.Lon Chaney's Shadow: John Jeske and the Chaney Mystique
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BearManor Media priced the book at a very reasonable $19.95, but there are reduced prices on many of the web sites noted above.  You can also ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you, or request a copy from your library.

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(c) 2009-2014 Suzanne Gargiulo
Lon Chaney's Shadow: 
John Jeske and the
Chaney Mystique 

by Suzanne Gargiulo
With a foreword by Philip J. Riley

ISBN:  1593933304
184 pages, illustrated
BearManor Media, July 2009

(Kindle Version:  August 3, 2010)

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"Lon Chaney's Shadow: John Jeske and the Chaney Mystique reveals an unexplored and controversial side of the great silent film actor Lon Chaney's life by taking a close look at his relationship with friend, chauffeur, and make-up assistant, John Jeske. Books previously published of Chaney's life and career document his phenomenal talent in the art of motion picture make-up and acting, but the reader comes away without a full understanding of who Chaney was as a man. This book focuses on the human level of the relationship between Lon, his son Creighton (Lon, Jr.), second wife Hazel, and their "faithful servant," so the pieces of the emotional and psychological dynamics at work in this complex story can finally be appreciated for the significant impact they had on Chaney's career.

The John Jeske story is at its core a fascinating glimpse into a world which has until now been off limits to all but the most dedicated of researchers. The majority of evidence to link the two men has been purposely suppressed or destroyed--a great deal of it was destroyed by Chaney himself and his wife Hazel to keep alive the myth that Chaney did not need help of any kind. The story of Jeske's life and work with Lon Chaney is therefore fragmented at best, but I believe, through painstaking research, I have recovered enough to finally reveal the truth. This book fills the gap left behind by every other Lon Chaney biography and is an essential addition to the libraries of Chaney fans and film historians worldwide."


I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Lon Chaney's contribution to the art of motion picture make-up and character acting.  He was a true genius and pioneer of early cinema who deserves his rightful place as one of Hollywood's best.  Revealing some of his secrets will do more to appreciate his enormous talent than diminish it.  John Jeske played an important role in final years of Lon Chaney's life and beyond into the tumultuous years between 1930 and Hazel's death in 1933.  Jeske's story didn't end there,  though, and the bizarre kidnapping of 1934, death threats, and his descent into a world of paranoia speak of the tragedy that filled every aspect of his life.  I hope all those who claim to be fans of Lon Chaney will read the book with an open mind and understand the real purpose of the book--to set the record straight and remove any doubt as to the true nature of Jeske's motives and character.


NEW INFORMATION!  After a long hiatus of mainly doing the daily "grind" thing and trying to forget I ever had the pleasure of writing a book;  out pops a lovely morsel of new information regarding John Jeske!  I finally took a peek at the 1940 US Census data, and was very excited by what I found--even though it would mean a little re-arranging of the known timeline of Jeske's final years.  It looks like Jeske did not move into the house on Laurel Avenue until at least 1941.  According to the census data, Jeske was a lodger in a home on Fountain Avenue.  I haven't had a chance to research the names of the other tenants, but I suspect there is a connection somewhere (one is an owner/operator of an auto repair shop, for example).  It figures that the data shows Jeske did not have an income in 1939 (the Chaney estate funds ran dry in 1938), but what was a surprise is that as of 1940 Jeske was working as a "collector" for a bookie!  I know there is the general idea that Lon Chaney had some underworld connections, and Jeske's association with Chaney and the Alturas Hotel makes that fairly clear, so it's not that big of a stretch to see Jeske landing a job in that "industry".  The really fascinationg thing to me, though, is simply the question "Why?".  Why did he feel the need to stay in the shadows like that when he had all the knowledge of the "Master" at his disposal?  As frustrating as it may be, there are just some questions that ;may never be answered.  At least a tiny sliver of light has illuminated yet another bizarre corner in the story of John Jeske.  It also provides the seed to yet another amazing story of what Jeske might have been doing while in the employ of the bookie. 
Strong-arm techniques?  Intimidation?  Guns??  If someone doesn't think this story is crazy enough to make a movie out of, then Hollywood has lost all its imagination for sure (I'm just saying...)

I found this amazing little article from the San Mateo Times and Daily News Leader, March 5, 1934:  "'Sandy', Lon Chaney's wire-haired terrier, is dead, and his remains will rest with those of his master and mistress.  Since the recent passing of Mrs. Chaney, Sandy had lived with John Jeske, chauffeur and faithful friend of the actor and of his wife.  The dog had every care, but he was old and one morning last week, Jeske found him dead.  The ex-chauffeur believes that Lon would want his pet to be near him, so he had the remains cremated and will put them in a silver urn on top of the Chaney vault.  The urn will carry the inscription:  "Sandy Chaney--1922-1934". -- I always wondered what happened to Sandy.  Now that mystery is solved!

Lon Chaney's Shadow was nominated for a Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award  for "Best Book of the Year" (2010), but unfortunately it did not win.  Nevertheless, I am  very honored to have been nominated and thank everyone involved for their support.