Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gemstone: Where's Howie, Pt. 4

Edited for accuracy February 28, 2007.

Howard Hughes and his organization underwent tremendous change in 1957. That summer, Noah Dietrich, Hughes’ second-in-command, resigned abruptly. Hughes himself had apparently settled down with actress Jean Peters. That year also marked the beginning of his association with CIA contract agent Robert Maheu. Hughes subsequently forged a life-long relationship with the Agency, starting with the purchase of a number of Caribbean islands, off of which the Company launched surveillance and operations against Cuba. That year, he also made himself scarce.

According to Bruce Roberts, Hughes had not gone into hiding willingly, but had been forced out by a much more powerful individual, namely Aristotle Onassis. Although he never mentioned him in his Gemstone writings, Roberts told Stephanie Caruana about a man named L. Wayne Rector, who first served as Hughes’ double in 1955. Hughes used Rector to stand in for him on an ad hoc basis whenever he needed to be two places at once. In 1957, Rector’s impersonation of Hughes became permanent.

When researching Project Seek, Gerald Carroll interviewed former Hughes’ corporate executive Donald Neuhaus, who attended the meeting where Dietrich announced his sudden retirement. It struck Neuhaus as odd at the time, as if there had to be something more to Dietrich’s departure. In later years, he came to the opinion that Hughes was no longer running his own corporation in 1957. Part of Neuhaus’ duties included looking after Peters, Hughes’ putative bride. But the former Hughes aide told Carroll flat out that the marriage never happened. This strengthened Roberts’ claim that the ‘nuptials’ were in fact a cover story meant to explain why the playboy billionaire unexpectedly dropped out of Hollywood social circles. In respect to Roberts’ claim that Rector had been filling in for Hughes, Neuhaus responded that Rector was actually one of three doubles. Neuhaus also knew former Beverly Hills police chief Jack Egger, who said that the CIA ordered him to “keep Hughes bottled up in Beverly Hills” in 1957. There he remained until 1966, when he moved to Las Vegas after purchasing the Stardust and a number of other casino/hotels, all of them managed by Maheu.

In 1970, novelist Clifford Irving presold a biography of Howard Hughes to McGraw-Hill. Irving claimed that Hughes had complained about people holding him against his will, and that his Mormon bodyguards were part of the plot to keep him at bay. One of the bodyguards, identified only by the name Merryman, supposedly sick of Hughes’ inhumane imprisonment, acted as a go-between for the reclusive billionaire and the writer. Irving produced two handwritten memos to McGraw-Hill as proof that he had in fact been in touch with Hughes, who consented to the project. McGraw subjected the notes to handwriting analysts who confirmed their authenticity.

Before McGraw-Hill could get the final draft to the printers in 1972, someone claiming to be Hughes held a news conference with seven journalists whom Howard had known since the 1950s. The voice stated flatly that the “autobiography” was a hoax. Initially, Irving stood by his story, only conceding that Hughes did not know about the book. Eventually, however, Irving admitted that he had in fact perpetrated a hoax, a position that he has maintained up to the present time.

At the same time, some doubted Irving’s confession. San Francisco Examiner managing editor Frank McCullough, who had been in contact with Hughes off and on for over a decade, read Irving's polished manuscript. As someone who knew many of the intricate details of Hughes’ existence and network, he came to the opinion that Irving had to have had contact with someone on the inside. Roberts believed that Onassis squelched the bio, and looked for the person who squealed. He finally found out that Merryman--not Maheu as he previously believed--had leaked information to the writer in two audiocassette tapes, so he killed him.

Finally, Roberts contended that Hughes actually died in 1971 on the Greek island of Skorpios. He had been there under Onassis’ watchful eye ever since he left Las Vegas. He was frequently spotted in the open, according to the locals, and the attending nurse, Koula Markopolis who believed Ari when he described the ancient, decrepit man as an old British friend. According to Markopolis:

We had to feed him, bathe him, and clean up after him. Sometimes he seemed to listen to us talk, but there was seldom any sign that he understood. Mostly he stared. He was quite tall, probably well over six feet tall before he was injured....

He weighed practically nothing, just skin and bones, no muscles. He was helpless, like a baby. His body was wasted away....

I was told that part of his brain had been removed years ago. From the condition of the man I could only assume that it was true. He really had no reason to be alive. He must have had a tremendous will and a strong constitution before he was injured.

Markopolis had spoken the above words in 1968 to reporters for Midnight, a Canadian tabloid rag similar to The National Enquirer. Midnight claimed in this article, however, that the man in question was not Howard Hughes, but rather President Kennedy, who had somehow survived the Dallas shooting severely brain damaged (hence the Warren Commission coverup). Midnight also provided a photo of a wheelchair-bound coot attended by a woman who looked vaguely like Jacqueline Kennedy (the former First Lady married Onassis in 1968).

Figure 1. Reprint of Kennedy/Onassis photo on the cover of Weekly World News (click on photo to enlarge)


This old man died in 1971, his absence instantly noticed by the locals. In 1974, Caruana and Mae Brussell suggested that the old man and Howard Hughes were one and the same.

Whether one believes the Gemstone premise or not, someone most likely controlled Hughes. Many explained that Howard was taken over by mental illness, his seclusion caused by a psychotic fear of germs. Yet, Hughes wallowed in germs from 1969-1976, according to his autopsy. In addition to its filthiness, the corpse identified as Hughes by the FBI in 1976 had been severely malnourished. Dozens of hypodermic needles had broken off in his skin. And Prior to 1976, US Customs officials spotted Hughes entering the Bahamas wearing nothing but a diaper and two ersatz shoes made from Kleenex boxes.

Had Hughes actually suffered from schizophrenia, or Schizo Effective Disorder (SED) then one would have to wonder why no one in his family committed him to a hospital, or sought some kind of treatment for him. Nevertheless, were Hughes truly psychotic, someone definitely had been running his empire. The condition of the body leads me to suspect that someone had in fact held him hostage. Yet, one must ask if Onassis was, in fact, the abductor.

Challenging Roberts claims, Brussell made several observations supporting the possibility that Onassis was just as vulnerable to an outside power as Hughes. Simply put, were Onassis and Hughes both controlled by someone else?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gemstone: Where's Howie, Pt. 3

The Gemstone File’s assertion that Howard Hughes disappearance stemmed not from a self-imposed seclusion but rather coercion addressed a number of issues:

(1) A 1932 deal made by Churchill, Kennedy, the mafia and the Roman Catholic Church to gain capital through illicit drug trafficking.

(2) The simultaneous expansion of Hughes’ corporate holdings, and increased political power through defense contracts and the purchasing of politicians.

