Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dorothy Dare - An Intriguing Tale

Dorothy Dare was an actress who appeared in several features of the 1930s. She was a singer in some of the movies, and while not a star, she played memorable supporting roles. Perhaps her most notable appearance was in "Gold Diggers of 1935", which starred Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, and many others.

Here are a few vintage photos of Ms. Dare, provided by a friend who received them in email from a person who claimed he recently was Dare's "secretary" (he's signed off on some of the emails I've copied and pasted further on into this writing):

Ms. Dare's movie career was over by the early 1940s, and she faded into obscurity, as so many movie people of years ago have done.

In the past year or so, a person identifying herself as Dorothy Dare, the 1930s actress, popped up on the internet, registering in forums and message boards. She offered stories and anecdotes of many of the people she worked with. She freely gave her email address, and invited, indeed encouraged, movie fans to write to her. I know several people who did so, asking questions about her contemporaries such as whatever happened to them, what was it like to work with them, etc.

I wrote to her twice myself, the first time asking about an obscure actress named Frances McCoy. Ms. Dare's reply was that she didn't know Frances McCoy, but she did know the western actor Col. Tim McCoy. Apparently Frances McCoy was too obscure to admit knowing.

The second time, I sent her this email:

"Hello Dorothy,
I hope this finds you in good health and enjoying receiving emails from movie fans. I'm attaching to this email, a scan of the page from the pamphlet 'Foods and Fashions of 1936', which I've had in my collection for some time, and just found it again while looking for some other items. You probably already have this, but if you don't, well here it is. Let me know if it is large enough for you to read. Now maybe you can tell me if the recipe was really one of yours, or did a publicity agent just match up his own choice of recipes with Hollywood stars? Thank you very much for your attention and previous replies to my 'whatever happened to...?' emails.
Sincerely,Bill Cappello"

Below is the scan I included with the above email:

Here is her reply - I've copied and pasted it, to show how she always "wrote" her emails:

"Dearest Bill:
Thank you my dear for sending the recipe and article. Yes, this is my recipe from my earlier days in Hollywood, I still prepare this recipe during the holiday season.
I love to cook and this is one of the easier recipes to prepare. You should make it for yourself and see whether you like it??
Much Happiness,

Ms. Dare continued her emails to others, and she also would tell people she was in contact by email and text messaging with many other old-timers. This was astonishing, considering that Ms. Dare was in her 90s, as would be any of her living contemporaries.

Some people were beginning to suspect that Dorothy Dare was not really the actress, but rather an impostor, most likely a much younger person, pretending to be her. Suspicions continued to grow when Ms. Dare would report the "recent deaths" of movie people who were known to have died some years ago, and then explain that her memory wasn't too good, and that's why she gave wrong information. For some of the movie people with whom she claimed to be in recent contact, when asked for mailing addresses, she'd reply that the person had just died.

Some people I know, sent some photos to an address provided by Ms. Dare's "secretary", who offered to have her autograph them. However, none of the photos was ever returned, signed or not.

Here is a supposedly recent photo of Dorothy Dare, posted on a YouTube video picturing Hollywood stars then-and-now (the video has since been removed by the person - Dare's "secretary" - who created it):
Word was spreading that Ms. Dare was not authentic, and the person/persons perpetrating this fraud began to get nervous. The first red flag was a change of email address. I received this email on April 15:

Dear Mr. Cappello:
Dorothy has requested I send you her new email address, dorothyhdare@aol.com, please make a note.

B. Sonvervjelde

Secretary to Dorothy Dare"

The change of email was supposedly because Dorothy was upset that people thought she was an impostor, and was receiving harassing emails from some of those people.

A few days later, on April 22, I, along with others in Dorothy's address book, received this email, each with a personalized greeting:

"Dear Bill:

It is with deep sorrow that I must inform you of Ms. Dare's passing. I received a call early this morning from Dorothy's daughter, stating Ms. Dare died in her sleep. I am devastated and shocked as is everyone! I loved Dottie and she is irreplaceable! I am very sorry to have to inform you.

I will be in Laguna Beach today with Ms. Dare's family and I will inform you of the funeral plans soon as I find out.

Most Sincerely,
Bron Sonvervjelde
Sherman Oaks, CA"

So now Dorothy Dare was dead. Or was she? Or had she already been dead for many years?

