Friday, June 29, 2012

The wildest, most sordid 'false' rape case ever

Chances are, you've never heard of Beverly Aadland or William Stanciu.  They were Hollywood fringe players, wannabes who never gained admittance to the Dream Factory. Aadland appeared in a few films but never had a film career, and you won't find Stanciu's name in any film credits at all.   

But for a brief moment in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration, Aadland and Stanciu took center stage in a bizarre Tinsel Town tragedy that radio icon Paul Harvey described this way: "Few chapters in the sometimes lurid history of the movie colony have been more sordid than this one."

Beverly Aadland's claim to fame was that at the tender age of 15, dashing film legend Errol Flynn picked her out of the chorus of a Hollywood musical to be his paramour. Beverly later described their first tryst: "He knew so many women who would say yes that when I was saying no, no, no, he thought I meant yes." Afterward, the fading star repeatedly called Beverly to apologize, and she agreed to go out with him again.  For the next two years, Beverly traveled the world with the quintessential screen Robin Hood, and Flynn even put her in a film with him.  Beverly, and not Flynn's wife, was with the Flynn when he suffered a fatal heart attack in October, 1959 and died at the age of 50.  Beverly's attorneys filed a court petition seeking part of Flynn's estate.

Beverly's mother, Florence Aadland, 50, one of Hollywood's most fascinating and least admirable characters -- the New York Times would one day dub her "Mommy Weirdest" -- mourned Flynn's death and called his relationship with her daughter "a thing of beauty."  Flynn, she said, "was a real gentleman" to Beverly.

Beverly launched a singing career and began performing at a Hollywood nightspot. She also took up with a man thirty years Flynn's junior, a 20-year-old aspiring actor and body builder named William Stanciu. Stanciu was a handsome nobody who had been busted for burglary when he was 16 and had been a troubled youth since his father died when he was 12.  Beverly Aadland was a long way from Sherwood Forest.

Sometime in early 1960, Beverly asked young Mr. Stanciu to marry her. We don't know his answer, but the pair kept seeing each other.  In late March, Mr. Stanciu was one of several male guests, some clad only in swim trunks, in attendance at a rollicking party at the apartment Beverly shared with Florence. Someone snapped photos of Florence posing affectionately with the young men, including Mr. Stanciu, and Florence got intimate with a sailor in her underaged daughter's presence.  At the same party, Florence and Beverly had a knock-down fight over a loud television set. Beverly wanted to turn down the volume, and this prompted Florence to lunge at her, grab her around the neck, and pull her hair. Armed with a bottle of wine, Beverly dropped her mother with two right jabs. 

On April 3, 1960, Mr. Stanciu allegedly inflicted a beating on Florence after Florence objected to his feelings for her daughter. Stanciu "couldn't afford to buy Beverly toothpaste for a month," Florence declared. The beating sent Florence to the hospital for eight days.  Mr. Stanciu visited her in the hospital and apologized. Florence told him to "let bygones be bygones."

This wasn't Florence's first squabble with one of Beverly's suitors. Earlier that year, a 35-year-old businessman named Jack Dulin fired a load of buckshot at Florence when she came to his apartment seeking Beverly.

Everything came to a head on Saturday, April 9, 1960. Police were called to Beverly's apartment where they found the nude, near-lifeless body of William Stanciu sprawled across Beverly's bed with a gunshot wound to the head.

With matted blood in her hair, a sobbing Beverly told police that Mr. Stanciu had called her around 4 a.m., claiming he had murdered someone and that he needed money to get out of town. She told him to come over to her apartment. He knocked on the door (despite the fact that he had his own key), and she opened it a crack to hand him a check for $10.  He forced his way in and raped her at gunpoint. Then he pointed the gun to her head and played Russian roulette; then, for an hour and one-half, he held the gun to his own head. Finally, he told her to close her eyes. She did, and she heard a shot and felt her boyfriend's blood on her face.

Mr. Stanciu had been distraught, Beverly claimed, after she told him she wanted to end their relationship. She said that he had asked her to marry him, but she refused.  "He told me that I had ruined his life--that he loved me, but I didn't love him, and he was going to kill me," Beverly sobbed.

The mortally wounded Mr. Stanciu was taken to the prison ward of a hospital where he was charged with rape and rushed into surgery. He passed away the next day, April 10th, which happened to be his 21st birthday. On the first day he could legally buy a drink, William Stanciu's life was over. Police called it an apparent suicide.  Callous headlines screamed: "Beverly Plays Rough; Playmate No. 2 Die," and "Beverly's suitor commits suicide."

