Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
Nov. 17, 1907
New York by direct wire to The Times
Something curious seems to be going on with opera tenors in the monkey house at New York’s Central Park; perhaps there’s an atmosphere that lends itself to “annoying” people, for the problem of mashers at the monkey house has even inspired a 1907 movie by Biograph.
Luckily, Detective J.J. Cain is on the lookout for malefactors who make lewd advances, having arrested Enrico Caruso the year before.
Cain’s latest arrests are Leon Cazauran, “a slender young man with pale face and large brown eyes” brought to New York to sing in “Thais” at Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Operahouse, and his companion, Claude Modjeska, “a copper-colored young man,” The Times says.
“The charge against both was that of attempting to corrupt the morals of little boys,” The Times says. Cain said he was suspicious of the men because they had visited the monkey house several times before “in the company of small boys.”
Despite the language handicap (Cazauran didn’t speak English and while Modjeska only knew a bit of English, he was able to act as a translator) the men protested their innocence. Modjeska was fined $10 and the men vanished.
Caruso had not been so fortunate the previous year. Although his alleged victim at first refused to testify, Cain pressed the complaint and gave the following account:
The tenor had followed two girls, one of them about 12, and annoyed them. He then turned his attention to three women, one of whom was black, Cain said.
Cain said he saw Caruso move close to Mrs. Hannah Graham of the Bronx, N.Y. “He said he saw Caruso move up close to Mrs. Graham and then saw one of Caruso’s hands glide stealthily through a slit in his overcoat and then saw Caruso pinch the woman. Mrs. Graham turned swiftly and struck Caruso in the chest, crying aloud: ‘You brute! You beast!’ ”
The detective said he intervened after Graham hit Caruso in the chest. Cain added that he had seen Caruso commit other offenses, but “wanted to get him good.”
The spectacular trial ended with Caruso being fined $10. Hmmmm. According to news accounts, Caruso later “attempted to take certain liberties” with a woman in an automobile and in 1913 got in trouble in London, when he pointed at a young woman in the crowded lobby of the Savoy Hotel and said: “You! You!”
When reproved by an American who said: “You shouldn’t do that,” the singer replied: “I am Caruso and I do as I please.”
Bonus fact: Caruso was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake.