Chapter Three - 1962-1963
Breaking… Records, Thumbs, Cars, and
the Tenth Macau Grand Prix
(Equivalent to 76 Pages)
With the Okinawa Grand Prix behind me, I dropped into the IOS office in Awase Meadows Shopping Center to say hello to Bill Masse, the Regional Manager, and John Herbert, the admin guy, who had paid for the Start/Finish banner for the Grand Prix.
Explaining their business, Bill gave me a Dreyfus Fund prospectus to look at. He said IOS was the largest distributor of the fund outside the United States.
I already knew about mutual funds. When I was around ten, mother used to take me to the Chappaqua First National Bank and we’d go through the safety deposit box. There were lots of $25 War Bonds that she’d give me from time to time for “urgent” projects (I was a very spoiled boy!), and two mutual funds that Nanny, mother’s mother, had given me.
I took the prospectus back to my car sales office at the Baxter Trading Company. The next day, a quiet Air Force lieutenant came in to enquire about buying a Rambler.
I said, “If you’re so sensible to want an economic and practical car like the Rambler, save your money and put it into a good mutual fund like the Dreyfus Fund – the best performing fund in America over the past ten years.”
He said “Good!” and together we figured out how to insert the attached carbon paper and fill out the application form for a $12,000 SAPINS ($100/mo. Systematic Accumulation Program with Program Completion Insurance). He gave me a $1200 check for the whole first year in advance; I put it and the rest of the documents in the plastic sleeve, and went off to Bill and John’s office.
Walking in, I said offhandedly, “This isn’t very interesting, but thanks anyway. Here’s the prospectus back, you better check that all the documents are there.”
Bill slid the papers out of the sleeve, the folded application popped open on his desk and the check fluttered down on top of it. He and John gasped and just looked at me.
So, I joined Bernie Cornfeld’s Investors Overseas Services as a part-time “Associate Financial Planner” – a mutual fund salesman. My first sale had earned me twice the commission I would have got selling the lieutenant a Rambler, and it was more satisfying as well.
As the new “sales star,” I was invited to share John’s four-bedroom home in Koza, outside the east gate of Kadena Air Force Base. John was a really nice, low-key guy from Chicago and Penn State. As an office manager, he could avoid having to compete with his older brother, Victor, who roamed the world as one of the very top IOS salesmen.
The silver dishes on the mantle are my trophies from The Okinawa Grand Prix.
September and October were heady days. In long, sun-filled evenings, I’d drive onto the off-base housing areas in my racing car, walk the path to a front door, knock (it’s called “cold-calling”), and talk myself into a sergeant’s home. (If I didn’t get in the door, I’d have to walk back down the path, go along the sidewalk and up the next path…while all the neighbors, barbequing and drinking beer in their back gardens, watched!)
Inside, turning off his TV, I’d say,
“Do you want your son to grow up a sergeant… or a captain? The difference is a college education.”
And we’d fill in the forms, and another SAPINS would go off to our Geneva headquarters.
I broke all records selling New York's Dreyfus Fund; closing 10 out of 12 presentations. I wasn’t surprised at the results - who could refuse a college education? Who would want their son to be a sergeant when he could be a captain? Seemed pretty obvious to me!
I was 22; selling cars in the daytime, creating clients at night. After reaching the “Basic” milestone of $50,000 in sales (the face amount of programs sold), I was awarded the ubiquitous, IOS, black attaché case - we called it the Basic Box, and an increase in commission. On the weekends in the Koza house, I’d do my paperwork. I remember the sun streaming in the front window onto the cork floor, and Frank Ifield singing "I Remember You" on the radio. Wherever I am, every time I hear that song, I am taken right back to those moments. Fun, but now that I was out of the Army, my parents expected me to come home…at least for Christmas.
Leaving my sports car trophies behind – I was coming back for the Macau Grand Prix – I said adieu to Bill Baxter and flew to Vermont in November.
You will recall from Chapter One, in 1958, the year I graduated high school and went into the Army, my parents had bought a delightful, 80-acre property in Goshen, Vermont with an old house, barn, and duck pond.
“High Weather” was halfway up Blueberry Hill and looked west to the Adirondacks. Dad bought a jeep and a tractor and reveled in his retirement. His quiet, dignified manner endeared him to the natives - they made him a member of the school board, and my mother a Justice of the Peace.
The house was about a mile from Blueberry Hill Farm – one of the most popular cross-country ski centers in this part of the Green Mountains. It started out in life as a very simple farmhouse with a very small “mountain” behind it – Blueberry Hill. Funny, the small hill/mountain behind our House in the Woods in the Adirondacks is called Meenagha which means blueberry in Mohawk.
When we moved to Goshen, John and Elsie Masterton – previously sophisticated city folk - were turning Blueberry Hill Farm into a bed and fabulous breakfast, lunch, dinner inn. Elsie, once a doctor’s secretary, turned into an inspired cook and many of her recipes have been published. John, an attorney, was chief cook and bottle-washer, and was trying to construct a ski run on the hill using old automobile wheels as pulleys on the rope tow! The efforts are documented in a very funny book called Nothing Whatever To Do (1956, Crown Publishers). In the early autumn of 1958, John and I spent weekends at Lime Rock watching or participating in the SCCA races. The Volvo was a terrific car but now I wanted to get something really special.
I called my best friend at Horace Greeley, Jim Berman, and arranged to meet in New York City. “Birdy,” as we all called him, was the adopted son of Walter Winchell, the famous American newspaper and radio gossip commentator, but somehow, by the time I met him in kindergarten, he was living with Mr. and Mrs. Sam Berman in Chappaqua. Mr. Berman was an American caricaturist of the 1940s and 1950s and later, as head of his own map-making firm, he created an unusual relief map - the six-foot, Geo-Physical Globe that Birdie showed me in the lobby of a building in Manhattan. Birdy was funny, had beautiful girl friends (one of who married Dustin Hoffman) and was a great pal. I wonder if I was attracted to him because he was part Hawaiian – I have a thing about “slants,” as I used to affectionately call boys from the Far East and Southeast Asia.
I had cashed in one of the mutual funds that Nanny had given me many years ago, and had two $5000 cashier’s checks in my pocket. We met at the Porsche dealership on Park Avenue and went in to “kick some tires.” It was late on a Saturday afternoon and the salesman looked at us impatiently; obviously, he wanted to close and go home.
I went up to him and said, “I’d like to order a Porsche Super 90 Cabriolet for factory delivery, in metallic, charcoal grey, with red leather upholstery, and a black top. Here’s a cashier’s check for $5000, I’ll take the change in cash, thank you.”
Birdy doubled over, and the salesman, flabbergasted, wrote up the order.
I needed to make plans to get to Stuttgart, Germany in February, and called John Herbert (from the Okinawa IOS office) who was now in his brother’s apartment in Paris. He said I was more than welcome to stay with him.
Note: If I was planning to return to Okinawa and compete in the Macau Grand Prix, why was I buying a Porsche for factory delivery in Germany??
After a wonderful, snowy Christmas at home in Goshen, we rang in the New Year.
I was devouring Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day, planning my car pick-up, while my parents entertained their best friends, the Middletons. I liked them - Polly was rather manish, Bob, a writer of operas and a professor at Vassar, the opposite.
Goshen is equidistant from Rutland in the south and Middlebury further north, and is an easy drive to many great ski areas. I was a good but sometimes daring-and-reckless skier. Out of practice, I broke my thumb on a “black-diamond” trail at nearby Killington, just after New Year’s. It hurt getting down off the mountain and driving home.
I got “cabin fever” waiting for it to heal and, as soon as the cast was removed, I headed for Manhattan to kick up my heels.
I had had a relatively circumspect and discreet, gay life in the Army and on Okinawa. If fact, I had had trysts with only 22 boys by the time I was 22. Compare that to Gore Vidal who had chalked up more than a thousand at the same age! I was now 23 and wanted to “improve the scorecard.”
My cousin, Matt, had an apartment with an empty guestroom on East 53rd Street in Manhattan. East 53rd Street was notorious for gay bars and one was right across the street from the apartment. I sauntered in around 10PM. A good-looking guy sent me a drink… I accepted it.
At dawn, I woke up in my cousin’s bed. The apartment had been ransacked, but, except for the Mickey Finn, I hadn’t.
Matt came home and discovered two of his suitcases were missing, along with most of his sweaters. My brother came over. Neither suspected anything other than I had been victimized in some bar. They were very supportive and let me stay for a few more days.
That evening, “score card in hand,” I headed for Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Surely, I could find adventure there. A guy stood sentinel at a door. He beckoned me in. There was a long bar and a large open space. The music was loud but you could carry on a conversation, although most people didn’t. Gay bars aren’t very… (gay, that is). Afraid of rejection, most people tend to stare into their drinks, “waiting for Godot.” Then the “sentinel” said “OK” and the place erupted. Guys jumped from their bar stools and started dancing the Madison – a special version of line dancing. Whoops and cheers, and hugs and kisses; then, at a wave from the sentinel, everyone was back on their stools, stone-faced.
I didn’t get it and went to talk to the guy guarding the door. He motioned outside to a policeman patrolling his beat. When the cop turned to pace away, the guy said “OK” and the dancing started again; when the cop turned to come back, the sentinel waved and the dancing stopped! I joined the syncopated party. Horizontal rhumbas at home were exciting but I’d never danced with a boy in public before!
Several guys in the bar, when they heard I was going to Europe, said I had to visit the COC and the DOK dance clubs in Amsterdam. I made a note in my Frommer’s guide.
February sixth, Mother and Aunt Marnie confettied me off on the "QE1" – Cunard’s RMS Queen Elizabeth bound for Southampton, England by way of Cherbourg, France.
This veritable Queen of the seas was larger than the later QE2, and was the epitome of luxury. I was travelling Cabin Class – better than Third and considerably more practical than First.
I met a very attractive girl who was going to Foxcroft, the super-chic, girls’ preparatory school in Middleburg, Virginia. Each evening Sara and I would slip up the stairs to First Class and dance the evening away in the Ballroom. People were enamored by her good looks and my good rhythms; they voted us “King” and “Queen” of the voyage and we certainly felt regal.
February on the North Atlantic can be brutal, and this turned out to be one of the roughest crossings ever recorded. The perimeter boards had to be erected on the dining room tables and passengers were urged to stay in their cabins… we danced! Careening from one side of the dance floor to the other, we swooped and swirled our way toward France.
Lennie Schmitt, a bearded, hippy-like guy joined our circle; he played his 5-string banjo to the beat of the propellers, and we sang along as with Mitch Miller.
We landed at Cherbourg on the eleventh and I took off alone for Amsterdam. Arriving in snow-covered A’dam was a fairy tale moment. Unlike today, cute, American, foreign exchange students were dressed in Abercrombie tweed jackets, blue button-down Brooks Brothers shirts with ties, galoshes, and scarves!
Following Europe on 5$ a Day, I saw the Night Watch by Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum.
Following the advice of my buddies on Christopher Street, I found the COC and the DOK!
Researching today on the Internet:
From the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures: “The DOK, the largest gay dance hall in the world at its inception in 1952, brought Amsterdam world fame. The COC – the Dutch homophile movement, was launched in Amsterdam in 1946 and enjoyed its heyday during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s. As early as the late 1950s, Amsterdam had already become a gay capital, with a burgeoning subculture and a strong political movement.”
From The Advocate magazine: “The DOK (De Odeon Keller) at Singel 460 became, arguably, the best-known gay disco in the pre-Stonewall world.”
No wonder there was no lookout on the doors! More dancing, both vertical and horizontal!
After a couple of days, I took the train to Paris to meet John Herbert at his brother Victor’s apartment at 55 Avenue du Maine in the 14th Arrondissement, Montparnasse. By the way, in case you were wondering, John, totally straight, and I were just good friends.
I had no immediate plans other than picking up the Porsche at the factory, and John kindly allowed me to make Victor’s apartment my base. Victor was off around the world – IOS’s top salesman.
John and I used to bitch about not being able to get real, fresh-squeezed, orange juice in Okinawa. We had longed for the day when we’d be able to make our own. So as soon as I arrived, we went down to a street market, bought a dozen oranges, and rushed home to make our orange pressée and celebrate. It was awful - bitter, weird; nothing like we had remembered. Our palates had been bastardized by the fake substitutes. Ah well, things – especially places - are usually not as one remembers them.
I met an energetic photographer friend of John’s who was Porsche fan, and I fell in love with a small abstract painting by Stasha Halpern that I bought from John for $50. (I sold it to a gallery in Melbourne last month for A$1300.00 – US$950.)
[When I told John that I’d sold it, he forwarded my news to Victor. Victor’s response:
I never met Victor. His sales exploits were legendary, and I always wondered about his sponsorships of the artists in Paris. Judging from the above, he certainly is extraordinary.]
