Erich von Stroheim

From my new book on the life and times of Rudolph Valentino, to be published in the fall of 2014: Rudy’s observations on one of the most creative, and controversial, directors of all time.

One of Hollywood’s most notable personalities, he traded on his German ancestry. We met, of course, although casually, on several occasions and I was very familiar with his work, his explorations of some of mankind’s baser instincts, and with such visual cues so as to sear them into the minds of those who watched his productions. He possessed great creativity which mostly flowed freely though he would self-block from time to time, leading to cost overruns and friction with powerbrokers, studio heads, or accounting departments.

A von Stroheim film I fondly remember is “Foolish Wives” where he was also on screen. He did not achieve the pinnacles others did as far as consistent popularity and box office but his films sparked controversy and therefore were the subject of many discussions. His Prussian bearing was slightly affected yet no one questioned it ~ part of his allure, the attraction that was von Stroheim. He and I did not have a strong connection but I admired his ability to be daring, stretch limits, call attention to some of the issues of the day.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Gloria Swanson

In 1922, Paramount cast Gloria with Rudy in the film adaptation of Elinor Glyn’s novel, “Beyond the Rocks” ~ a confection that allowed them both to toy with their celebrity. Once believed lost, this picture reflects their joy in being a screen couple. Here Rudy reminisces about the shoot and his relationship with Ms. Swanson. This is an excerpt from my new Valentino project in which he comments on some of the people and events that colored his life, including his leading ladies. ~ Wayne Hatford

My darling co-star! How we pranked each other, almost every day, and in every way! What creativity our endeavors did require! She was so much fun to work with and she did not consider me an inferior, not Miss Swanson, she of the ‘glorified’ heights! Her career was at a summit, somewhat akin to the one portrayed in our film. Her eyes sparkled, winked a lot, as we took the scenario, tongue in cheek. This saved the production actually as the audience reacted to our levity in a positive way. Had we been too serious, we could have easily gotten the hook.

Gloria and I did not broach intimacy, knowing, as we did, that that move would have been disastrous. Instead, we rode, in motorcars, and on horses, were friends who understood the most intricate aspects of each others’ psyches without having to have direct experiences with them. Bravo, Gloria! You were always a tour de force!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Cecil B. DeMille

One of the greatest seers of all time! What people do not know or at least not consciously so is that Mr. DeMille could read the public pulse better than most anyone in Hollywood. Not even the studio execs had a better nose for what would sell. And then he was brilliant in the execution, making loads of cash for Paramount along the way. He tweaked American sensibility, soothed it yet also was quite challenging, holding up a mirror so that we could look at ourselves. What a pioneer! What a student of morality! The mores of the 1920’s were never clearer than in productions that flourished under his hand. Then too, the studio knew every DeMille picture was going to contain a certain amount of moxie. A man totally in tune with his times, he adapted, also did excellent work in the sound era, having a lengthy and laudable career. We only superficially crossed paths but I observed him on his sets, saw how he challenged his actors, and worked with their occasional insufferableness too ~ truly a gifted individual!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Mirrors

Mirrors are magical devices, not only for glancing or protracted viewing but also as ‘glamour-enhancers’ ~ meaning a quick look, unfocused, is all we need sometimes to adjust that which has gone askew. We can use mirrors, therefore, to right ourselves ~ as tools or more specifically as linkages between our personalities and souls because a mirror is one place where we can see both, simultaneously.

What does a mirror show of a thousand years ago? How it was and when; therefore, it’s an apparatus for expanding consciousness, a gateway to other dimensions.

In terms of what might be useful, it would be good to strategically place a few mirrors in your home or living space ~ a must actually, as they are also transmitters, able to be used to amplify energy. When possible, create the endless reflection of mirror facing mirror, if nothing more than to remind you of you, the many yous that are part and parcel of ‘the you’ you now perceive yourself to be. Mirror = ‘Specchio.’  I do like my language, that native one, for this word: specch-i-o, looking at yourself under a glass, like a specimen, as that is also what a mirror allows us to do. They are magnifiers too, and that is why they lend grace to any environment. Janice pointed out (making reference to my first book, “Letters from Janice) that ballrooms are often awash in mirrors. Rightfully so, as that’s where we can lose ourselves, cut loose from our personalities ‘du jour,’ even escape to other realms while still clothed in a body. Interesting, don’t you think? So, you can imagine with mirrors, use them as a means for mind expansion and time travel.

