Remembering Fatty Arbuckle:
Looking back before Venturing forward towards a
Gender Balanced World
by Brad Kronen
Roscoe Arbuckle’s mug shot after being escorted by police back to San Francisco from Los Angeles on September 9th, 1921
“I don’t understand it. One minute I’m the guy everybody loves, the next I’m the guy everybody loves to hate.”
– Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, while in mid-trial, 1922
“Hast not the king ordered us to put to death any one who attempts to enter the palace, though he claim to be the king himself?”
– Belshazzar’s Feast from the Book of Daniel
Part III: Belshazzar is put on Trial
The tale about the last of the Babylonian Kings, Belshazzar comes in two different versions. As the legend goes in the book of Daniel, the King who lived in the 5th century B.C threw a lavish feast within a Hebrew temple after his armies had conquered it. Taking a bejeweled chalice made of the purest gold found within the Jewish holy place, the debaucherous King uses it as his own drinking vessel to imbibe the vast reserves of wine being used for the gluttonous celebration. It is during this great feast that a ghostly hand appears before the eyes of all present and writes 4 mystical words on the temple’s main wall. Although a captured slave, the prophet Daniel witnesses this other worldly occurrence and is able to interpret what the words mean. He informs Belshazzar that what has been written on the wall is a message from the hand of God that foretells the fall of Babylon.
One variation of the tale has Belshazzar thanking Daniel for his assistance and rewarding him. Another has him punishing Daniel for relaying his message of doom. In both versions, Belshazzar returns to his Babylonian palace and suspecting there to be a usurper lurking in his midst, orders his guards to behead anyone who dares to enter the palace, even if they approach saying they are the King of Babylon. Becoming fraught with worry and sickness over his pleasure seeking ways, Belshazzar leaves the palace in the dead of night through a rear entrance to get some air. Upon his return, he commands that the King be granted entrance, only to have his skull smashed in by his guards using the ornate end piece of a decorative candelabrum.
Aside from the phrase “the writing on the wall” being taken directly from this ancient story, the tale regarding the last of the Babylonian Kings and his ungodly feast of hedonism was repeatedly referenced in modern times during a publicized event which caught the attention of the American public nearly a century ago, during the alleged rape and murder trial of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
The Writing’s on the Wall, folks: A stunningly detail rich rendition of “Belshazzar’s Feast” brought to life by the master painter, Rembrandt, in 1635. Note: Belshazzar’s kingly crown tucked away in the back of his voluminous turban.
Part I of this series discussed the core factors behind an event which occurred over Labor Day weekend 1921 that eventually led to the legal proceedings which at the time were dubbed “the trial of the century”. The highest paid actor in Hollywood, the King of slapstick humor, “Fatty” Arbuckle was put on trial for the alleged rape and subsequent murder of a young starlet named Virginia Rappe. The two had crossed paths at a Labor Day Party given on September 5th in one of the three adjoining suites Arbuckle had paid for on the 12th floor in San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel. By September 9th, Virginia Rappe was dead and Arbuckle was taken into custody in front of his home in Los Angeles and escorted back to San Francisco. The first of three highly publicized trials which lasted until April of 1922 began on November 14th the previous year.
The media coverage of Arbuckle’s trial is considered “yellow journalism” at the height of its influence with nearly every whispered rumor and exaggerated piece of hear say making it to the printed page without any prior verification. Each day of Arbuckle’s 3 trials became front page news on nearly every newspaper across the United States with some newspapers during the height of public interest in the trial having 6 updated editions per day .
Over the course of the three trials, 98 people in all were called to the witness stand to testify against Arbuckle. Below is a breakdown of some of the choice players involved with the trial’s prosecution:
District Attorney for the city of San Francisco
Despite having the most years served as District Attorney for the city of San Francisco from 1920-1943, Matthew Brady was still relatively new on the job when the Arbuckle case occurred in 1921. For Brady, the position was a springboard for his political ambitions of becoming governor of California with the intention of making it eventually all the way to the White House. Described by acquaintances as a “self-serving, arrogant, ruthless man with blind ambition and a quick temper”, Brady saw the Arbuckle trial as the perfect vehicle for him to take the main spotlight and champion his cause, all before the loving adulation of the public.
