The San Francisco Call goes all-in for Roscoe Arbuckle, January 20, 1922

The day before the second Arbuckle trial began with jury selection, two young women waited outside the offices of San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady. Alice Blake and Zey Prevost, two unemployed “showgirls”—a term that doesn’t do them justice—wanted to be paid “witness fees” for their testimony at the first Arbuckle trial. A trial that ended in a hung jury in early December 1921. Rather than meet with these women, who were expected to testify again at the second trial, Brady and his chief assistant on the Arbuckle case, Milton U’Ren, avoided them. The matter went unresolved.[1]

A week later, Blake and Prevost took the stand and both seemed to have forgotten much of their previous testimony, forcing Assistant District Attorney Leo Friedman to read portions. In their cross-examinations, Arbuckle’s lead counsel Gavin McNab questioned them in such a way that ensured the jury understood that their initial statements and testimony, following Virginia Rappe’s death on September 9, 1921, had been coerced by overzealous prosecutors and that both women had been sequestered by the District Attorney against their will.

In an editorial that followed the testimony of Blake and Prevost at the second trial, written by Edgar T. Gleeson, who covered the Arbuckle trials for the San Francisco Call, the reporter took the side of the defense and condemned Matthew Brady. Our commentary appears at the end. Brady’s response will appear in our next posting.


SHOW GIRLS EXPOSE ARBUCKLE EVIDENCE AS A FABRICATION[2]

The sensational developments in the Arbuckle case—the changed testimony of Zey Prevost—the girl’s insinuations that the district attorney’s office had dictated her testimony in the first trial of the film comedian, and District Attorney Brady’s last vainly despairing attempt to have her, one of his two principal witnesses, declared a hostile witness and subjected to cross examination—all these developments have thrown a new and astounding light on a trial that has held the public attention for more than three months. They indicated to The Call yesterday that the trial of Roscoe Arbuckle was merely another miscarriage of justice.

Today The Call is able to give to its readers detailed and convincing testimony on how the district attorney of San Francisco worked up his case against Roscoe Arbuckle. Edgar T. Gleeson has secured the facts from Miss Zey Prevost of how she and Miss Alice Blake were persuaded, threatened and almost compelled to take the stand and give perjured testimony against Roscoe Arbuckle.

FACTS ARE BARED

Here are the facts: It is in some respects another Mooney case—and the only reason Roscoe Arbuckle is not over in San Quentin at this moment, convicted of the death of Miss Rappe. is that another Oxman[3] did not happen to stroll on the scene at the proper moment. That, and that alone, saved Arbuckle.

The Call has no purpose in this exposure than to show how easy it is for men to make grave mistakes in the judgment of other men and how difficult it is for them to stand firm in the face of an inflamed and belligerent public opinion. It is not The Call’s intention to convince its readers that District Attorney Brady and his associates were prejudiced beforehand against Roscoe Arbuckle or that they are exceptionally weak or ruthless. It is the intention, however, to show that men who are very kindly and tolerant in their private lives can and do become both brutal and merciless under the pressure of public office.

BRADY SINCERE

Remember that Matthew Brady opened the case of Roscoe Arbuckle with a firmly sincere declaration that he would do his duty. The Howard street gangster cases were still in the public mind, and men remembered how punctual the district attorney had been in the prosecution of those men of little wealth and little influence.[4]

Matthew Brady announced that the power, the wealth and the popularity of Roscoe Arbuckle would not keep him from receiving as stern a trial as a “Spud” Murphy had received.[5]

So far, so good. But the district attorney did not stop there. Having pledged himself to try Arbuckle he came to believe that he had pledged himself to secure a conviction. Hence the invention of false testimony, the seclusion of witnesses and the stimulation of perjury on the part of a public official who is sworn to enforce and to protect the dignity of the law.

It is an astounding story and at the same time a very natural story—the story of how sincere and kindly men, living under pressure, can become involved in a situation that forces them to accomplish great injustices.

By EDGAR T. GLEESON

The story of how the prosecution in the Arbuckle case, driven to desperate lengths by the threatened collapse of Mrs. Bambina Maude Delmont, its capital witness, deliberately set about the business of manufacturing evidence to the end that the moving picture actor might be convicted on a charge of murder, has now been bared for the first time. Miss Zey Prevost. former moving picture girl and a guest at the Arbuckle party, finally admitted, although reluctantly, that the part of her testimony in which Miss Virginia Rappe was represented as having accused Arbuckle of hurting her, was fabricated.

Miss Prevost is one of the two witnesses whom the district attorney seized upon when his case began to teeter and after investigation had failed to yield any corroboration of Mrs. Delmont’s story.

CREATES SENSATION

The facts as revealed on the stand yesterday (January 19, 1922), and as hinted at on the preceding day by Miss Alice Blake, show that the two girls consented to testify that Miss Rappe had said “I’m dying. I’m dying; he hurt me,” only after efforts had been made by the district attorney to force them into testifying that the girl had accused Arbuckle in the stronger words, “I’m dying, I’m dying; he KILLED me.”

The extraordinary declaration of Zey Prevost that she had testified falsely in the first Arbuckle trial under fear of the district attorney’s office has, of course, created a sensation. Everywhere men ask, how can such things be? Surely a district attorney does not deliberately set out to violate justice!

A review of the immediate events following the death of Miss Rappe will help one to understand something of how such an amazing situation can come about. And this review will show the district attorney’s office, first misled by the now thoroughly discredited story of Mrs. Delmont, and then persisting in a theory of the case built up on the exploded story of Mrs. Delmont who, herself, was so impossible that she was never called as a witness in the case.[6]

When the authorities first learned of the circumstances surrounding the death of Miss Rappe on September 9, of last year, four days after the party in Arbuckle’s rooms at the Hotel St. Francis, an effort was made to secure statements from all of the participants.

One of the first persons visited was Mrs. Delmont, who was then in a state bordering on collapse at the Hotel St. Francis. The Rappe girl, her friend of a week, and companion on the trip from Los Angeles, had died suddenly and under conditions that were as terrifying as they were mysterious. Mrs. Delmont had come to one conclusion about the whole affair. She was not in Miss Rappe’s company when the girl left room 1219, nor did she see Arbuckle accompany her into that ill-fated chamber.

IN OTHER ROOM

The facts are that Mrs. Delmont had partaken of some of the liquor and was in room 1221 with another member of the party.[7] The door was locked between 1221 and 1220. Mrs. Delmont couldn’t possibly nave seen what transpired in or near the door of 1219.

Yet, in her grief and hysteria, following the tragedy she insisted on describing a struggle at the entrance to room 1219. She told of Arbuckle clutching Virginia Rappe by the arm and saying “I’ve waited five years to get you.”

