Rudolph Valentino Week, Part III (A crazy funeral and wake)

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The pandemonium which erupted after news of Rudy’s death was but a foretaste of what was very soon to come. Women standing vigil outside the Polyclinic screamed, tore their clothes, fainted, and passed out. The grotesque heatwave only made their hysteria worse. There were a number of reports of crazed fans’ suicides.

A mob of more than 100,000 people gathered on the streets of Manhattan to catch a last glimpse of the actor. Inside the Frank Campbell Funeral Home were four alleged Blackshirt guards sent by Mussolini, though it turned out they were actors hired for a publicity stunt.

More than a few hysterical female fans had to be bodily evicted from the funeral home. Pola Negri, with whom Rudy was romantically involved at the time of his death, fainted over the coffin. For his funeral, she sent a huge floral display of white roses spelling out POLA, surrounded by thousands of red roses.

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Fans smashed windows in an attempt to get into the funeral home, and an all-day riot erupted on 24 August. Over 100 cops (some on horseback) were called in to try to preserve a semblance of order. Even more general-purpose cops lined the streets during the wake.

The funeral home consistently denied the claim that a wax dummy was placed in the coffin to trick the public and prevent body-napping.

The funeral Mass was held by the then-fairly new St. Malachy Church, nicknamed The Actors’ Chapel, in the Broadway theatre district. A second funeral was held by the also then-new Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, on 7 September.

Since Rudy was in serious debt and had no burial plot, his mentor and dear friend June Mathis (one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time) loaned her crypt at Hollywood Forever. When June herself unexpectedly died the following year, her husband gave up his own crypt for Rudy and had him moved there. For almost 90 years, Rudy and June have been interred side-by-side.

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Chapter 23 of The Twelfth Time is entitled “Death of Valentino,” and includes the vigil outside the Polyclinic, the mob scene in the streets during the wake, and the tragic sight inside the funeral home. Absolutely no one is surprised Anastasiya is one of the hysterical fans. Not only does she faint and pass out after getting the news of Rudy’s death, she also has to be hauled out of the funeral home by several police. She fights against them and tries to climb over them to get back inside, loudly protesting that she’s a very important woman.

The large group is only allowed to go into the funeral home a few at a time, due to the huge line waiting to get inside and the need to preserve as much order as possible. Four-year-old Fedya gets the last lines in the wake scene:

“Bye-bye, Mr. Moviestar,” Fedya waves. “I hope you have a good time with the angels.”

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Why I love mechanical and early electronic televisions

(This is edited down and revised from a post I wrote for my old Angelfire website, probably around 2003. The non-public domain images are used to illustrate the subjects and are consistent with fair use doctrine.)

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1928 General Electric television

To the untrained eye, antique TVs look like cabinets or radios with little glass screens. Thus, it’s suspected many more mechanical TVs exist than are accounted for in personal collections and museums. To date, there are at least 100.

About 7,000 early electronic televisions (1938–41) were made in the U.S.; 19,000 were made in Britain; and 1,600 were made in Germany. A handful were made in Italy, Russia, France, and The Netherlands. Altogether, there are about 200 verified, surviving American and British sets.

If you know what to look for, you might stumble across one of these beauties in an attic, a flea market, or an antiques shop.

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There were dozens of TV stations (all classified as experimental) from 1929–33, and again after broadcasting officially resumed on 30 April 1939. (However, the DuMont 180, the first electronic television, went on sale the year before). Most stations were in New York, Chicago, or New Jersey, with a few from states including Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Missouri.

Some stations were created by avid hobbyists and not credited as official experimental stations, but the frequency travelled for hundreds of miles. Thus, someone in the middle of nowhere could pick up signals from the nearest properly-equipped city.

Decades before TV Guide appeared, there were programming guides issued. Programming tended towards sports, music, variety, plays, and public speeches. Future President Herbert Clarke Hoover and Queen Mary of England also appeared on television in the late Twenties.

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Sample 1930 image

There were troubleshooting manuals, instructional guides, and how-to books for building one’s own television. In my second Russian historical, The Twelfth Time, Katrin’s husband Sandro assembles a television set during the annual summer-long vacation to a rented five-story cottage on Long Island in 1928. WRNY is the closest broadcasting station. The assembled viewers see a dancing puppet, followed by moving faces.

