Little Bits of History

Party Girl

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 5, 2014
Virginia Rappe

Virginia Rappe

September 5, 1921: Virginia Rappe goes to a party. Rappe was born in New York City in 1891 and her mother died when she was 11. She was then moved to Chicago and raised by her grandmother. She began modeling at age 14 and had at least two abortions by the time she was 16. In 1916, she moved to San Francisco where she was soon engaged. Her fiancé was killed in a streetcar accident and Rappe then moved to Los Angeles. She got her first role in a silent film in 1917 and the next year gave birth to a child she put in foster care. She was back to work the next year and made a few more silent films. She began a relationship with director/produced Henry Lehrman and they eventually became engaged.

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a silent film actor, comedian, director, and screenwriter. He took a break from his busy schedule after somehow receiving second degree burns on both buttocks. He and two friends, Lowell Sherman and Fred Fischbach, went to San Francisco and rented three rooms at the St. Francis Hotel. Room 1219 was for Arbuckle and Fischbach, room 1220 was empty and used as a party room, and room 1221 was for Sherman. Several young women were invited to the party, Rappe among them. She was found, ill and in distress in room 1219 and the hotel doctor was called. Her symptoms were diagnosed as secondary to intoxication and she was medicated and left alone. She was not hospitalized for two days.

Rappe had suffered from chronic cystitis which flared up when she drank. She drank heavily frequently and the era’s bootleg whisky was not up to standard and would often leave her in acute distress. She had had several abortions, probably of questionable quality. She was planning to have another unless she had recently had one as she had found herself pregnant by Lehrman. Bambina Maude Delmont, a friend of Rappe’s went with her to the hospital and at that time accused Arbuckle of raping Rappe during the party. Rappe was examined and no evidence of rape was found, but it was two days later. Rappe died on September 8 of a ruptured bladder and resulting peritonitis.

Arbuckle was next accused by Delmont who complained to police and Rappe’s manager accused Arbuckle of sexual impropriety in a news conference and claimed Arbuckle assaulted Rappe with a piece of ice which was later changed to a Coke bottle. Arbuckle was brought to trial for manslaughter three times and found innocent on each occasion. Regardless of the legal exoneration, the public vilified Arbuckle. His career and personal life were ruined and morality groups called for his death. Studio executives order Arbuckle’s friends to remain silent (implying they would lose their jobs) and they did so. Arbuckle died in 1933 at the age of 46; cause of death was a heart attack.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. – Abraham Lincoln

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffett

Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company. – George Washington

A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity. – Baltasar Gracian

Also on this day: The Games Must Go On – In 1972, the Munich Massacre takes place at the Olympic Games.
It Never Ends – In 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked.
Labor Day – In 1882, the first Labor Day parade was held.
Married – In 1725, King Louis XV got married.


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