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60th Anniversary of Death of Valentino

August 30, 1986

Last Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of film star Rudolph Valentino's death. I joined the faithful for a cryptside memorial at the Hollywood Cemetery.

And what an eclectic crew they were--virtually every age group was represented, from those who remembered to those who yearned to know more about the itinerant Italian immigrant who almost effortlessly became a screen legend in a quieter time.

The mourners' appearances have surely changed over the years. In terms of clothing, the obligatory black weeds have (with one notable lady exception) given way to a blossom of color. Hawaiian shirts, lush prints, and even one man dressed as a sheik dotted the crowd. Many brought tributes--plaques and flowers--in both plastic and paper grocery bags.

The service itself was gentle, if not the slickest in the world. But then neither is the Academy Awards, and this one probably had more heart.

One guest speaker reminded us of two other stars who have died in the past year, Rudy Vallee and Mary MacLaren. It struck me how many of the stars of the 1920s are quietly slipping away.

Of course, there was hoopla and plenty of it. Not that I'm any slouch where the cameras are concerned. I'm as shameless as Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," who, upon seeing the cameras and lights, descends her staircase smiling madly. But sometimes the day's scene seemed like an even darker "Day of the Locust." The current "Lady in Black" performed magnificently, proving that in Cloud Cuckooland if they don't react when the clock strikes, they sure turn it on when the lights glow.

I overheard a young woman wonder aloud if people will still be gathering at Graceland on the 60th commemoration of Elvis Presley's death and I answered to myself in the affirmative.

Presley altered the direction of that god, Pop Culture, while Valentino was a romantic footnote; good actor, great artist, or not. It's hard to find a suitable substitute for Rudolph Valentino in today's entertainment world. Sure, there are adventures, warriors, and spies but the Sheik was, well, chic .


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