And to do that, Matthew Brady had to win the Arbuckle case. Period. End of story.
The man who was supposed to embody the unbiased right-mindfulness of Justice led the prosecution of the Arbuckle trial by applying some of the most unjust and exploitative methods possible. Immediately after receiving the coroner’s report of Virginia Rappe’s autopsy, Brady made his first public announcement as the case’s legal representative for the prosecution stating that the evidence “shows conclusively that either a rape or an attempt to rape was perpetrated”.
In reality, nothing on the coroner’s report could be considered in any way conclusive and the entire trial was based on Brady’s backing of one witness’ testimonial that had not a shred of tangible proof to go with it.
To make sure he would win the Arbuckle case, Matthew Brady resorted to bullying, bribery, fictitious witness interviews and false testimonials, along with planting fake evidence in an overly ambitious, overtly illegal attempt to destroy the man known as “Fatty” Arbuckle.
Not only would Brady lose the case for the prosecution, his “star witness” would prove to be a compulsive liar with an extensive criminal record of her own. A goodly portion of the man’s energies during the trial were spent in making sure his “star witness” never took the witness stand in fear of her testimonial being immediately found out to be the web of lies he had blindly backed.
It was Brady’s intent to take Arbuckle all the way to the gallows of public execution, regardless if his death was justifiable punishment….or not. When first meeting with Judge Sylvain Lazarus he asked that Arbuckle be put on trial for murder but because of his flimsy evidence and weak case overall was told by the judge the maximum penalty he could pursue was the charge of manslaughter.
It must be noted that like Roscoe Arbuckle, Matthew Brady was also born beneath the sign of Aries but on All Fool’s Day, April 1st.
Needless to say, the April Fool never became President or even governor for that matter, but did manage to crookedly stay put as District Attorney for the nearly twenty or so years following Roscoe Arbuckle’s trial.
Key Witness and Manager of the deceased, Virginia Rappe
Al Semnacher is a key witness for the prosecution who had the least amount of influence or involvement regarding the death of Virginia Rappe. However, the actress’ manager made the most devastating damage that would forever be associated with the unjustly decimated reputation of Roscoe Arbuckle. And going by the trial’s testimonial documents the man seemed as dim witted as he was effective as a liar and a cheat.
Semnacher drove to San Francisco from Los Angeles over the Labor Day weekend for the sole purpose of expediting his divorce proceedings by “being seen” in that city with another woman. Whether she was hired by Semnacher or simply doing him a favor the woman in question was none other than Bambina Maude Delmont.
According to Semnacher, a day or two before he headed for San Francisco his client Virginia Rappe had approached him with the quandry of recently finding out that she was once again pregnant but not by her fiance. Semnacher then informs Rappe that all the LA girls went to Frisco to “get the job done” in regards to having an abortion. He suggested she go with him and Delmont and drive to San Francisco from Los Angeles all together.
Whether the three were invited to the Labor Day Party or heard about it through the Hollywood grapevine, Semnacher, Delmont, and Rappe each signed the St. Francis Hotel registry of guests at around 10:30 AM on the morning of September 5th and headed up to the festivities being held on the 12th floor.
Following Rappe’s death on September 9th, Semnacher is called in by the Los Angeles police and questioned about his whereabouts at the Labor Day party at the St. Francis and what he had personally observed on that day.
Two months after giving his initial testimony, Semnacher’s story drastically changes when he takes the witness stand at Arbuckle’s first trial. Not only does he retract some of the original information he had initially provided, Semnacher also stupefies everyone present when he tells the court what Arbuckle had “confided” to him the day after the party.
But before relaying these lascivious lies, I would ask the reader to review what was relayed in Part I, in particular when Mr. Arbuckle went to fetch some ice…
Semnacher says that not only did Arbuckle confide to him he had hurt Virginia, the man swears under oath that Arbuckle then informs him that because of his drunken state, he couldn’t physically rape her, so he did the next best thing by inserting a piece of ice inside the girl’s vagina.
