Friday, June 18, 2021

"Never Use Your Mother's Maiden Name"

I will not disagree with any of the comments left on my previous posts about Mr. William Self. I will add that I believe he wanted me to succeed. Despite his encouragement, at one point in our interviews our exchanges felt like that Mad magazine cartoon, “Spy v. Spy” as we both worked our individuals angles for information. I was looking for documents and he was after anything I discovered. I was after those court records and wanted to see the United Artists' contract. He promised me every interview that he would dig that up and find those reel to reel tapes of Bee Ullman's interview. He never did. So it went.

When I told him Michael Morris encouraged me to write an article about the literary legacy of Valentino being gay, he said he wanted to read it. He did read it and called me full of praise.

Bill Self was not a man to express much outward emotion, Michael Morris called him “The Sphinx”... but he was upset over a couple of things.

He did not like the then heavy presence of the “Rudy as gay” contingency. He lamented how these people usurped the annual memorial service and explained to me how these people intimidated and managed to get press for the event. He warned me about someone named “Tracy Terhune” who I was about to run into full force. He told me to “tread lightly” where he was concerned. That proved a bit impossible.

Self told me to “change my passwords and often” and explained how he had been hacked and also said never use your mother's maiden name! Security seemed an issue for him.

While I was interviewing Bill, Emily Leider's book came out and I asked him what he thought of it. He said he thought originally I might be “in trouble” by the book, but then said I was not to worry because he found the book to be “the same old thing”. He did not like the title and spoke about that and said he could not finish reading the book. He was also mystified Lieder quoted him because he said he never spoke to her.

I was always welcomed to the Self home and treated graciously. And I honestly think if Jeanine Villalobos had not slammed that door in my face Self would have eventually told me everything. He was intrigued by my work and I think he wanted to be a part of the Valentino story. But I went on to discover the back story of William Self which in many ways came together all on its own.

I want to make the point that he knew what I was writing, he knew my perspective on the subject of Rudolph Valentino and he was a willing participant for the interviews I did have with him.