For Hotels, Scandals Add to Lodging's Allure

Westin St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco: The St. Francis Hotel has seen its fair share of scandalous events. On Labor Day, Sept. 5, 1921, silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and friend Fred Fishbach were partying in Suite 1219-122l. A young starlet named Virginia Rappe also attended the party and died of internal injuries four days later. Arbuckle was accused of injuring her during a sexual assault. Although he was tried three times and never convicted (two hung juries and an acquittal), the trial ended his career, also due in part to William Randolph Hearst's yellow press and inflammatory coverage of his trials.

In 1950, the 64-year-old entertainer Al Jolson died during a card game in a penthouse suite. According to Mark Gordon of "The Great Frisco Crime Tour," Jolson said, "Fellows, I'm not feeling well," went back to his room and died. The San Francisco Examiner dispatched a photographer to the scene, who re-arranged the card table to give Jolson a pair of aces and eights — deadman's hand.

In 1975, the St. Francis was also the location where deranged would-be assassin Sarah Jane Moore fired a shot at then-President Gerald Ford. Marsha Monro, director of sales and communications for the hotel, says that very few guests mention Arbuckle or Ford. "Honestly, we have more people asking us if we still wash coins or if J. Lo is staying here," she says.

During the '30s and '40s, the St. Francis employed people to wash coins so that ladies' white gloves would not get dirty. For the record, the hotel will still do this "upon special request." Now that's one way to launder money.

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