Friday, August 23, 2013


August 23, 2013 marks the 87th anniversary of the death of silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino who died in New York City on August 23, 1926.  Those of you who are frequent readers of this blog will remember that I have been fascinated with the life and career of Valentino for over forty years.  Every August 23rd since 1927 there has been a memorial service for Valentino at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery) in the Cathedral Mausoleum where he is interred.  The service starts precisely at 12:10 PM which is the time Valentino died in New York - although 12:10 New York time would really be 3:10 Los Angeles time.  I attended my first Valentino Memorial Service in the 1980s and for many years I was one of the featured speakers at the service which remembers Valentino as "The Greatest of Them All."

Hundreds of books have been written about the life and career of Rudolph Valentino, so it is not necessary for me to expand on those. However, to remember Valentino on the anniversary of his death I would instead like to tell you the story of his faithful friend and companion:  his Doberman named Kabar.


Rudolph Valentino loved animals, but he especially loved horses and dogs.  He was an excellent horseman and did many of his own horse-related stunts for his films, much to the alarm of the studios who were worried that something might happen to their star money-maker.  But as much as Valentino loved his horses, he loved his dogs even more. Some of Valentino's dogs were kept in kennels on his property but certain "special" dogs were given the run of the house.  One of these "special" dogs was Kabar.

Kabar was born June 20, 1922 in the Alsace region of France.  Alsatian Dobermans are said to among the finest in the world - and also the smartest.  When Kabar was just a few months old he was given to Valentino when Valentino was staying at the French estate of the Hudnut family, relatives of his then-wife Natacha Rambova (nee Winifred Shaughnessy).  The donor was said to have been a Belgian diplomat who was also a fan of Valentino.  From the very start, Valentino and Kabar were inseparable, and Kabar was even allowed to sleep in Valentino's room wherever he happened to be.

People who are very wealthy like to have their animals travel with them, and this was the case with Rudolph Valentino.  However, pets of the wealthy are not housed in the baggage compartment, or even in steerage - they are with their owners in First Class.  Here are two great photos of Rudolph Valentino with Kabar on the deck of the Leviathan:

   Here are two photos of Valentino with his family - and Kabar:

L-R:  Jean, Rudy, Ada, Alberto and Kabar

L-R:  Rudy, Jean, Ada, Alberto and Kabar

Here's a photo of Valentino with Sophie Tucker and Kabar:

As you can see, Rudolph Valentino took his dear friend Kabar with him wherever he went.  Here they are at Falcon Lair:

We'll never know why Valentino did not take Kabar with him on his last trip East in July of 1926 - but he didn't.  And then the shocking news of August 23, 1926 from New York:

Several sources reported Kabar's unearthly howling at the time of Valentino's death three thousand miles away.  It has been reported that the howling scared Beatrice Lillie so badly that she ran her car off the road and fainted when driving home from a party at John Gilbert's house.  Anyone who is around dogs becomes very aware that they have some sort of extra-sensory perception, particularly on an emotional level.  Our family beagle howled all night when my grandmother died unexpectedly.  At first we did not connect the two incidents but his howling was so unusual and mournful that we then realized the two were connected.

It was reported that once Kabar started his mournful howling, Valentino's other dogs housed at Falcon Lair joined in the chorus.  No wonder Beatrice Lillie was scared! 

Things seemed to have gotten a little better when Valentino's brother Alberto arrived, but Kabar was almost constantly sick after the death of his beloved master.

There is no cure for a broken heart, and Kabar finally died of grief on January 17, 1929.

Kabar's death was even reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 3, 1929:

From the beginning Alberto realized that his brother and Kabar had a special bond.  Alberto considered burying Kabar somewhere on the grounds of Falcon Lair, but he knew that technically that was not legal in Los Angeles.  The city laws stated that animals could only be buried in a cemetery set aside for that purpose under city grant and approval. That wouldn't do Alberto any good - at that time there were no animal crematories or pet cemeteries in Los Angeles - or so he thought.  Then someone told Alberto about the Los Angeles Pet Park in Calabasas - about 22 miles from the heart of Hollywood.

The L.A. Pet Park was founded by a veterinarian to the stars named Dr. Eugene C. Jones. The cemetery, hidden among lush rolling hills and an industrial park off the Ventura Freeway, was once part of the estate of Hollywood financier Gilbert H. Beesemeyer, who embezzled $8 million from the Guaranty Building and Loan Assn. in 1929. But before his estate crumbled and he went off to begin serving a 40-year sentence at San Quentin, he subdivided his property into several 10-acre plots, one of which Jones purchased.

Jones, who graduated from Washington State College with a degree in veterinary medicine in 1924, moved to Los Angeles, where he opened one of the city's first small-animal hospitals, the E.C. Jones Veterinary Hospital on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Four years later, as a service to his clients and as a way for them to deal with their bereavement, he opened the Los Angeles Pet Park and a Hollywood pet funeral parlor.

The Los Angeles Pet Park officially opened for business on September 4, 1928, and a mortuary and crematory were added in 1929.

This was the answer that Rudolph Valentino's brother Alberto was looking for.  He could have Kabar buried at the L.A. Pet Park, acknowledging Kabar's special status as a beloved dog of Rudolph Valentino.  The cemetery still mentions in their advertising that Kabar was the first pet of a film idol to rest in the plot near Calabasas.

In November of 1931 Screen Play Magazine did a feature article on the pet cemetery, and of course, Kabar was mentioned.

Screen Play Magazine - November, 1931

I made my first trip to Hollywood and the grave of Rudolph Valentino in 1980.

I was not able to make it to the pet cemetery on my first trip, but several years later I was finally able to make the drive all the way out to Calabasas.

It was a typical Sunday afternoon in the summer in Los Angeles - hot and clear.  The cemetery had grown somewhat since the 1930s photos, but was very well kept, and many of the graves had decorations on them.

The office was unfortunately closed the day I was there, and there was not another living soul in the cemetery.  What if I couldn't find Kabar's grave?  I asked Valentino and Kabar for help, and in a short time I found Kabar:

But now I had another dilemma.  I wanted a photo of me at Kabar's grave, but as I mentioned, there was not another living soul there.  I decided to wander around and see if I could find someone.  After awhile I found a couple who had recently buried their dog at the cemetery and had come to visit his grave.  They graciously agreed to take my photo at Kabar's grave:

I will end with a quote that I feel sums up the special relationship between Rudolph Valentino and his beloved Kabar:

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.  A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and in sickness.  He will sleep on the cold ground when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only to be near his master's side.  He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world.  He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.

When all other friends desert, he remains.  When riches take wing, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives his master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies.  And when that last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there, by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even in death.

Senator George Graham Vest, speaking to a jury about Old Drum, shot in 1869

Kabar - faithful and true, even in death.  May he rest in peace with his beloved master.


  1. As a fellow fan it is nice to know that you like Rudolph Valentino and the information you have posted is such a joy to read....

  2. Thank you for your kind words. Did you see the article I wrote about Valentino's favorite photographer?

  3. How wonderful that is. I have been to Rudy's crypt many times and have always wanted to visit Kabar. That was a very special story.