I have always loved learning. In college I was an honors English major and earned a concentration in archaeology. I worked doing research in the rare book room for a professor who specialized in Restoration drama. I took a course on film history, took courses on scene construction and worked on productions at Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall Theater which was, even in the early 1970’s, one of the best stages on a university campus. As described in the Cornell Alumni Magazine, “it was a state-of-the-art theater, complete with orchestra pit and rotating stage. (The inaugural show—a drama club production of an eighteenth-century American comedy called The Contrast—starred future Oscar nominee Franchot Tone ’27.)” I was accepted to graduate school to study theater history, with an interest in scene design. However, I opted for library school, where I focused on media design, which I incorporated in my work in college, public and school settings.
With changes to the job market, I spent time as market researcher working with advertising agencies on studies surveying the responses to ads, new products and even TV network movie “treatments.” But with so many tradesmen and women in my family history, it seemed natural for me to also pursue manual work such as piano tuning, auto mechanics, and cosmetology.
Perhaps because my mother was a history teacher, I have always loved history and always dreamed of writing a biography about an historical figure. This blog is a way of partially fulfilling this wish.
In July 2020 I was once again digging through bins of photos and personal items related to my family. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to delve into the life of Rudolph Valentino. As a film history buff dating back to my high school days, I had a small collection of books related to film history, including histories and biographies of individual stars such as Keaton, Cagney, Gable, Raft, etc. I have a small collection of books and times related to Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. (I had the good fortune to meet the Leigh’s biographer, Anne Edwards, at a New Year’s Eve party at her house decades ago.) I even have a book about the Ziegfeld Follies for some reason, a book that would provide some interesting information about some of the people Rudolph Valentino met during his early days in New York City. But…
… I never had a strong interest in Valentino…I knew about him, but had no urge to learn more about him, although I had read quite a lot of history and literature from the 1920’s and enjoyed silent films.
A series of rapidly unfolding coincidences, synchronicities, and “signs” cemented my feeling that a connection was there. It became almost eerie and overwhelming. I scoured my home library and found Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s by Frederick Allen Lewis with a page which highlighted the role of the press and publicity agents during his funeral. I dug into my John Dos Passos collection; there in The Big Money I found the vignette Adagio Dancer, his view of Valentino’s life and death…sardonic but poignant at the same time. I began to acquire items and books that furthered the connection; these acquisitions will presented on the page titled My Valentino Memorabilia/Book Collection. Along the way, I started researching some topics on Valentino that have led me down some paths full of interesting twists and turns.
On my other blog named Open Range Ramblings I have recounted how I came to be inspired by the legendary racehorse, Secretariat. The connection came out of the blue late one night …and the same thing happened that July 2020 evening. Suddenly, it was as if Rudolph Valentino had become part of my life.
The research and sychronicities continue to this day. The more I research, the more I am immersed in the era of Valentino, the more I am drawn into the boxes of photos and sepia-toned images of my family. It has became obvious to me that Valentino and my family members from the past lived and breathed so many similar experiences during the 1920’s and earlier.
This blog is a project devoted to bringing back to life the story of my Italian immigrant family members and how they shared the same world as Rudolph Valentino, perhaps not directly, but as an echo of his life and times.
I hope you enjoy taking the journey with me.