When asked by District Attorney Brady why he didn’t relay this latest version of his testimonial to the Los Angeles police when initially questioned, Semnacher casually replies, “I had forgotten all about it.”
By the time this most lurid part of the trial reaches print, the supposed piece of ice used for sexual assault obscenely transforms into an empty Coca-cola bottle at first but then snowballs into the more shocking falsity of an empty champagne vessel.
Al Semnacher not only brought the Arbuckle trial to a whole new level of heightened sensationalism, the case had also been taken to a whole new low altogether, when his false testimony sent a court of law straight down to the lowest depths of the gutter.
Regrettably, when those in the modern day who are even the slightest bit familiar with the trial hear the name Roscoe Arbuckle, many will often then ask “He’s the guy with the coke bottle, right?”
Assistant District Attorney
It must be mentioned that when the trial of Roscoe Arbuckle commenced in November of 1921 until its conclusion in April of the following year, vast numbers of women who were members of various morality and religious groups from across the country were present in the courtroom decked out in their formal feathered hats and Sunday best dresses. Supposedly on the first day of the first trial as Roscoe Arbuckle was being escorted inside the courthouse by police, a large woman rose to her feet and bellowed “Ladies! Do your duty!” to which those within the closest vicinity of Mr. Arbuckle proceeded to then all spit in his face.
And if one person could have been said to represent the religiously moral side of the prosecution, it was Assistant District Attorney, Milton Tindle U’Ren.
Part of DA Matthew Brady’s posse, U’Ren was the member of the prosecution who made conclusive statements before anything was even close to conclusion such as “Mr. Arbuckle pleads guilty.” A sycophant of the highest order, U’Ren would often refer to the District Attorney as “Judge Brady”. But most noteworthy, Mr. U’Ren was the prosecution’s voice of morality who very theatrically would pass judgment on the defense in ways his boss wouldn’t dare to attempt. Addressing the court with a mocking tone and antiquated vocabulary, U’Ren would belittle Mr. Arbuckle’s vocation by summing up his work as “silly little films” and at first described the Labor Day Party at the St. Francis hotel as an “alcohol-fueled jazz orgy” but then resorted to the Bible’s Old Testament when he accused Arbuckle as being “the man behind the Babylonian orgy” and calling him a “modern day Belshazzar”.
In his conclusion to the court, U’Ren in his best Hamlet-like soliloquy pontificated for over an hour saying the following:
“This modern Belshazzar sat upon his throne surrounded by his lords and their ladies, and they went on with the music, feasting, wine, liquor, song, and dancing. The great Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall and quaked as it was interpreted. This modern King Belshazzar has also seen the handwriting on the wall. The King is dead and his kingdom is divided. He will never make the world laugh again.”
U’Ren ends his fire and brimstone speech with the following:
“Oh if the children of America could have seen Roscoe Arbuckle put ice in the private parts of Virginia Rappe, how they and their mothers would have laughed with glee!” To the jury “We ask you to do your duty so that when you return to your families, you can take them to your breasts; and we ask you to do your duties so that when you take your children upon your knees that you will know that you have done what you could to protect them from this defendant and from all other Arbuckles in the world, not existing and yet to come. And ask you to do your duty so that this man and all the Arbuckles of the world will know that the motherhood of America is not their plaything.”
William Randolph Hearst
The man known in the modern day as the “Father of Fake News” shares a number of noteworthy coincidences. His birthday of April 29th is shared with “the greediest man of the 21st century” Bernie Madoff and more particularly to this case William Randolph Hearst entered the publishing business the same year Roscoe Arbuckle was born, 1887.
At the time of Arbuckle’s trial Hearst was at the height of his influential power with 28 of the country’s leading newspapers all under his ownership. This included the two main press sources which covered the trial, the Los Angeles and San Francisco Examiner. Although the Rupert Murdoch of the turn of the century wasn’t officially a member of the prosecution, one would think otherwise when considering how extensive the media’s smear campaign was that was presented to the public. The printed press seemed hell bent on destroying not only Roscoe Arbuckle’s career but the man’s very life, itself.