Yet another email was sent by this "Bron" person, to a friend whom he asked to write an obituary for Dorothy. This only added to the confusion:

"Ms. Dare married musician and later Business Executive, John L. Van Dam, May 22, 1942 and he passed away in 1995. Survivors are 4 children, 3 sons and one daughter. 14 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

I never knew Dorothy was married for so many years! She was very private and she never divulged any information regarding her family life. Dottie believed family was seperate from her public life and often would say, "Children need to be shielded from the harsh realities of public life and this includes the Hollywood spotlight!" I guess this is why she left Hollywood so soon??

Dorothy's grandson Laird says, "My Grandmother referred to my Grandfather as the greatest love in her life." She would often say, "I never would have believed I would be so lucky in life. I married a beautiful man, I was blessed with delightful children and I have the most wonderful grandchildren!" "What more can a Dutch girl ask for?"

This makes me so happy reading this statement from Laird and I must admit, it does make me both smile and cry at the same time. Laird says, Dottie married in Chicago. Sari states, "My Mother remained friends with many from her Hollywood days and shared many friendships with her fans." "She shared many interests in her life and especially enjoyed the "wonders" of the Internet and she loved her i-phone!" "Texting and e-mailing were her favorite things to do", states her friend former actress/dancer Cyd Charisse.

Sincerely, Bron
I hope this helps you some, I must admit, these are very trying times right now.
Dottie's daughter is very distraught right now and I will be with her for the next few days."

Nothing could be found on a John Van Dam dying in 1995. The person who received the above email did a brief search on the internet and found a link in a December 2007 newsletter of the Larchmont (NY) Historical Society, which has a reprint of a newspaper article from 1949, in which the author writes of his childhood in Larchmont in 1899. Two of his friends are Colby and Loring Van Dam, sons of the "well-known actress Dorothy Dare". I contacted the archivist of the LHS and inquired if they had anything on Dorothy Dare, or the Van Dam family, but nothing was found in any of their sources. Apparently there was an earlier 'Dorothy Dare, actress' who married a 'Van Dam' - how coincidental could it be that the 1930s 'Dorothy Dare' also married a 'Van Dam'? This puzzle was becoming more intriguing with every bit of information that was found. My friend did not write an obituary for the "recently deceased Dorothy Dare", as he, too, was suspicious.

I began to search for more information on Dorothy Dare. None of my fellow researchers had anything substantial to go on - no vital information was available in any of the old Motion Picture Almanac directories, or similar sources. However, in thoroughly searching on the internet, all pages that were brought up containing the name "Dorothy Dare", I did find this entry:

Whomever provided this information, gave Dorothy's birth name as "Herskind", born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I then used the powerful search engine of Ancestry.com, and the one hit that came up, was an entry in the California Death Index, for a "Dorothy Dare - birth surname Herskind, born in Pennsylvania, died in 1981 in Orange County", as seen in this screenshot:
I asked a genealogist friend in Los Angeles to obtain a copy of the death certificate. The document provided primary confirmation that this was the real Dorothy Dare:
EMPLOYER: Warner Brothers Studios

My next step was to contact the informant who was listed on the certificate, shown as a "friend" of the deceased. I was hoping she was still living, and sure enough, she was. She verified for me that the Dorothy Dare she knew, was indeed the movie actress, as she (Dorothy) had several photos from her career and would sometimes talk about her days in movies.

The final verification was from the Warner Brothers Archives at University of Southern California. Another friend who had also been in email contact with "Dorothy Dare", called the curator, who located several contracts from the 1930s, showing Dorothy's name as "Dorothy Dare A/K/A Herskind".

So now it's official: the "real" Dorothy Dare died in 1981, and the "internet" Dorothy Dare was definitely an impostor.

The internet is certainly filled with strange characters, but why a young man or woman, or group of persons, would pose as a 92-year-old retired movie actress - well, I'll leave that to others to ponder.

(I wonder who really is the old gal in the 'recent' photo shown above?)

***I apologize for the rather sloppy appearance of the above posting, but I thought it best to copy and paste certain items rather than just re-type them.


nonsportsnut said...

Hi Bill,
Great, fair, accurate description of the situation. Hopefully, this will surface some additional facts that will finally bring a truthful finality to Dorothy's (2008) story.

Frank Reighter

catsafterme said...

Amazing. I wonder if it was merely a way to get attention or if there was some 'money-making' scheme behind it.

Even stranger in light of characters like Our Gang's Harry Spear who wanted nothing to do with his past - even when offered $1000 for a one-hour interview!

Anonymous said...

A great breakdown of this very complicated story, Bill.
Your detective work uncovered the truth and now the "real" Dorothy Dare can rest in peace. Such a shame her name was dragged through the mud by these scammers!
Again, wonderful work, Bill. Thanks for sharing.


Louis-Mathieu said...

