Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Kaplan Edizioni Volume

Some time after the Convegno Valentino, an international conference on Rudolph Valentino held in 2009 and hosted by the University of Turin, the university published this book of the speeches delivered including mine. I am honored to be included in this volume and am happy it is for sale online. It is all in Italian and a beautiful book. Find it here:


Monday, June 29, 2020

A Couple of Myths Dispelled During my Visit to Frank E. Campbell's

In 2003, I traveled to New York City... with my specific destination being Frank E. Campbell's Funeral Home. I made my appointment and told the staff librarian I was writing a book on Rudolph Valentino  and wanted to see anything they had in their archive. He told me the only other Valentino biographer to ever visit the premises was Robert Oberfirst in the late 1950's. 

I wrote about this visit in my post on this blog titled, "Finding Valentino's Sarcophagus". I was not entirely prepared to take so many photos as I did and back in that day we did not have Iphones to take high quality images in an instant. But I made do.

I have shared many of those images over the years, in our books and online. But I am sharing a few more and posting the following to preserve them in yet another location. I feel they are important and deserve to be seen. I photographed the pages of an old ledger with the hand-written invoice for Valentino's funeral and a crumbling scrapbook of newspaper clippings. Campbell's would send me clearer scans of the invoice which I referenced in Affairs Valentino. 

I feel these images should be shared because they dispel a couple of prevalent defamatory lies which are still bandied about as truth today. 

The invoice stands as proof George Ullman paid for the funeral in two payments. He paid that bill in full as we see here:

I think you can sense the chaos in this invoice page. Someone was trying awfully hard to make sense of what was going and just what was to be charged. 

The first of several signatures of George Ullman, Address: Hotel Ambassador, N. Y. City

George Ullman pays Campbell's $10,000.00 with a balance which was paid within ten days. 

And from the scrapbook...

...surprising in this interview with Jean Acker (on the right) that she claims she was in the next room when Rudy died. According to the attending physician, Frank Mennillo and George Ullman she was not there but came to see him some time earlier. 

And a second myth dispelled...for those who claim Natacha Rambova made no contact with George Ullman and had no interest in Valentino's funeral, this article dispels that defamatory lie.

There were articles from newspapers around the world. 

It is a shame this scrapbook could not be rescued. I have no idea where it is now and imagine just as happened with the sarcophagus, the moment I announced its location...poof... it vanished. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Cheers to you, Renato Floris!!

Oh, the memories of the days long before lock down and masks and social distancing...Renato celebrated his birthday with some fine wine and a dinner (two years ago). I am incredibly biased in his praise...but he has worked so very hard and silently to contribute to the Rudolph Valentino legacy. 

Renato learned to speak French in his elementary school days and learned English from a persistent auntie... and now those skills have resulted in some fine books translated for all of you to read. 

Renato Floris first stepped into the Valentino world when he worked on the RAI television documentary on Valentino in the 1990's. It was then he met Father Michael Morris and for this we would meet in 2009 in Turin and begin our journey of true love and collaboration. 

Cheers to you Renato! All love!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Rodolfo Valentino Bambino

Una bella storia raccontata da Aurelio Miccoli, la storia di Rodolfo Valentino bambino.

I Cherish These Thoughts

 Below, a message I received on Instagram from a follower. I do not know their true identity but found their sentiment worth sharing and preserving here. If they are reading this, I thank them again. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Most Interesting Research Folder

Some time ago, in his continuing malevolence targeting us and anything we say or do...and on his eight year old deceitful Affairs Valentino Masses of Trivialities Anti-Satan Holy Warrior and very Ageist Critique blog, Tracy Ryan Terhune revels in smearing Renato's monumental translation effort by saying the Jeanne DeRecqueville book was of no significance and was not referenced in any previous book on Rudolph Valentino. Well he obviously posted before and not after spending one minute fact-checking his own statement because that is 100% false which we handily proved in a previous post. The book was in fact referenced in every single reputable book on Valentino since DeRecqueville published her work in 1978.

As I was going through Michael Morris' archive just now I came across his folder labeled, “Recqueville's Valentino (French)” (see photo below). I took some pictures of the contents of his folder to further prove just how much the esteemed Father Michael Morris respected DeRecqueville's work and as I mentioned previously he did cite it in his Madam Valentino bibliography.

Here follows:

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Father's Day Wish

Even though people might disagree with what I write, disagree about such things as my belief Valentino's nephew was his love child, they deserve to be able to read what I present and judge for themselves. I think the level of opposition to my even presenting that theory speaks volumes. If it were some crackpot idea they would have laughed it off. They did not and instead they organized to stop Affairs Valentino at all costs.