(3) The use of a number of doubles in order to maintain the illusion of Hughes’ control of his companies during periods of crises.

(4) A convenient marriage to Jean Peters served as the reason for why the notorious playboy Hughes immediately lost interest in other women, and offered a plausible explanation for his sudden change in lifestyle.

(5) Robert Maheu, under the auspices of the Hughes empire, coordinated a number of joint CIA/FBI/mafia operations within the United States, including the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.

(6) The real Howard Hughes' communication of his actual situation to two journalists, Frank McCullough and Clifford Irving (the latter through the intervention of one of his Mormon bodyguards, referred to only by the surname Merryman).

(7) The imprisonment of Hughes on the Greek island of Skorpios, where he died in July 1971—almost five years before his officially proclaimed death in Houston.

As I mentioned earlier, this particular aspect of the Gemstone File is the most interesting to me, for it most neatly touches upon a number of items that are verifiable through independent research. For example, were Onasiss to form a drug-smuggling cartel, he would have to have an insider on the US Maritime Commission, whether Joseph Kennedy, or someone else.

More important, the nature of heroin sales from 1932 to the war years is consistent with the formation of a cartel in the year 1932. After years of health problems stemming from the use of heroin as both a medicinal and recreational drug, the industrialized countries got together to ban its legal production in 1924, thus resulting in the massive shutdown of production facilities in western Asia and Europe. But it took authorities about eight years to curtail the vast majority of illegal opium sales. According to a 1953 United Nations study on the heroin problem, the trade had pretty much shut down by 1932. After a couple of years, however, we see a sharp spike lasting to the dawn of WWII.

Figure 1. Heroin consumption 1931-1950 (UN)


In other words, this study implies a scenario in which a group of individuals cornered a market for heroin in 1932, and took a couple of years to get their bearings. While the sales in no way matched what they were in 1931, fewer parties shared in the profits. The fact that sales tanked during the war years could also be explained by Gerald Carroll’s observation that during wartime, Onassis found something much more profitable to ship, namely weapons and oil, both of which ran scarce in Germany, Italy and Japan at the time.Had such a cartel existed, one would naturally suspect that Aristotle Onassis and his brother-in-law Stavros Niachros had a piece of it, since they were two of the most dominant transatlantic shippers.

Although reasonable, this piece of the Gemstone file lacks evidence. On the other hand, Onassis’ illegal purchases of American surplus ships through dummy corporations left alone by MARCOM are well documented. An unbylined Time magazine article first publicized the link on September 14, 1953, after Assistant Attorney General Warren Burger began a crackdown on illegal ship purchases the previous week. Explaining the ramifications of the new policy, Time wrote.

Hardest hit will be Niarchos, who has had eight tankers and five Liberties seized, and his brother-in-law, Aristotle Socrates Onassis, the Greek capitalist who bought the gambling casino at Monte Carlo and operates some 80 ships around the world....

The dodge used by many foreigners to acquire U.S. ships was to hire U.S. nationals to form a dummy corporation to bid for the vessels. The foreigners would provide the money indirectly, by putting up the collateral for loans which banks would then make to the dummy. After getting title to the ships, the dummy would then lease them to the foreigners at ridiculously low rates—so little that the dummy would never make enough money to incur U.S. taxes. Instead, all the profits would flow to the foreign operators and the true ownership would still be concealed in a bewildering maze of companies.
The potential impounding of eighty large ships, and the confiscation of their cargo whether contraband or not, might have given Onassis further incentive to control Hughes, for Hughes had a habit of buying political clout. Hughes openly contributed to his favorite candidates on the local, state and federal levels before 1957. It would make sense to control the hands that controlled the government affecting your bottom line. On this point both Howard and Ari would agree.

In short, Hughes had political capital within the US that Onassis sorely needed at a time he sorely needed it. That would constitute motive for some kind of manipulation of Hughes by Onassis. The question remains, however, whether it was sufficient motive to kidnap Hughes and effectively imprison him for the rest of his life.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Gemstone: Where's Howie, pt.2

Despite his status as Hughes’ chief aide, Robert Maheu claimed that he only saw Hughes twice, personally, and never after 1966. Other than his bodyguards, no other Hughes employees saw him after 1957. You think that this would have prompted at least some of them to wonder, “Where’s Howie?”

While media and standup jokes depicted Hughes as an eccentric old coot, Bruce Roberts became one the first to assert that Hughes’ disappearance from the public eye wasn’t a case of publicity shyness. Instead, it was a case of kidnapping, the alleged doings of one of Hughes’ most powerful rivals, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. In a letter to Ralph Nader dated February 10, 1972, Roberts wrote:

Robert A. Maheu was well rewarded [for allegedly setting up high-profile assassinations]. By Onassis and the CIA. A half million a year for life, and sole charge of “Hughes” Vegas. Hughes was hyped in 1957, and Onassis took over the whole bit--empire, communications, defense contracts, all of it. Later, Hughes went into a cage on the island of Tinos, Greece (Onassis’ island), and was buried at sea there on April 16, 1971. Jean Peters obtained her “divorce” in early June. Chester Davis assumed “Hughes” in L.A. in 1957, utilizing “Hughes’ “ known eccentricities. It was an easy takeover. Just as easy as changing his name from “Ceasar”--as he was christened when born in Sicily--to Chester, after he arrived in New Jersey.
In a follow up later dated February 10, 1971, Roberts detailed some of the political ramifications of the Hughes kidnapping

Apalachin. Called by Onassis to announce the “hyping” of Hughes--by Cesar Davis, who changed his name to Chester in New Jersey after he arrived from Italy. Mafia leaders from the various states--including my Lombard and Franklin Street friend, Lanza--Alioto’s godfather--were to spread out and scientifically purchase all elections--local, state and federal. Hughes--alive and on his own--had already purchased Dickie Nixon for a tax favor to the Medical Research Foundation, which serves as a tax-free fountain head for all Hughes ventures. When notified -- by Dietrich -- that accepting that loot was treason, Vice President Nixon said “Fuck them. My family comes first.” (Fuck America became the national motto that day--courtesy of Dickie Nixon. My father is across the hall being murdered--courtesy of Dickie Nixon. Mary Jo--Courtesy of Dickie Nixon. Teddy only assisted, Nader. As did you. And Barbara Phillips. That year--1957-- Joseph P. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy hashed it out on Onassis’ yacht, off Monaco.
The motive for Onassis’ alleged kidnapping of Hughes originated, according to Roberts, in a 1932 heroin smuggling deal that included President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US Ambassador to the UK Joseph Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, whose shipping lines would transport opium (referred to here as ‘Turkish tobacco’) from the Middle and Near East to the west. The plan would allow the factions represented by these men to garner the capital needed to establish dominion over global affairs.

