Saturday, August 13, 2022

How Much of a High Roller

How much of a gambler was Rudolph Valentino? We know he gambled with his luck but my question relates to money; did he enjoy gambling with cash?

Robert Florey writes how Rudy did not like to gamble and relates the anecdote of Valentino losing money to Fatty Arbuckle; fifteen dollars rolling dice. Florey relates how Valentino was furious and could not stop regretting and fretting over the money lost.

We know the myth Valentino gambled on his first sail to America and lost all the money his mother sent with him is false. This because the money was awaiting him in a bank in New York City.

We also know the myth Valentino gambled as a teenager to be false because he was too young to be allowed entrance to the casino mentioned in that anecdote.

I think the most compelling insight into this subject would be George Ullman's story told in his 1975 memoir; the night Ullman, Bee Ullman, Natacha and Rudy drove to Tijuana where Rudy gambled and lost. From The S. George Ullman Memoir, p. 48 – 49.

“One afternoon, on a whim, Rudy decided that he would like to visit the Coronado Beach Hotel. He couldn’t be dissuaded and Natacha and my wife and I piled into his Voisin Roadster and in about three hours we were there. After dinner his real objective came to light. He wanted to go to Tia Juana, then a wide open gambling town in Mexico, but only about an hour’s drive from the Coronado.

That’s where we went again in Rudy’s automobile. But by this time Rudy was a bit high on the few drinks we had had at the hotel and was a little belligerent and loud. A few more drinks and a few losses in the casino and we had all we could do to make him quiet down.

I warned him several times to keep his voice low because I noticed a Mexican policeman close by watching, and I told that to Rudy. He said something to the effect of, “To hell with the police.” And the officer moved in and said, “What did you say?” I had a tight hold on Rudy now and whispered in his ear to shout, “Viva Mexican police!” which he did.

The policeman moved away and Rudy again became abusive so there was nothing I could do but to hit him in the jaw, not too hard but enough to partially sober him up. Natacha got some coffee and made him drink it. Then after a while, he agreed to let me drive back to the hotel. He was angry at me then but the following morning he sheepishly apologized and all was well again.”

**What do you think? I think Valentino liked to gamble but hated to lose like anyone else. Renato thinks it is a myth he liked to gamble and goes with Florey on this one.


6 comments:

  1. I don't think Rudy liked losing money. He liked spending money because he always got something out of it. But to lose was not worth it. It also seems like Rudy could probably drink wine but not the hard stuff.

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  2. I agree that Valentino did not like to gamble unless, of course, the odds were really in his favor. I think evidence shows he wasn't very lucky or skilled as a gambler and he didn't like losing his money.

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    1. It is interesting to recall how Ullman said Valentino spent wildly on credit but when it involved cash in the hand it was hard for him to part with money. Maybe that was something that manifested in gambling.

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    2. It's human nature. People will throw out a credit card without blinking, but they find it hard to spend that last $20 bill in their wallet.

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  3. This vignette is a perfect example of why Ullman’s 1975 memoir is so valuable. Valentino was capable of being impetuous and of drinking to excess and becoming belligerent and abusive. As unattractive as the episode undoubtedly may be to those who believe the sun shone out of Valentino’s rear end, it reads and feels as entirely authentic. It also gets us closer to Valentino’s personality in all its aspects. I believe the charming plum episode Ullman relates also reveals Valentino to be very reluctant to part with cash and, therefore, unlikely to relish hurling bills at the gambling table.

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