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LAistory: Fatty Arbuckle

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Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had the dubious distinction of being the movie business' first scandal. Born in Kansas in 1887, Roscoe Arbuckle (who only used the name "Fatty" professionally, and otherwise detested it) was catapulted to fame in Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops movies. He made famous the "pie in the face" gag so familiar to many of us. For a larger gentleman, he was an astonishingly graceful tumbler, and was said to have a lovely singing voice. Opera singer Enrico Caruso told him, "with training you could become the second greatest singer in the world." The first, presumably, being himself. He mentored both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Though he married, he was known about town as a man of huge appetites, in booze, partying and women. Nonetheless, he managed to, at the height of his career, scandalize the nation by being involved in the death of a young actress (and we use the word "actress" here loosely) named Virginia Rappe. It was Labor Day weekend 1921, Arbuckle was to be found partying down and living it up in San Fransisco's St. Francis Hotel. The young woman was known to be sickly, and have a number of issues when using alcohol. When she was found moaning and barely conscious, she was hospitalized, dying shortly thereafter from a ruptured bladder.