Bit Player #8: Crystal P. Rivers

[This is the last entry that observes the burial of Virginia Rappe and is meant as a postscript adapted from the working manuscript. That is to say, we may find some additional details about Crystal P. Rivers (1877–1944), who lived out his final years as an artist in Santa Barbara. We use this opening to set up events leading to the first Arbuckle trial, when the defense kept leaking news stories about Rappe having a daughter in Chicago.]

In the weeks that followed Virginia Rappe’s funeral, another interment took place nearby, that of “Master Breezy Reeves Jr.” as he was billed, “the Littlest Cowboy” and the son of director B. Reeves Eason. The six-year-old had been killed by a runaway truck outside his home and, like Rappe, was among the first group of actors to be buried in what became Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Meanwhile, cemetery employees informed police that a middle-aged man had been observed visiting Rappe’s grave by the reflecting pool almost daily.[1] Typically, the visitor came to lay bunches of fresh flowers as well. On a nearby palm tree that shaded the Rappe plot, he also hung a “a framed picture of a cluster of roses,” which bore the legend and enigmatically wrong date:

This is a promise delayed, Crystal P. Rivers.
Please do not remove this from the grave of Virginia
—Semper Fidelis (always faithful) from C. P. R.
Wednesday September 6.

With Roscoe Arbuckle’s trial date of November 7 approaching, newspaper reporters decided to meet the mysterious gentleman, Crystal Rivers, and make a human-interest story of him during the lull of real news about the case.

You fought for the honor God gave you to you
A beautiful bridal flower.
And through the years your heart beat true
Till the day and the fatal hour.

When Rivers was confronted, he said he had known Rappe since 1917, when friends of hers had introduced her to the self-styled “poet, artist, and inventor.”

According to the Los Angeles Record, Rivers lived “practically in seclusion, devoting much of his time to study and writing.”

Source: Newspapers.com

“I loved Virginia Rappe,” he said to the San Francisco Examiner, “for her innocence, her beauty and her gracious charm. The memories of my meetings with her are as a father does his only daughter. She was the embodiment of all I have missed in life—a child on whom I might lavish my affections.”

The polymath Rivers may have enjoyed his “unusual platonic romance” with or without Rappe’s participation. He may have been a poet, artist, inventor when he could find the time, but when not putting fresh flowers on Rappe’s grave, he was mostly a factory worker and a widower. Eventually, the rains faded his poem and another person tended Rappe’s grave and filled its urn with sprays of black acacia and the like.


[1] The following passage is based on “Grave of Girl Daily Visited,” San Francisco Examiner, 3 November 1921, 12; “Mystery Visitor Decorates Grave of Virginia Rappe,” Los Angeles Herald, 3 November 1921, A12; “Identify Grave Visitor,” Los Angeles Herald, 5 November 1921, A3; “Solve Rappe Grave Puzzle, Los Angeles Record, 5 November 1921, 2; “Mystery Suitor of Rappe Girl Tells of Affection,” San Francisco Examiner, 5 November 1921, 9; 1920 U.S. Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Assembly District 75, Enumeration District 480, Sheet 3A, line 30; and other corroborative sources.

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