In 1930, Clara Bow fired her secretary, Daisy De Voe, for theft. The former secretary attempted to use her insider knowledge of Clara’s private life to extort money from the actress; but she didn’t know much worth reporting. Clara liked to party, but that was hardly big news in Hollywood. Clara refused to pay her off, and they ended up in court.
Clara’s private life became a courtroom spectacle, and sometimes it was impossible to tell who was on trial. Newspapers engaged in a feeding frenzy, and it wasn’t pretty.
The genesis of the worst stories about Clara came from publisher Frederic Girnau’s Coast Reporter. The excretory rag accused Bow of everything from drug addiction and drunken sex sprees in Mexico to bestiality.
When Girnau and De Voe put their malicious heads together, they concocted a revolting 60-page document called “Clara’s Secret Love-Life as told by Daisy.”
In a blatant attempt at extortion, Girnau contacted Clara’s soon-to-be husband, Rex Bell, and offered to sell The Coast Reporter to him for $25,000—but Bell, acting on Clara’s behalf, rejected the offer. The spiteful Girnau then sent copies to Will Hays (the censorship code bore his name), Superior Court Judges, and local PTA officials. By doing so, the idiot violated Section 211 of the U.S. Penal Code which prohibited “mailing, transporting or importing anything lewd, lascivious, or obscene.”
Despite the evidence at the time, there are people who believe Daisy was a victim of those who had even more to gain--the studio system and Clara's soon-to-be husband, Rex Bell.
Was there any truth to the lurid rumors about Clara? What about Daisy? Was she a wicked schemer, or an innocent pawn? Join me as I examine Daisy's trial and Clara’s life to get the answers.
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Writer, social historian, and true crime expert Joan Renner is the author of The First with the latest: Aggie Underwood, the Los Angeles Herald, and the Sordid Crimes of a City. The book was selected by LA Weekly as one of the top ten true crimes...