Joseph Kennedy was a high-ranking member of the US Maritime Commission (MARCOM ) at the time, and would serve as its director from 1936 until his ambassadorship in 1937. According to both Roberts and Gerald Carroll, author of Project Seek: Onassis, Kennedy and the Gemstone Thesis, Onassis had difficulties buying surplus US military ships because of the distrust many in the US had of him. So, he formed a number of dummy corporations. Kennedy and Roosevelt allegedly halted investigations to ascertain true ownership of these companies, and would thus lead the Maritime Commission to approve the ship sales to Onassis, despite the embargo against him.

As the story goes, Onassis allegedly relied on the cooperation of certain factions of the UK government to keep the British Navy from intercepting drug and other illegal shipments, hence Churchill’s connection. In order to facilitate distribution of the heroin, Onassis had to form an alliance with the Mafia, which was so heavily involved financially and administratively with the Roman Catholic Church as to be indistinguishable. Roberts avered that the the Church saw its expansionit liaison with the organized crime as the fullfillment of the second Fatima prophecy, writing to Nader,”Fatima #2 plunged ahead: ‘Convert the world.’”*

Despite this claimed Vatican/Mafia/Kennedy/Churchill nexus, the Gemstone File asserts that Onassis still had a major problem in the form of a competitor who at the time was amassing his own power base through aviation, media, politics, and the US military and its clandestine services. That competitor was Texas billionaire Howard Hughes. If Onassis could gain control of everything that Hughes ran, his bid for power could proceed unopposed. Thus, Onassis kidnapped Hughes in order to eliminate a dreaded rival and seize his assets.

While evidence supporting this most critical Gemstone supposition is scant, the story woven together by Roberts is mostly consistent with established fact. The problem for the researcher (or for you, dear reader) is determining whether or not the facts actually lead to the conclusion Bruce offered. Although he produced a compelling story, Roberts didn’t produce any substantiation. In later years, some confirmation would trickle in from the efforts of Carroll and other Gemstone researchers.

Notes
*Here, Roberts is a bit loose with his interpretation. The second Fatima prophecy talked about conversion, all right, but only of the Soviet Union:

When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays [of each month]. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gemstone: Where’s Howie?


As a child, I remember billionaire Howard Hughes mostly as the butt of standup comedian jokes, first because of his reclusive life, and then because of his rumored existence as a filthy junkie surrounded by Mormon bodyguards.

Before that life, however, Hughes was quite a different man. One could not underestimate the power he once had, not only because of his money (adjusted for inflation, we’re talking Bill Gates figures here), but also because of his connections to economic and political elites.

In Hughes’ case, what’s stipulated about his life would be enough to grab the attention of any conspiracy researcher. Born in Humble, TX on September 24, 1905, he inherited a share of his father’s business, The Hughes Tool Company (Toolco), at the age of eighteen. After successfully winning a court injunction declaring him an adult, thus allowing him to negotiate complex financial dealings without the approval of his legal guardians, who for him were rivals with equal shares of the family business, he bought out the rest of his family and took over the company completely.

The profits from Toolco allowed Hughes to indulge in a long-held fantasy, namely movie-making. He hired a studio manager, Noah Dietrich, who would serve as his right-hand man until 1957. In 1928, Hughes’ company received the Best Picture Oscar for their third movie, Two Arabian Knights. Yet it was their sixth film, Hell’s Angels, that turned Hughes from a millionaire into a billionaire, despite the fact that it flopped mightily at the box office, with losses of about $1.5 million.

Hell’s Angels had nothing to do with motorcycles gangs, wanton violence or drug trafficking. Rather, it was a story of a squadron of daredevil pilots. During the filming, Hughes took an interest in aviation, and received his pilot’s license before the movie’s release. He became so enthusiastic about flying that he became an American Airlines pilot for a brief spell in 1933--the only actual job he ever had. In 1936, he founded Hughes Aircraft as a subsidiary of Toolco. Through aviation, and the subsequent defense contracts it engendered, Hughes became not only wealthy, but powerful as he gained contacts within Washington power circles. *

With all the money coming in, and his access to a bevy of Hollywood starlets, Hughes, quite naturally, lived large for many years as a playboy of the highest order. Until 1946, he never shunned a camera or the public eye. He slowed down a little from the wild life in 1946 after a plane crash left his face slightly scarred. At this time he no longer sought publicity, although he never shied away from it if necessary. Over the next nine years, he personally directed all of his companies, and continued to produce movies with Dietrich, whose role had expanded from running Howard’s studios to helping him run the empire.

On March 12, 1957, the vibe around all of Hughes’ corporations suddenly changed when Noah Dietrich announced his abrupt resignation in a hastily called meeting. Shortly afterward, Hughes allegedly married Hollywood screen siren Jean Peters (Mae Brussell and Stephanie Caruana gave as the date of the wedding March 13, 1957, while IMDB.com gives it as January 12, 1957—hard to tell, since they kept the nuptials secret). For fourteen years, both she and Hughes spokesmen insisted that the marriage was authentic and valid. At the same time, Peters herself admitted that she only rarely saw her husband. For many years, she flew once a week up from LA to Las Vegas, where Hughes had purchased a number of casinos, and visited him for about a half-hour before she flew back to California. And, according to her, she didn’t see him at all from 1968 until their divorce in June of 1971. She remarried that August.

If Peters rarely saw her husband, that’s more than anyone other than his Mormon bodyguards supposedly did. You see, from 1957, until his putative death in the spring of 1976, hardly anyone saw Howard Hughes. He made no personal appearances after 1957, and only gave interviews over the telephone. Interestingly enough, Hughes’ deep Texas drawl was barely evident in such interviews.

But if the disappearance was strange, so were many of the other aspects of Hughes’ corporations from 1957 onward. Between that year and 1959, Hughes hired private investigator Robert Maheu, initially to thwart penny-ante blackmail attempts, and to dig up secret information on his competitors. Maheu, a former FBI Special Agent, became a contract agent for the CIA in 1960, when the Company hired him to find a hitman willing to take out Cuban Premier Fidel Castro. Maheu thus arranged a meeting between the CIA and crime bosses Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana.

From 1960 on, Howard Hughes’s business concerns became more and more closely tied to clandestine operations, largely due to the workings of Maheu, who took over as Hughes’ top aide in 1966. In their attempts to assassinate Castro, the CIA used as a cover Zapata Petroleum, an oil company owned by future DCI and President George H.W. Bush—identified in a 1963 memo as “from the CIA.” Zapata operated off of islands leased by Hughes in 1957. These same islands became the launching point of many US-backed attempts to overthrow Castro. In 1972, Hughes loaned the CIA one of his ships, the Glomar Explorer, for an unsuccessful attempt to salvage a downed Soviet sub.