Visualize yourselves in other garb; see yourselves in other guises in terms of your features and sex. Squint and then look – mirrors are a wonderful tool for self appreciation and assessment, in other words, for soul-gazing.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Poetry

Rudolph Valentino penned a book of “Other World” inspired poetry, entitled “Day Dreams,” in 1923.  Here he comments on his on-going love affair with that genre.

“You ask about poetry and why I am partial to it. The answer is simple. Poems tell stories in concise and picturesque ways, often with a witty turn of words. As far as the poems in “Valentino Speaks” are concerned, that, at least, was the intent!

There are certain rhythms in my poems which can be both felt and heard. Thusly encoded, they are talismans, dedicated to life itself. All have been inscribed with a personal wish of love to those who wish to read them. 

Poems may also be thought of as paintings on a page. The words are shadings and colorings whose purpose it is to give shape to thought. Each starts out as a blank slate, a tabula rasa to be used by the poet to display his or her creativity with language. The forms are many, from Alexandrine to free verse, more often than not involving the juxtaposition of sound and some sort of play on words. These, however, are merely devices. The single most important aspect of any piece of poetry is that it has the potential of touching us emotionally, on the most basic of levels. 

Poems strike chords in our psyches as do the chimes of a clock or the sounds of an operatic aria.  In other words, they promote visceral reactions. There are harmonic chords afoot in all of life’s circumstances. The gift that poetry offers is to make them more audible. 

What is every poet’s dream? To shed light on thoughts so that they may truly be seen.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

 

Celebrity

Celebrities are individuals who are celebrated by others, fêted, as the French might say, for one reason or another. As such, they are examples of ways to be, in many instances exemplars or reflections of contemporary morality. They come to us from all walks of life, running the gamut from world leaders, entertainers and sports figures to so-called average people. Whether or not someone actually becomes a celebrity, however, is determined for the most part by those who have a say in the matter rather than by the individual himself. 

 Celebrity status is usually achieved through a combination of deeds done and images projected. And, there is also often another element present: role. Each can play out in any number of ways. My celebrity, for example, came as the result of a series of starring roles in films. However, it was the media’s interpretation of them that really put me in the spotlight. Some say that I was one of the first media darlings. Not so. There were many before me, going back to the time of the Pharaohs. I certainly had no leg up on the matter!

 Though celebrity as we now know it is essentially personality-driven, it is also often reflective of who we are internally. Viggo Mortensen, a contemporary actor, is an excellent example of this, a man whose inner self is very much present in all he does. He is, however, an exception. Unfortunately, many celebrities tend to be weighed down by their personalities. Indeed, in some instances it’s almost as though they are walking around carrying suitcases full of bricks!

In the world of celebrity, personality is often seen as being more substantive than soul.  Of course, just the opposite is true. There will be a demystification of the cult of personality in years hence when people realize the true beauty of soul and thereby become more conscious of the fact that everyone deserves to be celebrated, no matter how they have chosen to lead their lives. In the meantime, it is imperative that celebrities err on the side of inspiration and promote only that which is life-enhancing. They, like all of us, have a duty to perform: to act responsibly.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Labyrinths

Let us confine our discussion to those of the circular persuasion. Such labyrinths are very helpful indeed. Over time more shall be built, their popularity increasing. Circular labyrinths are easy to navigate whereas angular ones tend to confuse. 

Walking a circular labyrinth is a form of mental and emotional gymnastics, like flexing a muscle and then allowing it to relax. We twist in and twist out, using curved or elliptical movement to construct a hypothetical sphere. In so doing, we ought not to step over the lines. There are prescribed ways of doing things, especially when it’s a question of getting to the heart of a matter, just as there are a certain number of steps that must be taken in order to reach the center of a labyrinth. 