Thereupon, she said, Arbuckle pulled the girl back into 1219 and locked the door behind them. Mrs. Delmont depicted a struggle between the girl and the actor. She said that in this struggle Miss Rappe cried out, again and again for help, and that she, Mrs. Delmont, rushed to the locked door, to beat upon it and cry out that Arbuckle open the door and release Virginia.

When the door, after remaining locked an hour, was finally opened, Arbuckle was alleged to have rushed out, a terrified object. He was said to be perspiring as though from a long struggle while Miss Rappe lay dying upon the bed, naked and in a state of unconsciousness. Mrs. Delmont said that Miss Rappe had fought off Arbuckle’s advances as long as her strength and senses remained and that then she was criminally assaulted.

TOLD OF SCREAMS

She said further that Arbuckle had stripped the clothes from Miss Rappe during the fight and that they were scattered about the floor in ribbons; that when she and other members of the party came upon the girl, Miss Rappe was crying out. “I’m dying, I’m dying, Roscoe killed me.”

Mrs. Delmont took charge of Miss Rappe when the girl was removed to another room that afternoon. She was lying alongside the bed, intoxicated, when Dr. Olaf Kaarboe called to attend Miss Rappe.[8] The doctor detected the odor of liquor upon Miss Rappe’s breath and concluded that there was nothing serious the matter with her.[9]

When Dr. Arthur Beardslee, house physician of the St. Francis, visited Miss Rappe later in the evening, he found her conscious and complaining of a pain in her abdomen. He made an examination and endeavored to get at a history of the case.

DENIED STATEMENT

Mrs. Delmont started to tell the doctor of the Arbuckle party and mentioned that Arbuckle hurt her. Miss Rappe, who overheard the statement, denied this to Dr. Beardslee. This evidence is known to the prosecution, but it will not be admitted as part of the present case because it comes under the heading of hearsay.[10]

To Detective George Glennon, the St. Francis Hotel detective, Miss Rappe likewise denied the accusation against Arbuckle. She said she did not know what happened to her.[11]

Both District Attorney Matthew Brady and his assistant, I. M. Golden, were in Mendocino County investigating some features of the Woodcock case when Arbuckle drove up from Los Angeles to give his story of what happened at the party.[12] Arbuckle was accompanied by his attorney, Frank Dominguez, and some of the other men who were present in his rooms on Labor Day. He went to the office of Captain of Detectives Duncan Matheson, where Milton U’Ren, representing the district attorney, joined the actor and the detective chief.

QUIZZED BY MATHESON

After some brief discussion Captain Matheson began to interrogate Arbuckle along the lines of Mrs. Delmont’s statement. Arbuckle denied some of the accusations. Third degree methods were then attempted, according to Dominguez, and he gave Arbuckle instructions not to answer some of the interrogations unless by the consent of his counsel.

This, according to both Dominguez and Arbuckle, angered the captain of detectives and Milton U’Ren. The attorney said afterward that the threat was then made to lock Arbuckle up on a charge of murder unless he gave kind of a statement the officials wanted. Dominguez told Arbuckle not to answer, and that Matheson and U’Ren carried out the threat.

CHARGED WITH MURDER

The charge on which Arbuckle was booked was murder, sworn to by the police. Later a formal charge was placed against him in Police Judge Daniel O’Brien’s court, when Mrs. Delmont appeared as the complaining witness.

Although discrepancies were found in Mrs. Delmont’s story, the district attorney’s office set about trying to verify her statements through others who were present at the party.

Brady and Golden returned to San Francisco to find the prosecution of Arbuckle for murder well under way. When Golden saw and talked with Mrs. Delmont and had a chance to study her testimony, he began to have misgivings. The same with Al Semnacher’s testimony.

PRESSURE USED

The feeling began to grow that if the prosecution was to uphold its charge it had better go about getting other props for the structure. That is when the pressure began to be exerted upon Miss Alice Blake, former entertainer at Tait’s, and Miss Prevost.

At the time the coroner’s inquest was held, an effort was made to subpoena Miss Blake and Miss Prevost, but the district attorney’s office refused to surrender the witnesses. It didn’t know at that time just how it was going to have them testify, and for that reason wasn’t  prepared to have them give contradictory testimony.

Alice Blake was seen at Tait’s immediately after the death of Miss Rappe. She told what she knew of the facts to Detective Griffith Kennedy and in the presence of George Hyde and Les Gillen, two reporters on a morning newspaper.[13] Miss Blake knew nothing of a struggle or criminal assault in Arbuckle’s room. She said she thought Miss Rappe was intoxicated at the time and that there was nothing of a fatal nature in her illness. She said she didn’t hear Miss Rappe say Arbuckle killed or hurt her. She said all the girl cried was, “I’m dying. I’m dying; I know I’m going to die.”

Mrs. Delmont said Arbuckle and Miss Rappe were in room 1219 an hour. Alice Blake said, and has since been supported by other testimony, that she went from the Arbuckle rooms to Tait’s for a rehearsal at 2 o’clock on the day of the party; that she returned at 2:30 or 2:45, and that the party was still in progress, with all persons present.

IN ROOM TEN MINUTES

It was about 3 o’clock, ten or fifteen minutes later, that the Rappe girl was stricken. She did not leave room 1220 until after Miss Blake’s return. The best recollection of Fred Fishback who helped Miss Blake carry Miss Rappe to the cold bath, is that he returned to the hotel at 3 o’clock. The testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses allows Arbuckle only ten minutes alone in the room with the girl.

When the grand jury investigation was launched the district attorney sought to get new statements from Miss Blake and Miss Prevost. The latter had been dragged down to police headquarters by George Duffy of the district attorney’s office and an attempt was made to get a statement supporting Mrs. Delmont from her. It failed and the next day Miss Prevost was asked by Milton U’Ren to sign a new statement, prepared by U’Ren, in which Miss Rappe was alleged to have cried out In Miss Prevost’s hearing, “I’m dying; I’m dying; he killed me.”

Although Miss Rappe was conscious for three days of her illness she made no accusation, no dying statement against Arbuckle.

Having first charged Arbuckle with murder, without determining whether it had a case, the district attorney’s office now sought to make a dying statement out of what Mrs. Delmont reported, namely that Miss Rappe had charged Arbuckle with killing her. The rules of evidence demand that this statement must be made in the hearing of the defendant; so Mrs. Delmont conveniently placed Arbuckle in the room when Miss Rappe was alleged to have made the accusation and had him reply: “You’re crazy; shut up, or I’ll throw you out the window.”[14]

GIRL REFUSES

Miss Prevost was asked to swear to the same set of circumstances.

“I will not,” she replied to U’Ren. “I never heard Miss Rappe say that anybody hurt her.”

When the district attorney’s office failed to get the information it sought to elicit from Miss Prevost, it had her hauled before the grand jury. It was thought that she could be broken under the continuous fire of suggestion and cross-examination. But she would not swear to the statement that Virginia Rappe had said Arbuckle killed her.

