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Rudy Vallee’s Long-Locked Safe Is Cracked

Times Staff Writer

Geraldo Rivera wasn’t there. Telly Savalas couldn’t make it either.

But the scheduled opening of crooner Rudy Vallee’s safe Tuesday drew plenty of other notables, including:

- One of the top singing impersonators of Vallee (in fact, maybe the only one).

- A man who plans to sell 500 Vallee neckties.

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- A former co-star who revealed that he snubbed her when she saw him at a party a few years ago.

The safe opening was held in the late entertainer’s personal museum (called Tribute) at his pink Hollywood Hills mansion on Pyramid Place, which he tried unsuccessfully in the 1970s to have renamed Rue de Vallee.

The singer, whose trademarks were a megaphone and raccoon coat, was said to have closed the safe for the last time in 1942. He died in 1986, after having forgotten the combination.

Naturally, it was a job for Clifford Cox, “Safecracker to the Stars,” who said his credits include opening safes for the late Alfred Hitchcock and John Wayne.

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But first, to build the suspense to the breaking point, there was the floor show, a rendition of Vallee’s greatest hits, including “Heigh Ho Everybody,” by sound- and look-alike Jeff Gilbert (sans megaphone), the announcement that the Vallee ties will go on sale at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton in January and reminiscences by Sally Blane, a co-star in the 1929 film, “The Vagabond Lover,” who was introduced as the sister of Loretta Young.

“She’s my sister,” Blane replied with a laugh. “I’m the older sister.”

Then it was time for the celebrity safecracker to work his magic.

One of the most dramatic moments for the 30 or so spectators occurred when the four-foot-high vault was opened, and publicist Chris Harris--obscured by camera crews--announced:

“Here’s one of his wives!”

However, it was only a photograph.

Money and jewels were absent, but other items included the original manuscript for “The Vagabond Lover,” an album of Vallee records, a Luger pistol and various old posters.

Possibly not treasures to you, but the Thousand Oaks Library feels differently.

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The safe and a large part of Vallee’s other memorabilia were recently sold to the library for $275,000 by Vallee’s widow, Eleanor, who said she “looked all over the world . . . before choosing Thousand Oaks.”

However, some of the safe’s contents will not go to the library, said Harris, an off-beat publicist whose previous stunts have included asking women on the street if he could hug them (as part of a magazine poll) and housing a live couple in the display window of a department store for 48 hours.

“There are love letters from Hedy Lamarr,” he said. “No one should see those.”


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