Notes
*Hughes Aircraft still exists today as a division of Raytheon, which purchased it in 1997. A satellite company, Hughes Space and Communications was purchased Boeing in 2000. GM had purchased another division of Hughes Aircraft, Hughes Electronics, and sold it to the News Corporation, which then renamed it DirectTV.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gemstone: The Skeletal Mr. Roberts

This continues a series of articles begun during the fall of last year.

During the first half of the year 1975, a young journalist named Stephanie Caruana ran into a bit of bad luck. That June, her employer, Playgirl Magazine, fired her over an article she had submitted about Chappaquiddick. And that was after she had already gotten into trouble with the magazine’s legal staff after publishing an article she co-wrote with Mae Brussell on the disappearance of playboy billionaire Howard Hughes.

She also had another problem. An important source for both the Hughes and Teddy Kennedy stories was hospitalized in March with a softball-sized lump in his chest. This source, a former gem expert named Bruce Roberts, had woven together, in a series of letters written to noted figures, a fascinating narrative of political intrigue involving the Mafia, CIA, President Eisenhower’s industrial-military complex, the Roman Catholic Church, and Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. In toto, Roberts allegedly penned over 1,000 pages of text, 350 of which are extant (and now available on the Internet courtesy of Gary Buell). Caruana feared that someone might have deliberately caused the then-undiagnosed lump in Roberts’ body in order to kill him, and thus silence him.

Sometimes, when conspiracy researchers feel that someone is trying to cool them, they write what’s called a “security letter,” in which they spill the beans on whatever they know in hopes that whatever power wants them rubbed out sees the futility in the action because there is no longer anything to silence. Furthermore, if the author of a security letter dies, then the death looks suspicious and draws more attention on the forbidden subject, even if no nebulous agency or organization played any part of the writer’s demise.

Roberts had written a number of spill-the-beans letters, all right, but there were several obstacles to getting them to a wide audience. First of all, he was laid-up in a hospital bed, and thus couldn’t do the necessary editing. Second, although Caruana could have edited the letters, she had no access to them, nor wouldn’t for decades until she purchased a copy from Mae Brussell's friend Tom Davis. Mae had a copy, but discouraged Caruana from reading them in depth for reasons that I will discuss later. Still, even if Stephanie had a copy of the letters, questions remained whether or not she could edit all of those pages in a timely fashion, and even if she could whether or not they would make any sense.

You see, Roberts’ writing style is difficult to comprehend. In prose that one could charitably characterize as poetic or surrealistic (or to borrow one of Buell’s phrases, “somewhere between eccentric and clinical”), he might have lost a number of readers who couldn’t follow his train of thought:


Dickie [President Richard Nixon] and staff rig a report--“Official”--which negates [Ralph] Nader’s original charge--rotten Corvairs. Necrophiliac Nader--who accepted his Onassis bribe and has gone on toward Mafia heaven--couldn't care less if Dickie boots him in the ass. Helps him with his jollies on Mary Jo’s [Kopechne] rotting corpse. Locally, [San Francisco Mayor Joseph] Alioto boots Chappaquiddick [political actiist Kay] Pachtner in the ass--and she humps all the harder toward Wilkes Barre. (pg. 338)

Caruana took it upon herself to compose a concise summation of everything she had learned from Roberts based on her interviews with him and the few letters made available to her by the Norwegian consulate. She finished the first draft of the outline, titled “The Skeleton Key to the Gemstone File,” by April 1975, and two subsequent drafts over the next two months.

On September 9, 1975, a local newspaper, The City of San Francisco, published an article on Roberts, and included a draft of “The Skeleton Key.” Through that publication and copies Caruana distributed personally, “The Skeleton Key” began to take off, with a number of people gaining access to it, reprinting it (sometimes with language, errors and typos not found in the original) and distributing it to others. It’s influence in politics, conspiracy research and popular culture has arguably been more profound than the Gemstone letters themselves, mostly because the letters were unavailable readers until recently. Buell found a copy of “The Skeleton Key” in the National Archives collection of the House Select Committte on Assassinations. A number of other “Skeleton Keys” have emerged, among them one that integrates Australian national politics into the original story, a synopsis generally referred to as the ‘Kiwi Gemstone’ (or 'Opal Gemstone'). Other authors have attempted to backdate the events of Gemstone. Occasionally, the contents of the “Skeleton Key” have come up in movies and television shows, including a 2004 episode of Alias.

There has been some dispute over the authorship of “The Skeleton Key,” most notably by a writer named Jim Moore, who claimed to have met Roberts in the 1960s. According to Moore, the “Skeleton Key” was stolen from his house in May of 1975. As evidence he cited a series of articles he had composed beginning that month. While he does not directly accuse Caruana or breaking into his home, his dislike of her is almost tangible, and one could infer that he is implicating her in the theft before, during, or after the fact. While it’s possible that Moore met Roberts in the 1960s, I have yet to see verification of a Moore-Roberts connection before 1975 (if it exists, I’m sure someone will point it out to me). On the other hand, Caruana’s connection with Roberts before 1975 was corroborated by Mae Brussell on her radio show Dialogue Conspiracy. Moore sent his in Januray of 1978, two-and-a-half years after Caruana had already been cited as the author, and after it had circulated widely. Not surprisingly, Although Moore submitted the document in question to Hustler magazine for an article published in 1979, Buell and other Gemstone experts are of the opinion that Flynt Publications already possessed copies of “The Skeleton Key” long before Moore submitted one.

Given her commitment to the Gemstone File over the years (as evidenced by her 2006 book, The Gemstone Files: A Memoir), and because of the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary, I, along with the vast majority of researchers, have little doubt that Caruana authored “The Skeleton Key.”

But as to the Gemstone files themselves, and the stories they tell, we have a much more intense controversy. The City of San Francisco characterized Roberts as “a master—indeed a demon—of uncheckable facts.” Others dismiss him as a crank or psychotic—an armchair diagnosis based solely on his writing and subject matter.

Granted some of the subject writing is wild. Some of it does not ring true to me. Yet some of it does, for despite what The City of San Francisco wrote, many of Roberts’ claims are checkable. For all of its color and bombast, one journalist, former San Francisco Examiner reporter Gerald Carroll, would find merit it some of Roberts’ most bizarre claims. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that Roberts’ strongest material was not merely the result of guesswork, but of inside information from the most logical source of inside information: his family.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Many Facets

Here’s a little name list of those who’ll make an appearance in this story. How many of them do you recognize?

