I love history. I think it goes back to Central Junior High and Mrs. Helen B. Sandidge's history class. That was eighth grade. I had history classes before then, when I was in the Catholic school, but those classes glossed over real history and were peppered with religious dogma. No, it was Mrs. Sandidge who sparked my interest in digging up the real stories of the past. In the back of Mrs. Sandidge's classroom was a small library. If you had caught up on your lesson for the day Mrs. Sandidge would allow you to go back to her little library and read anything that you would like. One day I picked up a book about the history of Hollywood. This was in 1963, so the history of Hollywood wasn't nearly as large a book as it would be now. Anyway, I was drawn to a chapter about a comedic actor named Fatty Arbuckle. The short version of the chapter is that Fatty threw a party, and during the party took a drunken woman into a bedroom. She died. Fatty was accused of violently raping the woman, causing a rupture that led to her death. In the book at the back of Mrs. Sandidge's classroom, the story had an alternate cause of death. It stated that Fatty Arbuckle had inserted a wine bottle in the woman's vagina and that was what killed her. (Yes, I know. Rough, but I read it in eighth grade in my history teacher's classroom. If I could take it, you can.) Ultimately, Fatty Arbuckle was acquitted of any crimes connected to the woman's death. By the way, I assumed that Mrs. Sandidge was around a hundred years old when she was teaching us. Seriously, she looked ancient and I figured who better to teach history than somebody who had lived it. She died twenty years after teaching me eighth grade history, at the age of eighty four.
What sparked my memories of Mrs. Sandidge was a program that I watched on PBS the other evening. It was about Leopold and Loeb, two young Chicago men who murdered a fourteen year old boy for the thrill of it back in 1924. If you see it in the television listings under American Experience, watch it. Very interesting. One scene showed the courthouse where Leopold and Loeb were tried, with Clarence Darrow as their attorney. Something stirred in me when I saw that building. It was very familiar and I knew right away why. It sits directly across the street from my favorite gay bar of the 1970's, Dugan's Bistro. For years I walked out of that bar late at night and looked across the street at what was then a police station. History, I love it. I wonder if the courthouse where Fatty Arbuckle was tried is still standing?