I was a hard person to convince about the love child. But I remember well when I began to believe it was true. This was when we discovered the address of Via Nizza 9; baby Jean's actual birthplace in Turin. It all seemed to fall into place in a tragic saga that greatly affected Valentino's brief life.

I did not present this story to demean, to injure nor to gain publicity. I had to present it because it became too compelling to not mention. So very much was explained by this simple concept.

But the unending campaign to impugn me, Renato and all of our books stands as testament to the theory's veracity I think. Any book, or theory, that commands eleven solid years of such barbaric opposition from a band of haters has power and legitimacy. I take heart in that. 

So I say, Happy Father's Day to Rudolph Valentino.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Little Did We Know

In organizing my twenty years of files and research materials, I came across this piece which was written by my literary agent at the time. He wrote it sometime about 2005. When he wrote, "...the ongoing struggle will be heightened considerably..." oh, little did we know then how true that would be.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020


"Thought", by Nicolas Roerich
Probably painted in the Altai region between India and Tibet sometime in the early 1920's. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Please Tell This to the Honorable Judge

David Bret can not stop repeating the lie that I once called him a rapist, etc. I respond again for the one millionth time, to say he can take that one out of his cult hate arsenal now and once and for always.

I never called him a rapist and he knows that. He knows that because I have an email he sent to me apologizing for thinking I did such a thing and he blamed someone he called Chris A. Wagenti. (everything about Chris A. Wagenti and more will be in my forthcoming book "Die, Evelyn Zumaya, Die")

Now I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but for the life of me I could not understand his subsequent explanation for the Wagenti lie. It was so convoluted and ridiculous and a few years later he tried to resurrect that lie but he forgot he originally created his fictional character as Chris A. Wagenti and referred to him as a woman he called Christina Wagenti. He must have read that “A.” wrong.

When I pointed out his mistake he dropped the subject but from then on he decided to not only call me homophobic a billion times a day but clackety, clack, clack, clack on his keyboard claiming that I called him a rapist a billion times a day. So to David Bret I say I am not nor ever have been amused by that lie which you vomit on a daily basis. I am the wrong person to be so sadistically tortured by you on that subject at all.

The only person I have ever called a rapist was the man who raped me when I was eleven years old.

And I hope David Bret prints this blog post out to take with him to bankruptcy court in a few weeks. He has done this in the past to try, and with zero success, to convince the court he is my victim. I hope he does so with this post...because I would like the judge to feel the pain he causes people through my words.

David Bret is headed into bankruptcy court because he lost the lawsuit we filed against him and he is refusing to comply with the verdict or pay us one dime of the awarded damages which are long overdue. He owes Renato and I a total of 44,274.01 Pounds, which is $54,682.83. U.S dollars and this includes all calculated interest to the date of this post.

I hope the judge will recognize how difficult it has been for us to attempt to stop the horror that is David Bret... and how long a journey it has been through courtrooms in three countries to try and make him stop attacking us or anyone else online ever again.

I would implore a judge to make this man pay for his misdeeds and as atonement for the cruelty to all the women he has done this to over the years.

And I would thank the bankruptcy judge for their compassion and for the part they will play in this very long trail to justice.

Everything David Bret posts online about me is a lie. Everything. I would tell the judge to please make this man pay.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Finding the Sarcophagus of Rudolph Valentino

Below I share one more article I wrote some years ago about a "find" I made while researching Affairs Valentino and its bizarre story:

The interview had all the elements of a scene right out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie: a Peter Lorre look-alike mortician, tastefully blacked-out mortuary windows and air sickeningly sweet with a mother lode of fresh blooms awaiting the morning’s funeral. In search of details about Rudolph Valentino’s death, I had traveled a long, long way for this interview. Despite the macabre setting and the fact that the gracious mortician was far too welcoming for my comfort, I forged on. Perhaps my uneasiness was due to the chilling realization he was employed by a vast corporation proudly billing themselves as the, “world’s largest death-care provider.”

At some point during the interview, I was asked if I’d ever heard of Valentino’s second coffin. The mortician explained how it had long been rumored within the funeral business that an outer casket encased Valentino’s coffin on the train ride from New York to Los Angeles. I said I knew nothing about an outer casket and asked why such a case would have been used. He went on explaining how in order to transport a corpse across state lines, coffins were required by Federal law to be encased in a sarcophagus or shipping case. Valentino’s coffin was encased in just such a shipping case which was custom-made for the journey and believed to still be in existence. Although the mortician claimed he had no idea where the case was located, he promised to make a few phone calls to see what he could find out.

