Guido Deiro |
Last Days, Part 2
At Bert Rovere's Ranch
Sometime probably early during 1949, and apparently without warning, Guido was struck with agonizing chest pains: he had a heart attack and was admitted to the hospital. His doctor forbid him from performing or teaching. Now he had no means of livelihood, and he could not maintain his North Broadway studio. He had to abandon the studio and move somewhere else, but to where?
Although Guido was in dire straits, he still had many friends and supporters. Bert Rovere came to Guido's rescue and invited him to stay at his picturesque ranch ("Rancho Biella") on Lake Elsinore, which was surrounded by hundreds of acres of orange orchards.
Lake Elsinore (named for the Danish city in Shakespeare's Hamlet) at the mouth of the San Jacinto River is the largest natural lake in Southern California and lies about 1200 feet above sea level in Riverside County. The town, about 70 miles from Los Angeles, was a favorite retreat for celebrities to escape the urban Hollywood scene. Lake Elsinore is also said to be the habitat of a lake monster sighted on numerous occasions since the 1850s.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Baldershausen.
Bert's Rancho was also called "Artist's Retreat," as the atmosphere was quiet and restful, and Guido was grateful for his friend's generosity. After some time, Rovere rented a room for Guido at a small house near his ranch. Rovere also attended to Guido's business affairs during this time.
One of Guido's loyal friends and colleagues was a 45-year-old accordionist: Anthony Galla-Rini, who, with his wife Dina (Petromilli) and young son Ronnie, visited Guido during his recouperation.
Anthony Galla-Rini and Guido Deiro, 1950.
This photograph was taken by Mrs. Galla-Rini in front of a small house near Rovereís ranch at Lake Elsinore in which Bert had rented a room for Guido.
Although Guido had little money and energy, he still had responsiblities: his former wife Yvonne wanted Guido to take care of their ten-year-old son, Guido Jr. Apparently her new husband was not terribly fond of the boy and he didn't want to support him. Now Guido had to take care of his son, and he could hardly take care of himself. What could he do?
Probably early in 1947 Guido approached another former wife; Mae West, who during the last two decades had become a famous millionaire movie star. Perhaps she would help. After all, Mae owed Guido a favor. In 1943 he had written an article about their relationship which he had hoped to sell to a magazine. He could have made a substantial sum of money from such a story. But he was a gentleman, and first showed the article to Mae before offering it to a publisher. She took one look at it and threw the article into her fireplace. Guido never pursued it further. Perhaps now Mae would help him out.
Mae graciously offered to pay for Guido Jr.'s education and lodging at a prestigious boarding school for boys: Elsinore Naval and Military Academy. Many Hollywood celebrities and Las Vegas casino owners sent their sons to this boarding school which had magnificent buildings situated on the Lake Elsinore shore and an immense parade field. The staff were all ex-military officers. Guido Jr. remembers being friends with Bela Lugosiís son who went on to become the Chief District Attorney for Los Angeles County.
9-year old Guido Deiro, Jr. in his Elsinore Academy uniform (1947).