Joe Alioto--Mayor, San Francisco.

Eugene Brading (AKA James Braden)—Career criminal, arrested immediately after President Kennedy’s shooting in Dallas. Said to have been a friend of Mae Brussell’s uncle and/or father.

Mae Brussell—Conspiracy researcher. Former collaborator of Stephanie Caruana.

Gerald Carroll—Investigative journalist. Author of Project Seek.

Stephanie Caruana—Contributing editor, Playgirl Magazine, journalist and conspiracy researcher. Former collaborator of Mae Brussell, and author of “The Skeleton Key.”

Richard Cushing—Archbishop, Boston Diocese.

Jimmy Fratianno—Racketeer, government witness.

J Edgar Hoover—Former FBI director.

Howard Hughes—Aviation, casino and movie tycoon.

E. Howard Hunt—Longtime CIA case officer and Watergate conspirator.

Antonio Iglesias--Brother-in-law of Bruce Roberts' brother, had previously worked for the CIA.

Clifford Irving—Writer.

Edward Kennedy—US Senator, Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Kennedy, brother of John and Robert Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy—President of the United States. Son of Joseph Kennedy, first husband of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, brother of Robert and Edward Kennedy.

Joseph Kennedy—Bootlegger and film distributor. Father of John, Robert and Edward Kennedy.

Robert Kennedy—US Senator, New York. Son of Joseph Kennedy, brother of John and Edward Kennedy.

Mary Jo Kopechne—John and Robert Kennedy staffer.

G. Gordon Liddy—Attorney, former FBI Special Agent, and Watergate conspirator.

Hal Lipset—Private Investigator.

Robert Maheu—Former intelligence officer and chief associate of Howard Hughes.

Carlos Marcello—Racketeer.

John Mitchell—Former US Attorney General.

James Moore—Conspiracy researcher. Claimed to have written “The Skeleton Key”

Terry Moore—Actress. Court-declared wife of Howard Hughes.

Ralph Nader—Consumer advocate.

Ngo Din Diem—Former President of South Vietnam.

Donald Nixon—Restaurant owner, brother of Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon—President of the United States

Alexander Onassis—Son of Aristotle Onassis.

Aristotle Onassis—Shipping Magnate. Second husband of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Christina Onassis—Daughter of Aristotle Onassis, heiress to his fortune.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis—US First Lady and publisher. Wife of John Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.

Jean Peters—Actress. Rumored to have been married to Howard Hughes.

Bruce Roberts—Crystallographer, conspiracy researcher. Author of the Gemstone File letters.

Johnny Roselli—Racketeer and racetrack owner. Friend of J. Edgar Hoover.

Ted Sorensen—Attorney. Represented General Motors in lawsuit filed by Ralph Nader. Advised Edward Kennedy.

John Tunney—US Senator, California. Son of former heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, and friend of Edward Kennedy.

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

The X-Spot, Year 1

I began this blog one year ago today. Actually, I did it by accident. I meant to log into a team blog (23rd Mandalation) started by my friend Suki Hoshi, and accidentally created a new blog by mistake. I didn’t post much early on because I figured that no one would read it. I was wrong.

The year has had some big ups and some tremendous downs. The best thing, however, is that I met all of you—online, at least. I had the sublime pleasure of meeting Cora (Mayden’s Voyage) and Enemy of the Republic (Cruel Virgin) in the flesh.

Several times, the X-Spot enjoyed a bit of notoriety, with a hundred or more hits coming in per day. The first time occurred last spring, when reading Libby’s page I stumbled across HNT. I met a lot of friends after posting on the phenomenon, some of whom (Bellarosa, Felicity, Spencer, Sunny Delight, Jeanniegrrl—I can’t remember if I met Kate through HNT or through Lux--and especially Boo) you can see in the sidebar. The other three times occurred late in the summer when other websites and blogs linked to the series on alien abduction, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe, and a single post on (ahem!) penis size.

Other posts seem to have gotten me into a little intrigue, most notably the series on the Symbionese Liberation Army. I won’t blog about that now, but it looked like, for a while, my life would get weird again.

Reflextion advised me to string articles together. But until the tagging feature in Beta Blogger, I didn’t know how to do that. Since I plan, in year two, to continue some of the same subject areas (although in a bit more depth) as last year, perhaps these tags will prove useful.

On a sad note, the year also brought with it some tragedy as the deaths of Castor—an early commenter on the X-Spot—and Betcha Can’t Guess Who really brought home the realization that the cybercommunity is a very real community, with very real emotions attached to it.

We will start our second season by continuing a series I interrupted last fall in order to do more research on the topic. This one is kinda special to me personally, for I have been assisted in it by a number of people whom I had only known through their work. For me, it has been a real kick to connect with others doing conspiracy research, especially those whom (unbeknownst to them) I’ve held in high regard for years.

It’s a story about a guy named Howard, a guy named Bruce, another guy named Ari, with other guys named Jack Ted, Ralph and Robert. It’s also a story about Jack's wife, a woman named Mae, a woman named Stephanie, and another woman named Mary Jo.

I hope you stay tuned.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Murder vs. Assassination

A Super Bowl party held at a nightclub in the upscale Buckhead section of Atlanta ended in tragedy on January 31, 2000. Two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar lay dead of stab wounds by night’s end. Three men were arrested for the incident, all of them initially on murder charges. Two of them, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were friends of the third, gridiron star Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office dropped the murder rap against Lewis in exchange for a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an investigation, and for testifying against Sweeting and Oakley. A handful of witnesses, who initially told police that the perennial Pro Bowler took part in the attack, changed their testimony. From the beginning, however, most of the eyewitnesses supported Lewis’ claim that he tried to prevent any violence from occurring. Thus, the prosecution would have an extremely difficult time proving that he murdered anyone. As it turned out, the prosecution’s case against Sweeting and Oakley also had a number of weaknesses, for on July 3, 2000, a jury acquitted both men--despite Lewis’ testimony.

I bring up the murder charge against Lewis for one very simple reason: some months back, our friend K9 asked me to look into it:

xdell, if you ever find the time id love you to put your skills to the ray lewis murder trial that was botched here in ATL.this guy blows into town with an entourage of playas, and two locals end up dead after getting into a fight with them in a bar. no one has ever been indicted and there are no other suspects. grrrrrrrrrrr!
I’m no longer a professional musician, so I rarely take requests, these days. But as you probably know, my esteem for this particular rottweiler is boundless, so I hate to disappoint him. But disappoint him, I must, for I don’t see anything untoward about the legal treatment of Lewis. True, the case against Sweeting and Oakley was most likely botched—either that, or investigators had no interest in pursuing the actual killer. I also agree that that justice demands a stronger restitution for crime than Lewis’ payment of $1,000,000 in settlement to India Lollar, Richard’s four-year-old daughter. And one could reasonably suspect that the NFL might have gone out of its way to protect a favorite son. Yet compare that to the successful prosecution of Rae Carruth for the murder of his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and one has to question how far the league would go to keep an individual player out of legal trouble.

