Above: Clifford T. Bell in
Los Angeles c. 1940

Photo: The Secret Archives of The
Noble & Antediluvian Order of The
Brotherhood of the Purple Fez
What can be said about an individual whose life has become the stuff of legend?
Clifford T. Bell's life like those of all legends is a mixture of fact, speculation and myth
and is in many was an enigma on par with the Gordian Knot - and like that ancient
puzzle as impossible to untangle.  Did Clifford want to be part of a great and unsolved
mystery or was he simply a man caught up in something greater than he understood? His
story will take you from the Low Country of Louisiana to the sands of the Sahara
Desert, from Tabasco Sauce to Touareg Tribesmen. Finally it will take you to the great
and powerful Purple Fez that took Clifford to the heights power and then to his tragic
and ultimate disappearance in the dark and lonely corridors beneath an old National
Guard Armory in the City of Angeles. Norman Chandler himself would be hard pressed
to do Clifford's story justice.
The following fragmentary biographical sketch has been painstakingly brought together
by the monk-like efforts of members of the Noble & Antediluvian Order of the
Brotherhood of the Purple Fez. Brothers have traveled to the far corners of the world in
search of new clues into Clifford’s life - from damped stained parish registers in
Louisiana to the archives of the French Foreign Legion in Bouches-du-Rhône, France
and finally to sunny Southern California. Just when is seems that each and every avenue
of investigation had been exhausted some new clue comes to light drawing those of us
who search for them onwards to what ultimate end none yet guess.
Above: Clifford's 1935 California Drivers
License showing his birth date of June, 23,
1900. It also shows Clifford as being
completely unremarkable in appearance
standing 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown hair
and brown eyes that required the assistance
of "adequate glasses".

From the Secret Archives of The Noble &
Antediluvian Order of The Brotherhood of the
Purple Fez
Based on certain extant documents now housed in the Brotherhood's Secret
Archives including his 1935 California Drivers License, Clifford was born on
June 30, 1900 in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana. He was the progeny of the large
and somewhat dubiously regarded Bell family which was known to the
constantly bemused locals as the "Bells of St Mary's". While many of
Clifford's close relatives are known, no record of Clifford’s birth parents have
been found even after months of combing through local parish records by
members of the Brotherhood.  Little if anything has come to light about
Clifford’s early life although some peculiarities have become evident. Based
upon a few extant records from the period it seems that Clifford was
somewhat stigmatized within his own extended family by being the only
member of the Bell clan whose proper name did not begin with the letter "B".  
Additionally no one knows what his middle initial "T" stood for even though
every Bell family member had it. These are two of the many mysteries that
surround the strange life of Clifford T. Bell but were certainly not the greatest.
The Bell family was seemingly well to do by parish standards and was ruled
its irascible patriarch Buford T. “Gettysburg” Bell. Old Gettysburg was noted
for his many failed business ventures the most famous of which was his
so-called "Bell's Drive Through Dry Goods Emporium & Hootenanny". Started around
1910 the Hootenanny was an early attempt at the creation of the modern convenience
store that was probably doomed from the start since there were only six automobiles in all
of St Mary’s in 1910.
Above: A young Clifford (left)
in pictured in this cabinet
photograph at the grand
opening of the family
Hootenanny. Pictured with
Clifford are his grandfather
Buford T. "Gettysburg" Bell,
his two cousins Beulah T. and
Bertha T. Bell. In the
background is uncle Boscoe T.
Bell. c.1910. This is the earliest
known image of
Clifford T. Bell.

From the Secret Archives of The
Noble & Antediluvian Order of The
Brotherhood of the Purple Fez
Clifford first comes to the fore after he took
employment at the Hootenanny sometime
around 1910. Things went peacefully until 1917
when Clifford was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Attached to the 117th Supply Train of the
42nd "Rainbow Division" (probably due to his
experience working in his grandfather's
Emporium) he was shipped to France. His
having been born in a French speaking
Louisiana local no doubt aided him while
overseas although he seems to have done
nothing to distinguished himself in the eyes of
his superiors. Discharged as a Private 1st Class
on March 31, 1919 Clifford returned home
expecting to find his old job waiting for him.  
This was not to be as the fates - or at least
cousin Binford - had other plans for Cliiford.
Above: Clifford's discharge from the U.S.
Army at the close of World War One.
The document is endorsed by Douglas
MacArthur who commanded the 42nd
Division during the war. Clifford's
character is curiously listed as "Excellent
- if slightly eccentric".  More curious is
the signature on the reverse of the
document  - that of Rita Hayworth -
which must have been added many years
later. Clifford seems to have had some
kind of relationship with Miss Hayworth
the exact nature of which is still a
mystery.

From the Secret Archives of The Noble &
Antediluvian Order of The Brotherhood of the
Purple Fez
While Clifford was off fighting the Kaiser his 4F cousin Binford T. Bell had quietly
usurped Clifford’s position and soon set about to make sure things stayed that
way. Exactly what happened next is not clear but certain events and an ensuing
scandal would cause Clifford to exile himself and never return to St. Mary’s. The
casus belli (or should that be Belli?) of the scandal was the delivery of a several
barrels of Tabasco Sauce to the Bell establishment in April 1922.
There is no record of the nature of the scandal but it is certain that Clifford had no part in it. In fact the locals seem to have
been aware of the true nature of events (even if Buford T. “Gettysburg” Bell was not) cousin Binford took no short time in
hoisting the blame on Clifford and soon became known as “The Squealer” – an epithet he wore till the end of his miserable
days.
Left: Right: Yellowed and brittle with age, this newspaper clipping was found among various
personal effects of Clifford T. Bell by the Brotherhood in the tunnels that lie beneath the old
National Guard Armory in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. Like so many things relating to the
story of Clifford T. Bell and the Purple Fez, it is enigmatic in its incompleteness and in many
ways only adds to the mystery. Why did Clifford keep this reminder of a shameful past? Was it
to remind him why he could never return home? Or did it hold a clue to his possible
innocence? In any event it was one of the few things that he kept linking him to the cypress
trees and bayous of Saint Mary's Parish. One can only be amazed by the story that this small
piece of paper could tell since it must have been on Clifford's person when fate swept him up
and deposited him amid the vast wastes of the Sahara Desert as a member of the famed Legion
Etrangere, know to the world as The French Foreign Legion.

From the Secret Archives of The Noble & Antediluvian Order of The Brotherhood of the Purple Fez
Why Clifford chose the path he did is not known but perhaps it was in part due to his war
time experiences in France that ultimately led him to follow in the footsteps of so many
young men who sought to forgetfulness and into the ranks French Foreign Legion. The
Legion was the age-old final refuge for men fleeing their past and in this Clifford was no
exception. Having
"flown the coup" as his grandfather Buford put it, Clifford would find a
surrogate home and would learn all about the virtues of honor and duty, something that he
could have learned while young in the Boy Scouts had grandpa Buford not thought of
Scouting  as nothing  more than
"a danged Yankee conspiracy" .
Right: Clifford's World War
One Victory Medal. This was
the only decoration awarded to
Clifford for his service during
the Great War.

From the Secret Archives of The
Noble & Antediluvian Order of
The Brotherhood of the Purple Fez