That was the end of our discussion of the shipping case that day and I proceeded to photograph the Valentino file on record in Campbell's archive which included the lengthy invoice for services rendered and a massive scrapbook of newspapers clippings.

For a short while after that interview I had no clue my presence at Campbell's that day piqued interest in the location of Valentino’s shipping case. The imaginations of several morticians were sparked and this inspired a covert operation to capitalize on the missing shipping case.

About one month after the interview, I opened an e-mail from “the world’s largest death-care provider” to see photographs of a metal coffin loading onto the screen. While the images were downloading, I received a call from the mortician with news that this was indeed Valentino’s shipping case. Furthermore he’d found the owner and was trying to secure permission for me see the hidden treasure.

I told him I thought the piece should be authenticated by an expert and once again asked him for the owner’s contact information. With this he said he would get back to me and hung up. I would have to be content with nothing more than the thrilling photographs for a while longer.

Yet almost immediately, the intrigue surrounding the location of the case and the identity of the owner became so intense I began to wonder if I would ever see it. The mortician called me several times to update me on the status of my request to see the case. He also asked me what I thought the cash value of such a piece could be. Smelling the rat, I told him I didn’t have the slightest idea of its monetary value or interest in anything but its history.

I prepared to move as soon as I was given a go ahead and assumed I would make a quick trip to wherever, snap a few pictures and have my story. Instead, I soon landed squarely in the middle of heady negotiations for the sale of the shipping case and risked my neck for a just a few moments with Rudy’s mythical sarcophagus.

Access to the actual case complicated as the mortician made his power play to position himself as the only contact with the owner and thereby cash in on in any possible deal the shipping case’s owner might make. Granting new meaning to the word cagey, he brainstormed an elaborate but thinly constructed system of communication to guarantee his role.

He asked me not to call him at work, to only call him through a second contact he put me in touch with, to use only this cell number and that e-mail, etc. and I was never given the owner’s name. As he began his methodical and territorial watch over the artifact, the welcoming host who greeted me in his mortuary office a few months earlier morphed into agent OO undertaker.

He informed me the owner was interested in selling the shipping case and added that he had run into a snag because a few of his mortician cronies heard about the case’s impending sale and were scheming for their cut of the sale.

Mortician was thoroughly dismayed at this turn of events and lamented to me about it over the phone. He was so distressed and paranoid at the deteriorating status of his gambit I could almost hear the sweat beading on his forehead.

Ignoring the cloak and dagger, I called the cell phone of mortician's mystery contact number two and after some doing, I was at long last given an address where I could view the case. I scheduled some immediate travel arrangements and boarded a plane for Los Angeles. Within a few hours I had landed, rented a car at the airport and was following my usually unreliable MapQuest directions to the designated address.

The address was that of a mortuary situated deep in some heavy inner city skid row real estate. It was the kind of neighborhood no prudent soul would dare cross without a police escort. Nevertheless, it was easy to imagine a time when the establishment could have been surrounded by a more Mayberry-like backdrop. But on the morning of my appointment the streets were alive and humming with prostitutes pacing for work, homeless campers organizing their life's possessions on the sidewalk, and wild-eyed, ranting desperados preaching to whom ever would listen.

Having arrived a few minutes early, I made a quick dash into a nearby McDonalds for a sorely needed cup of coffee. This was no predictable Micky Dee safe zone that sunny morning. After noticing several of the tables were burned char black in an apparently substantial blaze and that the disheveled, armed guard posted in front of the counter was swaying and half conscious, I made what I hoped would be a subtle retreat to my rental car.

I failed miserably only to be followed through the parking lot by a squirrley-eyed teenager. At this point I made the executive decision to spend the remaining few minutes before my private viewing of Rudolph Valentino’s long lost shipping case sipping my coffee in the safety of the rental car driving around the block.

Meanwhile inside the mortuary, the bronze and copper casket was being dragged out of its warehouse storage for the first time in seventy seven years. Like a great vessel run aground, the case was so cumbersome it took three mortuary workers to heft the unwieldy bark onto a mortuary gurney. They had their orders to have the neglected relic on display in one of their private chapels by nine o’clock sharp. Just before the hour they wheeled the shipping case into the small sanctuary, lifted off the heavy cover and propped it against the wall.

