Rudolph Valentino died 90 years ago today, aged just 31 and still smoking hot, and as they have done for 89 years since, his fans gathered at 12:10 pm in the mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to pay tribute–songs, praise, sermons about the eternal life of fame.
For decades, a mysterious woman in black would show up at the event, deliver a single rose, and vanish. Her identity was eventually revealed to be Ditra Flame (“FLAH-may”), to whom the gallant actor had been kind when she was a sickly little girl. Flame eventually had to stop attending because so many competing Women in Black began showing up.
At the event today, a film crew jostled to catch everything. The Woman in Black in attendance was chased by two cameramen and a boom mic and cornered as she stood before Valentino’s niche. She might even have been one of them.
But Americans today seem mostly unable to feel empathy for a past they didn’t experience themselves. The ritual may be weird, but I love it. It’s rare to see people work hard to keep a few lights from the past illuminated.
It may seem meaningless or trivial, but it’s a way of recognizing that other lives were just as real as our own.