Saturday, May 15, 2021

I Can Only Imagine

Someone commented the other day about collector Bill Self and how he managed to accumulate all he did when it came to Valentino memorabilia. Whenever I went to visit Bill for an interview he would have a few of his items out on a coffee table for me to see; Rudy relics.

For me the more interesting gems from those meetings were things he told me; things I never forgot. He had a way of speaking and I could tell when he was being evasive. When he looked you in the eye and said something it had an air of fact about it. If he did not want to answer he just changed the subject and that was that.

Of course I came prepared with a carefully constructed outline of topics and questions. We did not always stay on topic and he would digress and even interview me. When he learned I was also interviewing the Ullmans, when he learned I was going to New York City to visit Campbell's... he had many questions for me.

Some of the statements he made to me were stunning and they inspired my further research and discovery. For example to mention just a few:

He told me the only person who ever had anything bad to say about Rudy was Robert Florey and added that this was because Florey was the only person Rudy ever personally fired.

Bill Self told me how Alberto and Jean Valentino were horrible about George Ullman but that George Ullman never had an unkind word to say about anyone.

Self told me straight up how Alberto told him Rudy contracted syphilis from prostitutes as a teenager.

He told me once to change the passwords to my online accounts and often. (and he named names)

Self told me he interviewed the surgeon who first examined Rudy when he was admitted to the Polyclinic Hospital, Dr. William Rawls... and Self said Rawls told him they all knew Rudy was a dead man.

Self told me Alberto Valentino told him that E.M. Hull's The Sheik was the only book Rudy ever read cover to cover.

And one day Self told me how Jean looked exactly like Rudy.

I have related many times how Self terminated our interviews because the Alberto Valentino family spokeswoman, Jeanine Villalobos told him he could no longer speak to me.

I can only imagine how much more Bill Self would have told me because I really believe he wanted to tell me everything. In the time we did have together he certainly told me enough for me to build the story I did. 

Below, Bill Self with Bee Ullman, the photo behind them...Bee with George and Rudy. I know the woman in this photo has often been erroneously labeled as being Rudy's secretary... but Bee's children identified their mother.