The summer of 1927 had been the peak of drama for Lady Bledzo. As part of her very public lawsuit against ex-fiance Darby Day, Jr., she had appeared in national newspapers. She garnered the support of sympathetic and powerful media. She had provided letters, photos of injuries, and compelling and dramatic testimony about abuse. Lady Bledzo had given it her all.
And yet it failed utterly.
I say “failed” because the story — which got most of its momentum from the Hearst newspaper chain — disappeared from view around the same time that Darby returned from his extended European stay. It was last mentioned in September 1927, and then never again.
I don’t think the lawsuit went anywhere, but I don’t think the family settled out of court, either. Lady Bledzo’s next moves were, in her typical fashion, risky, desperate, and involved poor choices around men and money. They were not the actions of a woman who had received a big settlement check.
Her next act was a real ACT, on an actual stage.
September 1927, Detroit
I said last time that I’d never found an ad featuring Lady Bledzo. This is still true… because she went back to one of her many aliases.
That “Lenora Greer” was Lady Bledzo. Now, she was not only not capitalizing on the national notoriety she had built all summer — she was actively eschewing it. Was she trying to hide from someone? I can think of better ways to lay low.
Somehow, Lady Bledzo had connected with bandleader Joe Tenner, a skilled impressionist who had worked with the Ziegfeld Follies. Now she would be part of his array of vaudeville acts, scheduled to appear at the LaSalle Garden Theatre in Detroit. In addition to his band, some musical comedy, and a dancing violinist, Lenora Greer was on the bill performing an “Apache dance.” They were scheduled for a week, including midnight shows. If things went well, the run could even be extended.
* * * *
An Apache dance is sort of like tango meets wrestling. The name comes from French gangs of hooligans — “les Apaches” — who originated the dance style. First a fad in the 1910s, the Apache dance died out after the war, but enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1920s.
As you can see in this example, the dance is marked by “passion” — really, romanticized violence — that is acted out on the body of the female dancer. I see a mystifying symmetry in Lady Bledzo choosing this particular dance. She was a woman who had probably been abused, and may have faked further abuse, but was now getting paid to perform something that looks like physical abuse.
Did her world provide no other options?
* * * *
The theater run didn’t go well. The troupe’s extended stay ended after only a week, thanks to a dispute between Tenner and the theater’s owner.
Lady Bledzo was back on the skids, back to Chicago.
Driving the Getaway Car
Chicago; October 1927
Another habit Lady Bledzo hadn’t shaken was her tendency to move among a crowd of shady characters and lowlifes. This became very clear in October.
Tenner was back in Chicago, and Lady Bledzo wanted to talk to him about additional opportunities. He wanted to talk to her, too — there may have been a romantic angle to their partnership, and (he would later allege) she may have cheated him out of $5,000. They had much to discuss.
Tenner was staying at the Leland Hotel in Uptown, not far from Lady Bledzo’s old stomping ground at the Shenandoah Hotel. She was living in a tonier neighborhood, on Goethe. They arranged to meet at Dearborn St and North Avenue, near Lincoln Park.
However, someone tipped Tenner off ahead of time: He was being set up. Tenner notified the police, who staked out the corner where they were going to meet.
Sure enough: Lady Bledzo arrived, driving, with two men in the car. They attempted to shove Tenner into the car, there was a scene, and the detectives arrested Lady Bledzo and her accomplices.
Her partners in this scheme were no one she should be associating with. “Peter” Korshak (whose name was actually Theodore), was a thief who hung out with the likes of famous forger Aaron Moshiek. Harold Partner was an extortionist, and would be killed by police in 1932.
They were next-level criminals, and there were no good reasons for Lady Bledzo to be in a car with them. Even if the trio only planned to beat up Tenner and dump him somewhere, she was acceding to a new level of violence and danger. The whiff of desperation around this plan is undeniable.
Lady Bledzo got out of jail the next day, and proceeded to compound her situation. Tenner agreed to meet her downtown, in the lobby of the Hotel Sherman. Their discussion was straightforward. Lady Bledzo asked Tenner if he would press charges in the kidnapping case. When he said he planned to, she may or may not have hit him in the face. Tenner agreed to drop the kidnapping charges, at which point Lady Bledzo pressed charges against HIM, for disorderly conduct.
Tenner was the one who went to jail that night.
The Lady Vanishes
Chicago; Nov. 7, 1927
Lady Bledzo was a woman in demand. She actually had two court appearances scheduled on Monday, November 7.
She was scheduled to appear in the court at South Clark St. court, regarding the Hotel Sherman situation with Tenner. She was also expected to appear in court on Chicago Avenue, charged with defrauding an innkeeper. She owed back rent at the Goethe Shore apartments, where she was living, and the owners had had enough.
Lady Bledzo did not make either appearance. Her new attorney, Daniel Wolf, told the court she would ask for a jury trial in the rent case, but no case ever showed in the newspapers.
And Lady Bledzo herself never appeared in the papers again. Like a comet, she had already moved out of their sight. ☗
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