Posted in book review

Room 1219

Title: Room 1219
Author: Greg Merritt
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2013
Pages: 428
My GR rate: 3/5

It is very hard to murder or be murdered by a fat man- Fatty.

If you are reading this book to find out what happened in that room just know you will never know what happened. To some extent that pissed me off and hurriedly skimmed some pages.

The writer delved much into the life of Fatty whose fame rose back in the days during Charlie Chaplins era. Fatty was a fat boy thus his nickname, Fatty. Having suffered in equal measures from bullying, craving for fatherly love and guidance to working from as early as five years, he was a boy who skipped school and spent much of his time in theatres. The boy longed for escape.

“The stage was a means to overwhelm his shyness, to replace isolation with an audience, and to find love-if conveyed only in cheers and applause.”

His singing talent earned him recognition first and that fueled his acting career. It was exciting getting to know Fatty’s movies. He realized his fatness-the cause of so much distress when among other kids could be an advantage.

However, that fame came quickly crumbling on that fateful Labor Day, 1921 in room 1219 on the top floor of a San Francisco hotel. It all started when Virginia Rappe and friends were invited to the room for a few drinks. She went to the bathroom of room 1219, Fatty’s bedroom and came out a sick girl who according to witnesses claimed “I’m dying.” Three days later she died. Fatty’s movies were banned, he was cancelled from acting, payments were cut and his previous movies underwent censorship.

Having gone through the trials and preliminaries, it is obvious witnesses gave contradicting information. It was also an eye opener to the bladder condition Virginia Rappe had for a long time that made her go berserk after several drinks. It was one hell long of a case that didn’t shed any light. All Fatty got was acquittals.

Instead, it raised so many questions:
1. Why was Virginia Rappe not taken to hospital but a sanitarium?
2. Why was Virginia Rappe left to suffer in a hotel room for three days, her severe pain deadened with morphine despite being examined by three doctors and nurses?
3. Did Fatty rapture Rappes bladder by using ice on her vagina?
4. Was it an orgy gone wrong?
5. In a situation where a young woman dies of alleged murder by a famous actor, one expects feminists gather and see the actor jailed for life. Like the famous Me Too Movement. The opposite happened. What should be made of the fact that many women reacted positively to the lesser charge for Arbuckle?
6. Was Fatty framed?
7. Did the witnesses give false testimonies over and over again to jeopardize Fattys career?
8. Did Virginias Rappe underlying condition cause her death?
9. Was it wrong to try Fatty for manslaughter and brand him a murderer and rapist? Did he deserve to be painted as a monster by the press and blacklisted by the film industry?

“There were but two people in that room and neither of them knew that one of them had suffered a bladder tear until after she was dead. We can never know for certain what happened other than the fact that one person endured an injury there that resulted four days later in the loss of her life and eventually led to the destruction of her reputation. The other person suffered horribly for that death, perhaps justly, perhaps even escaping true justice, but most likely unjustly. Most likely, in the scope of society’s condemnation, it is one of the greatest injustices to a career and a reputation ever perpetrated.

Although after his acquittals life somehow started picking up again, he was no longer the same man. Fatty stopped smiling. In his movie “Just Let Me Work,” he summarized his struggle against censorship and his attempts to clear his name and reclaim his place in front of the cameras. Sadly, he died of a heart attack on 29th June 1933.

Moreover, this book continues to show what happens in Hollywood. The good, bad and ugly that sometimes erupts in our screens and the lot that continues hidden all in the quest for fame.