Stanislav "Stacha" Halpern (20 October 1919 – 28 January 1969) was a Polish Australian painter and sculptor. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, Halpern emigrated to Australia. A decade later he became a naturalised Australian citizen. Based in Melbourne for much of his early career, Halpern painted bold semi-abstract works of street life. Later he travelled throughout Europe and experimented with pure abstraction and expressionistic portraiture. Australian artist and friend Arthur Boyd described Halpern's work as "original, vigorous and always arresting".
Paintings, sculptures and pottery by Halpern are held in several of Australia's public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.
On February 16, I went to the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. I was ushered into the vast Customer Reception and Delivery Hall. In the center, spot-lit on a draped dais surrounded by silver roping, was a fabulous, silver, Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder racing car!
It was the car Edgar Barth had won the previous year’s European hill-climb championship; painted on the sides was a list of all the races it had won.
Completely dazzled, I whispered to the young executive in charge, “Is it for sale?”
He said, “Yes,” and before I knew what was happening, I had handed him the other $5000 cashier’s check from Nanny’s mutual fund, that I had in my pocket… just in case!
The executive was momentarily stunned, “I thought you were here to pick up your new Super 90!”
I came out of my momentary trance as my new car was driven into the Hall, and accepted the keys with a grateful bow. It was gorgeous.
Now what to do? The factory was going to clean up the RS 61, repaint it, redo the cockpit in red, and prepare it for pick-up. It would be ready by the end of the month. We had to figure out how to transport it and what to do. I had my eyes set on entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
That evening I drove to a gemutlich restaurant with a zither player and toasted the world!
Note: What was I doing? I guess I didn’t care – I was having fun!
The next day, I drove back to Paris. I needed to get a racing license, find a trailer, and get a hitch put on the Super 90 before picking up the RS 61.
The night before we left for Stuttgart, I gave John his first ride in the car. At 2 AM, we careened around the deserted streets of Paris at outrageous speeds and scared the hell out of him.
The next day, without having any luck with a trailer nor a hitch, we set off for Stuttgart and broke down just outside of Paris.
We remembered a bar we had just passed and walked back to it. The bartender spoke English and we asked to call the Porsche dealer in Paris and have them rescue us. The bartender told us he had a very good friend down the road that happened to be a retired Porsche mechanic and ran a Porsche repair shop in his garage.
Shortly, a teeny Renault 4CV pulled up, and out of it squeezed a huge, Frenchman - it was just like the circus! His name was Pierre; he spoke no English but his friend, the bartender, translated for all of us.
Pierre drove us back to his house/garage, and made us wait until he returned with the Super 90 in tow. He put the car on the rack and determined that the clutch had broken. He called Stuttgart and arranged for a replacement to be sent by car immediately. He said it would probably take about five hours to get here.
Pierre drove us to a local hotel and said he would call in the morning. The next morning, he came, picked us up, and took us to his garage. We learned that Porsche had been experimenting with a new clutch design, and weren‘t altogether surprised to get the call.
When we asked how much we owed him, he said, “Have a nice trip. I and Porsche will deny anything ever happened. Porsches do not break down!"
He shook our hands and started to send us on our way. Then I told him about the RS61 and he lost his typical French sangfroid.
Jumping around the shop, he explained that besides being a retired Porsche mechanic, he had been the French National Motorcycle Racing Champion. He wanted to take care of me and the racing car. On top of that, he had a friend in Stuttgart who had a trailer that had belonged to Sterling Moss (!), and, with my go-ahead, immediately arranged to put a trailer hitch on the back of the Super 90. (Because of the design of the rear-engined car and its lack of a normal frame, the hitch turned out to be very elaborate and very expensive.)
We called Porsche in Stuttgart to explain that we would be late in picking up the RS61. They knew all about our delay already, and said anytime was fine with them.
John had a skiing date with some friends in Verbier, Switzerland. I said I’d meet him there, and off he went.
Pierre sent me to the offices of the FIA (Federation Internationale De L’Automobile) in Paris where I applied for an FIA racing license.
He also called SAR - ACS (SCHWEIZERISCHER AUTORENNSPORT CLUB - AUTOMOBILE CLUB SUISSE) who hold a joint 3-day event known as the RACING DRIVERS SCHOOL - SAR-ACS DRIVERS COURSE PARIS – MONTLHÉRY each spring to enable drivers to test cars in preparation for the new racing season. He secured a place in the school for me and the RS 61, and booked a small hotel for John, Me, and him. Talk about good luck; what would I have done without him?
He readied his shop for the RS 61, and I left for Verbier, the chicest ski town in the world at that time, to catch up with John. My thumb was completely healed and I was looking forward to a great time.
The only thing I remember about that weekend was the strain of fighting the snow-covered, mountainous roads without snow tires. At one point on a particularly steep section, I pulled onto the shoulder, put the car in gear, and put on the emergency brake. I got out to relax for a moment, breathe in the mountain air, and marvel at the view.
The scene was of... MY CAR MOVING! I threw myself behind the rear wheels as, wheels locked, it slid toward the precipice!
I guess we skied; I don’t remember.
When John and I returned to Stuttgart at the beginning of March to pick up the RS-61, Porsche said the new, expensive trailer hitch would void the guarantee. They took it off.
We’d need a truck to carry the racing car. John and I found an old DKW (Auto-Union) truck at a second-hand dealer in town.
This was all getting a bit serious, and we needed another pair of hands (who could also drive a truck). I recruited Lennie Schmitt, the 5-string banjo player from the QE1 who was still in Paris. He joined us in Stuttgart and we spent a week repainting the truck, sticking big Porsche decals on each door, and getting a pair of ramps made from steel girders.
(NB. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche not only invented the Porsche and the original Volkswagen, but also the great, rear-engined, Auto-Union racing cars.)
The car was in beautiful condition. Here it is just before we painted our team logo on either side.
I don’t have a photo of its interior but it was identical to the car below – all business.
So, returning to Paris, we were a very chic convoy – the 356 Porsche Super 90 Cabriolet followed by the snazzy DKW/Auto-Union transporter on which proudly sat the championship Porsche RS 61 – Amazing! Don’t Stop the Carnival!
We dropped off the truck with the RS 61 at Pierre’s; he was ecstatic! I joined the Royal Automobile Club at 8, Place Vendome. As a member, I could use their address for mail. I was already a member of the Sports Car Club of America, and ADAC – Automobile Club of Germany. The badges looked good on the transporter!