When the Konevs are quarantined on account of their children’s whooping cough some months later, Sandro sends over the materials for Ivan to assemble a television set for his own family. My Atlantic City characters, many of whom are rich, also have television sets during this era.

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The 1932 Jenkins Universal Receiver (which needed a TV set to go along with it) cost $79.50, and came with a set of eight matched DeForest tubes. It only provided “the sound and electrical signal to drive a separate R-400 display unit,” which “housed a motor-driven pinhole scanning disc and neon lamp.”

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A second universal television receiver from Jenkins was billed at $69.50 for the tubes and $13.45 for the tube equipment. Another 1932 television, from Hollis Baird, cost $39.50 for the entire get-up.

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Early electronic televisions tended to be much more expensive, such as the $595 top-of-the-line model from Andrea. This beauty featured a phonograph and radio. Andrea’s cheapest sets started at $80.

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DuMont models were $395 and $435. RCA went from $199.50–$600. Chicago’s Western Television Co.’s gorgeous 1929 model, with a 17-inch scanning disc (pictured below), cost $88.25 for the basic kit, another $20 for the actual cabinet, $85 for the companion receiver, and $20 for the consolette table. Also known as an echophone, between 250–300 were made, “probably more than any other mechanical set in the U.S.” At least 20 have been accounted for.

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Mechanical television ultimately failed because of the poor picture quality. Often the reception suffered from fading and ghosting, and only hobbyists and the rich had time for it. With early electronic TV, it was both the high price and the abrupt halt to the television industry caused by the war. However, injured GIs had TV in their hospitals.

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Some other beautiful models I’d love to have:

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1939 DuMont 180. At least six are verified.

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RCA 60-line, early Thirties. At least five are accounted for.

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1941, DuMont 183. At least five have been verified.

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1932 Jenkins receiver kit. At least two have survived.

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Model 26 Televisor, Baird receiver (1929–32, England). At least three have been accounted for.

Early Television Foundation and Museum
Television History
The Dawn of TV

Do you like antique TVs? Do you own any? Have you seen any in person? If you had one, would you attempt to restore it, or just use it for decoration?

2015 in review, Part II (Writing and life)

My biggest writing accomplishment this year was finally finishing the first draft of Journey Through a Dark Forest on 13 March. I still can’t believe it ended up at 891K, when my guesstimate going in was only 500K. Thankfully, it beautifully worked out so each of the four Parts reads like its own self-contained story, with a focus on different characters and storylines. If I had to, I could put it out as four volumes, making clear this is one book instead of four different books. After the first edit, it now stands at 876K.

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This was such an amazingly beautiful sight. I was starting to feel a bit under the weather when I finished, so I waited until the 19th to reward myself with my third lobe piercings. This was my first ear piercing with needles instead of that disgusting, dangerous mall gun, and the long, slow healing process has been completely worth it. After the traumatic experience with my seconds, this was so healing. I’d still like a fourth lobe piercing on my left ear (the bigger ear), but I’m going to wait awhile given how long it’s taken to fully heal my thirds.

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I really couldn’t have done this without my soundtrack! I always give credit where credit is due, particularly since I’ve been out of the closet as a Duranie for so long now. What finally pushed me out of the closet during 2012 was my realization that there were so many parallels between Duran Duran and The Monkees, my first musical love. I always defend The Monkees when haters deride them as not a real band and accuse their fans of being nothing but overgrown teenyboppers, so why should this be any different?

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The next big thing was completing what turned out to be the penultimate major edit of the book formerly known as The Very First, doing a near-complete rewrite and restructuring of the book formerly known as The Very Next, and getting a bit over the halfway point in the major rewrite and restructuring of the book formerly known as The Very Last.

I realized better late than never that TVF didn’t have a chapter about the famous (if overhyped) War of the Worlds scare, and so I began a new chapter between the chapters about Violet’s birthday and Halloween. Yes, the true extent of the scare has been much overhyped in the decades since, but many people really were terrified, and it was a very real fear based on the overall foreboding atmosphere of the times. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re writing a book set during 1938, you should include that in at least some way, just as it’s a pretty big omission to not mention the influenza pandemic in a book set during 1918–20.

I took TVN from a 24,000-word unstructured hot mess to an actual novel-length story of 75,000 words. That’s kind of on the long side for one of my Atlantic City books and typically a sign of being overwritten, but in this case, the length works beautifully for the story it became. It’s still a largely episodic story, with an ensemble cast, but now it’s more focused on the right characters and storylines, with an actual arc and structure. Maybe 20%, if that, of the original material remains. Creating the third draft really was like writing the book all over again.

