Imagine my surprise when I came across a large number of photos featuring Lou Tellegen!

Lou Tellegen was a famous actor back in the 1910s. I’d never seen his movies or even a picture of him. But I knew his name right away because Dorothy Parker reviewed Women Have Been Kind. The book was Tellegen’s autobiography and it catalogued his relationships with his numerous girlfriends and wives.

Mr. Lou Tellegen, circa 1913. LOC

 

I’m going to write a separate post about Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), who is the funniest author I’ve ever read. Just to give you an idea of who she was, she was a satiric writer, and the authors of the 1920s and 30s must have frozen in delight and terror when they learned she was going to review their book. Everyone read her columns, and she could make an author famous overnight.

It would have been the equivalent of getting invited to be on the Joe Rogan Experience, if Joe Rogan took a wicked delight in making his guests look ridiculous. I would be terrified for her to review anything I’ve written.

Dorothy Parker

 

A Month of Saturdays is a compilation of Dorothy Parker’s book reviews for the Constant Reader from the 1920s and early 1930s. Looks like it’s out of print now, unfortunately.

Women Have Been Kind wasn’t a great book and Tellegen wasn’t a great author. But this book, like many celebrity autobiographies before and since, would have mercifully slipped into oblivion, had it not been reviewed by Dorothy Parker.

 

Lou Tellegen in 1913. I imagine a similar expression was on his face when he learned Parker was reviewing his book.

In her review, entitled Kiss and Tellegen, Parker begins by annihilating the dust jacket:

“The blurb on the dust cover announces, with rather more than the usual bang, that “here are the intimate reminisces of the man who is called ‘the perfect lover.’ (It is not stated who gave him this name, but I feel, somehow, that I have guessed. I won’t say yes, nor I won’t say no, but if you were to whisper to me your conjecture that the phrase-coiner’s initials are L.T., I might admit that you were, like the countless heroines of Women have been Kind, getting warm.)

“The blurb goes breathlessly on… ‘Mr. Tellegen has lived more romance than others read of, and his memoirs are as exciting as a score of novels.’ I shall not dispute that last statement, provided the publishers let me name the score in question.”

And that was just her warm-up. Even though I haven’t read her book in years, I instantly remembered Lou Tellegen’s name when I came across it today. It never occurred to me to see what he looked like, but I was not surprised to find him looking just like he does.

1913. LOC
1913. With an unidentified woman. LOC.

 

Several of the pictures I found are really goofy photos with his wife, the opera singer Geraldine Ferrar. According to Parker, Lou Tellegen didn’t give much detail about his marriage to the famous soprano.

“His account of his American tour with Sarah Bernhardt is, in a word, terrible. You get no hint of her quality; the author is too much occupied with his own concerns at the time. They were not, in another word, interesting.

“Nor is there much to the story of his stretch of time with Geraldine Ferrar. Miss Ferrar was not his first wife nor, so much as I can figure out events, his second or his third. There came a time when it was drawn, somehow, to Mr. Tellegen’s attention, that gentlemen sometimes married ladies, and from then on, he became a regular marryin’ fool.”

1915. Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Ferrar with her parents, Sid Ferrar and Henrietta Barnes Ferrar LOC

 

1916. Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Ferrar LOC
1916. Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Ferrar LOC
1916. Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Ferrar at home LOC. I love the framed publicity photograph of Lou Tellegen displayed conspicuously in their living room.

1916. Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Ferrar LOC

I’m sure there’s more details about Lou Tellegen that I could unearth and share. But we probably know everything we need to know about him, don’t you think? I’d rather read my Dorothy Parker book.

It’s the last day of Mugshot March! This calls for something spectacular, so this evening, I bring you the tale of Mrs. Margaret Rowan, founder of a cult, attempted murderer, and eventual prisoner at San Quentin penitentiary.