Lennie Schmitt, in our team coveralls, preparing to paint our logo on the front.
I picked up my licenses at the FIA and had business cards made for each of us using the Place Vendome address in Paris, and the IOS office mailbox in Okinawa – the EGLC Racing Team was born, and… we registered for the great, 24 Hours of Le Mans!
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. It is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and is often called the "Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency."
Note: Again, what was I thinking – a competitor at Le Mans needs two drivers to alternate during the 24 hours. Where was I going to get another driver?
Anyway, the SAR-ACS RACING DRIVERS SCHOOL at Montlhéry, France came first.
It’s Friday; John, Lennie, and I drove to Pierre’s. The RS 61 was ready to go. Lennie got behind the wheel of the DKW-Auto Union transporter; John and I were in the Super 90. There was no way Pierre could fit in the teeny back seats, so he did his circus trick getting into his little Renault; and off we went to Montlhéry.
Montlhéry is 26 km (16.2 mi) south of Paris, and a couple of miles further south (in the communes of Linas and Bruyères-le-Châtel), is the site of the automobile race track, the Autodrome de Montlhéry, established in 1924. It is sometimes referred to as the “French Indianapolis,” because some of it is laid out as a high speed oval, and many international speed records have been set here.
The 1.58 mile, oval-shaped track was originally designed for up to 1,000 kg (2,205 lbs.) vehicles at 220 km/h (140 mph). It was initially called Autodrome Parisienne, and has especially high banking. A road circuit was added in 1925.
This legendary circuit has been the site of a wide variety of motorcar and motorcycle races throughout the ages, and today, plays an important rôle in training.
As we arrive, it is obvious that the racetrack has fallen into disuse - some of the track is broken up and has been closed off. But the SAR-ACS RACING DRIVERS SCHOOL is using part of the banking and the connecting, Grand Prix, road circuit with pit facilities and the old grandstand.
We park in our allotted pit area. My car attracts a lot of attention – it’s the only true race car here.
We walk over to join everyone else in the old Grandstand. Jack Brabham* is down front at the microphone! I had no idea any of my heroes would be here. He outlines the 3-day weekend activities. Specified groups would take turns practicing drifting, running the high-banked oval (scary to me), and doing laps on the total circuit. As my car was in a class of its own, I could look forward to individual tutoring.
*Sir John Arthur "Jack" Brabham, AO, OBE (2 April 1926 – 19 May 2014) was an Australian racing driver who was Formula One champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966. He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name. Brabham was a Royal Australian Air Force flight mechanic and ran a small engineering workshop before he started racing midget cars in 1948. His successes with midgets in Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to his going to Britain to further his racing career. There he became part of the Cooper Car Company's racing team - building, as well as racing
cars. He contributed to the design of the mid-engined cars that Cooper introduced to Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and won the Formula One world championship in 1959 and 1960. In 1962 he established his own Brabham marque with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, which in the 1960s became the largest manufacturer of customer racing cars in the world. In the 1966 Formula One season Brabham became the first – and still the only – man to win the Formula One World Championship driving one of his own cars. He was the last surviving World Champion of the 1950s.
We broke up and went to our cars. We were to start by driving the whole circuit to familiarize ourselves as to the radius and camber of the corners, the slope of the hills, and the friction of the tarmac.
In our pit, I sit in the car for the first time. It’s time to turn this dream into reality. I depress the clutch – my leg starts to shake violently and I can’t control it! Pierre leans on the door and just looks at me. I turn the key, the engine roars to life, and my leg calms down. The car has a 5-speed gear box with reverse, but “little first” is only used to get rolling.
Pierre stepped away; I put it in first, let out the clutch and… spun around my motionless front wheels – a complete, tire-burning pirouette! And I stalled.
Pierre runs over, “The steering wheel must be perfectly centered before you let out the clutch! Otherwise… well you have seen the otherwise!”
Merde, this thing was a tiger. How do I grab its tail?
Other drivers were amused; I was embarrassed.
I start again. A lurch of the car, a chirp from the tires, and I was moving… in the right direction. Pierre leaped to his Renault and followed with John and Lennie.
I zigged and zagged to warm up my tires and get the feel of this amazingly powerful car. I kept thinking, I must tame the tiger.
We made 3 moderate laps and were flagged back to the pits. I was feeling good.
After lunch, one of the groups - about two dozen Porsche 911s, go to an area near the Oval. I watch as they practice drifting on a wetted-down bend. There is a 3-foot concrete wall on the outside of the corner and each driver comes to within 6 inches of the wall, sliding at 60 mph around the ninety-degree corner! Very impressive!
We were due in the pits at 2:00. Jack Brabham came over with Graham Hill! ** Another hero!
**Norman Graham Hill OBE was a British racing driver and team owner from England, who was twice Formula One World Champion.
Jack said we were going to concentrate on the twisty section of the Grand Prix Circuit from Gendarme Corner to Les Bruyeres Hairpin, to Les Biscornes, La Forêt Corner, and back to Gendarme. It doesn’t show on the map below, but it’s on the old map above - there’s a bit of road joining the two parallels after Gendarme making a complete mini-circuit.
We started making laps. There was a flag marshal at each named corner; Graham Hill was at the apex of La Forêt. Pierre and the boys were at the bit of tarmac after Gendarme where I had to slow almost to a walk. I felt very comfortable and started quickening my pace. Faster and faster – what a car!
Graham Hill was holding what looked like a long, hockey stick at the edge of the pavement at the apex of La Forêt. He motioned that I should try to hit it each time I came around.
I was approaching the corner at about 95 mph; the road rises quickly. There is a wide, 3-foot-deep ditch and 8-foot-high banks on the left side of the road. A touch of the brakes and a tweak of the wheel, sets up the car in a 40-degree drift. The turn comes at the top; the car lifts, and I slide across the apex at 87 mph with my inside front tire barely touching the tarmac… and the hockey stick! I get a thumbs-up from Graham.
Around again and again; Faster and Faster! There’s no other traffic on the track! People are watching me.
Suddenly, as I was heading for the corner the tenth time, FOUR FLASHES OF BRIGHT LIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE BANK ON THE LEFT!!
I hit the tip of the hockey stick, but the angle is wrong, and I’m going too fast. The car stays in the air and slams into the bank at more than 90 mph!
