Fatty Arbuckle

Poor Fatty Arbuckle. Every time some big star becomes enmeshed in an especially tawdry scandal–and it’s hard to think of a scandal more tawdry than Bill’s Cosby’s right now–Fatty Arbuckle gets dragged into it. The Hearst newspaper syndicate (a prototype for both FoxNews and TMZ) did its job well. Fatty Arbuckle has been smeared for all time.

Of course Bill Cosby, by his own admission, is guilty as hell. Fatty was not. In fact, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was as innocent of the charges against him as it was possible to be. So much so that in his third and final rape and homicide trial, the jury composed the following note that the jury foreman read aloud in court:

“Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was only our plain duty to give him this exoneration, under the evidence, for there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story on the witness stand, which we all believed. The happening at the hotel was an unfortunate affair for which Arbuckle, so the evidence shows, was in  no way responsible. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of fourteen men and woman who have sat listening for thirty-one days to evidence, that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame.”

The American people didn’t, unfortunately, and Arbuckle was ruined both in life and legacy. Bill Cosby is another Fatty Arbuckle somebody said. Except that he is not. Fatty Arbuckle was innocent. Virginia Rappe, the young woman whose death in 1921 sparked the entire media circus, is buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery. The interment was a spectacle, with throngs of reporters and the morbidly curious. They are still curious. They pass by her grave every year, and the lascivious details are repeated, every one of them as false as when they were first written, and often as not believed.

Fatty Arbuckle died in 1933. Things were finally looking up, and he had just been signed that day to a new movie deal. There was a celebration at dinner with his wife and friends, then home to bed. He died in his sleep. The service was small, after which the body was cremated, the ashes scattered over the Pacific and blown away with the wind.

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