Wade and Rowan formerly belonged to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, but Mrs. Rowan soon created a problem. In 1925, she predicted the exact date on which the world would end. When that date passed, and people found the world was still intact, Rowan was excommunicated. Mrs. Rowan soon established herself in Los Angeles, with a couple of followers. The papers that refer to Mrs. Rowan as a cult leader are referencing the sect she established, not the Seventh Day Adventists.

The story begins in February 1927, when all Southern California police departments received a description of Mrs. Margaret Rowan, who they described as a prophetess or priestess. An automobile owned by Mrs. Rowan was found abandoned in a ditch off the highway near San Juan Capistrano, and Los Angeles authorities expressed the fear that she may be a fugitive, heading for the Mexican border. Mrs. Rowan was wanted in connection with an alleged murder plot, and a warrant had been sworn for her arrest.

 

Two of Rowan’s lieutenants and devoteés, Dr. J.H. Balzer and Miss Mary A. Wade, were accused of attempting to murder Dr. Burt E. Fullmer. Mrs. Rowan and Dr. Fullmer had a theological disagreement that turned deadly. Dr. Fullmer who had also broken off from the Seventh Day Adventists to start a reform-minded sect. Dr. Fullmer claimed the pair attempted to murder him after he had threatened to reveal some unsavory activities Mrs. Rowan had been conducting.

Around 10 p.m. one February evening, Dr. Fullmer received an anonymous phone call at his home in Los Angeles. A woman’s voice, which he later identified as that of Mrs. Rowan, said that a good friend of his needed to speak to him immediately. The caller implored Dr. Fullmer to come to a lonely auto camp in Van Nays. When he arrived at the cabin, a man and a woman leapt at him, beating his head with a piece of lead pipe and stabbed with a hypodermic needle.

Dr. Fullmer

Dr. Fullmer fought his way out of the cabin. Once outside, others at the camp saw what was happening and ran to Fullmer’s rescue. They forcibly detained Dr. Balzer and Miss Mary Wade, and the pair were arrested at the scene.

The initial police investigation turned up several ominous items in the cabin, such as a large piece of canvas, a rope, and a shovel. Dr. Balzer agreed to be interviewed and he told police, “We were driven to the limits of desperation by this man his persecution has been terrible we had no intention of harming him are only thought was to force him to retract the malicious untruths he has been circulating.”

 

The following day, police called on Dr. Fullmer. The injured man snorted in disgust when he was told Miss Wade and Dr. Balzer said they had not intended to hurt him. “They were planning to kill me,” he shouted. “What do you suppose they had that pick and canvas for, if it wasn’t to bury me?”

Witnesses at the scene corroborated Dr. Fullmer’s story. One man said he saw Balzer and Wade try to choke Dr. Fullmer, and then Miss Wade repeatedly jabbed at Dr. Fullmer’s arm with a hypodermic needle. With that, police had enough to charge Mrs. Rowan, Dr. Balzer, and Miss Wade with conspiracy to commit murder. Dr. Balzer and Miss Wade admitted to participating in the attack, but they claimed Mrs. Rowan was really at fault for convincing them to do it. Dr. Fullmer also told police that he believed Mrs. Margaret Rowan was involved.

But Mrs. Rowan was nowhere to be found. For nine days, police searched for her. And then, she limped into the police station on crutches and turned herself in. She explained to police that she’d had nothing to do with the attack of Dr. Fullmer. Far from it: in fact, Mrs. Rowan was the victim.

Ignoring the incredulity of the police officers, Mrs. Rowan told them that she, too, had received an urgent, mysterious summons to come to the auto camp. She stepped into the cabin, where she was jumped by a man and a woman. But somehow– she was a little vague on the details– she had gotten away from them and gotten into her car, and raced off into the night.

