May 6: Rudolph Valentino

ValentinoIt was on this day in 1895 that Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla, better known as simply Rudolph Valentino, was born.

Valentino was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era. Starring in films like The Sheik, Blood and Sand and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Valentino quickly established an image as pop culture’s first sex symbol. When he died as a combined result of appendicitis, ulcers and peritontis at the age of 31, newspapers were filled with reports of mass hysteria amongst his female fans. 10,000 people lined the streets of New York City in the hopes of attending the funeral, with a few minor riots erupting. After the New York funeral, Valentino’s body was transported by train to Los Angeles, and a second funeral was held in Beverly Hills. He was eventually laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Now, what do Valentino and Edgar Allen Poen have in common? Well, their final resting places both have mysterious visitors. We’ve previously discussed the strange tale of the Poe Toaster, and today let’s meet the Lady In Black. On the first anniversary of Valentino’s death, a woman dressed entirely in black arrived at Hollywood Forever and left a rose at Valentino’s grave. It was later revealed that this was a stunt created by press agent Russel Birdwell. However, over the ensuing years a Lady In Black returned every year on the death anniversary, sometimes to the point of ridiculous. It’s said that on one anniversary a couple dozen “ladies in black” arrived at the mausoleum, including one “black lady in white”. There are also rumors of a ghostly Lady In Black that has been spotted weeping in front of Valentino’s tomb. Nowadays, motion picture historian and unofficial Hollywood Forever tour guide Karie Bible plays the role of Lady In Black for Hollywood Forever’s Valentino memorial service. The L. A. Times has an archive of photos of some non-spectral ladies in black throughout the years if you’d like to see more.

The scotch cocktail Blood And Sand first appeared in print in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book and is named after Valentino’s 1922 bullfighting drama. It’s one of only a handful of classic cocktails that are scotch based.

Blood And Sand

  • 3/4 ounce Scotch
  • 3/4 ounce blood orange juice
  • 3/4 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Cherry Herring

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange zest.

Tomorrow: The home of the Sun King.

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