It was up to the floor mortician that morning to oversee the arrangements in each of the mortuary chapels and it was during his inspection of the shipping case installation that he noticed an inscription on the casket’s tarnished lid. After retrieving a can of brass polish from his office he began to wipe away the years of neglect. The inscription read, “Rudolfo Gugliemi, Rudolph Valentino, Born May 6, 1895 Died August 23, 1926.” The mortician found the inscription curious because his name also happened to be Rudolph.

Mortician Rudy had just finished his brass polishing when I arrived. He escorted me into the side chapel off the lobby where the gurney had been positioned in front of several rows of church pews. After months of anticipation, I paused to appreciate the point blank impact of the moment. The e-mailed photographs did this masterpiece no justice.

The case was in extraordinary condition, masterfully constructed and appeared to have been completely hand made. The delicate beads of solder were so expertly placed I was sure some jeweler in 1926 must have labored an eternity in its execution. In his best professional whisper, mortician Rudy left the chapel telling me to take my time. He didn’t seem sure why I was there and probably wondered why I would come so far to sit in a church pew paying my respects to an empty casket.

I was there to document the objet d'art and as soon as he departed I got down to work. The case was mine to investigate and inspect from all angles so I set up my tripod and took a quick twenty or thirty photographs. I brushed my hand along its dusty interior and examined the detailed tooling of the handles. Scratch marks from the transport of Valentino’s interior coffin were still evident. The mortician had polished the cover of the case to a brilliant shine and I noticed Guglielmi had been misspelled.

Staring into the long metal box it was hard not to visualize its cargo of long ago. It was in this case Rudy’s lifeless body jostled along the rails on his last ride home to California. I felt no subtle twinge at that thought and at the evidence before me of the brutal honesty of Valentino’s death. And after weeks of negotiating access to view the shipping case, I was suddenly gripped by the desire to pack up my briefcase and camera and get as far away as I could from the grisly find.

I stopped by Mortician Rudy’s office on my way out to shake his hand and thank him for his time. Before I left I decided to have a stab at it and asked him directly if he could give me the owner’s name. Apparently he had not been briefed on the subterfuge preventing me from knowing the identity of the case’s owner. For with no hesitation he jotted down the man’s name and phone number. I thanked him again, dashed back to the rental car, and headed off to the airport and home.

When I placed the call to the case’s owner, he granted me a stilted interview but was slightly confused as to how I got his number and assumed I was an interested buyer. I finally had the story and photographs but it would be a bit longer before I could make any graceful exit from the thorny subject of the shipping case. I realized my error in telling the mortician at Campbell's that I  had spoken with the shipping case's owner when he became immediately paranoid I would compromise his deal. I assured him I would not reveal the owner's name to anyone out of a courtesy for him for arranging my viewing of the case.

Within a few days I made another trip to Los Angeles for another interview with Valentino memorabilia collector, Bill Self. Like the naive child of the Valentino world I was at that time, I told him excitedly about my find and how I had seen the case. I showed him the photographs, did not tell him I knew who the owner was and left to fly home to San Francisco.

Like any other artifact pertaining to Rudolph Valentino, from the moment the case was uncovered its cash value was increasing with each passing day. The day after my visit with Bill Self, the mortician called me to say he had spoken with Self and learned he was also interested in buying the case. Bill Self wasted no time calling Campbell's to be directed to the mortician. 

Bill Self then sent me an e-mail informing me he had just spoken with the mortician at Campbell's and added he had already been to see the shipping case that day, had contacted the owner and was about to refuse the mortician's offer to buy it for 15,000$. I called Self and asked him how he learned the identity of the owner. He told me that he recognized the case from a photograph of Valentino's coffin being off loaded and knew the mortuary was one belonging to the Cunningham family. Incredibly, they were still in business and still had possession of the shipping case. Bill Self had his hands on that case within five minutes of my leaving his home that day.

Of course the mortician suspected I betrayed him by telling Self the owner's name which I had not, but his hopes for the ready chunk of cash had fallen through. Although Bill Self told me the price of the shipping case was too steep for him, in hindsight I believe at that point Self already had taken ownership of it and had that case in his collection.

When I downloaded the photographs I took of the shipping case, my fifteen year old daughter brought one thing to my attention. To my practical eye she pointed out what appeared to be a circular orb floating over the casket. She declared the perfect orb drifting in the space above Valentino’s shipping case definitive evidence of ghostly presence. I did not wholeheartedly believe her claim, but ghost or no ghost, as far as I was concerned leaning in to touch the inside of Valentino’s open sarcophagus was a disturbing end to an utterly disquieting tale. I asked Self a few times if he knew what ever happened to the shipping case but he never gave me an answer.

