Deadly Hotels

by Ralph Martin


Silent-film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's 1921 Labor Day bash in room 1220 of the Westin St. Francis provided newspapers with the scandal of the decade, complete with illicit booze, groupies, and the death of a young actress. The actual events are clouded in San Francisco fog: At some point in the proceedings, Virgina Rappe, a 30-year-old starlet with a few screen credits, went off to the bedroom by herself, quite drunk. Four days later she was dead, and Arbuckle (pictured in a still from the 1916 movie He Did And He Didn't) was tried for first-degree murder, with the San Francisco D.A. claiming the star had raped Rappe and fatally injured her with his excessive body weight. There were three trials, as circuslike as the original party had been, with tampered witnesses (including one Zey Prevon and a Dr. Beardslee), faked evidence, the shredding of many reputations, two hung juries, and finally, a verdict of not guilty. Arbuckle was banned from several studios and went bankrupt; one little trip to the bedroom made him, in his own words, "the guy everyone loves to hate."

Westin St. Francis
Tel: 415 397 7000

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