If you will, think of labyrinths as entities, their hearts at their cores. Upon arriving, ye shall know them, including their purpose and inspiration. Ye shall also better know yourself for having walked even one! To plot a circle on a theoretical flat plane is to overlay God on what we view as reality, one sphere of influence slipping over another like a ring being able to fit neatly on top of an elliptical.  

When we enter a labyrinth we are making a pilgrimage, compressing life into a very short period of time so that our issues may be more readily seen and examined. How so, you ask? Walking a labyrinth folds time and space which has the effect of ratcheting up our vibratory rates. And, at the same time, it also quiets the mind, freeing us from mental chatter. It is a healthy thing indeed to wind and unwind, to walk to the center and then retrace our steps, eventually coming back to the starting point. The net result is that afterwards we’re likely to feel all the more balanced, aligned, and alive.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

 

Namaste

A salutation of Hindu origin, the Namaste is a ritualized way of greeting people. Reverential in nature, it is both a gesture of equality and an expression of good will. It is also a sign of respect, designed to acknowledge the divinity in each of us. 

Practicing the Namaste is a simple way to honor our fellow men and women. This gesture, consisting of a prescribed combination of physical movements, was crafted centuries ago to embody spiritual principle. It is accomplished thusly: with a slight nod and bow directed towards the person being greeted, we clasp our hands, thumbs against the chest while voicing this most precious of words. In so doing, we are also honoring the Creator, reflected in the individual now standing before us.

A form of spiritual shorthand, the Namaste is primarily soul-centered which is as it should be. Of course, the personality is also to be acknowledged, but at the same time it is well to remember not to become blinded or bedazzled, either by its glamour or a lack thereof. To practice Namaste is to see beyond the personality, to see the God within. 

Namaste is the sort of greeting that we would all do well to think about adopting even though our corresponding custom, the handshake, is also tangible evidence of mutual acknowledgment. Given that in many parts of the world the handshake is a long-held practice, it is likely, at least for the foreseeable future, to continue being the thing to do when people meet or greet each other. In the shaking hands, a brief sharing of energy also takes place, at times a very powerful experience. That said, however, the fact remains that a handshake is not the fuller kind of expression that Namaste tends to be. 

In our roles as fair witnesses to each other’s lives, the Namaste speaks to the footprints we all make in the sands of time. Some might go so far as to define its practice as royals greeting their peers, the implication being, of course, that we are all royalty. Truth is, my friends, we are! A Namaste to the East then ~ out of respect for that part of the world having conceived of this most perfect of gestures. Also to you, from my heart to yours.

During the shoot of “The Young Rajah, I sometimes practiced Namaste, mostly as a way to stay in character. Then it was but an atmospheric device, a nod, if you will, to the script. Now I see it for what it really is, a splendid way for us to honor each other’s presence.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Home

 What could be more desirable than for each of us to have our own place in the Sun? In seeking housing, what we each are looking for is an appropriate venue to stage our lives, a place to live where we can feel totally at ease to be our-selves. The perfect living space, therefore, is wherever we can grow and prosper. Which four walls, by reason of their construction, layout or orientation, will allow us to feel most balanced, the parts of self aligned? That, my friends, is a question worth asking.

When we discover a potential living situation that seems both inviting and supportive of who we are, it is a confirmation that we have found a dwelling place that will encourage our growth and development. A home, however, rarely is forever. Our needs change and, as a result, so do our living spaces. Therefore, we are likely to have a number of different abodes.

First and foremost, home is where the heart is ~ no exceptions. That is where we really reside rather than at a physical address. If we were ever to write to ourselves, we would need to address the letter in care of our heart. Hearth, like heart, bespeaks warmth. Far more than just somewhere to lie down, a real home allows us to feel both comfortable and secure. It must glow from within while also sheltering us from the storm. That hearth or fire energy be present, therefore, is a prerequisite. As a concept, home is at its most powerful when it encompasses both heart and hearth. All three make excellent company and are naturally at ease with each other.

