I may have retired, but I haven’t lost any of my annoyance over b.s. when it comes to historical figures. The case in point is today’s review in the New York Times by Jennifer Senior of “Philip Sparrow Tells All,” edited by Jeremy Mulderig.
The moment I read the review I thought “Oh, Scotty Bowers rides again!”
Fact-Checking “Full Service”: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26
And in less than an hour, one of the statements in the review can be tossed into the trash.
That would be the claim that one of Steward’s “marquee conquests” (as established by an index card “stud file”) was Rudolph Valentino.
Steward was born July 23, 1909, according to records on Ancestry.com, which means that he was barely 17 when Valentino died Aug. 23, 1926, and after years of being a fact-checking shark I can already smell blood in the water.
Our next step is to examine the book — and if you think I’m spending a penny on this nonsense, you’re crazy. So it’s off to Google Books, which has helpfully posted some preview pages, including this:
Here’s the link in case you care to check my work.
The next step is to find this 1989 interview with Carl Maves and in fairly short order we have:
Nonsense in “Secret Historian.” Doesn’t anybody do real research anymore?
Oh dear… we have another Scotty Bowers-like opus, “Secret Historian.” Valentino was supposedly in scenic Columbus, Ohio, where he was visited by Steward.
Fortunately for the ardent researcher, we have the precise date of the purported tryst, July 24, 1926, the day after Steward turned 17.
It is always a bad move for a total bs-er to give an exact date, especially when it involves someone as prominent as Valentino, one of the most famous men on the planet at the time.
Because we can use online news sources to easily confirm that Valentino was nowhere near Columbus, Ohio.
For the record, thanks to the New York Times, we can state positively that Valentino stopped in Chicago on July 20, 1926, where he was the subject of an editorial in the Chicago Tribune titled “Pink Powder Puffs. He arrived in New York on July 21, spouting a lot of things about challenging a Tribune editor to a duel. Alas, the Tribune editor declined to have a duel, and Valentino remained in New York, where he had his picture taken July 24, bidding farewell to polar explorer Gen. Umberto Nobile, who was sailing for Italy. Skeptics are invited to inspect the July 25, 1926, New York Times, Page 2.
Would you like to see the picture?
Here it is, taken July 24, 1926, the day that Valentino was purportedly trysting with Samuel Steward in scenic Columbus, Ohio. From the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress.
Another good story ruined.