According to Campbell's records, the case originally cost nine hundred dollars. This would be about $9000 today. Two other charges were added to the original cost of the shipping case; a mechanic was paid fifteen dollars to solder the base to a brace in the train car and an engraver was paid 25$ to misspell Rudy’s name on the cover.

The unexpected appearance of this artifact confirms there are still treasures to be found and new stories to be told about Rudolph Valentino which reveal a trail not quite cold. I lament I told Self about the shipping case because as is the case with almost every other Rudolph Valentino artifact, this museum piece has vanished into a secret archive of some private collector, never to be seen by Valentino's public again.

I learned at one point from Bill Self that another Valentino collector owned a crypt space near Valentino's. I often wonder if Self acted as middle man and sold this to that collector so they could be buried in the shipping case and next to their idol. Who knows?

I never heard from the mortician at Campbell's again and I think he waited a bit too long to close a deal on the shipping case. He and I underestimated Bill Self's ability to find the owner and arrive with the cash in hand.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Uncovering the Story of Affairs Valentino

I wrote the below article many years ago. It is a brief account of my Affairs Valentino discovery process and in re-reading it today I felt renewed dedication to defend the work of S. George Ullman's son, Robert Warren Ullman on this book. Despite all the barbaric opposition to Affairs Valentino, the book shines through... it was born from a foundation of integrity and in no small measure due to Bob Ullman. It is with the utmost respect for Bob that I share this account. I intended to post this as jpeg images, but I know some of you are reading this blog in Italian using the translator feature and I did not want to deprive you of the ability to do so. Thank you for reading. 

"Uncovering the Story of Affairs Valentino" by Evelyn Zumaya reads as follows:

On the morning of July 10, 2005, I boarded a flight in Oakland, California and flew to John Wayne International Airport in Irvine, California. A few minutes after the plane touched down, I hailed a cab on MacArthur Boulevard for the next leg of my journey; a ten minute ride to a gracious home in a secluded neighborhood a few miles south of Irvine. I arrived at my destination that picture perfect Southern California morning to find the familiar entry patio vibrant with potted orchids. I was aware of my host’s appreciation for this sensitive bloom and brought along a bouquet of freshly-cut Thai orchids. With my orchids and briefcase in hand, I rapped on the front door, took a deep breath and braced myself in anticipation of the interview before me. For contrary to my radiant surroundings on the patio, I knew that the scenario on the other side of the front door was anything but sunny.
I’d stood there many times but on that occasion it was with a lump in my throat and a leaden heart as I knew that this would be my final visit with Rudolph Valentino’s godson, Robert Warren Ullman. “Bob” was gravely ill. A few days earlier I received his e-mail requesting I travel to Irvine to visit him one more time. He concluded his brief message with a warning, “Better make it sooner than later”.
From 1923 to 1926, Bob’s father, George Ullman was silent film icon Rudolph Valentino’s closest friend, mentor and trusted business manager. And it was during the course of researching my book on Valentino titled, Affairs Valentino, I interviewed Bob and his younger sister Bunny. Locating George Ullman’s surviving relatives became an early objective in my research as I hoped he left archival materials relating to his affiliation with Valentino. With Ullman occupying a close vantage point of Valentino’s personal and professional life, I became determined to pursue this avenue of investigation.