With no safety belt, I come out of the car flat on my face in the ditch. The car ricochets off the bank and flips upside down on top of me. The roll-bar lands between my legs at my crotch, the dashboard, steering wheel, and windscreen come down over my torso missing my head. None of the car actually touches me. I guess I blacked out during the acrobatics but I’m fully aware now.
I say, “Dear God, if you didn’t crush me, now you’re going to burn me to death."
The only sound I could hear was the fuel pump! Disoriented, it takes a long minute to find the key. I switch off and the pump stops.
There’s space between the ditch and the top of the door, I wave frantically. Soon I see the fingers of two hands grasping the door, the car moves and I wriggle out. Graham Hill rushes up as I am taking off my helmet.
“Don’t do that,” he yells.
But its already off and there’s no blood… maybe on my nose, but nothing serious. The ambulance arrives and I black out again.
I awake to a nun nurse putting a bottle of beer (!) on my bedside table. Everything is white; I’m in a hospital. It’s still Friday. I can have beer but no visitors.
Saturday, Pierre and the boys arrived. They wanted to know what I was going to do.
I said, “I guess I’m going to quit and go home.”
Pierre turns livid – he starts taking off his clothes… “I broke this bone racing motorcycles at so and so, I got this gash at somewhere else. You can’t quit. You broke the lap record out there! You were terrific!”
The boys have nothing to say. This morning we were a glamourous racing team with the chicest convoy in the sport. Today, we aren’t.
On Sunday after lunch, we went back to the track. The remains of the RS 61 were on the truck. It didn’t look too bad.
As we walked across the track from the parking lot to the pits, the entire Grandstand shook with applause.
What was happening? I had lost my glasses in the crash and couldn’t see much.
Someone came running and pulled us to the Grandstand. It was the graduation ceremony of the school.
I was asked to go up front. I stood with Graham Hill on one side and Jack Braham on the other. The crowd sat down.
Jack said, “We didn’t have any plans to hand out trophies this weekend but the SAR-ACS gave me a silver dish with their medal in it for organizing this event, and we all voted to give it to you. I am thrilled to be able to give it to you for surviving "The Most Spectacular Accident of the Decade!”
He handed me the “award,” and the crowd cheered.
The four flashes of bright light were the reflections of the sun on the four chrome helmets of an Army color guard in a parade next door.
My only wound was a small scratch on my nose.
I gave the RS 61 and the truck to Pierre.
Notes: The 1961 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder
The 1961 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder had a 178 bhp, 1,600 cc flat four-cylinder engine with dual Weber carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension with torsion bar, coil springs, and tubular shock absorbers, and front and rear disc brakes. Wheelbase: 86.6 in.
Unlike other builders of highly tuned racing cars, Porsche’s engineers relied on constructing a lightweight chassis and powertrain with a streamlined alloy body to provide fantastic handling, braking, fuel efficiency, and tire wear, as well as more lightning-quick acceleration. This formula proved to be very effective, and the 550 model quickly notched up overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, and the Nürburgring 1000. The 550A, 550/1500 RS, and RSK of 1957 would follow, which would only increase Porsche’s domination on race tracks around the world.
The RS 61, and the RS 60 before it, proved to be the ultimate development of the Spyder platform. These cars, which were still known as the Type 718, had a tubular space frame that was like the 1959 RSK, but they utilized a wheelbase that was four inches longer. However, these cars were noticeably different from previous Porsche Spyders due to tightening FIA regulations, with the most visible of these requirements being the installation of a larger windscreen, an increase in cockpit size, and space for the FIA-required suitcase.
Nevertheless, Porsche’s Spyders and those who campaigned them could make the best of the FIA’s regulations, and they achieved overall victories at the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring and at that year’s Targa Florio. It was clear that the top brass at Porsche saw little reason to change what worked, and they continued production of the Type 718 cars into 1961.
For 1961 the model name was changed to RS 61 although it was almost identical to the RS 60. The RS 61 continued Porsche's success in the European Hill Climb Championship with Edgar Barth claiming the title in 1963. Porsche would go on to win a European Hill Climb Championship every year until 1982, a total of 42 titles.
Like the RS 60, RS 61s were offered to privateers in almost identical format to the cars campaigned by Porsche themselves.
Only a handful of RS 61s were produced, meaning that they very seldom come available for sale.
Offered at the 2014 RM Auctions Scottsdale event, the 1961 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder, chassis 718-066, sold for $2,750,000!
It’s April in Paris and at the Nurburgring.
European racing plans cancelled, John and I are driving around Europe enjoying the Spring weather and the Super 90. I’d always wanted to see the Nurburgring.
Nürburgring is a 150,000-capacity motorsports complex located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It features a Grand Prix race track built in 1984, and a much longer old "North loop" track which was built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains.
The north loop is 20.8 km long and has more than 300 meters of elevation change from its lowest to highest points. Jackie Stewart nicknamed the old track "The Green Hell".
It’s all public roads, so anyone can follow the track and dream of racing. Here I am:
At the Nurburgring.
Back in Paris
Back in Paris, we are enjoying good food and talk of Okinawa and the Macau Grand Prix. John needed to get back to work and I had to figure out what I was doing.
The next day, a huge truck smashed into the Super 90, sandwiching it against a light pole. I was coming onto the “Boule Mich” (Boulevard Saint-Michel) from a side street. Since drivers from the right have the right-of-way, it was the truck’s fault.
I sold what remained of it to the eager, photographer friend of John’s who was a Porsche fan. I no longer was so keen.
It’s May. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing but I wanted to return to Okinawa. IOS was the only job I had, and I still wanted to try the Macau Grand Prix.
I got out my Europe on $5 a Day and opened the chapter on London.
I used the insurance money from the Super 90 to fly to London and checked into the Morton Hotel in Russell Square, in Bloomsbury near the British Museum.
END OF NOTES
Les Leston was a famous car racer who had a shop selling aftermarket parts for cars, such as steering wheels and gear shifters. Also, flameproof overalls and properly constructed crash helmets. I bought one of each, as well as two neckties with Grand Prix cars on them. I asked him where I could buy a race car to take back to Macau.
Les put me in touch with a Frank Williams. I didn’t have a clue he was to become THE Sir Francis Owen Williams CBE, founder and team principal of the Williams Formula One Racing Team. I went to his garage in a mews and he showed me the Brabham Formula Junior BT2 that had been owned from new by Bob Olthoff** in which he had won the British Championship. Without even running the engine or sitting in it, I bought it to take back to Okinawa to race in the Macau Grand Prix. I left Frank to take care of the shipping arrangements.
