05-06-2014, 06:36 PM
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On this date in 1895, famous Hollywood actor Rudolph Valentino was born in Castellaneta, Puglia, Italy. Because of his grooming and flamboyant fashions during his acting career, Valentino's masculinity frequently was questioned. Says Wikipedia:
"Dating back to the de Saulle trial in New York, during which his masculinity had been questioned in print, Valentino had been very sensitive about his public perception. Women loved him and thought him the epitome of romance. However, American men were less impressed, walking out of his movies in disgust. With the Fairbanks type being the epitome of manhood, Valentino was seen as a threat to the 'All American' man. One man, asked in a street interview in 1922 what he thought of Valentino, replied 'Many men desire to be another Douglas Fairbanks. But Valentino? I wonder...' Women in the same interview found Valentino 'triumphantly seductive. Puts the love-making of the average husband or sweetheart into discard as tame, flat, and unimpassioned.' Men may have wanted to act like Fairbanks, but they copied Valentino's look. A man with perfectly greased-back hair was called a 'Vaselino.'

Some journalists were still calling his masculinity into question, going on at length about his pomaded hair, his dandyish clothing, his treatment of women, his views on women, and whether he was effeminate or not. Valentino hated these stories and was known to carry the clippings of the newspaper articles around with him and criticize them.

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.'

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 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 briefly grew a beard in 1924 for a film, and the degree of public outcry was overwhelming. Fans wrote asking him to shave, and the Master Barber’s Association threatened to boycott his films for the damage he was doing to their business. Wrote the New York Times:
"Because Rudolph Valentino has grown a beard, the convention of the Associated Master Barbers adopted a resolution that its members 'be pledged not to attend a showing of his photoplays as long as he remaibewhiskered.' The resolution expressed the fear that the 'male population of America is very likely to be guided by Valentino to the extent of making whiskers fashionable again,' and that 'such a fashion would not only work harmful injury to barbers, but would so utterly deface America, as to make Americans difficult to distinguish from Russians.'"

Because of the public outcry and pressure, Valentino relented and shaved off his beard.

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