When the girl was brought back, as she now relates to the district attorney’s office, she was ready to collapse. The prosecution had harried her by asking over and over again the same question as to the Rappe girl’s accusations.

“Did you tell me, downstairs in the district attorney’s office,” U’Ren had asked “that Miss Rappe had said Arbuckle killed her? “No, I did not,“ said Miss Prevost. “I never said that Miss Rappe had made any such statement.”

Source: San Francisco Call, January 20, p. 13 (California Digital Newspaper Collection)

MOTHER THREATENED

Outside Brady’s office at 4 o’clock in the morning Miss Prevost found her mother and brother waiting for her. They had been threatened with prosecution for subornation of perjury because they warned Miss Prevost against signing any statements that she did not agree with.

“Wait until they subpoena you into court, if you don’t want to swear to those things,” the brother had advised.

Brady’s patience was exhausted by the efforts to secure the testimony of Miss Prevost and he ordered Detective Leo Bunner to take her upstairs and lock her in the city prison. Later he relented and said that if she would be at his office at 10 o’clock the next morning he would let her go home with her mother and brother.

That night Miss Prevost’s home was watched.[15] In the morning a representative of Brady’s office called and brought her to the Hall of Justice. Then ensued another long third degree with U’Ren doing the questioning. He was determined to wring from her a statement that Miss Rappe had charged Arbuckle with killing her. He had a new one prepared.

While reporters cooled their heels in the hall outside U’Ren quizzed Miss Prevost for hours without result. She would go no further than the statement that Miss Rappe had said she was dying, a fact that she, Miss Prevost, qualified with the remark, “We attached no importance to it, because we thought she was suffering from gas pains. That is why Alice Blake gave the bicarbonate of soda.”

U’REN EXASPERATED

U’Ren after a morning’s work, in an attempt to support the murder charge placed against Arbuckle, at his insistence. came out of the room exasperated. He said that he would give Miss Prevost one more chance and that if she didn’t testify to what the people wanted he would have her placed in custody.

Then Alice Blake was brought from Oakland, to which city she had fled after the first days of the tragedy She was taken to Brady’s office and the same means were employed to get the dying statement into her testimony. Miss Blake would not stand for it.

The district attorney played one girl against the other. Word was carried to Miss Prevost that Miss Blake had testified that Miss Rappe had said Arbuckle killed her. “I never heard her say it,” said Miss Prevost. “If Alice says that, then her ears hear differently than mine.”

The district attorney’s office threatened Miss Blake, it told her that it had an abundance of proof, that it knew positively that Arbuckle was guilty. Finally, Golden appealed to the heart of the woman in Miss Blake. The show girl had a tragic face and a deep emotion.

Golden pictured to her that girls like Miss Rappe were nothing but dirt under the feet of men like Arbuckle. He asked if she could question the sincerity of the district attorney’s office.

GIRL BREAKS DOWN

“Don’t you know,’’ pleaded Golden, “that we would be down here making this same kind of a fight if you were the victim?’’

Nervous and distracted, Alice Blake easily crumbled. She broke into tears. The strong appeal of Golden persuaded her. She agreed to stand for the statement that Miss Rappe had said. “I’m dying; I’m dying (she couldn’t go the full route, but she compromised); he hurt me.”

The fact was carried to Miss Prevost that Alice had “come through’’ to that extent. “I never heard Miss Rappe say it.” said Miss Provost, frightened and overcome with weariness after the third degree ordeal, “but if you want me to say it I will.”

The statement was handed her. the words “he killed me” crossed out. and Miss Prevost wrote in the words “he hurt me.”

That night the grand jury indicted Arbuckle for manslaughter. Later the police court held Arbuckle for manslaughter.

Mrs. Delmont was not called because, as Judge Brady and Isadore Golden both told me, “we cannot believe a word she says.”

The prosecution dropped Mrs. Delmont. but it saved her story for the purpose of convicting Arbuckle. Miss Prevost and Miss Blake were to take up the evidence where Mrs. Delmont left off. The two girls were then placed in Mrs. Duffy’s custody. Mrs. Duffy is the mother of George Duffy, an attaché of the district attorney s office.

Miss Blake escaped from the district attorney’s care when her mother visited Calistoga and took her away from her jailer. Miss Prevost was not delivered up until the last trial. Yesterday afternoon Miss Prevost said she would tell the whole story when she returned to the stand. And she did.


The Call was a newspaper in the Hearst chain. We have mentioned in earlier blog entries that William Randolph Hearst’s animus for Arbuckle is a myth. As a publisher, he tended not to interfere with his editors and reporters or issue memoranda on how they should cover a story. This is true of the Arbuckle case and one needs only look at the reportage in September 1921. The sensational aspect of the case—which sold Hearst newspapers—quickly evaporated. The Arbuckle case became more of a sporting event, in which the prosecution was one team and defense the other. The press sided with the perceived winner.

Gleeson, representing his newspaper, bought into the story that Blake and Prevost had been coerced due to the failure of Maude Delmont to perform as a reliable prosecution witness. This, however, was an oversimplification of what happened. All three women were being groomed as state witnesses at the same time with differing results. All three, too, had exhibited trepidation at having to relive what happened on September 5. They would bear the responsibility of violating a kind of show business omertà that extended from movie stars paid millions (Arbuckle) to a Sennett Bathing Beauty (Prevost) or a San Francisco nightclub dancer (Blake) to a film colony society girl (Rappe) to a former extra practically living in the streets of Los Angeles (Delmont). They risked losing access to the club so to speak, the demimonde-democracy in which they had status. They also risked losing access to the employment and benefits that membership entailed, even if that meant being little more than being an escort and dance partner at a Hollywood party held in San Francisco for one day without pay. They took a great risk, perhaps even to their persons, if they were complicit in sending Arbuckle, a fellow entertainer, to the gallows or a ten-year prison sentence in San Quentin. Regarding his work with the Labor Day party guests, Assistant District Attorney Isadore M. Golden said it best when he was faced with their reluctance and reservations about talking to him. “We have made out a case [. . .] through witnesses who had to have the truth dynamited out of them, witnesses who would give anything to say, ‘I was not there.’”[16] This certainly applied to Alice Blake and Zey Prevost—and Maude Delmont as well.

In the case of Prevost, she might have been too outspoken about the party, at least in the first days after Rappe’s death. She likely learned this when she was approached by one of Arbuckle’s lawyers before any charges were filed. From that point on, she began to resist the District Attorney and his assistants. But they likely did doctor her statement. District attorneys have been and still are often more tactical than criminal defense lawyers, especially when the ends justified the means. One method used by Brady’s assistants was to exploit the power of sisterhood by shaming the female witnesses into believing they would be protecting Rappe’s honor.

