. 

But it speaks well of Rudolph Valentino I think, that all of these families were great people to work with. He was very savvy about character. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Norma's Babies

 Interviewing Norma Niblock's two children was thoroughly enjoyable. Each of them had a different way of reminiscing and we worked out our interviews around that. 

Sally lives a long ways away from me and there were time changes to calculate. So we set up a routine of my calling at the same time, in the late afternoon. She would be excited to answer my questions and would talk about 45 minutes before she was done. 

Roger wanted to be called in the morning. He could talk longer and gave me his cell number in case I had any questions for him and he was out.  During our first two calls, he told me in great detail his military history.

When I had 20 pages or so for them to read, I sent the packages off. I called after they read them and we went over any changes. Sally, for instance told me that her parents only rented the Saticoy ranch when I had them owning the property. 

They both read the manuscript before it became a book and were very excited and pleased about the outcome. These adorable tykes waited a lifetime to tell their Mama's story. Here with their beloved father, Holland. 1933.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

NORMA - The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino's Beauty Queen

I want to thank all of you for making Norma such a success! And also for all your positive feedback and fascinating insights! 

A Bit of Truth & Hala

In the twenty-two years I have been researching Valentino, many personalities have come along, some have stayed and some have departed. I am asked often about one of those personalities, Hala Pickford. Her's is a story not quickly or lightly told, but I am working on it at least from my viewpoint and the court records which are on file. 

When last I had any contact with her, some seven years ago, she had just received a new name and legal identity, based on what happened to her at the hands of those she called, "The Kookies". And particularly because of her legal involvement with Tracy Terhune, who she called, "King of the Kookies".

As I mentioned her in a comment about women Terhune has trashed, I began to think of the incredible price she paid. 

I think she was about 30 years old when she was driven into bankruptcy court because Terhune sued her for defamation (after she sought a restraining order against him). Hala could not afford a lawyer and lost the defamation case after receiving bad free legal advice and missing court dates. She owed Tracy Terhune some $130,00.00 She had nothing. After she became suicidal with the hopelessness, she ran away and home to family.

Terhune will tell and has told a different story. He will pound his bible, telling everyone how the judge in the case he brought against Hala Pickford said he never read such horrible defamation as Hala's blog. What Terhune does not say is that he was worse, way worse and Bret was in over kill on Hala. I read everything they wrote about her and it was the worst bullying rhetoric I have ever read. Ungodly. She fought back and wrote and wrote and wrote. What Terhune also does not say is that he went into that court room with his fancy lawyer, knowing she could not afford any legal representation. Shooting fish in the barrel is what he was doing. 

And when Terhune tells people he won big over her, he did not. The court records I do have reveal that of the $130,000 Hala owed Terhune, he settled... after her bankruptcy... for about 2500.00 and I do not know if he even got that. 

I do not know Hala's new name. No matter how things ended between the two of us, she never deserved what they did to her. Never. And when Terhune whines about that "Forewarning" I wrote long, long ago, this is what I was reporting on, this is what I desperately hoped would cease and this is the story I wanted to expose. 

I share two pages from the manuscript I have been working on about this important story from the Valentino world. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Cin! Cin!

How much is owed to George Ullman for the very existence of the Mineralava Tour, the pageant and for getting Valentino's career and life back on track in the summer of 1923. There are so many instances where his genius shines through; the contracts, the settlement of the strike, the direction Valentino took, the solace Valentino found in Ullman's friendship and partnership. 

I have not paid tribute to George Ullman in a while and considering all that happened to him for his devotion to Rudolph Valentino, it is something I should do more often.

Ullman writes about running into Norma Niblock at the Farmer's Market in the mid forties. Were they friends after this encounter? Find the answer to that in the book. 

And a tribute also must go to Renato as the dream Italian chef. Sometimes I like to brag about my meals these days because he cooks them all. Tonight? We had a perfectly executed pizza with cheeses galore, tomato and prosciutto and for desert strawberries with cream and a tiny cream puffs on the side... all served with a chilled wine sparkling wine. I can not complain.

So cin cin to the fellows who make these great things happen! Thank you Renato for my delicious pizza pie and here's to S. George Ullman for his magnificent role in the Valentino story!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Eighty-Eight

One of the more exceptional photographs in Norma Niblock's archive was the image of all of the 88 contestants. I included the entire span of this image in the book but here share a clip. Norma is circled but I think some of the other contestants are interesting to notice. The original photo in her collection is about a foot and half long and has survived the years rather well. Norma is easy to spot because of the way she tips her head which is unique to her. 

I learned a great deal more about Norma researching the book than I knew when I wrote Affairs Valentino many years ago and I am happy I was able to expand and fine tune to a high degree the true story of this remarkable woman. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

A Wonderful Find

 How thrilling for me to find this little card in Norma Niblock's archive. (see below) Her identification card which allowed her to board a train for the final pageant in New York, with "dining car" privileges! I knew George Ullman devised this method and I cite from his memoir, page 30:

The railroad executives were most cooperative. I did not want to send the winning beauty contestants either the money or the tickets for their railroad fare, simply because I thought that some of the girls might use the money (or convert the tickets) and fail to appear in New York City at the required date. So I arranged with the various railroad executives to allow the conductors on the trains to accept the girl’s signatures in lieu of cash or tickets. All of the girls got to New York in time.”

* Norma would not take the train to New York and drove herself, with her mother from Toronto. A wonderful find in her papers and photos and which I share in the book. (front and back)