Note: What would I have done with the Porsche Super 90 and the RS 61 and the truck? Was I completely nuts? I guess so, but it’ll make a fun book someday!
** From Wikipedia: In 1959, Bob Olthoff won two South African national championship races (on handicap). He set off for Britain soon afterwards, where he found a job as mechanic at the MG factory in Abingdon. His racing career took off.
He was the first South African to compete in a World Championship race when he and John Whitmore shared a works MGA Twin Cam at the 1961 Nürburgring 1000km race. Bobby had fond memories of the Ring - a circuit he loved. He told the story where he and Whitmore tried to learn the circuit in Whitmore's Land Rover. Bobby had the following to say:
"The secret there is to learn the track slowly. Denis Jenkinson was sitting in the Karussel looking through the viewfinder of his camera after a Ferrari had just come past, and the next moment two idiots with crash helmets came past in a Land Rover."
At the end of 1961 he finished third in the Autosport Championship for GT cars. Early in '62 he teamed up with David Dixon to drive his Austin Healey. He and Whitmore was up in 7th place at the Le Mans 24H in that year. Bob mentioned that he clocked 155 mph down the Mulsanne, the highest speed attained by an Austin-Healey. He also won the Leinster Trophy Formula Libre handicap at Dunboyne, Northern Ireland. With Maggs they came second at the Kyalami 9 Hour.
Shortly before Le Mans, Bob had become the first private owner of a Formula Junior Brabham BT2, to which he had to fit a BMC engine as he was still employed by BMC. He won many races. He later sold the car to a certain Frank Williams, who thus made his acquaintance with single-seaters.
Well, I was in London, time to have a different sort of fun.
In 1963, Homosexuality in the UK was totally illegal, so it was very exciting to sneak around these various “watering holes.”
Not quite sure how I found it – it certainly wasn’t in Europe on $5 a Day – but on Wardour Street in Soho, up some grubby stairs that reeked of rancid, cooking oil, was the A&B Club. A bar that was gay in spirit as well as custom – much more cheerful than any of its type I had found in New York. People were animated - laughing and bitching, all seemed to be good friends. There were executives and barrow boys, limp-wristed queens and butch leather-men ranging from late teens to totterers. It was great fun and I ended up going there for years.
The other option in the West End was the Rockingham. It was a five-minute walk from the A&B and in its locked door was a Prohibition-style window with a grate. One knock, the window opened, eyes peered out, the door opened. Inside were green-baize-covered walls above dark, wooden wainscoting – very British Gentlemen’s Club style. The patrons were generally decked out in jackets and ties, and the conversations were muted. It was totally different from the A&B but in its own way, equally amusing to me.
Really hard to find was The Place, a dance club way down the King’s Road on a teeny street opposite the World’s End Pub on Kings Road.
Every taxi driver knew the World’s End Pub but none of them would have known The Place.
The Place was in a basement of a normal (excuse the descriptor) house. Lit by candles and loud music, it was heaven with young, English boys dancing and kissing each other.
I can’t remember bringing anyone back to the Morton, and it wasn’t my style to go to someone else’s place. So, I guess my fun was prudent; after all, I was still only 22 and in England!
I spent a month in England drinking in the atmosphere and seeing the sights.
The beginning of June, I flew back to Okinawa with my crash helmet and flame-proof overalls in a small, carry-on duffle, and returned to the little house in Koza to wait for the car. I’d been gone seven months and took up where I’d left off – Frank Ifield was still on AFRTS radio!
Bill Masse, now my IOS Branch Manager, was a racing fan, and recruited fellow “IOSers” to join the EGLC Racing Team to prepare to go to Macau in November.
I found a garage for the Brabham a stone’s throw from the house, and John Herbert and I cleaned it out and made a sign of the Team logo to hang over the door.
I resumed my mutual fund selling for IOS, cold-calling in the off-base housing areas all over the middle and south end of the island. I started working around 5PM and would try to give three presentations a night. I continued my closing ratio of 10 sales out of 12 presentations!
Some nights I’d go the EM (Enlisted Man’s) Club on Kadena Air Base. World-class entertainers on the Far Eastern club circuit would perform; Ella Fitzgerald with Oscar Peterson came once. Flamenco Dancers from Spain arrived; after their show, I invited them back to the house.
Tony Scott** performed, and John and I threw a party for him at home. He liked Okinawa and our home so much, he decided to stay! He moved into one of the extra bedrooms with his Chinese girlfriend, and used to tease my Westchester County accent. I didn’t think I had one, but compared to Tony’s New Yorkese, anything would sound elitist.
** From Wikipedia: Tony Scott
Renowned jazz critic Nat Hentoff referred to Scott as “our finest contemporary jazz clarinetist” in a 1953 review of the Tony Scott Quartet published in DownBeat magazine. He proclaimed, “no other modern clarinetist has the fire, the drive, and the beat Tony generates.”
Graduating from Juilliard School of Music and NYC Contemporary School of Music, Scott gravitated around the bustling music scene around Greenwich Village, Harlem and 52nd Street during the ’40s. Throughout the ’50s, Scott played amongst the other jazz greats of the time, recording with producer John Hammond in 1950 on a Sarah Vaughn album alongside Miles Davis. Stints at the Metropole Jazz Cafe introduced Scott to Dizzy Gillespie. He developed a friendship with Charlie Parker, yielding many shared performances. Scott accompanied Billie Holiday on her Carnegie Hall live album Lady Sings the Blues, serving as clarinetist, pianist, arranger and orchestra leader.
In 1957, the U.S. Government commended Scott for his contributions to cultural understanding through music. Towards the end of that year, he embarked on a seven-month exploration of Europe. Eventually, his travels led him to South Africa, where he recorded with African RCA and an African women’s vocal group at a time when integrated jazz ran in sharp juxtaposition to apartheid rule.
The clarinetist left America again in 1959, after several quartet recordings reflecting the loss of many of his close musician friends. He taught, recorded and performed music around the world, spending five years drifting through Asia where he became vastly popular. A DownBeat readers’ poll in Japan in 1960 confirmed Scott as the best clarinetist.
Tony Scott, the famed clarinetist and unofficial jazz diplomat, died March 28, 2007 in Rome. He was 85.
Born Anthony Joseph Sciacca in Morristown, N.J., on June 17th, 1921, Scott was widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists, an innovator at the forefront of modern jazz. He had such an impressive range on the instrument, reaching eight notes above the highest C so that its sound approached that of a saxophone or a trumpet. Though he has gained most of his recognition for his clarinet playing, Scott also played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, guitar and piano, in addition to being a scat singer.