Blake, the rebellious daughter of a wealthy Oakland family, returned home and was likely coached in some way not to be so voluble for the DA. A former boyfriend, who played a part in keeping her on the other side of the Bay, employed Prevost’s brother—who aspired to be a motion picture cameraman and director—as an electrician in Oakland. Ultimately, it was Brady’s fear of witness tampering and the flight risk that forced him to isolate Blake and Prevost for as long as he could. But they were both free by the time of the first trial in November 1921 and their tilt toward favoring Arbuckle’s defense can be seen in their testimony given then.

Nothing they said on the stand explains their own presence at Arbuckle’s Labor Day party. They certainly weren’t total strangers. The news that “Fatty was in town” seemed to be a familiar call to action, in keeping with previous visits by Arbuckle and/or his traveling companions, director Fred Fishback and actor Lowell Sherman. They were likely of a sort in keeping with escorts, groupies, or “girls in port.” Whether they were compensated for their attentions and attendance at the Labor Day party of 1921 is unknown. But whatever they did at the party before Rappe’s crisis in room 1219 went unreported. If it came up in trial testimony, that was censored and entirely kept out of the newspapers. Reporters do mention that aspects of their testimony couldn’t be repeated. This was certainly true of Maude Delmont’s story of Arbuckle wearing Rappe’s Panama hat like a trophy, his wanting to “get” Rappe in bed for five years, and so on.

No other guest would corroborate Delmont’s story—but no one corroborated Arbuckle’s either. It was simply seen as the most probable by jurors in the first and third trials. But two words stand out as it concerns Delmont. She stated the Labor Day party was “rough” and the word “censored” was used early on in describing her initial statements. For that reason, we believe that she wasn’t allowed to testify. For one, there was probably a concern she wouldn’t self-censor herself about any sexual activities at the party, an aspect the prosecution would have been eager to suppress. Also, we think she was reluctant to testify.

Maude Delmont may not have been the one who gave a statement first. Alice Blake’s initial statement is the that got the attention of Arbuckle and his lawyers while still in Los Angeles on the night after Rappe’s death. Allegedly, Zey Prevost made her statement next followed by Delmont. This still seems counterintuitive to us. But it is possible that someone else tipped them off about the possible criminal nature of Rappe’s death. An anonymous telephone call was how the Coroner’s office learned of the first and unsanctioned autopsy performed on her body. In any event, Delmont surely stirred up things for Arbuckle.

That said, Delmont nevertheless exhibited a palpable fear of having to sign a murder complaint or face Arbuckle and his lawyers in court. In our work-in-progress we ask if this was her defense mechanism against having to testify any further? Where Blake, Prevost, and other party guests couldn’t remember or didn’t see what happened to Virginia Rappe vis-à-vis Roscoe Arbuckle, Delmont didn’t have that option. She had blurted out a story that detectives and an overworked assistant district attorney wanted to believe and she had been convinced or forced to sign the murder complaint, which Blake and Prevost would have refused to do.

Delmont, too, said things out of resentment. She said things that might also be correct but perhaps only enough to lend credence to other statements. But we must not lose sight of the fact that Delmont, despite her humble status, was chummy enough with Arbuckle to call him “Roscoe,” just like most of the women who attended the Labor Day party. If there was a kind of freemasonry to the gathering of entertainers ranging from two movie stars, a director, an actress, as well as local showgirls, Delmont belonged at the end of the line.

Before Arbuckle lawyers demonized her, Delmont felt she was doing the comedian’s bidding by taking care of the fatally injured Rappe and interacting with hotel physicians. Delmont was the intermediary between Arbuckle and the party’s inner circle until he left San Francisco. Then she, like Rappe, was cast aside. Such rejection and the consequent resentment, penury, and that Rappe was such a “good fellow” was likely used to extract her version of events—at the other end of the spectrum from Arbuckle’s (see Arbuckle’s Testimony of November 28, 1921). We think the truth lies in between.

We think—at this writing anyway—that Delmont’s loyalty to the “party” ended with Rappe’s life. Whether consciously or unconsciously, however, she became impossible to work with as a credible witness. Thus, Matthew Brady and his assistants could go with Alice Blake and Zey Prevost who, over the weekend of September 10 and 11, no longer wanted to stick to their original stories of what happened to Virginia Rappe.


[1] “Witnesses in Arbuckle Case Denied Fees,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 September 1922, 9.

[2] San Francisco Call, 20 January 1921, 1, 12.

[3] Frank C. Oxman, the state’s star witness at the 1917 Preparedness Day Bombing trial who said he saw labor activist Tom Mooney and an accomplice near the site where the bomb was placed on July 22, 1916.

[4] The Howard Street Gang trial took place in early 1921.

[5] Edmund “Spud” Murphy, leader of the Howard Street Gang.

[6] Maude Delmont did, indeed, testify at the Coroner’s Court in September 1921, which was an early venue in the Arbuckle case.

[7] Gleeson fails to tell his readers that this was undoubtedly Ira Fortlouis and that both were likely in the bathroom of 1221.

[8] An internist and surgeon covering for St. Francis Hotel’s regular physician, Dr. Arthur Beardslee, during the afternoon of September 5, 1921.

[9] In Arbuckle’s testimony, she had been vomiting profusely and was given water by him. Alice Blake also tried to get Rappe to drink a glass or warm water and bicarbonate of soda. That she had no more than three gin and orange juice cocktails (“Brooklyns”) if at all suggests Dr. Kaarboe either had the olfactory senses of a canine or made his testimony up.

[10] Technically it is, hearsay, but Dr. Beardslee wasn’t allowed to discuss it at the preliminary hearing because Arbuckle’s lead counsel, Frank Dominguez, objected.

[11] Glennon’s testimony was deemed hearsay as well.

[12] In September 1921, Alice Woodcock, a school teacher, was on trial for perjury relating to the 1919 murder trial of her husband Edward Woodock.

[13] San Francisco Chronicle.

[14] This wasn’t in any statement made by Delmont; but it was made by Prevost.

[15] Gleeson fails to tell his readers that Arbuckle’s lawyer, Charles Brennan, had approached Zey Prevost on Market Street and asked her if she needed an attorney. Was that all the said? The district attorneys were utterly paranoid about witness tampering.

[16] Edward J. Doherty, “State Springs Coup on Fatty; Defense Wild,” Chicago Tribune, 28 September 1921, 3.

Zey’s great escape; or the fall of a star witness

Zey Prevost—born Sadie Reiss—and known by various permutations of her professional name, gave statements as well as testified at one preliminary investigation as well as the first two Roscoe Arbuckle trials. During the second trial, her testimony had changed enough to help Arbuckle, so much so that the prosecution wanted her declared a hostile witness. But she had always been hostile save for her earliest statement, which she later claimed was coerced.

We use that statement in our narrative primarily to reconstruct the “life” of Arbuckle’s Labor Day party as well as the condition in which she found Virginia Rappe in room 1219, with important details that hardly seem coerced, just matter of fact (e.g., Rappe’s eyes rolling upward, the wet bed on which she lay, and so on).