Hi Bill,

You are truly dedicated to everything you do and that shows in your blog. I agree with everybody that you did an awesome job at informing people of the situation.

Long life to your website & blog!


momcat said...

What a cruel hoax. As previously stated by "Michelle", now the real Dorothy Dare can rest in peace, thanks to your excellent detective work, Bill.

ginamarie said...

HI Bill,
I am the girl who exposed this Bron guy aout a month ago..he has been playing people for a many of yrs. Really, he has gone out of his way to "be" Ms.Dare.
I posted my thought on Missy Joes blog a moth ago for people to be alerted there is an imposter for Ms. Dare, and he stood up and jumped down my throat also threatened my life. I reported him, what good that did.
He even made a webpage stating that "some crazy girl is saying that an imposter of Ms. Dare is running around the net"
He was headstrong about this, and it got me thinking..he is the one!
I exposed him and then all of a sudden he canged all his accounts, deleted posts EVERYWHERE, and just totally jumped off the internet planet. I thank you Bill for getting this info in great detail..noone deserves to be led on like that. A 14 yr. old boy was emailing "Ms. Dare" and he was so thrilled about talking w/ her, I had to let him down, he was so hurt. Now thats really horrible to do to someone by leading them on.
Glad the truth is out...Good work Bill.

nonsportsnut said...

Hi Bill,

Howard Muttimewes emailed "the final nail" in the "fraud Coffin" prepetrated by "Dorothy Dare", Jeff Stride Matteson, Laird Van Dam, Damien, Bronwyn Sonvervselde and/or Anatol. If you go to google images and type in "Anne Slater", you will find loads of images of this New York Socialite, who is NOT involved in this scam in any way. Her photo with Kitty Carlisle Hart had Anne's image cropped and used by Bronwyn several times as Dorothy. Bronwyn claimed the image was given him by "Dorothy".
I don't believe there ever was an elderly woman in Burbank, CA. who knew how to do this. Since I have been emailing Bronwyn about these inconsistancies, he's disappeared and cancelled several of his email addresses. He never produced the contact name of "Dorothy Dare's daughter Sari", and never sent me a Bereavement Card from "Dorothy's Funeral".
I guess now he's buried deeper than Dorothy ever was. (R.I.P. Bronwyn!)

Frank Reighter

Kevin said...

Hi Bill, et al. Very detailed account of this scam. I, too, was taken in. I own the MarieDressler.com Web site (Plz check it out) & "Dorothy Dare" signed my GuestBook 1 day & when I E-mailed her, "she" stated that she used to live next door to & was good friends w/ Marie (who died in '34). I was skeptical at 1st (due to her age, etc.), but then found some articles on the Net re/ how Elizabeth Taylor & Dorothy E-mail each other. We were actually E-mailing each other for a while & "she" even sent a recent pic of herself & invited me to lunch the next time I was in LA on business!! KEVIN

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate your Blog concerning Ms Dare and the ridiculous situation regarding the cretin who felt compelled to "impersonate" her. Below please find the URL to her Findagrave page which I put up last year. Along with a brief biography, it also includes a photo of her grave taken by a trusted friend of mine.


In appreciation~

Anonymous said...

The 'supposed' Dorothy Dare is one Mrs. Anne Slater. A famous New York socialite well known for her insisting on wearing those blue tinted cats eyes. Just google her and find out more.

nonsportsnut said...

As I remember, when the "fake" Dorothy Dare was being circulated, the scam artist would take stories about the real Dorothy, and claim that it was "S(he)" who was her. That included the article on Dorothy and Elizabeth Taylor, and a posting of a photo of Anne Slater used as being the image of "Dorothy Dare". The photo was posted on whosdatingwho.com, and became the internet gospel of "This is Dorothy Dare today". Thankfully, the scam artist decided to give up the scam by declaring Dorothy died. The real Dorothy did die in 1981.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember fighting with Brom..aka Dorothy Dare.
I had a feeling all along this was a fake with the fact that Dorothy was more computer suaavy that me (AND SHE WAS IN HER 90'S ??).sssuuure.
The dude was VERY persistant and was threating me when I exposed him for who he was.
He even had a "friend" of his email saying I better quit telling him that Dorothy Dare was a fraud ..or else! Well, I told everyone who was thinking she was emailing her .I wasn't taken very seriously AT FIRST. Finally... FINALLY people starting believing and then ...POOF! Dorothy was gone.. (to the land of OZ) lol

Benny Drinnon said...

I believe the fourth picture down from the top is actress Dorothy Appleby. - Benny Drinnon