The 1920 Interview (Part Two)

In the New York office of William A. DeFord, on May 6th, 1920 (incidentally, his 25th Birthday), a pre-fame Rodolfo Guglielmi was asked to read through and sign, a transcription of an interrogation of him conducted the previous month, on April 14th. This forgotten examination, set-up to determine the exact sequence of events four years earlier, when he was seized by a Vice Squad, was located by me in 2016 and received in its entirety a year later. The pages that I produce here, in full, for the first time, give us incredible insight, not just into that September 1916 raid, but also into what happened afterwards. Due to the length of the discussion, as you can see, it was necessary to divide it into two, with this second post featuring the rest and being titled: The 1920 Interview (Part Two).


Previously, with leading questions, Rudy has been asked to describe the events as he recalled them, on September the 5th, 1916. (The law enforcers’ arrival. What happened when he and his Landlady were escorted, first to the District Attorney’s office, and then, to Rosalsky’s chambers. And exactly what he was wearing that day. Etc.) We left the interrogation on Page Nineteen, where DeFord wished to be certain about what Guglielmi recalled. In particular to establish the existence of any paperwork — which did exist. The page ended with a question about Thym being accused of: “… conducting a disorderly house and paying [protection] money to the police of the city of New York…” A query Valentino appears to have answered positively. (She was accused of this in the chamber of the Justice.)



Mr. De Ford presses the then Mr. Guglielmi to see if he recalls Mrs. Thym being accused of paying money to the police. Or that he himself was charged with “… procuring girls …. for the purposes of illicit sexual intercourse…” Rudy is vague to the point where it appears he’s being evasive or hiding something. However, it must be said, several years have passed since the day it all happened.


On Page 21 Rodolfo doesn’t recall being labelled a Blackmailer. Or Georgiana being labelled one. And when asked if he recalls being accused of extorting money he replies: “No, I can’t recollect that.”


The questions continue about what he remembers and doesn’t remember.


William A. De Ford asks Rodolfo Guglielmi several questions about what he did and didn’t know was going on at that time. From his answers it appears he recalls knowing very little.


On this page his Questioner asks him about any crimes he was ever charged with. The questions are similar and all elicit the exact same response: “No!”


Page 25 covers questions about his incarceration (not at The Tombs), his bail (which was reduced thanks to his Representative), and his later Habeas Corpus proceeding (at the Supreme Court in late 1916).


On this page De Ford pushes hard to know what Guglielmi understood by the phrase: got the goods.


It’s at this point that William A. De Ford starts to wrongfoot Rodolfo Guglielmi. By design or by accident we can’t know. Regularly he points out to the Plaintiff that his earlier answers to questions were either incorrect or incomplete. Each time succeeding in getting Rudy to agree that he misremembered or was incorrect. And this is achieved by De Ford contrasting the later Valentino’s current answers with those he gave in late 1916.




On Page 29, the Interviewer, Mr. De Ford, extracts from the Plaintiff, Mr. Guglielmi, an admission that in late 1916, in front of Judge Philbin, at his Habeas Corpus Hearing, he explained that he’d been told that he was being held as a Material Witness. Previously he’d said that he hadn’t been told this.

And yet, despite having his own recorded answer read out to him, he says further down the page, that he discovered he was a Material Witness when he read that night’s newspaper in the detention centre.


Here, De Ford seems to enjoy skewering Guglielmi, when he forces him back to the question about being held as a Material Witness; and then, afterwards, whether he understood that he was potentially going to be charged with extortion.


William A. De Ford again gets Rodolfo Guglielmi to admit that he has answered earlier questions incompletely. And that he’s misremembered what happened on the day of his seizure.

Rudy almost seems to want to deny what he was accused of.


Once again the Interrogator manages to return the Answerer to his responses to “Mr. Justice Philbin” in late 1916. Proving that he was indeed fully aware, in September of that year, exactly what was happening to him. All contrary to his previous replies where he denied he knew anything, other than that he was a ‘Pimp’, and that Thym was a Madam.


Half of this page concerns Rudy’s testimony, late in 1916, about his occupancy of a room at Mrs. Thym’s. (He was a Tenant not a Visitor.) The other half is about whether or not he’d promised to provide information in order to have his bail reduced. His answer is always a categorical no.


De Ford continues to push for an answer, other than a no, regarding an offer for the $10,000 bail to be reduced. Frustratingly he fails to ask the Interviewee what he means when he says more than once: “I was tricked.”


Here the interview begins, finally, to wind down. And we get a nice explanation form Rudy himself (who would know) of his early days as a Dancer from late 1914.


The lengthy interview ends oddly with questions about his shoes in court. With the purpose of the very final page, being a chance for the then Rodolfo to read through what was typed-up, and approve it and sign it.

I want to thank all those who have taken the time to read, first Part One, and now, Part Two, of this truly fascinating Q & A session, in New York, in the Spring of 1920. Which it’s my absolute pleasure to put on this Blog for free and for all time. For many decades we’ve wondered exactly what happened that day, and, what transpired afterwards. We now know. Even if there remain unanswered and perhaps unanswerable questions. See you all next month!

9 thoughts on “The 1920 Interview (Part Two)

  1. Once again, I’m astonished. What an ordeal! And the relentlessness with the interrogation. It almost brings me to tears, it’s all so intimidating to a scared Valentino. And, yes, what’s that about the shoes? Thank you for this installment, Simon. It’s fabulous to see this but also heartbreaking. Thank you for your care and research for this piece!


    1. Carol, thank you. William A. De Ford was tasked with finding out if the Plaintiff, Rudolph Valentino, had any grounds to sue the publication he was defending. Rudy felt he’d been so damaged by the reports – he was, of course – that he was entitled to compensation. At some point I’ll put that legal action and what he wanted on the Blog. In the meantime, despite Rodolfo’s obvious confusion and pain, thank heavens he, De Ford, did, as it gives us most of the answers we’ve long sought, about just what was going on, on that early September morning, so very long ago. X

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Am proud of Rudy. DeFord tried his best to wear him down, break him, but he held his own. The insinuation that he was pimping for “the lady of the house” was outrageous!đź’ž

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it’s true. He stood his ground even though he was wrong-footed several times. And there’s no escaping the fact, that despite the seriousness of the charges, and there WERE charges, he was exonerated at his Habeas Corpus hearing in early December. As he himself says on whatever page it was that he said it.

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    2. Hello Eleanor. And thanks so much. Yes! Ridiculous. However, as Rudy was suing the publications that reported the arrest, they had to question him; even if they didn’t have to be quite so fixated when it came to his undergarments. Or, what was on his feet, as you say. What a Survivor Valentino was. Life threw at him SO much and he just kept on going. I’d say this was the second worst experience after his Father’s demise in the previous decade. See you next time here I hope!

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  2. Hi Simon, it seems to me, that DeFord played with Rodolfo as cat with mouse…Simply proving, that once telling “lie” (while not mentioning again, that material witness and blackmailing was part of original investigation), always telling lie. Above with a lot of confusing/useless questions (as for clothes and shoes), it was probably really tough day for Rodolfo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! You’re absolutely right, he did play cat and mouse, and I like that description of the situation that day very much. As I told Carol, as soon as he could, in Spring 1917, Rudy wished to sue all of the publications that he felt had defamed him. Did he have grounds? Did the reports concoct? Hence De Ford’s seemingly bizarre questions. It was indeed an awful ordeal. Not only to be questioned like that but to be reminded of the events three and half years before. However the 38 pages give us so much info. that I’m glad it happened. Otherwise? We would be so in the dark, as we were, for literally a whole century. My very best wishes!

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