During the first days of the Arbuckle case in mid-September 1921, Prevost denied that she had tried to leave for San Francisco for New Orleans. But detectives had heard her say that she had been told to “keep her mouth shut.” And she did admit to meeting one of Arbuckle’s lawyers on the street before her Grand Jury testimony.

From the beginning the San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady regarded Prevost as potential hostile witness and successfully detained her for several weeks—a precaution that Arbuckle’s chief lawyer, Gavin McNab, used to assert that anything Prevost said to aid the prosecution’s case was coerced.

Prevost was called an actress and a model. She was undoubtedly a former Mack Sennett bathing beauty who boldly appropriated the name of another and more famous one, Marie Prevost. While her trip to New Orleans may have been arranged by Arbuckle’s lawyers—given her loyalty to the comedian. She may have made the move on her own. In any event, she had undone much of the damage she had done to him by her initial statements and testimony—and she also genuinely pitied him.

The following article comes in the wake of nationwide search for Prevost after she bought that train ticket to New Orleans on February 6, 1922, after the second Arbuckle trial had ended in a hung jury, this time the vote was 10 to 2 for conviction. Several jurors attributed their vote to Prevost’s reluctance to testify on the stand. This didn’t go unnoticed by Arbuckle’s lawyers.

Brady responded late on February 11, issuing a “foreign subpoena” for good reason. According to “Miss Tease Dowling,” a burlesque performer and one of Prevost’s girlfriends in New Orleans, said that “if Zey ever got to New Orleans, she’d hike right out to Cuba [. . .] she’s in Cuba by now. Sure ‘nuff.”[1]

Two San Francisco detectives was sent to New Orleans to locate Prevost and bring her back to California. Although they found her living at the Chalmette Hotel registered under the name Zaybelle Elruy, Prevost managed to escape. While two local toughs prevented the detectives from getting inside her room, she lowered herself and her suitcase on a rope into a courtyard and fled.

Eventually Brady received a telegram informing him that Prevost frequented the race track—meaning the Fairgrounds—in New Orleans and that she had no intention of returning to San Francisco for the foreseeable future. And he could do nothing.

He could only complain impotently to the press what he believed or what was true, that Prevost “was living in luxury” in New Orleans, subsidized by Arbuckle’s lawyers, and devoting much time to playing the races. “When the state had her in charge,” he said, “she was begging us for money to buy silk stockings.”[2]

Despite his “foreign subpoena,” California law was clear. Prevost couldn’t be compelled to return to California unless she were facing a criminal charge. With Mardi Gras only days away and the race track still open, Prevost remained ensconced in New Orleans for the duration of the third trial.

Race Track at Fairgrounds, New Orleans (private collection)

P.S. “Lawyers connected with the defense learned this week learned this week that Miss Prevost had made application through the office of Harry Weber, variety booking agent in New York, for a tour in vaudeville. She proposes, it is understood here, to appear in a sketch, together with Mrs. Wally Schang, wife of the catcher for the New York Yankees. Presumably Miss Prevost will trade upon the notoriety given her through the Arbuckle case, and that Mrs. Schang will try to ‘get over’ partly through the prominence of her husband in baseball.” The Knave, “Miss Prevost Heard from,” Oakland Tribune, 28 May 1922, S-8.


Arbuckle to Be Pitied, Says Zey Prevost
Missing Witness in New Orleans Gives Chronicle Views on Case
Not to Return Here
Actress Kept in Southern Metropolis by Lure of Racing Ponies

Special Dispatch to The Chronicle

New Orleans, Feb. 24. – Zey Prevost, missing witness for the state of California in the prosecution of Roscoe Arbuckle on a charge of manslaughter in connection with the death of Virginia Rappe, motion picture artist, is still in New Orleans. Lure of the ponies is the only reason for her continued sojourn in the Crescent city, frankly admits the young woman, who District Attorney Brady of San Francisco would like to see back on the coast.

But for all Zey cares, Brady and the other prosecutors can paddle their own canoes in trying to convict the comedian. Although her testimony at former trials of Arbuckle as to certain details of the party was considered one of the main points on which the state based its hope for conviction, Zey now sings a different tune.

Friday, when greeted on Canal Street by a Chronicle representative, Miss Prevost talked freely of the Arbuckle case.

“If you followed the trial closely, big boy,” she said in a bantering tone, “you know they ain’t no case. The would-be reformers just want to ‘pop it’ to Roscoe, and so they painted him as black as they could.

“The truth about the whole thing is that ‘Fatty’ was just giving a little party like many other persons in the moving picture and theatrical world have been accustomed to give. Fact that Miss Rappe was taken seriously ill at this party and died shortly after naturally was considered to be a result of the party.

“Personally, I think Arbuckle was absolutely innocent of any direct causes of her death. It is true a gay time was had by all, but I do not think the fun-making should have been construed as a wild orgy, for this certainly was not the case.

“Roscoe is more to be pitied than condemned. He was really a victim of circumstances. The fact that he was one of the most famous and most widely known comedians in the world naturally resulted in his being the center of publicity. Had the party been given by some lesser light in all probability little would have been said or written about it.”


[1] “New Orleans Search Proves Fruitless,” Minneapolis Tribune, 12 February 1922, 11.

[2] United Press, “Arbuckle Will Face Third Trial Monday [. . .] Witness Doing Well,” Ft. Wayne Sentinel, 12 March 1922, 1.

100 Years Ago Today: Maude Delmont Is marginalized, September 27, 1921

On Tuesday morning, September 27—the fiftieth anniversary of the Chicago Fire—the Women’s Court reconvened. The anticipation to hear Maude Delmont on the stand was palpable in Judge Lazarus’ courtroom. Bold, breathless headlines and above-the-fold stories still appeared in the dailies. But already other stories were commanding attention, bread-and-butter issues such as the railroad unions threatening a nationwide strike and a postwar economy still in a recession. The Ku Klux Klan’s growing popularity continued to divide Americans by race, nationality, and religion.

The first two witnesses that day, Zey Prevost and Alice Blake, gave testimony that Arbuckle was present when Virginia Rappe said, “He hurt me.” The third was the chambermaid, a Polish immigrant named Josephine Keza, who had been working the twelfth floor on the day of Arbuckle’s Labor Day party.

From the corridor, she claimed to have heard a woman pleading for someone stop and a man’s voice gruffly ordering her to shut up. Keza, a surprise witness, took Arbuckle’s lawyer, Frank Dominguez, by surprise. He had hoped to cross-examine Maude Delmont and use the “proof” he had, in the form of letters, that she was a blackmailer and intended to blackmail his client.