As has always been the case, our homes are sacred. It behooves us then to treat them that way. They are literally both our temple and base of operation, a point of power that’s lovely to behold. Creating a space that we can call home is not a matter of money.  Rather, it’s based on attitude, ingenuity and the desire to do so.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s imperative to define your tastes on the home front. Therefore, be creative with what you have, making sure to express yourself in ways that clearly reflect who you are. I did and so should you!

Home is a big idea, one that’s not only all-encompassing but also rather immense. It is not simply about walls, roof or a floor. What makes a home a home is often more intangible than not. Where we live speaks to our sense of well-being. Our home functions as a safety net, the seat of our emotional, spiritual and physical support systems and, upon occasion, the dwelling place of our loved ones.

How we choose to arrange our belongings makes a statement about who we are too. Will our taste be reflected in an ornate mirror or represented by a few shards of broken glass? The choice, as always, is ours to make.

All home environments ought to be dedicated to the principles of beauty. Where we live, after all, is really the only place where we get to arrange all of the things we consider to be meaningful. Color, too, plays a part, each of us tending to have our favorites. Mine primarily were muted golds and reds, autumnal in nature. In living color, we tend to make ourselves all the more beautiful. No one really wants to live in a beige world.

Anytime we so desire, we can create a home space with as little as just one personal touch. There are travelers, for example, who like to rearrange their hotel rooms or bring a favorite item with them in order to infuse the places they stay with the spirit of home. In so many ways home is a state of mind, almost independent of bricks and mortar.

Our castles on Earth ought to be simple, elegant and comfortable ~ in perfect harmony with the four elements. Individual taste runs the gamut, of course, as well it should. In my case, the views were always paramount. I liked seeing the horizon each time I gazed through a window. Equally important was my desire to create some semblance of old-world flair wherever I lived, if nothing more than to remind me of my beloved Italy. I cite this merely as an example of personal taste ~ not as something to emulate. In matters of the home, each of you will have your own sets of issues and priorities. When it comes to decorating, however, one thing is for sure: our personalities will always have a go at it!

As far as layout is concerned, some floor plans are better than others. There must be flow, good feng shui, as it is now known. Houses that are designed with a center axis and wings on either side, for example, promote flow. This cross-shaped configuration forms two imaginary lines, creating a focus where they intersect.

Which would I recommend? The cross shape does allow for easy flow which is just one of its many reasons for being. But there are also many other equally valid floor plans.  Which feels most comfortable? The answer will vary from person to person.

In scripting our lives, our living space is one of the primary sets. Use it wisely. Not only is a home a place to live, it’s often a laboratory ~ we being both the subjects and perpetrators of the experiment. Home is where you can hang your hat and relax, whenever you would like to do so. If, however, you find yourself wanting to run out the door the moment you arrive, it’s a sign that something is amiss. Choosing an appropriate living space usually comes down to whether or not the environment in question embraces life. If it does, proceed. If not, I suggest looking elsewhere.

(Addressing the author) You saw my first home, the one where I was born ~ referring to my having visited Valentino’s birthplace, Castellaneta, Italy. You realized at the time that I must have felt like a bird living there, free to come and go in my flights of fancy. And so it is, for all of our living spaces. We must be able to go out as well as come in out of the rain.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

 

Abbondanza

Effected and affected, the season calls us to consider the fullest of tradition ~ fruits, meals, drinks, all of which are sometimes delivered in excess. Makes us think about our baselines, wonder about indulgences, shudder at the thought of gaining weight. A reminder to all that what is needed is always provided, and that is the true definition of ‘abbondanza’ ~ not gluttony or drunkenness, not having to do with any shopaholic tendencies. Abundance sensitizes us to what we truly need and want. By frequently being offered more, as we often are during the holiday season, we are able to make conscious choices about our real desires. Still, the holiday glow is something to behold ~ sparkling candles, the glow of a fire-lit room ~ cozy, all around.

The perfect metaphor, in terms of fruit, is the apple ~ in a boar’s mouth ~ the extra touch, that beautiful though it may be, often has the effect of disincentivizing its beholder, being too much. Do not lull yourself with abbondanza, or be seduced by its wiles. Balance in all things!” ~ Rudolph Valentino