The fourth bedroom was soon taken by another IOS salesman, Ken Baruch. Another New Yorker, Ken was a good painter of abstracts, and his Chinese wife, Jennie, was sweet. Maybe a year or two older than I, he was bald and spent much time trying to find a suitable toupee. He was a good salesman and did very well. (We will come across them again in Chapter Seven.)
We had a nice mamasan as our housekeeper. She used to warn me about "stealy boys." I didn’t really understand the danger until one night when a kid was trying to get in my bedroom window. I grabbed for him but he slithered out of my grasp – he was coated in grease! Of course, Tony accused me of staging a nefarious deed, but I wasn’t dating or hunting these days.
Speaking of which, there was a bar run by two mamasans just outside Kadena Air Base in Koza. I came upon it by accident, it was a gay bar. Of course, the moment I entered any bar, it became gay by definition :-), but this was well established. For fun, I became the bartender for a month or two. I dramatically increased sales by introducing cocktails and doing bar tricks… magic tricks.
In September, my old boss, Bill Baxter, who was also going to compete in Macau, helped me clear my Brabham through customs, and we trucked it to the garage in Koza.
It was encrusted in very heavy oil to protect it from the sea air during the very long voyage from England, and John and I had a tough time cleaning it up.
Finally, it was ready to run and I drove it on the public roads to the old Okinawa Grand Prix circuit at Yomitan. It drove like a dream and snaked through corners as if glued to the road.
I put it on display at the EM Club where it attracted a lot of attention. No one had seen anything like it up close.
John was dealing with a couple who had walked in, then another arrived. It was up to me to try to make them clients.
I was on my knees, in my black jeans, virtually bare-footed, and diagramming with my Parker pen, when the lieutenant put his hand on my arm and said,
“If you can treat that expensive pen with such disregard, you’re obviously successful. Say no more, where do I sign?”
Mid-October, Bill Masse organized shipping the Brabham to Hong Kong and coordinated with Harper Ford to receive it and put it on a boat to Macau departing on November 9.
November finally arrives. A year ago, I was in Vermont. Since then I had bought and crashed a Porsche Super 90 in Paris and a Porsche RS 61 at Montlhéry; bought and gave away a DKW-Auto Union truck; and bought a Brabham Formula Junior, all with one objective in mind – the Macau Grand Prix in November! Why?
First staged in 1954, the Macau Grand Prix is one of the most important races on the international motor sports calendar. Famous for the unique characteristics of its Guia street circuit, and the demands on the drivers' skill and professionalism, the Macau Grand Prix attracts the world's best teams and drivers.
Bill Masse, two other IOS friends, and I departed Okinawa on the eighth for Hong Kong, and joined the car on the boat to Macau on the ninth.
I took turns being in the IOS office to handle the occasional walk-in. Of course, we financial planners dressed the part in immaculate trousers, shirt, and tie, but one day, I was not on duty and was wearing just jeans and getas (wooden flip-flops that don’t… flip-flop that is.)
Getting to Macau from Hong Kong was a long, languid ferry trip interspersed with sepia-colored junks plying the sepia sea as Chinese gun boats wallowed in watch. (Today one travels First Class on Boeing-powered Jet-foils which skim this now gauntlet-less velvet water in 55 minutes.)
Macau, once Portuguese, now officially the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the western side of the Pearl River Delta some 40 miles west-southwest of Hong Kong.
In 1963, I see it as a very cultured, un-cultured pearl. A grain-of-sand-sized colony nestled almost unnoticed in the rough oyster of China that edges the South China Sea, Macau is the mecca of all gamblers and a watering hole for many idiosyncratic characters who ride the jet streams of the world. I was here for a little more serious gambling—to challenge the best of the East in the 10th Macau Grand Prix to be held Sunday, November 17.
We had a week to prepare me and the car. The Formula Junior Class Race was to be on Saturday, the 16th. There weren’t very many actual race cars entered and, numbered 27 - very lucky to the Chinese - my Brabham BT2 was the 'dark horse' favorite; the betting was especially heavy.
I walked the 3.8-mile circuit, studying every curve and straight, every camber, angle, and elevation. It was going to be challenging. There weren’t any escape areas either, mistakes wouldn’t be forgiven.
Bill Masse, me, and Dave Clayton in the Pits.
(Not sure about the “Light Sabre” but it’s the only photo I have of Bill at Macau.)
Practice Sessions: Dave Clayton and Jim Jameson from IOS Okinawa were part of the
EGLC Racing Team.
I did a lot of practice laps – as I had learned from my walk, it’s not a simple circuit. Below is Turn 19 on the red map above – the Melco Hairpin; it is the tightest hairpin of any race track in the world. The first time I came around, I hit the apex with my rear tire. You can see the dark, round mark below.
I kept passing a young Japanese lad in a Triumph who seemed to be working very hard. The next time we pitted, he asked me to show him the proper line through the corners of this Monaco-like,
round-the-streets circuit. I told him to follow me and I slowed so he could relax and learn.
The Pits: I think the Groupie Girl came as an optional accessory – she’s wearing the EGLC arm band.
Saturday, November 17: The Class Race.
Lining up for the class race. Left to right: Teddy Yip, Bob Harper, Steve Holland, and me.
The Class Race was more like a parade. Arsenio "Dodgie" Laurel was first in his Lotus 22 Formula Junior. I came in 2nd. My new friend, Steve Holland (who worked for Harper Ford in Hong Kong), in a Lotus 18 Ford Formula Junior, didn’t finish. Another new friend, Albert Poon, a cute Hong Kong police detective, won his class in a beautiful Lotus 23. He is now Sir Albert and is 81 years old!
After the Class Race: Me, Dodgie Laurel, a race organizer, and A. N. Other.
Sunday, November 18, 1963 - The X Macau Grand Prix 1963
The start of the X Macau Grand Prix. Front Row left to right: Dodgie Laurel at pole, me, Albert Poon in the Lotus 23.Second Row: Steve Holland and Bill Baxter, my old boss from Baxter Trading Co. in Okinawa in the E-Type Jaguar rearing up under fierce acceleration!
I got a good start in the 60-lap Grand Prix. Here are some shots of me doing what comes naturally:
Suddenly, on the 19th lap, just past Reservoir Bend, I lost oil pressure and the engine blew! “27” didn’t turn out to be so lucky after all.