 

Mrs. Rowan drove for a long time, putting many miles between herself and her mysterious attackers. When she reached San Juan Capistrano on the Ocean Highway, her good luck ran out when her automobile stalled. Despite having fended off two attackers wielding deadly weapons, Mrs. Rowan sank into despair. She waded out into the ocean, she told the officers, and attempted suicide by drowning three times in a matter of minutes. Somehow she failed to end her life and strayed back to shore. “I slept in a field that night,” she said solemnly. “The next day, I begged for rides to Phoenix, Arizona. I borrowed the money to get back to San Bernardino.” Mrs. Rowan then called her son who lived nearby. He offered to take her to the police to turn herself in, and she accepted.

Police officers and reporters laughed merrily as they heard her story. No one believed a word of it, and despite their appreciation for her imaginative tale, Mrs. Rowan was placed under arrest and taken to county jail. She would be held there, with her followers, and bail was set for $2,500 each.

Mrs. Rowan, Dr. Balzer, and Miss Wade pleaded Not Guilty the following day, but they soon reconsidered. The trio had no realistic defense for their attempted murder of Dr. Fullmer. The following day, all three pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault, with intent to commit bodily harm.

Mrs. Rowan, Miss Wade, and Dr. Balzer were denied probation in July. Superior Judge Fletcher Bowron, citing the clear evidence of their intent to murder Fullmer that was found in the cabin refused to consider probation. Instead, Balzer and Wade were sentenced to serve from 1-10 years in San Quentin penitentiary, while Mrs. Rowan got 10.

 

 

I didn’t manage to find Dr. Balzer’s mugshot, but have a look at Miss Mary A. Wade and Mrs. Margaret Rowan. Do they look like a murderous cult member and prophetess to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m avoiding the pandemic coverage. Once you understand what you can/should do, it seems needlessly depressing to continue to watch the coverage. But earlier today, I heard part of a radio interview with an epidemiologist, i.e., a person who studies disease. She said that most people in her field believe that there is a devastating pandemic about every 100 years and gave some frightening numbers that represent the worst case scenario.

She talked a little about the Spanish flu, and how the scale could be about the same with COVID-19. And it’s right on time: the Spanish Flu ravaged the earth from 1918-1920. It made me wonder about the parallels between then and now. I’d like to figure out a few categories (like socializing, working, etc.) and compare human behavior between then and now. There must be something we could reach back and seize to use today. Or some mistake that was made that we could examine and avoid.

I didn’t have a lot of material about the Spanish flu to look back on. Just one post, which is about the damage wrought by the war and the flu, and what followed. You could think of the world like a caterpillar and the Great War and the Spanish flu as the chrysalis. But eventually the world came out of the chrysalis transformed into something bright and new.

Evidently the editor of Life Magazine also thought so!

A 1920 cover of life magazine

 

If we have to go through a 2-year chrysalis, that would be hard. However, if there is an opportunity to glean something, maybe we won’t have to repeat it. After all, as George Santayana told us: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

An Age of Agony

During the latter half of the 1910s, the world was plunged into an era of misery. World War I (1914 – 1918) destroyed life and property on a massive scale.

The Battle of the Somme, 1916, one of the largest battles
Battle of the Somme

65 million people joined the fight, despite grim survival odds. A World War I soldier stood a roughly 50/50 chance of returning home alive, with their physical health intact:

  • Est. 9.5 million troops killed (roughly the combined populations of present-day Denmark and Morocco)
  • Est. 21 million troops injured
  • Est. 6.5 million civilians killed during the war (roughly the combined populations of present-day Switzerland and Chile)
No Man's Land
No Man’s Land on the French front

Those lucky enough to survive the conflict and return home were rarely unscathed: missing eyes and limbs were very common, as were burns. Yet shell shock – the significant psychological reaction to the terrors of the front – was not considered to be an injury and is excluded from statistics.

 

gas mask
The gas mask, patent 1914, protected soldiers from mustard gas

Soldiers who suffered from shell shock often did not receive the treatment they needed because the problem was not understood – even by most doctors. This short, disturbing video highlights the plight of men returning from the front with this terrible problem.

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