We all know it's Houdini's birthday. But did you also know that Rosco 'Fatty' Arbuckle was born on this day in 1887? Fatty Arbuckle was a pioneer comedian during the Silent Film era. He holds the distinction of being the first person to be hit with a pie on film! When newcomer Charles Chaplin was hired by Mack Sennett to replace a comedian who had just left, Chaplin borrowed the pants of none other than Fatty Arbuckle to help create his character 'The Tramp'.
Houdini and Fatty actually had a fair amount in common. Fatty Arbuckle began his career in Vaudeville as a singer and dancer. Houdini of course was the King of Vaudeville Entertainers. In the book, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography Of The Silent Film Comedian, 1887-1933 by Stuart Oderman, he says that early in their careers both Fatty Arbuckle and Houdini liked to sleep at train stations, likely due to the fact they were making very little money in the early days.
Fatty and Houdini have something else in common, Buster Keaton. Legend has it that it was Houdini who gave Keaton the nickname Buster. Well, Keaton was a vaudeville comedian and Fatty brought him out to California to be in one of his films. So it was due to Fatty Arbuckle that Buster Keaton got his start in movies.
Both Houdini and Fatty Arbuckle were fond of performing the East Indian Needle Trick. (ok, maybe not)
In 19212, poor Roscoe Arbuckle got caught up in a Hollywood scandal largely played out in the press. He had been accused of all manner of sexual deviancy, raping and murdering a woman by the name of Virginia Rappe. From what I've read it was untrue. If anything Fatty was the one person trying to get help for the poor woman who had taken ill. But through some false testimony by a very shady woman, Fatty Arbuckle found himself in the midst of hell on earth. His first two trials ended in a hung jury. The third trial, the jury, after six minutes, gave this statement:
and Happy 124th Birthday to Fatty.
*One more note about Fatty. This would make Houdini jealous as it seems that Mr. Arbuckle is still fooling people many years after he died. He is listed in a number of biographies as being buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, he is also listed as being buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The truth however is that he was cremated and his wife scattered his ashes over the Pacific Ocean.