The next day, when Dominguez was offered the opportunity to call Maude Delmont as a witness. He famously declined and observers at the time believed he had squandered an opportunity to have the case dismissed. [Editor’s note: the alleged letters have never surfaced nor have any arrest records that indicate Delmont was involved in these kinds of schemes.]

It was a victory of sorts for Dominguez. Arbuckle’s murder charge was dropped in favor of duplicate manslaughter charges. But Dominguez soon resigned from the defense team.

His successor, Gavin McNab, didn’t use the extortion angle or any of the evidence Dominguez’s investigators had found on Delmont. Blackmail wasn’t even mentioned when Maude Delmont reappeared in November, subpoenaed as a witness for the first Arbuckle trial but never called.

Although marginalized, she didn’t go quietly. Delmont allegedly confronted McNab in his office in San Francisco’s Merchants Exchange Building, She also attended the first Arbuckle trial—once in the company of a reporter from the San Francisco Call—and participated on the sidelines until her arrest on a charge of bigamy in December.

The Merchants Exchange Building in San Francisco, the nerve center of Arbuckle’s defense team from October 1921 until April 1922 (Private collection)

100 Years Ago Today: The Grand Jury meets to hear witnesses, September 12, 1921

Given that Arbuckle was the highest paid actor in 1921 and made millions more for hundreds of theater owners and others, District Attorney Matthew Brady grasped the magnitude of the case and his greatest fear was witness tampering. He knew that, as Roscoe Arbuckle waited for the Oakland Ferry for the last stretch of their trip, his lawyer Frank Dominguez had made a telephone call to the police, assuring that Arbuckle would turn himself in. But he suspected another call was made, to Arbuckle’s new lawyer in San Francisco, Charles Brennan, to learn of any developments that they would need to get ahead of.

What has gone under-appreciated in the early days of the Arbuckle case, indeed, in the hours after Rappe died on September 9, is how quickly Arbuckle responded to the possibility of his arrest and the accusation of murder against him. By midnight, a strategy meeting convened in the office of Sid Grauman’s Million Dollar Theater, attended by two lawyers, a friendly journalist from the Los Angeles Times as well as three men who attended the ill-fated party.

In the annals of crisis communications, what was accomplished for Arbuckle could be the first modern example.

One aspect of this was to neutralize the witnesses who might inflict the most damage to the defense by making them aware of the risk–reward of doing so.

For an aspiring entertainer, Zey Prevost was just such a person. She had made a statement to police on Saturday, September 10, the day Arbuckle and his team spent driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Two days later, on the day the Grand Jury was to meet, she asked to change her story and remove any testimony that could be used to make Arbuckle responsible for the injury that led to Virginia Rappe’s death. Later, she testified in another venue that she had been approached by another of Arbuckle’s lawyers, Charles Brennan, on Market Street in San Francisco.

Q: What did Mr. Brennan say to you?

A: Just asked me if I had a lawyer—if I needed a lawyer, to tell him. I said “Sure.”

Q: Did he ask you anything further about remaining in town, or going out?

A: He asked me about staying in town. I said “I may stay in town a few days until this thing is over.”[1]

This was all she said of her conversation with Brennan. But she went away from it committed to undermining Brady’s case against Arbuckle before it even got off the ground. Only a threat of perjury and jail time convinced her to keep to her original statement. In any event, the defense, over time, was able to convince jury members to vote for acquittal in part because Brady allegedly coerced his witnesses to say what he wanted to hear.

If Prevost was somehow rewarded for her loyalty, it didn’t amount to much. She was signed as a vaudeville act a few weeks after the third trial. But that was short-lived and her career as a comedienne was soon over.

Alice Blake, a friend of Zey Prevost, was also seen as a “coerced” witness (Calisphere)

[1] See People vs. Arbuckle, 316–317.

Document Dump #4: The Zey Prevost statement

Note: One of the chief witnesses for the prosecution, Sadie Reiss, was a former Sennett Bathing Beauty at Keystone Studios. At Roscoe Arbuckle’s Labor Day party of September 5, 1921, and for a short time afterward she was still known by various manglings of her professional name, e.g., Zey Pryvon, Pyrvon, and Pyvron). Soon after she settled on Zey Prevost despite the surname being used by another former Sennett Bathing Beauty, Marie Prevost (whose lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to no avail). Zey Prevost wanted to retract certain damning passages made in her initial statement, on Saturday, September 10, 1921 (one day after Rappe’s death), that described what she saw after Arbuckle opened the connecting door between rooms 1219 and 1220 of the St. Francis Hotel. As told to Assistant District Attorney Milton U’Ren, Captain of Detectives Duncan Matheson, Detective Henry McGrath, and Howard Vernon, a shorthand reporter, Prevost’s described what the authorities wanted to hear: Arbuckle could be tried for murder. After Prevost refused to go before a grand jury to repeat what she had stated, and thinking he had a tampered witness, District Attorney Matthew Brady released the following initial statement to the press. Prevost, unlike his other chief witness, Maude Delmont, was sober at the party and seemingly unattached to any man (or woman) at the time of the event. She was, in effect, its “transparent eyeball”. Prevost, however, as the case proceeded in the courts, undid much of the damage she had inflicted on Arbuckle’s claims of innocence during his ill-fated party. If she had hoped to get something for her seeming “loyalty,” she did not. Her new vaudeville act in the spring of 1922 was short-lived and her career in show business was soon over. (The footnotes below are our own annotations.)

Q: What time did you arrive at the St. Francis?

A: About 1:30, between 1 and 1:30.

Q: Who did you go with?

A: Alone.

Q: How did you happen to go?

A: Alice Blake called me up and said—well, I got a call the day before the party [Sunday, September 4]. I got a call that “Fatty” was in town, to come down, they were going to have a party. I never went down that day. I stayed over with Alice all night that night and left word at the St. Francis to call me at her place.[1] Instead of staying with her all night I went home. She called me the next day and said to come over, they were going to have dinner at Fatty’s place. I said, “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll stay in bed.”[2]

Finally, I said, “All right, I’ll come down.” I was supposed to go to her [Blake’s] hotel,[3] and I told her, “Wait for me there.” Then she (Alice Blake) told me that she had a rehearsal. She works. She got tired waiting because I live so far out and went on over to the St. Francis. When I got to her hotel, I found out she had gone. Then I went to the St. Francis alone.

(From the time of the Prevost girl’s arrival at Arbuckle’s, she related the following story.)

They were all sitting around eating. They asked me to have something to eat. I said, “No, thanks, I have had my breakfast.”

Q: Who was in the room when you arrived there?

A: Fatty Arbuckle, Virginia Rappe, Lowell Sherman, Mrs. [Maude] Delmont, Mr. [Al] Semnacher and Alice Blake.[4]

Q: Was Mr. Fishbeck [i.e., Fred Fishback] there?

A: Mr. Fishbeck was downstairs and he came right up after. He said, “Hello Zey.” I responded, “Hello.”[5] They asked me to have something to eat. I didn’t eat.