But, like I said, K9 is a friend. Had some random person from off the street asked me to look into the Baker/Lollar murders, I would have told them to get bent. You see, as strange as this might sound to you, I have absolutely no interest in murder. Really. My interests are in assassinations. Political murder. Murder as policy. Murder to maintain hegemony. Suspected murder to maintain order. I even have an interest in suspicious non-homicides that wind up benefiting the powerful. But unless you’re talking about crime rates, criminal justice policy or a death among my loved ones, murder in and of itself is not my concern--no matter how high profile that murder is.

Likewise, I got a request from our friend Jeanniegrrl to look into the Black Dahlia murder case. Another request, another friend. Unlike the Baker/Lollar murders, I looked into the violent murder of Elizabeth Short years earlier. In fact, I still maintain a file on her. What separates her death from those of Lollar and Baker are a few niggling details consistent with those of other politically motivated deaths and cover-ups:

(1) The Setting—A young, wannabe actress in Hollywood. Lots of intrigue happens in Hollywood, and often it intersects with the town industry, namely film.

(2) Military Contacts—Short worked in the mailroom of Camp Cooke (later Vandenberg AFB), and had been engaged to a military pilot, Major Matthew Gordon, who died in the last few weeks of World War II. The reason this raises my eyebrow is because after the war, Intel tested a number of MK-ULTRA techniques and protocols on military and other government personnel, often without their knowledge. Had someone decided to test a Manchurian Candidate, say, a non-productive insider, whose paper trail would lead back to the Army, she could have been a desired target. Short had to quit her mailroom job when LAPD sent her back home to Massachusetts following her underage drinking arrest. And police investigators used her military records to identify her.

(3) Modus Operandi—Short knew scores of men, some of them quite powerful, some of them military and police officers. Although no evidence exists to support the rumor that she worked as a prostitute, abundant evidence makes it clear that she often survived by charming a long succession of sugar daddies into paying for such things as dinner, drinks, and so on.

(4) Nature of Death—Many people assume, as I once did not so long ago, that if someone wanted to assassinate a relatively obscure person, the best way to do that would be by making it look like either an accident or natural causes. Obviously, that would be true in many cases. But in some cases (e.g. Eladio del Valle), those who have ordered the hit want to make sure that everyone knows that the decedent was murdered, in order to scare others in similar circumstances into submission. Cut into pieces, mutilated, completely desanguinated, and left out in a vacant lot in broad daylight for everyone and their Aunt Mathilda to see, Short’s corpse offered a textbook demonstration of the word ‘overkill.’

(5) Legend—Short’s personal history was fairly open, and quite mundane. Yet, a number of rumors about her existence circulated almost at the instant of her death. Reporters wrote that her friends called her the Black Dahlia because of then-popular movie, The Blue Dahlia. Yet, many say that the press itself invented the moniker after she had died, in order to generate publicity. Some say she was a notorious prostitute, who had made a number of porno films. Yet, no film footage of her ever surfaced—not even screen tests. And just about anyone who has studied the case seriously agrees that she wasn’t. Some wrote that the coroner declared her a virgin because of deformed genitalia. But Dr. Frederick Newbarr, who performed the autopsy on her, said no such thing. According to his report, her genitalia were normal, and she was capable of having sexual intercourse. Police dealt with hundreds of false confessions about the case, and of course everyone has their favorite list of suspects.

The conflicting stories about Short’s life and death merit attention because they smack of misinformation, almost as if someone wanted to mislead the public into the reason for her murder.

Perhaps, in a future post, I will go over the Black Dahlia murder in more detail. But like the Baker/Lollar murders, I find no evidence of assassination, or even conspiracy, mostly because very little evidence exists. Nothing screams or hints at a conspiracy. For that reason, I scrapped my initial look-see into her death. But I maintain a file on her, and because of K9 I have begun a file titled “Baker & Lollar.” If anything turns up about it, I’ll be sure to let you know. After all, it never hurts for you to keep an eye on things to see how they develop.

About eight hours before this writing, something new raised my eyebrow, when famed model/reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith finally took her stepchildren’s advice and dropped dead. Out of the three, the motive for a possible conspiracy is the clearest in her case. Last Spring, after winning a Supreme Court decision that allowed her to fight for half of a billion-dollar oil fortune, she had some pretty vocal enemies. That particular estate was enormous, and important. Such wealth has often privately funded illegal operations of the CIA and other US Intel sources, just for starters. Imagine, if you will, the possibility of a former-stripper having some say-so in secret US foreign policy simply because she married well, and you might understand why some might get a little nervous had her case progressed in her favor. Since her suit largely rested upon her claim of an oral contract, she had become her own best witness. Removing her from the stand, however, puts that whole litigation into jeopardy, as the press has already begun speculation as to whether or not her case will continue in her absence.

There are other things to watch out for as well, in Smith’s case. First of all, there was the sudden death of E. Pierce Marshall, Smith’s sixty-seven year old stepson last June. The death of her oldest child, Daniel Smith, last September was also rather strange since, according to the autopsy performed by Dr. Cyril Wecht, he succumbed to a lethal drug combination that included methadone. Wecht had no explanation for why a non-heroin addict would be taking methadone. Nassau (Bahamas) authorities have not ruled out foul play in his death.

Were Marshall of a mind to find some kind of settlement with Smith, he might have been a target. Then again, someone could have poisoned Daniel to intimidate his mother. Interesting to note, Virgie Tabers, Nicole’s mother and a former cop herself, believed that Smith’s attorney Howard Stern was involved in the young man’s death. Stern was also the only person present when Smith collapsed. The press has already begun making comparisons between Smith and movie siren Marilyn Monroe.