In the rare book library at the University of Southern California, I pored through the archives of Valentino biographer Irving Schulman. On one of his LATimes article photocopies, he scrawled the words, “A Mystery Indeed.” This article reported the story of George Ullman’s assertion that Valentino’s safe was raided after the star's death and a critical portion of his will removed. This turned out to be a mystery I would solve after finding the Ullman siblings and the Ullman archive.
In locating George Ullman’s estate, I subscribed to an internet “people search”, purchased a listing of every Ullman in the continental United States and mailed a letter of inquiry to each listing. Within a few weeks I received an e-mail from George Ullman’s grandson. He directed me to Ullman’s only surviving children — Bunny, then seventy-six years old and her older brother Bob, who at eighty was terminally ill with cancer. George’s grandson also informed me his father, George’s oldest son Dan, died some years earlier.
I forwarded a letter of introduction to Bob and Bunny Ullman and within a few days I received a telephone call from Bob. During this first conversation, he informed me he would be happy to discuss his father’s story with me as they had never been contacted regarding his association with Rudolph Valentino. I made plans to travel to Irvine to interview him in person and placed a telephone call to his sister Bunny. Unlike Bob, Bunny lived nearby and I was able to meet with her within a few days. During my first of many interviews with Bunny, she shared with me a significant cache of unknown documents and artifacts relating to her father and Valentino.
The most important item in this treasure trove was her father’s unpublished memoir. Prior to his death in 1975, George Ullman wrote this frank memoir revealing his behind-the-scenes life with Rudolph Valentino. Until Bunny handed me this lost piece of Hollywood history, her father’s memoir remained unread and nearly forgotten in the Ullman home for thirty years. Upon first glance, I noticed some of the document’s pages were written in Ullman’s handwriting while others were transcribed by a typist. Bunny explained how she and her brothers encouraged their father to write the memoir during the last months of his life and ferried his handwritten pages to a typist for transcription.
At that point in my research, I had read nearly every book on Valentino and as I read Ullman’s account I was dumbfounded. Riveted by Ullman’s many personal anecdotes, I realized he was drastically altering the current version of Valentino’s life story. It was also apparent to me that although Ullman and Valentino appeared to have stridently different personalities, the lives of these two loyal friends were inexorably intertwined from their very first meeting.
As I read further, I learned of many critical events in Valentino’s life that had never been mentioned in any Valentino publication, book or article, to date. I knew it would be critical I fact-check Ullman’s memoir to substantiate many of his claims. Consequently, I embarked upon a campaign to locate any more unknown, unpublished documents and archives which might provide a deeper understanding of Valentino’s personal life and his relationship with Ullman.
I then made my first trip to Irvine to interview Bob Ullman and was thrilled when he shared his private collection of family photographs and documents as well as many details of his father’s tenure as the executor of Valentino’s estate. This was a subject of great interest to Bob as his father told him little about his thirty year involvement in the contentious settlement of Valentino’s estate. Bob made it clear to me that his father’s legal travails as Valentino’s executor profoundly affected the Ullman household. I knew this was typically a subject which received scant coverage in books on Valentino and decided that investigating this “after-life” of Valentino might reveal a great deal more about his business affairs and his partnership with Ullman.
Bob informed me that as a result of his father’s tenure as Valentino’s executor, a $100,000.00 judgment had been levied against him; by today’s monetary exchange nearly one million dollars. I learned this judgment was handed down after Valentino’s only brother, Alberto Valentino, charged Ullman with fraud and mismanagement of the Valentino estate. And although Ullman was exonerated on all charges, the judgment was issued by the court ordering Ullman to reimburse the Valentino estate for cash advances he made as executor to Valentino’s three apparent heirs without the court’s approval.

