These days, it seems like rumors and gossip end up in the public eye more quickly than ever before. Everyday there's a new headline or buzzworthy story that gets people talking. The Internet and social media may provide us with a constant influx of disposable scandals, but there was never a better time for lurid secrets than the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Maybe because it was a more conservative time or perhaps the stakes were simply higher when it came to an actor's public image, but, either way, Old Hollywood knew how to keep a secret—and then reveal it in dramatic fashion. In the land of illusion, it makes sense that these stars would be capable of concealing their habits, but gossip always won out in the end.
Here are seven of the most scandalous rumors to come out of Old Hollywood.
7. A private eye claims to have recorded the death of Marilyn Monroe
The Hollywood Reporter obtained recordings from private eye Fred Otash, in which he claims that he not only listened to Marilyn Monroe sleeping with JFK, but he also listened in on her death. Otash claims that Marilyn requested a listening device to be hidden on her body, but he would eavesdrop even when she didn't request it. One night, during an argument with Bobby Kennedy, he claims in his notes that things turned violent:
She said she was passed around like a piece of meat. It was a violent argument about their relationship and the commitment and promises he made to her. She was really screaming and they were trying to quiet her down. She’s in the bedroom and Bobby gets the pillow and he muffles her on the bed to keep the neighbors from hearing. She finally quieted down and then he was looking to get out of there.
There have been rumors for decades that the Kennedy family was connected to Marilyn's untimely death, which only make Otash's statements all the more believable.
6. Jack Ryan liked to shock women by masturbating in coffins
Jack Ryan was Zsa Zsa Gabor’s sixth husband and the creator of Hot Wheels and Barbie. Because of his many connections, Ryan was a mainstay in some Hollywood circles, specifically those that contained young, attractive starlets. The ones that ended up in his bedroom quickly discovered his…uncommon interests.
When his guest arrived, Ryan would leave a recording that instructed her to follow a path of rose petals to the bedroom. He would be waiting there inside of a coffin, ready to jump out and scare her when she peaked inside.
“That’s what John was into…surprising women and then jerking off while in the casket.”
I’m hoping for the sake of these women that they ran as far away from this situation as possible as soon as it happened.
5. Natalie Wood's mother was the ultimate callous stage mom
Natalie Wood's death is one of the most tragic and mysterious in Hollywood history, but reports since then have made it clear that her life was no walk in the park either. Her mom made things particularly hellish from the start of Wood's acting career, which began just before she turned five-years-old. To get her to cry on cue, Wood's mother would rip off a live butterfly's wings in front of the empathetic child according to a biography by Suzanne Finstad.
That same book, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, tells the horrific story of Wood getting viciously raped when she was 16-years-old. The author only says that the assailant was a major star (though, Internet rumors swirl around one name: Kirk Douglas). To make a traumatic experience even worse, Wood's mother conspired to cover up the rape, telling her underage daughter that it would be good for her career in the long run.
4. Katharine Hepburn had lesbian affairs, and her longterm relationship with Spencer Tracy was a farce
According to the book Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Sex Lives of the Stars, written by a hustler to the stars Scotty Bowers, he fixed up Katharine Hepburn with no less than 150 women. Though publicly she was a longtime partner to fellow star Spencer Tracy, Bowers claims that this legendary relationship was completely concocted by the studios. In fact, Bowers says that Tracy was a bisexual who preferred men, though he remained a good father.
Now, even if this one report is true, there's still the possibility that Hepburn was bisexual considering she claimed Tracy was her "soulmate."
3. Errol Flynn liked sleeping with underage girls
Errol Flynn may have been one of the most beguiling stars of Old Hollywood, and he used his status to bed hundreds (if not thousands) of women. His tastes skewed young, as in underage teenagers, and though it was a well-kept secret for most of his life, it's become just another Hollywood fact after his relationship with Beverly Aadland, who was 15-years-old at the time, became public.
What's most shocking to me about Flynn is how well-respected he remains as a lothario and even a role model. There was even a recent movie (The Last of Robin Hood) that dealt with the Aadland courting in lackadaisical fashion. Flynn even had peepholes and two-way mirrors installed in his home to give trusted guests a peek into his bathroom and his bedroom, so they could watch this predatory behavior as voyeurs.
2. Clara Bow was rumored to have a special affinity for dogs
Clara Bow was a significant star of the silent era and the 1920's leading sex symbol. Because of her open lifestyle and the public knowledge that she adored the company of men, her personal life was plagued by rumors that only escalated as her star power began to fall. Once her wanton ways made it into respectable news outlets, lower rung publications began reporting on an even more shocking offense: bestiality.
In print magazines, tales of Bow's hedonistic affairs with dogs became common knowledge. The rumors of this behavior became so prolific and well-know that Bow ended up starring in a movie, Call Her Savage, in which she wrestles with a Great Dane while her character avoids being tamed.
1. Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton were into scat
As in poop play, not the form of jazz singing. That's right, according to that same Scotty Bowers in Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Sex Lives of the Stars, leading man Tyrone Power enjoyed golden showers and feces to mix with his affairs, but Oscar winner Charles Laughton took it one step further. He would literally enjoy a sh*t sandwich:
Having arranged the lettuce, tomato, and buttered bread, Laughton needs only one more ingredient--provided by the hustler during a quick trip to the bathroom--after which the lettuce and tomatoes reappear with a light brown smear.
Good luck getting that image out of your head for the rest of the day. As you can see, modern stars have nothing on these folks—at least, as far as we know.