The Sex Appeal of Rudolph Valentino


In July 1926, The Chicago Tribune reported that a vending machine dispensing pink talcum powder had appeared in an upscale hotel washroom. An editorial that followed used the story to protest the feminization of American men, and blamed the talcum powder on Valentino and his films. The piece infuriated Valentino and he challenged the writer to a boxing match since dueling was illegal. Neither challenge was answered.

Shortly afterward, Valentino met with journalist H.L. Mencken for advice on how best to deal with the incident. Mencken advised Valentino to “let the dreadful farce roll along to exhaustion”,but Valentino insisted the editorial was “infamous.” Mencken found Valentino to be likable and gentlemanly and wrote sympathetically of him in an article published in the Baltimore Sun a week after Valentino’s death:

It was not that trifling Chicago episode that was riding him; it was the whole grotesque futility of his life. Had he achieved, out of nothing, a vast and dizzy success? Then that success was hollow as well as vast—a colossal and preposterous nothing. Was he acclaimed by yelling multitudes? Then every time the multitudes yelled he felt himself blushing inside… The thing, at the start, must have only bewildered him, but in those last days, unless I am a worse psychologist than even the professors of psychology, it was revolting him. Worse, it was making him afraid… Here was a young man who was living daily the dream of millions of other men. Here was one who was catnip to women. Here was one who had wealth and fame. And here was one who was very unhappy.

After Valentino challenged the Tribune’s anonymous writer to a boxing match, the New York Evening Journal boxing writer, Frank O’Neill, volunteered to fight in his place. Valentino won the bout which took place on the roof of New York’s Ambassador Hotel.

Boxing heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who trained Valentino and other Hollywood notables of the era in the art of boxing, said of him “He was the most virile and masculine of men. The women were like flies to a honeypot. He could never shake them off, anywhere he went. What a lovely, lucky guy.”

Valentino’s sex symbol status and his untimely death was a biographical part in Dos Passos’ 42nd parallel in the U.S.A Trilogy. His title was the Adagio Dancer.

Source: Wikipedia

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