It’s not surprising that someone named Rosewll
Chester Beecroft would want to change his name,
but if he had not given himself the name “Sinbad,” one can’t imagine a better
A true adventurer,
Sinbad was, at times, a childhood Broadway actor, theatre and movie mogul,
newspaper man and sailor.
Beecroft was the stuff of family legends.
“Uncle Chester was far and away my favorite uncle,” says Billy Beecroft,
who was named for Sinbad’s brother. “He provided non-stop entertainment. He was
Each retelling of a story was better than the last.”
Sinbad had no shortage of stories, and, despite his humble admission to
all of them were true.
Born sometime in 1881 in Flushing, N. Y., he began early as a child on the stage
in a play called The Only Way.
While still a child, he starred on Broadway and eventually graduated from the
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
in New York City.
Foreshadowing his later days on the sea, he was also a medal-winning competitive
swimmer and diver at the
New York Athletic Club.
After some years on the stage, Beecroft tried his hand as a reporter for The New
then moved to public relations, first for the Hotel Astor and later for Motion
When Motion Picture Patents folded, Sinbad re-entered show business as general
manager for Charlie Chaplain’s
General-Chaplain Company, which produced Chaplain’s two-reel short films.
When World War I broke out, Beecroft left show biz again and served as a war
correspondent in Russia;
he was in Moscow for the communist Red Revolution in 1917.
During the depression, Beecroft worked at a producer and writer for William
Cosmopolitan Productions, Inc., where he worked with such notables as Lionel
Hearst’s famous mistress Marion Davies.
He also worked as a theatrical agent in New York. One day, his secretary told
that a man had arrived to speak with him, without an appointment. She handed
the man’s card which read simply “Houdini.” Beecroft had heard of the
illusionist and asked the secretary to show him in. Upon entering, Houdini asked
could have the card back; he only had one.
Beecroft returned to the theatre as director of the Kinston Little Theatre, and
well-known for owning small Rat Island in Long Island Sound, where he lived and
many local theatre and film notables. His cottage there burned down in 1931.
Chester dubbed himself Sinbad when he joined the Merchant Marines when World War
II broke out.
When his ship was sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Casablanca, he was
adrift at sea
for three days.
It’s not quite clear when Chester and his brother William (W. G.) Beecroft both
fell in love with
Frieda Schmidt, but family lore says it was Chester who fell first. Ever the
stepped aside and allowed W. G. to marry her. W. G. died suddenly, when the
youngest of their six
children was only 5, but Chester never acted on his love for Frieda.
After the war, Sinbad remained a sailor, working on cruise ships. He spent his
final twelve years
as a quartermaster for President Line ships. He died in his native New York on
January 7, 1959,
at the age of 77, after suffering a heat-stroke and complications from skin
cancer. Fittingly for
this sailor and romantic, he was buried at sea on Valentine’s Day.
Though he never had any children of his own, he took delight in his nieces and
nephews and their
children; his niece Betty was his frequent companion at the race track.
His niece Barbara once took her young son Rusty to see Sinbad off on one of his
“I thought that was the coolest thing that I’d ever seen,” says Rusty.
“Actually, it’s still about
the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen.”
“(He was) my role model in life,” says his great-niece Sam. “I loved him and
admired his life style
and panache. I will never forget the few times I got to see him. He was a
Some family members say he never married, others say he was married three or
four times, but there
is no question he carried a torch for Frieda Schmidt until he died.
“Dear Frieda,” he wrote in 1950,
“In far off Cathay (China), the sea –
“The… delicacy of this sweet-scented sandalwood fan brought you vividly to mind;
and though it is
but a small offering, it looms large as a symbol of your own sweet self, and as
a token of the love of Sinbad.”