Many of the nation’s leading newspapers determined Roscoe Arbuckle’s innocence early on during the trial process, however not only did Hearst’s papers strongly hint the comedian was guilty, they often concluded he should be executed, which wasn’t even an option when considering his charge was allegedly for manslaughter, not murder.
Hearst and his media empire were responsible for creating “yellow journalism” a tactic used to sell as many newspapers as possible that included large alarmist headlines, cartoons that were of a spoofing or caricatured nature, and of course articles reporting the day’s news, be that news factual or otherwise. Not only did Hearst’s many papers put into print information regarding the Arbuckle case that wasn’t considered evidence, they treated things based in hear say or rumor as factual truth, such as the piece of ice turning into the coke bottle in some editions and the champagne bottle in others.
Much like District Attorney Brady, William Randolph Hearst had political aspirations which rose above his established vocation that included running for both governor of California and President of the United States. Unlike Brady, Hearst actually pursued both political paths and failed doing both.
Hearst’s newspapers attacked Roscoe Arbuckle with such relentless vitriol one would think the media Baron was fulfilling a personal vendetta against the comic actor, and in a way he was. The newspaper magnate was born into one of the choice American families of extreme wealth who along with the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Rothschilds, Carnegies, Astors, and Rockefellers domineered over American trade and commerce at the turn of the 20th century. And within these elitist families of fortune, anyone who amassed a vast amount of wealth that was not related to them by blood or marriage was seen as a menacing threat.
On the surface, William Randolph Hearst took a stance that was adamantly anti-Hollywood due to what he saw as the movie industry’s overt “lack of morals”. In truth, what put Hearst so far up on his moralistic high horse was the idea that someone as common as Roscoe Arbuckle could emerge from the masses and suddenly have millions of dollars to his name. If the movies were what made this obese funny man independently wealthy in his own right, then anyone could establish themselves in Hollywood and rival the Hearst name with the power gained from their newly earned fame and fortune.
The fact his newspapers took a very active role in destroying a man by printing outright lies about his person was of no consequence to the Father of Fake News. So much so, Hearst was later known to have joked that the Arbuckle trial made him more money than “the sinking of the Lusitania”.
One of the tactics used by the defense was to allude that Virginia Rappe was a prostitute which was thoroughly untrue. Rappe supported herself as both an actress and a fashion model such as the publicity photo shown above for a new type of leg covering in 1921 called “leggings” or “tights”.
The central person which the Arbuckle trial revolved around was unable to tell her side of the story on the witness stand. She was dead. When hearing just the surface details of a petite actress whose names include the dualistically opposed words “Virgin” and “Rape” dying from a ruptured bladder, it would not have been difficult to leap to an immediate conclusion that the poor girl most certainly must have been crushed beneath all the unwanted weight of a violent predator who tipped the scales at nearly 300 pounds such as Roscoe Arbuckle did. But both his and her past histories told a very different story leading up to the fated party in question.
Virginia had long been afflicted with chronic bladder problems and these problems were exacerbated whenever she drank alcohol. She suffered from cystitis which when triggered by alcohol, especially by the impure bootleg stuff brought to the St. Francis hotel, put her system into a constant state of agitation that with more consumption turned into a constant level of pain that bordered on the hallucinogenic. When this occurred Virginia would begin tearing at her own clothes and in fact had developed a pattern of exhibiting this type of pain reactive behavior at a number of other parties and gatherings prior to the Labor Day fete at the St. Francis.
Pain reactive behavior or not, the doctors who examined Virginia at both the hotel and the hospital were informed by Rappe herself that Roscoe Arbuckle neither hurt nor sexually assaulted her and were willing to testify this information in court to which the judge overruled to not be included due it being considered “hear say”.
Supposedly medical testimony is hear say but a piece of ice used on the stomach for a fever being transformed into a fictitious accessory for rape isn’t?
