Sunday, March 1, 2009

Person of interest: Bruz Fletcher - Risque songsmith on the Sunset Strip

Born Stoughton Fletcher III in Indianapolis, 'Bruz' grew up in the lap of luxury. His grandfather (Stoughton I) created a banking empire and became one of the wealthiest men in Indiana. Before the family's fortune was lost in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Bruz's father (Stoughton II) owned Laurel Hall Farm, one of the greatest horse breeding farms in America (it's star was famous stallion 'Peter the Great').
Bruz eschewed the family interests and gravitated towards musical entertainment, performing in Palm Beach and New York before hitting Hollywood. By 1929 Bruz had written numerous songs for the motion picture industry and was the accompanist for film star Esther Ralston's post-film vaudeville debut. He moved on to entertain at the Cafe LaMaze before settling into a four-year engagement at Icky Outhwaite's Club Bali, this is where he achieved his greatest recognition (see the accompanying and mis-spelled ad). Filmdom's own flocked in droves to hear Bruz's risque ditties, such as "Bring Me a Lei from Hawaii" and "The Hellish Mrs. Haskell".
Unfortunately Bruz's life was filled with tragedy. Two months after the family lost their fortune, Bruz's mother committed suicide by drinking hydrocyanic acid. Bruz's grandmother, distraught upon finding her body, drank what was left of the hydrocyanic acid and also died. On July 19, 1927, Bruz's older sister (and closest family member) Louisa died of meningitis at the age of 24. On July 1, 1938, while out buying cigarettes at the drug store, Bruz's Laurel Canyon home (which he shared with lover Casey Roberts) burned to the ground. Besides the house Bruz also lost two cats, a dog and a monkey. Bruz's run at the Club Bali ended in early 1940 and, suffering from depression, he took his own life in February 1941.