Florence was questioned about Beverly's sexual tryst with Mr. Stanciu before his death. "That Billy must have raped her," Florence exclaimed. Beverly "never did things like that."

After the shooting, Beverly was taken to Juvenile Hall and held due to a "lack of supervision" and because she was "in danger of leading a lewd and immoral life."  She was questioned about Mr. Stanciu's death and took a lie detector test, which she failed.

Finally, on Tuesday, April 12, she came clean. An Associated Press news story directly quoted Deputy Police Chief Thad Brown as saying the following: "Beverly admits she lied when she said Stanciu raped her."  She and Mr. Stanciu had sex, then he started playing around with a gun his brother had given him. Beverly admitted that the two playfully scuffled in the nude for possession of the gun, and Beverly's finger was on the trigger when the gun accidentally discharged.

Later, Deputy Police Chief Thad Brown told the Associated Press that the direct quotation attributed to him by the Associated Press had been "misinterpreted": Beverly was sticking to her "rape" story but she denied other aspects of her original tale.

Mr. Stanciu's mother called for an inquest. The Stanciu family believed that there might have been another person in the apartment who was responsible for William Stanciu's death. Eventually, police determined the shooting was accidental, and Beverly was never charged with wrongdoing in connection with it.

Police filed a petition to make Beverly a ward of the juvenile court because she was in danger of becoming a juvenile delinquent.  There is no record of any such a petition having been filed when Beverly was cavorting with Errol Flynn at the age of 15.  Beverly's mother objected to the petition. "This could ruin her night club career," she exclaimed.  "They can't send my baby to Juvenile Hall," she added.  "There's no telling what she'll learn from those nasty girls in there."

Authorities concluded that Beverly was a $100 a night call-girl who had been intimate with adult males since the age of 12. Florence was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of her daughter. As she was being led off to jail, Florence declared, "I haven't done anything -- I'll sue for false arrest."  Then she chided the press for reporting that she was 53. "I'm only 46," she said. (She was actually 50.)

Florence denied that her actions hurt her daughter, and she revealed the real problem. "It's these young Hollywood men," she said. The bleached-blonde former showgirl added: "If only Errol Flynn was alive my little girl wouldn't be in this mess."  In the end, though, Florence thought the tragedy would help, not hurt, Beverly's career.

Several weeks after Mr. Stanciu's death, Beverly expressed interest in marrying Errol Flynn's stand-in.  Then, Beverly made a profession of faith and announced she wanted to "accept the Lord."

At Beverly's delinquency hearing, Beverly was represented by famed attorney Melvin Belli, a celebrity in his own right. Florence was asked about the rollicking party at her aparement with the young men in swim trunks. "Why should I fool around with kids like that?" she asked. "I'm old enough to be their mother."

William Stanciu's brother testified he had seen Florence drunk 10 to 15 times. Florence shouted, "You're a liar!" She added, "Why not make it 20?" before she was tossed out of the courtroom.

In the end, a judge placed Beverly in the custody of a Hollywood evangelist and his wife. The court said Beverly was forbidden from going to night clubs or appearing in public, that she couldn't release any stories of her life, and that she wasn't allowed to drink.

William Stanciu's mother sued Beverly and her mother for William's death. The outcome of that case does not appear to have been publicized. 

In time, Beverly got permission from the court to restart her performing career. As the years went by, she slipped out of the news. She married, got divorced, married again, and got divorced again. After her second marriage, she ended her performing career and was a cocktail waitress when she met Ronald Fisher, who sold auto parts and tires. They married, and Beverly became a housewife.

Florence died in 1965, but not before penning a scandalous biographical account of her daughter's love affair with Errol Flynn called "The Big Love." Years after Florence's death, the book was turned into a Broadway play starring Tracey Ullman as Florence. ". . . there's something so humorous within [Florence]," said Ullman, "so cheeky and honest."

The play ran for just 41 performances. Somewhere, Florence was not happy.

In 2010, a half century after two of her lovers had died so unexpectedly, Beverly Aadland (her name was Beverly Fisher then) passed away at the age of 67.  The obituary in the Los Angeles Times made just brief reference to William Stanciu's tragic death; it focused on -- what else? -- Beverly's torrid affair with Errol Flynn.

Even in that obituary, Mr. Stanciu was denied a screen credit: it referred to him as "the boyfriend" and didn't bother to mention his name.