Reference sources such as Wikipedia claim that Virginia Rappe’s autopsy revealed she had never had an abortion nor had she supposedly ever been pregnant. This contradicts her manager Al Semnacher’s initial statement explaining Rappe’s reason for being in San Francisco during the first weekend in September. The girl’s health quickly deteriorating along with her ruptured bladder strongly hint of a botched abortion which in 1921 were covertly done since performing them was an illegal act. Other resources mention that the abortive procedure which Ms. Rappe supposedly underwent on either the 3rd or 4th of September wasn’t her first, stating the young actress and model had three earlier terminations of pregnancy before the age of 18.
By the third trial the defense made an earnest effort to gather every piece of unsavory material to destroy Virginia Rappe’s reputation including a number of new witnesses, all claiming to have “dirt” on the girl’s past. But to Roscoe Arbuckle’s credit, none of them were brought to the witness stand out of “respect for the dead”.
Even with the lack of certainty regarding the young actress’ reproductive organs, to match the kangaroo court quality of this media circus of a trial, the last and final exhibit presented to the court for all to see was Ms. Rappe’s actual bladder in a jar of formaldehyde.
And last but certainly least, the woman the defense described as “the complaining witness that never witnessed”….
Bambina Maude Delmont
Main witness who initiated the Prosecution but never actually testified
As mentioned earlier, District Attorney Brady pushed for having a criminal trial pursuing Roscoe Arbuckle that was based solely on the testimonial given by one person who had brought the situation to the attention of law enforcement initially. That single testimonial was given by a woman named Bambina Maude Delmont. But very early on, Brady began noticing how Delmont’s story altered every time she told it. From what she had relayed, Maude came across as a super woman who seemed ever-present to witness each key occurrence that had unfolded over the course of the 4 days which began with the Labor Day Party and ended with Virginia Rappe’s death.
When piecing her various versions together, Brady could not deny that nothing seemed to fit, such as Delmont first describing her relationship with Virginia Rappe as “lifelong friends” to then saying they had met each other only 2 days before attending the Labor Day Party.
The sheer number of so many discrepancies boiled down to one consistent fact – Maude Delmont was a compulsive liar. Being born under the sign ruled by the planet of deception, Pisces, and exhibiting behavior of the most unevolved kind, not only was Ms./Mrs. (she went by both unmarried and married declaratives) Delmont a liar, she was a convincingly good one.
Maude Delmont had many names attached to her person. It was when Brady was told one of those names was “Madame Black” that he decided to look into his “star witness”’s past history.
A list of criminal activity associated with Delmont practically rolled across the floor of over 50 counts of extortion, blackmail, prostitution, racketeering, and bigamy. Of her unlawful behavior, Brady soon discovered Maude’s specialty was procuring young ladies to attend Hollywood parties thrown by the famous and very rich followed by one of the male guests being accused of rape and paying a blackmail fee directly to “Madame Black”.
Maude Delmont had unknowingly stumbled upon the perfect situation to spontaneously execute one of her biggest blackmail heists ever, especially when considering the intended target was a man who had just recently signed a million dollar contact. And this time around, she didn’t have to worry about the young girl getting paid or spilling the beans because she was already dead and conveniently out of the way.
Despite not being allowed to question Delmont, the defense was arriving at the same conclusion regarding Brady’s star witness but Arbuckle’s team went a step further. They discovered that on September 7th, two days after the party when Maude claimed to have been sitting by Virginia Rappe’s side in the hospital as the girl lay dying, she was in actuality sending a telegram to some co-conspirators which read:
“We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some big money out of him.”
Knowing if Delmont took the witness stand it would seal the case’s doom and needing to avoid her being questioned by Arbuckle’s attorneys, District Attorney Brady had Delmont arrested for a long standing charge of bigamy shortly before the trial commenced.
For the entire “trial of the century” Maude Delmont was nowhere to be found due to her time already being spoken for….in jail.
Before the trial of Roscoe Arbuckle even began, the District Attorney in charge of the prosecution knew the man in question was innocent and based his case on the fabrications told by a compulsive liar, but his self obsessed ambition compelled him to continue with the case if only to be in the center spotlight amidst a court of chaos.