TVL started out as about 36,000 words, and is currently up to almost 65,000. Though it’s still been given the radical rewriting and restructuring the other two books got, I have relatively less work to do with this one. Of all four prequel books, it by far has the strongest writing and most focused storylines, and was the volume I had the most fun writing. When I get back to it, my guesstimate is around 100K, perhaps shorter, depending upon how many new words need put in vs. how much original clutter needs taken out or radically rewritten.

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I did a few more edits and polishings of The Twelfth Time, and brought it down to 398K so far. This is a huge accomplishment, since I started out thinking I’d bring it from 406K to 400K. I also did some unexpected revising (nothing too major) of You Cannot Kill a Swan for its third edition. Once I get a revamped cover for a fourth edition, I’m hoping to do some kind of belated book tour and better marketing.

I started my fourth volume with my Russian characters, A Dream Deferred, and it currently sits at around 80K. Surprisingly, some of the chapters have been below my normal standards for short in my Russian historicals, coming in at the 2,000/3,000 range instead of the 4,000/5,000 range I consider short for these books.

I did a lot of work on my alternative history, and it’s approaching the 175K mark. Most of what I have left to do are a few more chapters (including some unfinished ones I left to get back to) in Parts II and III, and the majority of Part IV.

I did a minor, final edit of And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth, which I’m planning to release early in 2016.

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I finally got back into two of my hiatused hobbies, silent film and body modification. I really have no excuse for why I went so long without actively pursuing my love of silent cinema, except that I got into a bad habit thanks to my ex hijacking my Netflix queue and bumping down all the classic films I’d added long before I was involved with him. I also don’t have cable anymore, so I can’t watch the silents TCM shows. The list crawled along for the last few years, and in this year, it’s jumped from 931 to 999. Onwards and upwards to my long-awaited milestone of 1,000 silent films!

After getting my third lobes on 19 March, I got my left rook done on 14 August, my right conch done on 30 September, and my navel done on 24 November. I have an appointment for lucky #11 on 5 January, for something I’ve wanted since I was 17 or 18. If I’m not anatomically suited to this piercing, I’ll get my tragus done instead.

29 December made it 20 years since I discovered my favoritest writer, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn! May his beautiful memory be for an eternal blessing, and may his amazing soul rest in peace.

2015 marked 15 years since I became a serious Who fan and declared them as my favoritest band. I’m still proud to be a Who Rottweiler, the nickname Pete gave to the female fans. This year also was my baby Kalanit (my spider plant)’s 15th birthday.

October IWSG—Pulled away from my WIP

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Today is the October meeting of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which convenes the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

Ever since August, I’ve felt more and more pulled away from my WIP. I’ve still worked on it sporadically, but I’m almost back to how I was in the months before I went back to it full-time. There really is no excuse for not having finished it or having gotten it close to finished by now. At this point, the majority of the work left is Part IV and a few unfinished chapters of Parts II and III.

I already put Green Sunrise and Justine Grown Up on indefinite hiatus, and don’t want to keep putting books on hiatus after a very strong initial burt of motivation and passion. The release date I’m committed to is 12 August, since that was my protagonist’s birthday. I feel like I’ve been such a bad fairy godmother to my dear protagonist, after the suprarational soul connection I’ve felt to him for over 20 years.

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I absolutely am still committed to giving this dear boy a happy ending and transforming him into the epitome of an underdog hero. I was never one of those people convinced he would’ve died young anyway or been some invalid unable to rule in his own right. The will to live is so strong, even against all odds, particularly when you know an entire empire is counting on you to survive and be a benevolent Tsar. Something tells me Aleksey would’ve wanted to be remembered for more than having hemophilia and being murdered at thirteen.

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Instead, I spent a lot of time plotting my fourth Russian historical (no USSR scenes slated, but the majority of the characters are Russian or Russian–American), doing the last major edit of The Twelfth Time (my second Russian novel), and starting the first edit of Journey Through a Dark Forest (the massive third volume).

During my edits of The Twelfth Time, I discovered a bad habit I’d never realized, frequently starting sentences with “And.” That really shaves off word count, gives me something to watch out for in future, and forces me to think about when it makes sense for a sentence to start with “And” vs. when it works better without it. I’ve also discovered other usually superfluous phrases, like You know, Apparently, I mean, I know, Remember, and Of course.