Q: How was Arbuckle dressed when you went into the room?

A: I was surprised myself. We were sitting at the table. Everybody was dressed except Mr. Sherman and him. They both had on bathrobes, slippers, and pajamas.

Zey Prevost in witness chair, September 1921 (Calisphere)

Q: How was Mrs. Delmont dressed?

A: She was dressed in street clothes.

Q: When you went into the room?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: When did she (meaning Mrs. Delmont) change into pajamas?

A: I don’t know anything about that. I don’t remember.

Q: She was in her pajamas later on?

A: I don’t drink.[6]

Q: You kept your head?

A: They all know I don’t drink because they were kidding me about it.

Q: When did you notice Mrs. Delmont in pajamas?

A: She kept saying, “Oh, it’s warm in here. I feel awfully warm. It is close.” Mr. Sherman then said to her, “Put on a pair of pajamas; that will be all right.”

Q: What time was that?

A: As soon as they cleared the table away—a few minutes after they all fixed a drink and sat around and talked.

Q: Did she go into another room to change her dress for pajamas?

A: She went into the bathroom.

Q: Which bathroom?

A: Off Lowell Sherman’s room. Then she came out and they all started to laugh, and she said, “I feel comfortable now.” She sat down and nothing more was said about it.

Q: Then what happened?

A: There were several people came into the room. The [man, i.e., Semnacher] who left for Los Angeles [our italics]—

Q: Who was he, and what was his name?

A: I have forgotten his name. There was [sic] several people came in there [our italics].[7]

Q: What time did Mr. Semnacher come in?

A: He was in there when I arrived.[8] I was the last one to arrive there.

Q: You are positive it couldn’t have been after 2 o’clock when you arrived?

A: No, because Miss Blake had a rehearsal at 2 and she went over to rehearse.[9]

Q: Who took her over to rehearse?

A: I don’t remember. But I do remember that she said, “I think I’ll come back after rehearsal.” I said, “I may be gone then.” She came right back. She said, “There is no rehearsal. There is nobody over there.”

Q: She came back to the room all alone?

A: Yes, sir.[10]

Q: When did Miss Rappe leave the room?

A: Alice Blake and I went into the other room [i.e. 1221]. You know, I took my purse and was going to put some powder on. We were going into the bathroom of 1221. We were gone just a second, went back into the bathroom and we came back, and Virginia and Roscoe Arbuckle had gone. I said, “Where is Virginia and Roscoe? Lowell Sherman said, “Oh, they are in there.”

Q: Indicating what room?

A: Indicating Roscoe Arbuckle’s room.

Q: How long did they remain in there?

A: A good long while, and I said to Mrs. Delmont, “You better try to call Virginia,” and she called and called, and I said, “Kick on the door,” and I went over and banged three or four times on the door.[11] I said, “Go on kicking. Kick hard; make him open the door for you.” She then kicked three of four times. She rapped. She said, “I just want to speak to Virginia. I just want to talk to her.” She said, “Open the door.” So finally he opened the door.

Q: Who?

A: Roscoe Arbuckle and we went in. She was lying on the bed. Her hair was all down and she was moaning. I said, “What is the matter with you?” She didn’t drink [our italics].[12] I then said, “Maybe she has got gas on her stomach.” Then she started to pull her clothes off.[13]

Q: When you went into the room who did you enter with?

A: With Alice—Alice Blake and I went into the room.

Q: Where was she (Miss Rappe) when you went into the room—what part of the room—on the bed?

A: There were two little beds. She was on the bed near the door.

Q: How was she dressed?

A: She had on a little—she was all dressed. All her clothes were on her. Her hair was all hanging down. I said, “My God, what is the matter with her?”

Q: What did Arbuckle say?

A: Oh, he said, “Get her out of there. She is making too much noise,” or something, and she started to pull the clothes off and scream and holler, and when she was pulling her clothing off I said, “Stop that.” Then Arbuckle came over and started to pull the clothes off her [our italics]. I shoved his hands away. I said, “Don’t do that, Roscoe.” I said, “She is sick.” He said, “Oh, she is putting on.”

Q: Before you started to kick on the door didn’t you hear her scream?

A: No; there were two doors. You couldn’t hear anything. There was one door leading into the sitting room and one into the bedroom. There are two doors right together [our italics].[14]

Q: How did you happen to kick on the door?

A: She was in their such a long time.

Q: You say “a long time”? How long?

A: Over—it seemed like an hour.

Q: When you went in, she was lying on one of the beds. Where was Arbuckle?

A: He opened the door.

Q: Did he follow back with you?

A: He went in. He took off his bathrobe. I said to Alice, “Let’s get her over to the other bed.” We lifted her over to the other bed and gave her some bicarbonate of soda and hot water, and she threw that all up. Her eyes started to roll in her head. I said, “You had better call a doctor.” Then Mrs. Delmont was in the room and they put her in a cold bath. I said then: You had better take her out. She has been in there too long.” I went to the phone to call a doctor, but somebody grabbed it from my hand. They couldn’t afford the notoriety [our italics]. I said: “Get Mr. Boyle or somebody.”

Q: What happened then?

A: Some girl came in and her name was Mae [Taube]. I don’t remember her last name. She said to Roscoe: “You had better get your robe on.” This girl and I recognized each other, as we had met once before. She said to Arbuckle: “Can I speak to you a minute?” And he said: “Yes.” They went into the other room [1220] to speak. She left right after that. In the meantime, they were getting another room for this girl—to put her in [i.e., 1227]. Then I went into the other room [1227] with Alice. She [Rappe] was lying on the bed. I asked her if I could do anything for her. She said, “No.”

Q: She was then conscious?

A: Yes, sir, in the other room she was conscious. Mrs. Delmont was lying on the bed. She was sleeping [our italics].[15] I guess she was exhausted.

Q: Did Arbuckle have pajamas or a bathrobe on when you went into Room 1219—after you kicked the door and he opened the door?

A: He had his bathrobe on. He was fixing it.

Q: Then what did he do?

A: He went into the other room and sat down. Then Mr. Fishbeck came in. He helped us revive her.

Q: What did Arbuckle say in addition to “get this girl out, she is making too much noise?” Did he say anything else regarding her?

A: He just said—I don’t remember what he did say, he said so much.

Q: Did he talk a good deal?”

A: Yes, he did talk a good deal.

Q: And that is all you can remember that he said?

A: Oh, he stood there and stared—was very sore, and I said, “What are you sore for?” He said, “Oh, if she makes one more yell, I will throw her out the window [our italics].

Q: What was his condition as to being intoxicated or sober?

A: He was intoxicated. He had been drinking.

Q: Did you see him drinking that afternoon?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How much?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Approximately how many drinks did he take?

A: There was plenty of liquor there.

Q: How much liquor?

A: Enough to make him stewed.