The Progressed Chart of Roscoe Arbuckle for September 5th, 1921
A Progressed Chart is when the planets of a person’s birth chart are moved through time using an evolutionary scale. The theory behind this kind of chart is that as a person ages and grows, the wisdom they gain or the life lessons they learn at a particular point in time will be reflected through their progressed chart.
Roscoe Arbuckle’s progressed chart cast for the fated day of September 5th, 1921 has one predominant theme – Self sacrifice. That theme does not refer to merely giving up certain niceties or pastime pleasures, rather it should be considered in the most Biblical of Old Testament terms, such as Abraham sacrificing his only son Isaac or a lamb of the purest white being slashed for slaughter on a ritualistic altar.
With Leo Rising, the Sun is the planetary ruler of the entire progressed chart, also called the “chart ruler”. In astrology the Sun represents one’s overall self. Arbuckle’s progressed Sun and Mars, the ruler of his natal Sun sign of Aries are positioned at the top of the chart in the sign of money and tangible assets, Taurus in the 10th House of Career, Status, and the Public.
Jupiter is the planet of abundance and blessings and opposes Arbuckle’s Sun and Mars by being placed at the very bottom of the chart that’s beneath the horizon or “nadir” in the sign whose unevolved traits are jealousy, resentment, and (sticking with descriptors pertaining to the Biblical) – “coveting”.
On September 5th, Roscoe Arbuckle threw a lavish party not only because it was Labor Day but to also celebrate a significant milestone in his career, that being the first actor to ever sign a million dollar contract with a motion picture studio. Not including Roscoe’s true friends and loved ones, Arbuckle’s progressed chart points to everyone else around him at that point in time seething with jealous resentment in reaction to hearing about the comedian’s blessed abundance.
How could an obese fat man be given so much money? And for what? Being fat on film? You call that work?
The sentiments listed above are astrologically translated by the following:
Roscoe Arbuckle’s Self (Sun) through the outlet of slapstick comedy (Mars) had earned major financial abundance (Jupiter, Taurus) through a publicly announced contract signing (10th House) that resulted in those around him covertly reacting with jealousy and resentment (Scorpio, 4th House or Nadir).
Overnight, the funny fat man loved the world over had become the sacrificial scapegoat by representing the depravity of Hollywood to the outside world and the insidious nouveau riche to the classist families of inherited fortune. The comedian who made slapstick movies that were anything but immoral or “adult themed” had suddenly become the lecherous Babylonian King, drunk on his own power and oblivious to the blessings bestowed upon him.
No punishment could hope to suffice for this Kansas commoner committing the sin of earning his own self sufficiency. This King of the silver screen had to die.
Roscoe Arbuckle was acquitted in his third trial after the first two generated hung juries over a period that lasted close to six months. Despite being read a letter of apology by the final jury, along with everyone in the courtroom sincerely wishing Roscoe the best of luck after all was legally said and done, the King of Comedy for all intensive purposes really was dead since one week after being found not guilty Roscoe Arbuckle’s film work would be blacklisted by the newly created Censorship Board for an entire year afterwards along with the comedian being banned from any/all employment in the movie industry as an actor. The man truly was sacrificed in a very public execution with his executioners being those who served strictly themselves in the most unjust and blatantly dishonest of ways.
The banning of Fatty Arbuckle’s films was not restricted to just the United States, it was a global phenomenon. Above: a listing of the movie theaters throughout the Australian province of New South Wales that were officially banning/no longer playing any and all movie material associated with Roscoe Arbuckle come July of 1922.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle emerged from “the trial of the century” penniless after shelling out $750,000 to his lawyers and having his million dollar contract made null and void due to the heads of Paramount coming up with an excuse of Arbuckle being absent and unaccounted for (aka sitting in jail awaiting trial) during filming.
The funny man would never work in Hollywood again.
Roscoe Arbuckle’s self sacrifice must always be remembered going forward if we as a society wish to have a gender balanced world that is civil as it is just.
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.