Starr Faithfull in New York

Although Starr Faithfull lived for only 25 years, she inspired several authors to write about her. Born January 26, 1906 in Evanston, IL, Starr died in June 1931 after a Long Island boat party.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Starr Faithfull: 1906 - 1931

How many have been faithful to the memory of Starr Faithfull, whose name was once a tabloid staple?
• • STARR FAITHFULL — — born on 26 January 1906 in Evanston, Illinois, Starr died in early June 1931 after a Long Island boat party.
• • The intersection by Jefferson Market Court, under the Sixth Avenue Elevated, is one of the last things she saw in Greenwich Village. A few steps away, she bought a paper from Mr. Isidore, a news vendor. When the police questioned him, his detailed description of her stylish clothing and jewelry helped investigators identify her corpse.
• • TIME Magazine wrote: Most news readers remember Starr Faithfull, if they bother to remember her at all, as a pretty young girl whose bruised body, with veronal in the liver, was washed ashore at Long Beach, N. Y. one day in June four years ago [TIME, 29 June 1931]. Partly because of her incredible name, partly because of her spectacular sex life, the Press quickly picked up all that was left of Starr Faithfull and gave it to the nation as a hot weather sensation. With the mystery of the girl's death still unsolved, the story eventually collapsed. But newspaper publishers had not heard the last of Starr Faithfull. Her stepfather, Stanley Faithfull. lean, gimlet-eyed, red-whiskered and eccentric, started libel actions against every newspaper in Manhattan.
• • Father Faithfull began with criminal actions alleging libel against himself and against the memory of his dead daughter, tried to have Publisher Joseph Medill Patterson of the New York Daily News arrested, but a magistrate refused to issue a warrant. Last month the first of these went to trial against the News. Father Faithfull asked $350,000 damages because, he claimed: 1) the News had intimated that he murdered his daughter; 2) the News had said he concealed evidence in the case, hampering the authorities; 3) the News had said he and his wife lived on his late daughter's earnings as a prostitute; 4) the News had called him a blackmailer; 5) the News had said that Father and Mother Faithfull married, each with the expectation that the other was wealthy. On some points the News denied it had said anything of the sort.
• • The trial went on for more than three weeks. Last week a Staten Island jury found the New York Daily News innocent of libel.
• • Source: TIME Magazine Monday, 11 March 1935
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• • In May 1933, TIME Magazine interviewed Dr. Gettler, who did her autopsy. The question that made the inquest linger so long at Jefferson Market Court was this: was it a murder, an accident, or a suicide that ended the life of the 25-year-old Greenwich Villager?
• • Dr. Gettler insisted Starr Faithfull — — cruelly labeled "a sexually distraught, neurotic young woman" — — had been murdered.

• • According to TIME's reporter: One of the few cities with an official toxicologist is New York, which has Dr. Alexander Oscar Gettler, a hard-bitten professor who teaches chemistry at New York University when he is not sleuthing for the city with his test-tubes. Last week Dr. Gettler. taking with him a grim array of bones, knives, vials and photographs, went before the American Institute in Manhattan to deliver a public lecture on his specialty. He has shared in some 30,000 autopsies, "which gave me a training and experience unobtainable at the present time in any other city in the world." He told about some of the better known autopsies.
• • Starr Faithfull, a sexually distraught, neurotic young woman whose death excited the nation (TIME. June 29. 1931, et seq.). died by drowning after she had been drugged with luminal and thrown from a boat, declared Dr. Gettler. A difference of saltiness between the bloods in the right and left cavities of her heart, ''the only positive test of death by submersion." showed that the young woman had actually died in that manner.
• • As for Starr Faithfull being drugged, analysis of her organs showed that she had had about twelve grains of luminal in her body. Two grains make a person sleep, twelve grains may kill but will certainly keep one unconscious for a long period. Someone must have heaved Starr Faithfull over a ship's rail. That someone has not yet been arrested.
• • Source: TIME Magazine Monday, 15 May 1933
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• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage during July 2008.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" is based on true events during 1926-1932 when Mae West was arrested and jailed for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. The character Sara Starr is based on Starr Faithfull.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: Jefferson Market Court
• • circa 1937
• • Photo: Starr Faithfull [1906-1931] • • circa 1931

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