Q: What did you see him drink?

A: He was drinking whisky and White Rock. He asked me to fix a drink. I put some orange juice in it. He said he didn’t want it. He wanted whisky and White Rock.

Q: How was his speech? Coherent—or—?

A: The party was perfectly nice. They never used any vulgar language in the party.

Q: I mean was his speech coherent?

A: He was talking about jumping out of the twelfth-story window [our italics]. He said, “Oh what is in life after all?” Really, it did sound funny. We were all sitting by the window. He said: I will jump out of the window with anybody who wants to jump out.[16]

Q: Did anybody volunteer to go with him?

A: No, nobody. We all looked at him. He said something: If I would jump out of this twelfth-story window, they wouldn’t talk about me today and tomorrow. They would go to see the ball game instead. So, what is life after all?”

Q: Did you see Miss Rappe after she was nude?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did you notice her body as to being bruised?

A: She had a bruise on her leg and arm. I said, “What are all those black and blue spots?”

Q: What was said?

A: There was nothing at all said. There was so much excitement about it—trying to get her to come to.

Q: Was Semnacher there when you asked the question?

A: I don’t remember if he was there at all.

Q: Which arm was bruised., her right or her left?

A: I never noticed that. I noticed her leg was bruised.

Q: Which leg?

A: I think the right leg.

Q: Do you remember whether the bruise was near her knee?

A: Yes, sir, around there. It was pretty black. I said: “Look at the bruise, Alice, on her leg and arm.”

Q: Did Alice examine the bruises?

A: Alice lifted her over on the bed. She fell on top of Alice. Just then Mr. Fishbeck came in and I said to him: “Help me get her off Alice.” She couldn’t move. She was unconscious by that time. She did start to yell after that. The pain was so terrible. Her eyes were rolling in her head. She didn’t drink anything [our italics].

Q: She didn’t drink at all?

A: I didn’t see her drink at all. I saw her eating something. I wasn’t there long enough to tell you the truth. They were just eating—

Q: How long were you there altogether before you knocked and kicked on the door?

A: I don’t know when it happened even; I never thought of talking the time.

Q: It was such a lively party that you didn’t take any time at all, is that it?

A: No.

Q: Was Semnacher there all the time you were there?

A: Yes; Semnacher—well, I went down to the Palace hotel with Semnacher to get the clothes of Miss Rappe and Mrs. Delmont.

Q: That was after she was removed from the room [i.e., 1219]?

A: Yes. I went to the Palace hotel to get the clothes.

Q: Prior to that time was he in the room [1220] all the time?

A: Not all the time.

Q: How many times did he leave?

A: About two or three times.

Q: Where did he say he was going?

A: I have forgotten. I don’t know exactly but he came in and said, “What is the matter? What is the matter?[17]

Q: When you went into the room [1219] did you hear any conversation between Miss Rappe and Arbuckle?

A: No, no conversation.

Q: Did she accuse him of anything?

A: You mean after we got into Room 1219?

Q: In Arbuckle’s presence in the room?

A: She was just yelling, “I am dying, I am dying. You hurt me.”

Q: Did she say, “You hurt me?”

A: Yes, sir. “He hurt me, he hurt me. I am dying. I am dying. I am dying.”

Q: Was he present when she said that?

A: They were all present, I think.

Q: Absolutely, that conversation was loud enough for him to hear it?

A: Sure. Alice was right there with me.

Q: You heard it? She screamed this, did she?

A: She screamed it. Absolutely screamed it. That is why he got sore, because she was yelling so.

Q: Where do you live?

A: I don’t want to say where I live. I live with my folks.[18]

Q: You realize this is a very important matter?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How can we find you?

A: I will not give my mother’s number. Please don’t ask me that.

Captain Matheson: There will be people come to you and tell you to keep your mouth shut.

A: They have already. (Laughs.)

Q: Who spoke to you already about it?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Well, somebody did, didn’t they?

A: No. (Laughs.)

Captain Matheson: Let’s set ourselves right on this matter so we will now exactly where we are at. [To someone U’Ren:] This young lady is going to be a witness.

A: I don’t want my mother implicated in it.

Q: We don’t want people running to you and all that kind of thing to have you change your story. They will.

A: Well, I won’t.


[1] See note 2. Zey means that she left her contact information for the person who invited her in the first place.

[2] She doesn’t identify who called her and invited her for the Sunday gathering, which took place with Mae Taube being the only identifiable and known female guest. This means that Zey already knew Fishback, Sherman, or even Arbuckle himself. Notice, too, that the Labor Day gathering was only to be a kind of late breakfast, i.e., brunch, to use our portmanteau.

[3] The Woodrow Hotel at 364 O’Farrell Street.

[4] Here she excludes the presence of Fred Fishback and Ira Fortlouis.

[5] This would indicate that Fishback undoubtedly knew Prevost beforehand.

[6] There seems to be something missing here. Or Zey is reacting to U’Ren’s nonverbal cue that conveyed incredulity.

[7] Zey’s statement is the only one that mentions this mystery man. The others may have been hotel staff and whoever was catering the food and illegal liquor.

[8] In his statement, Semnacher did not come up until Fishback invited him up at about 2 p.m.. So, his presence beforehand is the anomaly that U’Ren is trying to identify—these were maddening for the prosecution and no less so for anyone writing about this affair.

[9] For the dance revue that entertained diners at Tait’s restaurant and theater on O’Farrell Street. Arbuckle’s entourage had been there the night before.

[10] This assertion puts in doubt Semnacher’s claim of having escorted Blake to the abortive rehearsal.

[11] This is the one time that Zey Prevost mentions that she initiated kicking and knocking on Arbuckle’s room. Delmont claims that only she kicked and pounded on the door.

[12] This is important Typically, Rappe is said to have had gin and orange juice.

[13] This behavior may have another explanation beside hysteria. One of the symptoms of shock are “changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation.” Indeed, one of the actions taken when a person is going into shock is to loosen restrictive clothing. But what if tearing at one’s clothes is a natural response to the onset of shock. I see Rappe’s clothes tearing as a symptom of dysesthesia or allodynia associated with panic disorder, in which she was unable to endure the touch of her own clothes. It could also be something far more deep set, like self-directed violence of psychological trauma. To be continued . . .

[14] This important detail is routinely left out of accounts. These would be fire-rated wooden or even steel doors

[15] Delmont drank “ten scotches” during the course of the party. She allegedly had a leading role in the immediate response to Rappe’s crisis. But notice in Prevost’s testimony that this is not the case. That Delmont was sleeping next to Rappe was observed by the first doctor who came to see her late in the afternoon

[16] Regard Arbuckle’s “death instinct” in the context of defenestrating Rappe or Delmont in other testimony.

[17] She is going back to after she, Blake, and Delmont had gained entry to room 1219.

[18] 636 Bush Street.