By now, you should know what I think about Marilyn Monroe.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Gik-Gik, Pt. III


Philip Agee, a CIA case officer during the 1960s and 1970s wrote the 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary in 1975, a memoir of his service that often criticizes some of the things he saw. Among other things, Agee wrote about how one is recruited into the CIA, at least until recently. In 1998, the Agency, for the first time in its history, advertised in college-targeted periodicals for new recruits, just like any branch of the Armed Forces. Under the picture of a presumed college recruit, a boldface caption asked, “Do you have what it takes?” The underlying small print appealed to the potential recruit’s sense of intrigue, adventure, and patriotism. None of the eight models used in the initial campaign were white males, the predominant composition of the Agency. In the 1980s, they set up job fair booths on college campuses across the country. After 9/11, the Agency sought new spies via television advertisements, some like those below, and another series featuring actress Jennifer Garner:

Figure 2. CIA Recruitment Spot



Nobody really knows for sure how many people were recruited in these drives--it is still the CIA, after all. The print ads, plus the reports of students approached on campus, led many observers to the realization that the Agency was striving for diversity. Of course, they weren’t striving all that hard.

But this is now. How did one really become a CIA case officer back in the day? To put it bluntly, you didn’t really choose the Agency for a career. They chose you.

You first had to be nominated by someone who had a connection to the Company, like a case officer, politician, or professor. This nomination took place without the applicant’s knowledge, and usually occurred late in the candidate’s undergraduate career. Agee’s aunt, a Langley secretary, nominated him. That would make him a rather blue-collar recruit. Many came from more privileged backgrounds--Ivy-League, old money or both.

After a cursory background check, a recruiter approached the prospective case officer at a meeting arranged by the nominator. If the recruiter sensed that the young man or woman might consider a life in intelligence, they then asked the potential applicant to sign a confidentiality agreement. Once that’s done, the recruiter announced that they’re from the CIA and asked if he or she would like to join. A few months later, the recruiter met with the candidate again to confirm their intentions. If the candidate decided to join, then the recruiter gave him or her a set of instructions on what to do after college.

Upon graduation, the future spook would walk into the office of any local armed forces recruiter and enlist in the United States Air Force. There was a place on the application form where the recruit supplied a code given to them in the list of instructions. The recruiter would understand what it’s there for, and process the paperwork accordingly.

When the recruit finished boot camp, he or she was assigned normally, and then put on a fast-track promotion to sergeant. To keep other members of the platoon from getting suspicious about what seems to be unfair treatment, the candidate transferred to another unit and adopted a cover story. A year after boot camp, he or she applied for, and was accepted into Officer Training School (OTS). The spy-to-be then graduated, received a commission as a Second Lt., and served in that capacity for about a year until receiving transfer orders to one of several posts, where he or she would begin full training in spycraft. After a year, they transferred again, whereupon they resign their commissions. The Agency then hired them, and after a five-year probationary period, voila, he or she became a full-fledged CIA case officer.

My friend graduated high school in 1981, so she would have graduated from college in 1985, assuming a four-year degree. The strange reunion occurred in April of 1986, ten or eleven months after she left school. That’s an awfully short time to have received a promotion to E5, especially in the USAF. It’s the most popular of the five military services. Airmen like it so much that they stay, on average, much longer than marines, sailors, soldiers, or coast guards. Thus, the rate of promotion was (at least at that time) the slowest of all of the Armed Forces.

Perhaps, that’s why she lied about her year of graduation. It might have been part of a cover story concocted to obfuscate the real reason behind her quickie promotion to NCO. And, out of all of the people I met on this mini-tour of duty, every other airman felt comfortable to give at least a general description of their duties, even though the nuts and bolts of most Air Force details are classified. By asking her what a Juliet-98 did, I probably placed her in an awkward position, and she then realized that she had said too much. (I talk too much too, but at least I do it on purpose.)

Sometimes, I wonder whether I really live a life of high strangeness, or if I’m simply paranoid. Frankly, I have neither the time nor energy to look for conspiracies behind every nook and cranny. I don’t believe my friend’s actions that night were conspiratorial either. I see no larger meanings. My tendency is to think that an old friend might have joined the CIA, went to hear some music one night, and was genuinely surprised to find me on the bandstand. I neither think nor believe that the chance encounter had anything to do with this strange tour. It really had little to do with the rest of my life.

But, looking back on my life, I realized that I knew an awful lot of people who did intelligence work of some type. The very thought makes me shiver. I don’t think I’m paranoid. To my knowledge, nobody is really out to get me. But, my chance encounter with an old friend makes me wonder why there have been so many spies in my life. At present, I can only think of three possibilities. Maybe I am a target. Maybe I’m a not-witting. Then again, maybe spying is such a common occupation that the number that I know is about average, and that I’m no different than anybody else in that respect.

Out of these three possibilities, I find the third to be the most plausible. It is also the one that scares me the most.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Gik-Gik, Pt. II

In a large dance hall at Adonis AFB, located in a part of Turkey close to the Syrian border, we played in front of an audience of about five hundred people, many of whom were crowding the stage. Out of that whole sea of humanity, I saw this one Airman some distance back. My eyesight’s never been too good, so I chalked it up to my imagination that she might have been looking only at me. At the end of the last set, she came close enough for me to recognize her as my old sight-reading friend from high school, decked from head to toe in olive drab, and bearing the stripes of an E5 (Staff Sgt.).

I came down from the stage to meet her. I had an inclination to reach out and hug her; but in the intervening years, I managed to learn a few social skills. She had given off this “don’t come close” vibe, so I didn’t lift an arm. She did, however, extend her hand.

What she did next baffled the hell out of me. She introduced herself using a false name, as if we had never met before. It matched the nametag on her lapel. Taking a brief look at the uniform, I saw a wedding band on her ring finger.

“You wouldn’t happen to be from Cincinnati?” she asked.

“Yes?” I responded, by now more than a little puzzled.

“What high school did you go to?”

I told her

“So did I! Class of 1979. When did you graduate?”

“1980.”

This went on for about five minutes. I didn’t know what she was up to, but I thought, “What the hell? I’ll play along.” She asked me how I liked Turkey, and what I thought of military life. In between, she mentioned her recent marriage.

I then asked, “So, what do you do in the Air Force?”

“I’m a Juliet-98.”

“And what does a Juliet-98 do?”

She frowned, slightly--the only time I have ever seen her not smiling. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “That’s classified.”

The smile immediately returned, and we made small talk for about another minute. She excused herself, and I went back to the bandstand to break down.

We had traveled quite a bit, and were doing two-a-days, with an occasional three-a-day mixed in. The stress of that routine was compounded by the strict quarantine on drugs in the predominantly Muslim country. My bandmates had begun bouncing off the walls, and it didn’t take much to get into an argument. We even had a recent close call with death. Yet, with all of these things on my mind, I couldn’t forget what had happened between my old high-school friend and me. Strangely, the woman who was always outta sight, outta mind has since haunted me ever since.