It was apparent to me during this first interview with Bob that he lamented the dearth of information regarding this painful aspect of his father’s life and regretted his being much maligned for his role as Valentino’s business manager and executor of his estate. According to Bob many members of Valentino’s inner circle, including his brother, resented George’s authority over Valentino during the star’s life and many years after. Because of this resentment, he felt his father was accused of many unfounded allegations which were never substantiated by any factual documentation. He said this frustration was shared by the entire Ullman family and had been further compounded when George Ullman refused all opportunities to publicly defend himself against the uncorroborated and denigrating reports.
As I concluded my interview, Bob told me he spent his professional career as a mortgage banker. I had no idea at that moment just how valuable his accounting expertise and inherent stickling for details was about to become to my work. Before I left that day, Bob insisted I locate the probate court records of Valentino’s estate settlement before writing a word about this sore subject. Without such authoritative reference, he added, I would just be perpetuating more surmise and speculation. As he had never accessed the documents, he was eager to discover what they might reveal and encouraged me to delve deep for all available supporting primary source material which would reveal the facts of his father’s performance as Valentino’s executor.
Despite this tall order, I knew Bob was correct. Until I analyzed the court records relating to the settlement of the Valentino estate, I could not authoritatively report the story. I was confidant I could easily locate these records as they would all be on file and available for public review in The Los Angeles County Hall of Records (LACHR). Within the next few days, I found myself sleuthing through the dusty stacks of the LACHR in search of Rudolph Valentino’s public records. In light of the thirty years of legal exchange relating to the settlement of his estate, I expected the case file to be substantial in size. Unfortunately, my initial searches were fruitless and I returned to Irvine to share my disappointing news with Bob. He continued to assert that, by law, these records should be housed in this precise location and remained adamant I not write about his father’s tenure as Valentino’s executor until I found legal documentation of his performance.
More than a little discouraged, I pursued my search for Valentino’s missing case file while searching for other available sources of public information to fact check George Ullman’s memoir and substantiate his claims. With the assistance of a genealogical search service, I retained a researcher in Italy who successfully located critical Valentino family documents. At the headquarters of the National Archive of Alien Registration, or NARA, citizenship records revealed a wealth of vital supportive data including martial status, ports and dates of entry, occupations, addresses and rare passport photographs.
I logged onto the websites of the historical newspaper archives of both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, PROQUEST, and referenced many previously never-before-accessed press coverage of the day. This was then, in 2003, a relatively new research tool which allowed me to access the historical archives of many major newspapers on the internet merely by merely obtaining a library card to the libraries archiving the PROQUEST database. For a modest fee, a researcher at the Los Angeles County Library located and copied many documents for me including an unknown file of hand-written index cards referencing further never-before-accessed articles relating to Valentino and George Ullman.
By referencing and cross-referencing old telephone directories on file in public libraries and poring through police archives, census records and local historical museums, I located further supportive documentation. After several interviews with Valentino memorabilia collectors and experts on the subject of silent films and Rudolph Valentino, a story began to unfold. While following each lead, I found myself in unlikely, often dangerous locations including a mortuary situated in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Los Angeles, a dreary funeral home in Manhattan and the cloistered den of a reclusive Valentino collector.
Despite far too many setbacks, my primary goal was always to locate Valentino’s case file of public records. I made this my objective not only for the benefit of my work but also for Bob Ullman. With his life slipping away, his time remaining to learn the truth about his father was growing shorter by the day. I returned again and again to the Los Angeles County Hall of Records but continued to come up empty-handed as I was only able to recover a few documents relating solely to the collection processes on the court judgment held against George Ullman.
Clearly stymied, I explained my predicament to the LACHR staff and reminded them that they had been charged by the public to safe-guard these documents in this location. They offered several possible explanations why Valentino’s case file could not be found on the premises. Perhaps, they alleged, the file suffered water damage during a fire in the building years earlier. They explained how all documents compromised in the blaze were freeze-dried and then housed at a separate location. After a time-consuming and thorough search through these freeze-dried records, this proved not to be the case. The LACHR staff then informed me that perhaps Valentino’s file might be archived at the facility’s auxiliary location; this also proved not to be the case.
At this juncture my research assumed the added dimension of investigative reporting when I realized I had uncovered a crime; Valentino’s case file of public records had not simply been misplaced but had in fact been stolen. I had inadvertently stumbled onto compelling evidence of the theft of these documents while also exposing a shadowy world of the Valentino family's fiercely-guarded secrets and their practice of controlling Valentino collectors with a currency of their privately owned memorabilia.
Knowing how the illegal removal of any records from the LACHR constituted a felony in Los Angeles County, I proceeded to pursue my work in secrecy until I was able to document my suspicions. Whenever I did make this information public, I would be revealing evidence of an unshakable, decades-old Valentino family vendetta and their organized conspiracy which had successfully kept critical information about Rudolph Valentino and the truth about George Ullman cloaked from public access for eighty years.
After searching various depositories, I was at last rewarded in my quest for documentation when I located a case file of some one thousand pages of copies of Valentino’s missing probate court documents in a separate, unlikely location; an appeals court law library in San Francisco. This file included Valentino’s personal and professional financial statements, official court transcripts of testimony delivered during the lengthy settlement of his estate and extracts from his private household ledgers with entries detailing payments to his personal staff and loyal bootleggers.
The file also included copies of Valentino’s studio and business contracts, detailed records of his personal production company’s transactions, a precise listing of his debts at the time of his death including such specific items as his oil, grocery and ice bills and pages of a court-ordered audit of all of George Ullman’s executor's books. The information contained within these documents allowed me to validate the data in George Ullman’s memoir and learn a vast amount of new information concerning Valentino’s personal and business affairs and his business affiliation with Ullman. To the best of my knowledge, none of this information had ever been published or referenced in any publication about Valentino.
Perhaps, the most surprising document that turned up in this recovered case file was a previously “missing” second page of Valentino’s will. As I read this mysterious single sheet of paper, the commonly-held version of Valentino’s Last Will and Testament was overturned. Furthermore, the contents of the document presented an explanation for why Valentino’s court records were stolen from LACHR. The mere existence of this file of copied documents found in San Francisco in addition to the references contained within, proved definitively that Bob Ullman was right on target — Valentino’s original court records were indeed once housed in their rightful location in the LACHR.
During the entire time I conducted my investigation, the staff at LACHR conducted their own internal search for Valentino’s records. Upon the conclusion of their appraisal of the situation, Bob and Bunny Ullman received a notarized letter from the Los Angeles County Clerk acknowledging that Valentino’s probate records were unavailable for public review at their Los Angeles facility due to the entire case file being “missing”. It was then Bob, Bunny and I sat down with the recovered case file of copied documents to read the facts of their father’s story.
As I worked my way through the hundreds of pages of old court records, I recognized the name of another key player in this story, Frank Mennillo. Although it was often stated in Valentino publications that Frank Mennillo was his life-long friend, Mennillo received only meager, and as I was about to learn, inaccurate mention. According to the information in the recovered court records, Mennillo played a major role in the settlement of Valentino’s estate and with this in mind I pursued yet another angle of the story.
After reviewing the minimal information I could find on Mennillo, I set out to locate the Mennillo estate. I did so by the same means I utilized to locate the Ullman estate; a national mailing. I soon received a response from Frank Mennillo’s grandson who informed me that no one had ever interviewed their family regarding his grandfather’s affiliation with Rudolph Valentino. He put me in touch with Frank Mennillo’s daughter-in-law and I then began a series of informative interviews with the Mennillo family. They eagerly shared family photographs and archives with me and I learned how Frank Mennillo was Valentino's godfather, or benefactor, when he arrived in the U.S., and assisted him throughout his life with his personal and financial problems.
During my interviews with the Mennillo family, I gleaned more information supporting the claims George Ullman made in his memoir and learned more about Valentino’s affiliation with not only Frank Mennillo but George Ullman as well. Most significantly, my interviews with both the Ullman and Mennillo families presented me with the first account of Valentino’s death from the only two people who stood at his deathbed in 1926; George Ullman and Frank Mennillo. Remarkably, even decades after these events, the information I received from the Ullman and Mennillo families was collaborated by the information contained within the court records.
With these significant revelations, the Ullman 1975 memoir and Valentino's probate court records in hand, I began writing an epic tale of unforgivable betrayals, high-stakes courtroom dramas, ruthless power plays and a rash of individuals conspiring to prevent a dark family secret from being revealed.

