The Mineralava Tour
On January 25, 1923, there was a brief announcement in the New York papers, Rudolph Valentino and his not-quite bride Winifred Hudnut would soon embark on an exhibition dance tour on the B.F. Keith Circuit . The projected tour would crisscross the United States with a grueling schedule of approximately eighty-eight stops (in the end much more than eighty-eight).
Set to begin in early February 1923, the Valentinos would travel in a private and elaborately appointed Pullman car. The Valentinos would view the vistas of the cool Pacific Northwest of Seattle, Washington to the humid South of Atlanta Georgia from luxury of the Pullman for a punishing five months. As punishing as the rail travel and one-night-stands would have been, the Valentinos did not travel alone, nor did they travel without the niceties.
The exhibition portion of the dance tour began in Detroit, Michigan with the pair dancing at the Majestic Institute the first week of February. There were no dancing or beauty contests held at this stage of the tour. This was clearly a warm-up and rehearsal period for the Valentinos to fine-tune their dance program and the promotional part of the program before the tour began in earnest. The Valentinos then moved to St. Louis, Missouri, performing three shows daily. It was in St. Louis that Rudolph Valentino made one of many broadcasts on the radio on February 14. He took the opportunity to speak about "What is Wrong with the Movies" to add fuel to his fight against Famous Players Lasky in order to win better quality scripts and productions. This would be repeated at various stops across the country.
Continuing on to Chicago for the remainder of February 1923, the Valentinos danced at two different venues with two and three shows daily, seven days a week. In Chicago, the Valentinos moved from the elegance of the private Pullman to the grandeur of the Blackstone Hotel in downtown Chicago. The Valentinos continued their engagement at the Marigold through early March.
It was also during the Chicago stop that the Valentinos planned to remarry. The one-year period of waiting time was over on March 13 and to Rudolph Valentino's frustration, he was still legally unable to make Natacha his bride in the state of Illinois. Hasty plans were made and on March 14, Valentino, Rambova, and a retinue of friends and witnesses motored eastward across the Illinois border to Crown Point, Indiana and to the Lake County Courthouse for a civil ceremony.
"They were recognized immediately [that] they descended from the bridal car and a large crowd of the curious gathered to watch them go through the formality of securing a license. Valentino discarded his movie name for the occasion, giving the name of Rudolpho Guglielmi. The bride gave her name as Winifred de Wolfe, she also having been divorced. Into the office of Howard H. Kemp the couple and their bridal party marched – flappers, matrons and urchins tagging at their heels until an uncompromising door was slammed in their faces while the ceremony was being performed.”
The wedding ceremony was reported a bit more sedately in the local Crown Point newspaper:
"After securing the necessary license at the county clerk's office, in which Valentino gave his name as Rudolph Gugliema (sic), aged 28, and his bride as Winifred DeWolfe, aged 26. The couple went immediately to the office of Judge Kemp and the ring ceremony was performed which made them man and wife. … When it became noised about that the famous screen artists were in the city, a crowd quickly gathered curious to see Valentino and his bride and they were given an impromptu ovation and showered with congratulations as the party started Chicago-ward after the ceremony."
With no time for even a brief honeymoon, the Valentinos returned to Chicago to continue the dance tour.
The Valentinos left Chicago entraining to Omaha, Nebraska, on the first leg of the journey that would criss-cross the U.S. and Canada. Valentino was not only hawking the Mineralava preparations, he was hawking himself and trying to gain support for his (and Natacha's) ideals with regard to movie-making.
There were some stops where Valentino received less than stellar press, but, for the most part, he was received very well. The public was, of course, curious to see both Valentino and Rambova in person. It gave Rudolph Valentino an opportunity to express his displeasure with the studio system and attempt to drum up some support for his vision of better pictures. In many of the reports this is the part of the evening that some audience members found fault with. They wanted to see Valentino, but not necessarily hear him! At least not talking about his beef with the studios. There were complaints that the exhibition dance of Valentino and Rambova was far too short.
Among some of the cities where they stopped, Kansas, MO, Wichita, KS, Oklahoma City, OK, Forth Worth, TX, San Antonio, TX, New Orleans, LA, Portland, ME, Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, Marlborough, MA, Bridgeport, CT, Worcester, MA, Salem, MA, Albany, NY, Yonkers, NY, Meriden, CT , Manchester, NH, Baltimore, MD, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, WI, Minneapolis, MN, Duluth, MN, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Seattle, WA, Vancouver B.C., Canada, Portland, OR Salt Lake City, UT and Atlanta, GA. North, South, East and West, the Valentino's covered a vast distance across the continent.
At some stops, Natacha was not Valentino's dancing partner. Begging off because of illness or family business, Natacha disappeared and was replaced by another dancer during part of the tour. Mercifully, the tour ended in late June 1923 and the Valentino's exhausted and in much need of a vacation, boarded the Aquitania for trek through the streets of London, Paris and back home to Italy for Valentino.
The Valentinos returned to New York in the fall and Valentino where was contracted to appear at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1923 to help choose the winner of the beauty contest from among the 88 beauties who were able to attend. Valentino was not a lone judge, a large group performed the final vote. The gala at Madison Square Gardens was filmed by David O. Selznick (son of Valentino's one time employer Lewis J. Selznick) and a short film was released to cash in on Valentino's absence from the screen, 'Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties."
Norma Niblock of Toronto, Canada was crowned The Queen of Beauty this evening, with four runners up.
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