You might think that the difference in name suggests that I mistook Sergeant Juliet-98 for an old friend, maybe out of desperation to see a familiar face that wasn’t openly hostile from neurochemical withdrawal. But no, this woman was definitely her. She looked exactly the same, minus ten pounds. She didn’t even change her hairstyle. Same height, same voice, same everything. Just to be sure, I checked my 1979 yearbook after the tour. There were no Susans (the name she gave me) in the senior section that looked remotely like her. Although a small percentage of seniors refused to have their picture taken, their names and addresses were still listed in the back along with everybody else’s. As it turned out, I knew the only two Susans not pictured, and they certainly didn’t look like her.

There’s a chance, I suppose, that she simply didn’t remember me. She just thought I looked familiar. But why go through all that trouble to push through a crowd of people to greet someone who looks vaguely familiar? And her facial expression was the same as anybody who’s just recognized someone that they haven’t seen in a long time.

You might also think that she always called me ‘Gik-Gik, because she never knew my name. Actually, she did know my name. She introduced me to her parents on the last night of the show using my real name. Of course, she might have forgotten it over the years.

Forgetting my name, however, still didn’t explain why she felt compelled to lie about the year that she graduated. Her picture is in my 1980 yearbook, and she’s listed as a junior.

So, what really happened that night in Turkey?

Unless something even stranger happens, I’m resigned to the reality that I will never know the answer for sure. That doesn’t stop me from speculating, though. Ten years later, I learned something that cast my chance encounter with an old friend in a whole new light.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Gik-Gik

I started losing some of my awkwardness during junior year in high school. As I gained confidence, I started making friends, the first real ones I had in years. I went to more parties, made more small talk, sampled a beer or two. My efforts paid off. I never really belonged to a clique, or anything that could be mistaken for one. Still, I had become, in a strange way, kinda popular.

I signed up for a lot of things as the year came to a close. I even tried out for the annual, junior class musical review. Of course, I would be a senior when the show went on the next fall. But the Music Director, so desperately needed players that she didn’t care if I staggered in from off the street. I auditioned on both clarinet and piano, while she tried her best to look judgmental and officious – why somebody would put on obvious masks like that at the age of sixteen was beyond my people knowledge back then. When I finished, she sniffed something about calling me for rehearsals in August.

I didn’t have to wait that long, actually. I got a frantic call during the third week of June from one of my new friends. For whatever reason, the music director had quit, and the co-directors decided that he should be the new MD. They didn’t give him any budget for arrangements. They only had enough for individual pieces of sheet music. We also didn’t have any place to rehearse, since the school ran on a tight budget back then. They didn’t have enough money to open up the stage and a practice room too. Worst of all, we still didn’t have enough musicians.

My friend didn’t know how to score for instruments, but he knew that I did, hence the call. As time went on, however, I took on more and more responsibility. We rounded up some of my other new friends. One of them had parents who had a lot of clout at their local church, which was centrally located and easy for all of us to get to. We practiced there. When the full cast arrived in August, I went over the songs with the actors, arranged the harmonies, and served as the rehearsal pianist.

I didn’t know very many cast members at first. Although blossoming, I hadn’t yet made up for lost time. Nevertheless, I knew virtually all of their faces and most of their names. In some cases I even knew their reputation.

There was only one person there whom I never heard of before: a tall, slightly stocky brunette. As it turned out, very few of the cast knew her either. Despite coming from an old patrician family, she wasn’t stuck-up or anything. Her surname adorns a lot of local business in southwestern Ohio, not to mention a street – really a coup since almost all German street names were changed during World War I. Her relatives served (and still serve) on the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

Continually effervescent and outgoing, and attractive, in an off-beat way, she never frowned, at least from what I could tell. A generous smile mirrored the twinkling in her brown eyes; her ovular face perfectly framed by short, dark-brown hair. And she had a tremendous sense of humor.

Gee. Cute, funny, friendly and rich--you’d think she’d be Miss Popular 1979. But strange as it might seem, she was a shadowy figure to those of us gathering on auditorium stage that August 1st.

Sometime during the second week, after everyone else had gone for the day, the mystery chick approached me as I practiced on the stage piano. We had one at home, but out of tune (by more than a half-tone), with broken keys, and treacherous action, it sounded just as cheap as it was. I quickly got into the habit of playing the one at school.

My mind and fingers buried deeply into Bach, a soft, cheery “Ahem!” got my attention. I stopped playing, peered over the upright, and saw her entering stage left with her right hand full of papers.

“I didn’t mean for you to stop,” she apologized. “It sounded so beautiful.”

“Oh, it’s all right,” I said, genuinely flattered.

“Could you do me a favor?”

“If I can.”

She slid in next to me on the bench, simultaneously placing the papers on the stand. “Would you mind playing these for me, Gik-Gik?” she asked in a manner not the least bit presumptuous. “I want to see if these would be good songs for me.”

What could I do but say yes? She asked so nicely.

We went through those songs, but she didn’t like any of them. She asked if we could do it again once she scored some more sheet music. I agreed, and for the next several weeks, we frequently stayed after rehearsal to sight-read. Her tastes were rather discriminating. The vast majority of songs, she passed on. But a couple she really liked, one of which, “Wherever He Ain’t” from the musical Mack and Mabel, we decided to do for the show.

Although our extra-curricular activities focused on the music, we didn’t just sit on the stage cranking out one song after the other. We talked. At first, we discussed the music we had in front of us. That led to conversation about music in general, likes and dislikes, etc. Once a friendship had formed, we even talked about ourselves a little. She was a professional child actress, frequently in New York, who had apparently appeared on Broadway. Her dad’s old friend, a legendary Broadway composer, gave her a start.

I never thought to question the veracity of her story. She was remarkably talented, and the Broadway stint would explain why she might have had to look for audition songs, and why she rarely spent time in Cincinnati. But after she told me all this, I wondered why she even bothered doing something so trifling as a high-school musical review. I never asked her, but she offered an explanation all on her own. Like me she didn’t really know many of her classmates, and she thought that the musical would be a great opportunity to meet them.

Once we relegated the musical to the annals of history, she vanished into the same ether from whence she came. I did see her every now and then when she came to town. I’d be walking around the campus, poring over one concept or another when my thoughts would be interrupted by a cheery “Hey, Gik-Gik!” I’d look around and see her waving at me just before ducking into a door.

As funny, or as cruel as it might seem, once out of sight, she was out of mind. I would always make a mental note to track her down and say “Hi” whenever anybody reported sighting her. I always forgot to follow through, though. I only thought of her when I had occasion to go through my yearbook, briefly wondering why she always called me ‘Gik-Gik’.

Yet, my memories of her came crashing back six years later when I ran into her on the other side of the world, during a strange journey in the spring of 1986.

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