I’m editing Journey Through a Dark Forest in four parts, so I don’t have to create the master document till the end. I shaved Part I down to 149K, Part II to 272K, Part III to 219K, and Part IV plus the Epilogue to 238K so far. I’d love to try getting the entire book down to at least 800K, but I’ll settle for 850K. Each of the four rounds began with formatting, which was the most annoying part.

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Other than this post, all my October posts will be Halloween-themed. My Weekend Writing Warriors posts on Sundays will feature Halloween scenes, and on the other days, I’m spotlighting classic horror films of the silent era with landmark anniversaries this year—The Golem (1920), Frankenstein (1910), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and of course The Monster (1925), The Penalty (1920), and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) with my belovèd Lon Chaney, Sr. Since TCM has always shown both versions of Lon’s The Unholy Three at unholy hours, I’ll be unable to spotlight those.

For the remainder of the year, most of my posts will be about films from the silent and early sound era. A number of important films have landmark anniversaries in December and November, as well as two classic albums. Expect to see somewhat less writing-centric content and more focus on my other interests. I’ve already got plenty of films lined up to cover in 2016 and 2017, including a series on a film which turns 70 next year. I’m lucky I saved my ticket stub from its last theatrical re-release in the U.S., since the studio now treats its existence like a dirty little secret. Most younger people have probably never seen this film.

September IWSG—New editions and covers

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s time for the September edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

I recently put out the third edition of You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, stripped as promised of all those unnecessary accent aigus I included in Russian words and names for the last 19 years. (As I’ve explained, I think it started as misguided overcompensation for how inaccurately I transliterated certain letters when I’d just learnt the Russian alphabet at thirteen.) I then had to put accent aigus back in French loanwords, like fiancée, ingénue, and soirée.

I believe very strongly in hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), and as embarrassing as it is that I barely sold any copies and haven’t sold anything since November, it really seems like Hashem were protecting me. During the edit I did while running the book through Kindle Preview, I came across a couple of typos and some formatting errors I never caught. Mind you, I don’t want to give the impression that the book was riddled with them, but there were a few things. Thankfully, I have several older versions to check back on, as well as the original-originals still on disks.

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A lot of bizarre things happened to the manuscript as a result of an unnecessary conversion from Pages to Word 2003 to Pages 5.0 to Pages and Word 2003. I thought I’d caught and added back in all the missing/messed-up words and lines, but a handful had slipped through. I also changed a few lines of dialogue to sound less “As you know, Bob” and reflect my greater familiarity with the Imperial Family’s history, particularly in regards to Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the pretended Emperor in Exile. (His claim was disputed for numerous reasons, and almost no one in the family supported or even liked him.)

The second edition, if you’re wondering, didn’t involve any big changes like that. It just changed the title Tsarevich to Tsesarevich. I have a future post on the differences between the titles Tsarevich, Tsesarevich, Tsarevna, Tsesarevna, and Tsaritsa. No Russian ever referred to his or her heir as “Tsarevich,” even though that title is more common in the English-speaking world.

Tsesarevich headline

I’m hoping to finally hear back from a potential new cover artist sometime within this month, and will issue a fourth edition with a revamped cover. (This artist is definitely legit, but has recently indicated she’s quite in arrears with messages.) I’m definitely proud of the cover I drew with oil pastels, wax pastels, and colored pencils (both wax and oil). I’ve come a long way in my evolution as an artist (particularly in regards to human figures), and I’ve always loved to draw. However, I really feel I might sell more copies with something more professional.

If the price is right, and I like the potential revamped cover enough, I may ask the artist to do a cover for The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, which is now going through its final major edit. It’s mostly just removing infodumpesque dialogue and unnecessarily excess verbiage at this point. I decided I’d like to still release it this year after all, in spite of my almost zero sales.

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts lately saying cover reveals, release day blitzes, and book tours aren’t as exciting or successful as they used to be. A lot of people complain they’re tired of seeing the same book or writer featured on multiple posts a day, or in a very short time period. Have any of you actually experienced a significant uptick in sales because of a book tour or cover reveal/release day party? I’m kind of afraid of once again getting astronomically more congratulations than actual sales, plus the risk of annoying people who already don’t like those posts.