One of early Hollywood’s biggest superstars and heartthrobs, Rudolph Valentino (1895 – 1926), also known as “The Latin Lover”, was a 1920s’ symbol of masculinity. He shot to fame with captivating performances in silent film blockbusters such as The Sheik, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. His sudden death at age 31 led to mass hysteria among his female fans, and solidified his iconic status.
However, before becoming a star, Rudolph Valentino had been a heavy frequenter of working girls. Not only that, but he had also probably been a working boy. Before fame, Valentino had worked as a dancer in what were known as “taxi dance clubs”. Such clubs were basically escort services, where clients would come in, examine the club’s stable of dancers, and pay to dance with whichever one caught their eye.
Clients who liked a dance partner would negotiate a price with him or her, then pay the club an “exit fee” to leave with the dancer. While some taxi dance clubs were legitimate and innocent, most were just escort services. In Valentino’s case, he was once arrested in a brothel before becoming famous, so his taxi dance club was probably not the innocent kind.
Imagine if the press discovered today that Brad Pitt had once worked for an escort service as a working boy. The resulting firestorm in media and social media would probably break the internet, as the insatiable demand for salacious details produced a never ending stream of stories. The paparazzi stampede alone would probably cause an earthquake.
A Charlatan Faith Healer’s Love of Prostitutes and All Around Lechery Contributed to Downfall of Tsarist Russia
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869 – 1916) was a charlatan, mystic, holy wanderer, faith healer, blasphemer, and a notorious lecher who became one of Russia’s most powerful figures. An inexplicable ability to ease the pain of the child Alexei Nikolayevich, the hemophiliac heir to the Russian throne, earned him the gratitude of his parents, Russia’s emperor and empress, Nicholas and Alexandra. That made Rasputin an influential figure in the Russian Empire’s final years.
Even as a teenager, Rasputin was notorious for his relentless pursuit of women, from prostitutes to respectable matrons, and he had a magnetism that enabled him to rack up conquests with ease. He invented and led a religious cult that combined Orthodox Christianity, plus bizarre rituals that were deemed heretical and blasphemous.
A core belief of Rasputin’s cult was that nearness to God is achieved by a state described as “holy passionlessness”, which is best achieved via exhaustion. And that exhaustion was to be attained by a lot of physical acts – a religious doctrine he described as “driving out sin with sin“. So he led his cult into reaching an exhaustion via orgies – prolonged bouts of debauchery by the entire congregation in order to get the base passions out of their system.
He eventually made it to the Russian capital, Saint Petersburg, where he won the favor of Russia’s emperor and empress. There, Rasputin exerted his animal magnetism upon the capital’s women, and before long, he had a cult following, from lowly streetwalkers to wealthy aristocratic women. Soon, young women and old, maidens and matrons, were throwing themselves at Rasputin.
They flocked to visit his apartment, and he was indiscriminate in his preferences, bedding prostitutes and princesses alike. Many in high society, aware that Rasputin had the ear of Russia’s rulers, sought to gain his favor. Some even sent their wives or daughters to seduce him into putting in a good word for them at court, or their female relatives did so on their own initiative in order to help their male kin. Many other women visited him simply for physical benefits.
Rasputin was, by all accounts, what would be considered today an addict, with enviable stamina and staying power. Saint Petersburg’s authorities posted plainclothes policemen at his building, and their reports described dozens of women, from prostitutes to high ranking aristocrats, visiting his apartment. The police reports went on to describe loud noises of drunken revelry, partying with prostitutes, beatings, violence, and orgies that lasted until sunrise and beyond.
Although reports of Rasputin’s unruly and unholy conduct – including the rape of a nun – reached emperor Nicholas’ ears, he either dismissed them out of hand, or laughed them off with comments such as “the holy are always slandered“. The emperor’s confessor investigated the reports of Rasputin’s misconduct, concluded there was truth in them, and advised Nicholas to distance himself from the controversial monk. The emperor, at the behest of his wife who was fiercely protective of the holy charlatan, sided with the Rasputin, and banished his confessor from Saint Petersburg, instead.
By 1911, Rasputin’s notorious misconduct had become a national scandal, and turned the imperial family into a laughingstock. Eventually, word began making the rounds that Rasputin had seduced Russia’s empress Alexandra. Whether or not that was true – and Rasputin boasted of having done so – it damaged the imperial family’s prestige, and set the stage or its overthrow in the 1917 Russian Revolution.