I credit Bob Ullman’s determination for encouraging me to stay the course long enough to achieve my goal of recovering Valentino’s court records and thereby document this story. With unfaltering objectivity and devotion, Bob checked and rechecked the details of his father’s performance as Valentino’s executor, scrutinized the various insurance policies and dividends paid to the Valentino estate and conducted his own line-by-line audit of his father’s recovered books and ledgers.
During this arduous process Bob’s failing health inspired me to complete my work as quickly as possible. Despite the pressure of my grim deadline, I kept Bob’s desire to complete his contribution to Affairs Valentino before he died, foremost in my mind.
My subsequent interviews with him were briefer and the external manifestations of his advancing illness grew more apparent. When I presented his wife with my bouquet of Thai orchids on July 10, 2005, she whispered to me that my stay should not exceed ten minutes. In spite of Bob’s fragile condition and failed eyesight, he stood for one brief moment to greet me.
When I took my seat, I spotted a hospice brochure titled, "Final Journey” on a nearby coffee table and felt compelled to flip the pamphlet over. Perhaps in doing so I could dismiss the image of the sunset on the cover and the subject of death. Perhaps Bob and I would then be free to spend the next few hours in animated conversation. We could recall a time during the golden age of Hollywood when he lived with his family in a fabulous home in Beverly Hills and when as a robust toddler he sat upon his god-father, Rudolph Valentino’s lap. Perhaps I would hear more stories like the tale of how a drunken Erich Von Stroheim tumbled into the Ullman’s fish pond. I might have been regaled with Bob’s childhood tales of how he rode on Douglas Fairbanks' horse on a movie set or how Theda Bara’s husband Charles Brabin tried to scare the Ullman children into never smoking by blowing cigarette smoke through a white handkerchief.
Instead of sweet reminiscence, this would be only a fleeting ten minute visit before his wife gave me the nod. Bob stood once again with effort and gave me a quick hug as sincere as it was feeble. Realizing the weight of that awful moment, we tried to make light of our good-bye forever and I headed for the door. Bunny kept me abreast of Bob’s condition and three weeks after my visit I received her telephone call informing me that her brother had passed away.
My interviews with both the Ullman and Mennillo families became the foundation for Affairs Valentino. All documents, archives, twists in the plot line and quizzical additions to this life story of Rudolph Valentino, were subsequently found as the direct result of the stories of George Ullman and Frank Mennillo’s affiliations with Rudolph Valentino.


Monday, June 15, 2020

Your Oppposite?

Things were about to fall apart for Natacha Rambova and Rudolph Valentino when this little news item appeared, but it is still a neat quote.  Thank you Renato for sharing this one! 

Our Fur Babies Acknowledged!

The adorable "glue" that holds this entire operation together.