She was lustrous and brash, especially on gin-soaked days, lifting her skirt or offering offbeat quotes in jest. And for nearly 100 years her pioneering spirit has been diminished by tales of her alleged cocaine addiction and sordid behaviors.
Mabel Normand loved gin when gin was illegal, that’s true. She especially loved a cocktail of gin and vermouth, even if she had to get her booze from a
bootlegger. The more pressured her life, the more it comforted her and the more her servants watered down the gin bottles.
She carried a monogrammed Cartier’s flask to slip gin into her coffee.
She smoked her Turkish cigarettes through a pearl diamond studded holder.
She was lustrous and brash and often taunted the press, especially on gin-soaked days, lifting her skirt or offering offbeat quotes in jest, “Say anything you like, but don’t say I love to work. That sounds like Mary Pickford, the prissy bitch. Just say I like to pinch babies and twist their legs. And get drunk.”
And perhaps such impetuous behavior by a woman in the early twentieth century sparked the ire of the men covering her career and the scandals that marked her path. Fair? Who can say?
But, one thing is certain, silent film comedienne Mabel Normand’s bawdy tale is one that has been colored by damning reportage of drug dens, dope fiends, murder, lavish parties, illicit affairs, shootings, sanitariums, furtive love and power.
Drug-crazed film queen is murder suspect. – New Orleans States, Feb. 7, 1922
…the film queen was again at a “dope party” morose and embittered, according to police… – Chicago American, Feb.7, 1922
…the film beauty may be the assassin, half-crazed with the drug she had taken…”- New Orleans States, Feb. 7, 1922
Still, to call it anything more than legend would be an egregious error. For hers was a life stained by accusation, innuendo and unsubstantiated claims. It’s a tale of he said, she said. And for nearly 100 years, her pioneering spirit and entrepreneurial talents have been diminished by tales of her alleged cocaine addiction and sordid behaviors.
“The issue of Mabel Normand’s drug addiction is somewhat contentious, since it is not confirmed by any hard evidence. Since we only know the rumor and hearsay, there’s certainly room for doubt,” says Bruce Long, author of William Desmond Taylor, A Dossier, a detailed firsthand accounting of police reports, testimony, news clippings, and inquisition transcripts about the murder of film director, William Desmond Taylor. Mabel Normand was once a suspect in Taylor’s murder. “I think she usually had a sparkling personality, was mischievous, feisty, profane, and had a heart of gold. But, she had an unpleasant side, which perhaps only emerged after she had too much to drink.”