Late on the night of June 25, 1906, architect Stanford White passed suddenly and violently out of life and into legend. He was 52 years old.
Stanford White shone in his personal and professional life. He was well-known for his work, his generosity, and his charm. He lived in a decadent home, filled with oil paintings and rich decor. He had powerful connections who could help him overcome any scrape he got into.
These connections were essential to the darker side of “Stanny” because he was a predator who set his sights on adolescent girls. He would “ruin them” then move to the next victim. Today, he could not enjoy celebrity and continue his intrigues, undetected. But maybe he wouldn’t have cared – everyone who knew of White’s unsavory activities only admired him more.
Nearly a century has passed since he walked amongst the living, but people still ask, “Who was Rasputin?”
Grigori Yefemovich arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903. His strange appeal introduced him to circles of society to which no peasant ever rose. It’s hard for anyone living now to understand how remarkable Rasputin’s story really is.
A Russian living in the early 1900s would have found changing his status impossible and undesirable. In Russia, if you were born a peasant, you would die a peasant and wanting to do anything else was abnormal. They were far beneath the notice of the Romanovs; to the royals, they knew they were nothing more than a part of the landscape – like a tree or a horse. The concept of a peasant with influence over the Tsar was definitely distasteful. If anyone did have visions of powerful peasants, they certainly would not have selected Grigori Yefemovich as the man to lead them into the future.
Before he was a starets, or holy man, he was a well-known troublemaker in his village who had acquired a string of convictions for petty crimes. Rasputin did not trouble with hygiene and his lewd conversation disturbed men and women alike. He had a wife and children in Siberia, who did n0t interfere with his pursuit of any woman he encountered, whatsoever.
Thanks to her success as a Floradora girl, Evelyn Nesbit was offered a one-year contract to perform in The Wild Rose. And instead of being in a group of chorus girls, Evelyn was given a real role.
All New York was in love with her beauty. Her acting, less so. “As an actress, she was impossible. She had no talent. Even physical beauty will not carry a woman of the stage to favor if she cannot sing or act,” ran a March 15, 1907 piece in the United Opinion.
White persuaded Mrs. Nesbit to return to Pennsylvania for a visit and sweetly promised to look after 16-year-old Evelyn while she was away. Having already disposed of Evelyn’s brother Howard by sending him to Philadelphia for an expensive education, White was now alone with Evelyn. After Mrs. Nesbit’s departure, White invited Evelyn to his West 24th Street studio, where he arranged for photos to be taken of her.