Roscoe Arbuckle and the First Celebrity Scandal

There’s no other way to put this: I’m intrigued by celebrity scandals—celebrity being defined as anyone in the public eye: actors, musicians, politicians, etc.

My fascination doesn’t lie in the scandals themselves, although I find those intriguing too. What interests me most of all is the way the media and general public react to them—the spin, the blatant choosing of sides, the rush for “clickable” (and often misleading) headlines, the absolute certainty of opinion. I’m not convinced anyone really knows what scandalous behavior is anymore, given that pretty much anything qualifies these days—the media makes “news” out of the most ridiculous things—and real scandals tend to get lost amid the white noise.

It was this fascination, in part, that influenced From Poe to Know, where Izzie’s life is turned upside down thanks to an unethical paparazzo who decided to not only create a story where there wasn’t one, but also play on the conjecture and rumor and gossip he knew would surround Cardwell, Hollywood’s golden boy.

After I finished writing the novel, I got to thinking about where this fascination with the cult of celebrity began. There have been numerous celebrity scandals over the years. The Robert Blake murder trial and O.J. Simpson among them. Some people remember where they were when scandals happen or when they found out about them, and I’m no different. When I found out about O.J. I was in a taxi on my way to the airport in Frankfurt, Germany trying to explain to the German-speaking driver (who spoke no English) who O.J. Simpson was.

At any rate, I jumped headfirst into the rabbit hole and came back up again in 1921 with Roscoe Arbuckle after reading Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, The Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal that Changed Hollywood by Greg Merritt. You can read my review here.

One of the most surprising things I learned is that when it comes to celebrity scandals and the reaction of the media and public is that not much has changed since 1921. Not entirely sure why that was surprising. Maybe because the constant roar of life online gives us access to news, scandals, and non-scandals which are treated as such 24/7.

It’s deafening.

If you want to learn more about the Roscoe Arbuckle scandal, I recommend reading Greg Merritt’s book, but here’s a documentary about him pulled from YouTube. If you’d rather watch it over there, here’s the link: Roscoe Arbuckle documentary.


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