William Randolph's Hearse
"The Birthday Boy"
It was 1924, the height of the "Roaring '20s." An era of flapper girls, speakeasys, hot jazz, carefree spending, and wild living. Calvin Coolidge was elected president for a full term. Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators knocked off the powerful New York Giants in the World Series. Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Red Grange and Bobby Jones ruled over their respective sports. An unknown Oklahoma thoroughbred, Black Gold, won the Golden Anniversary running of the Kentucky Derby, while gangsters and gamblers were running Chicago and New York. Prohibition was in full swing and hard liquor never enjoyed greater popularity. Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Pola Negri, Clara Bow, and Theda Bara were the hottest items on (and off!) the silent screen. The Charleston was all the rage. Life was good in 1924, especially for those who could afford the best of what this prosperous, blissfully isolationist, self-indulgent era had to offer.
As the dapper, handsome man in his early 40s ascended the gangplank to the 280-foot yacht moored in San Diego Harbor on November 15, 1924, his eyes opened wide. A broad, closed-mouth smile crossed his face. Awaiting him on deck was a large cluster of red and white balloons blowing in the light sea breeze. A stunningly beautiful woman in a long, dark coat and sailor's cap, with short blonde hair stylishly cut halfway down her neck, was waving to him. As he stepped onto the deck she came forward with a broad, cheery smile to greet him.
"Happy birthday, Mr. Ince," the slightly stuttering voice chirped. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. He lightly grasped her by the shoulders, kissed her on the cheek, and stepped back.
"Thank you, Marion," was all he could manage to say.