Dodgie Laurel, the son of former President Jose P. Laurel the of the Philippines, had a great start, took the lead, and held it all the way. With his victory, he became the first driver to win two consecutive Macau Grands Prix. His Lotus also became the fastest car ever on the Guia circuit when it hit a top speed of 73.38 mph mid-way through the race. The Jaguar E-types of Bill Baxter (see Chapter Two) and Teddy Yip***, although four laps behind, were second and third respectively.
***From Wikipedia: Theodore "Teddy" Yip was a businessman from Indonesia who was instrumental in developing Macau as a tourist destination. In 1962 he and several partners, including his brother-in-law Stanley Ho, formed the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau with a monopoly to run all casino operations and many other leisure activities in Macau, including lotteries, ferries and hotels, and it transformed Macau into a major tourist destination. Yip was the major force behind the Macau Grand Prix. Teddy died July 11, 2003 aged 96.
Arsenio “Dodgie” Laurel died during the Macau Grand Prix on November 19, 1967, at the age of 35. Eyewitness accounts revealed that Laurel, after his Lotus 41 skidded out of control, tried to avoid hitting some spectators by driving the car into the sea wall. The crash caused his car to burst into flames, leaving him trapped inside. He was the first fatality of the Macau Grand Prix. A corner of the Macau Grand Prix Museum is dedicated in his memory, with his race-winning Lotus 22 on proud display.
Macau Grand Prix Museum
Researching this chapter, I came across some comments in an online racing chat room by Marcus Mussa. It seems he had read the story in Edward Carter’s Travels about my adventure in Macau, and had been trying to reach me for years. I wrote him; his reply:
Mar 14, 2016 at 9:58 PM - Email from Marcus Mussa
This is the CAMS (Australia) document first used to get documentation for the BT2 after it was restored in Australia. It shows the whole chain of ownership – after Kelvin Prior it went to Len Selby then myself then Tommaso Gelmini in Italy, and finally Rudolf Ernst. It is kept and raced in the UK.
Also some photos as it was when it was found in Hong Kong, and one I took at the Macau museum.
MD Management Corporation SARL
Macau Grand Prix Museum – Teddy Yip and Ted Carter, maybe “27” is lucky after all!
Back to Macau, 1963.
The next day, Monday, November 18 - I was supervising the loading of the broken car onto the ferry bound for Hong Kong – Harper Ford had agreed to store it temporarily - when the Japanese racer bowed his way forward… He explained that his father was a very rich industrialist who wanted to start the Japanese National Grand Prix Team. Would I come to Japan and run it?
Having had my fill of trying to sell mutual funds to sergeants and ex-pats, I leapt at the chance. Details and remuneration were quickly agreed, and contracts would be drawn by Friday.
Bill Masse and the boys went back to Okinawa.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong
Friday, November 22 - I’d packed and was waiting, as agreed, in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental for the boy and his father’s lawyers when, suddenly, a bellboy ran through the lobby holding up a special edition of the South China Morning Post - JFK had been shot in Dallas!
After a long, lonely wait, I finally spied the Japanese boy pushing through the chaotic lobby. The words came haltingly through his tears: his father had collapsed, his family was in disarray, everything had to be cancelled; so sorry. He handed me a gold, DuPont cigarette lighter as a token of his apology.
My world, and everyone else’s had changed in that split-second in Dallas. My mind shot back to JFK’s inauguration speech. Parts of it suddenly made an awful lot of sense:
President Kennedy making his Inaugural Address.
“So let us begin anew...
“To whom much is given, much is required.”
“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that (DuPont lighter’s) fire can truly light the world.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
So let us begin anew - time to make some decisions.
I checked into the Hong Kong office of IOS in the Pedder Building on Pedder Street, in Central and said,
“I’ve decided to stay in Hong Kong, where should I start?”
Jack Himes, the General Manager, assigned me to work for a supervisor from New York, and we went cold-calling in apartment buildings (ugh!).
I was in a teeny hotel on Nathan Road on the mainland in Kowloon and had to get something better. I called Steve Holland and asked him if he’d like to room together.
We found a flat in Kowloon on Ho Man Tin Road.
Nancy Kwan, the star of The World of Susie Wong,
lived in the apartment next door.
We got an amah (maid) who lived on a shelf in the kitchen. The Mainland Chinese controlled the water supply to Hong Kong – we had running water only on Thursdays, and filled every wastebasket, pot, and the bath tub to try to last another week.
A letter arrived from my parents containing their cruise itinerary; they invited me to spend Christmas with them in Hawaii! I wasn’t having much success cold-calling apartments, and accepted right away.
December in Hawaii:
I joined my parents at the Halekulani on Waikiki Beach, Oahu. It was a gorgeous low-key hotel consisting of elegant thatched huts on stilts surrounded by beautiful greenery. (Today, it’s credit-card accepting, multi-storied, and, definitely, not the same.)
I checked out a gay bar on the main drag and a very cute guy took me up Diamond Head on his motorcycle. We found our way back to the Halekulani but as I was leading him up the stairs, a voice from out of the darkness said, “No you don’t!” We didn’t, and he disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.
On Christmas day, Santa landed on the beach in an outrigger canoe!
I sensed I hadn’t been invited here just for fun on the beach, but nothing was said until we went for New Year’s dinner in La Mer at the Halekulani – the best restaurant in Waikiki if not all of Hawaii.
Dad and me on the Halekulani's Beach
As our time together was ending, Dad said they had some things that needed to be addressed:
• What was I doing in Hong Kong, working for Mr. Cornfeld of all people?
• When was I going to come home, go to Yale, and then start a serious career?
Well, we had a huge fight and I stormed out of the restaurant, and, without very many more words, flew back to Hong Kong the next morning.
So let us begin anew - time to make some more decisions.
I didn’t want to stay in Hong Kong. I was having no success selling. I had a plan - I was going to go to IOS headquarters in Geneva and try to get a job. I had an excellent selling record in Okinawa, but I had experienced problems in the timely processing of my sales, and the receipt of my commissions. More importantly, my clients suffered delays in getting their certificates. Surely, with my considerable administrative experience in the Army, I could make a big contribution to IOS’s administration, and stabilize my career. I talked to John in Okinawa; he thought the idea had merit.
Steve worked for Harper Ford and I asked him to sell the Brabham for me. (According to the document Marcus sent me, it was sold to a Mr. L. C. Kwan.) It was the only money I had left.
My parents’ itinerary said they would be at the Erawan Hotel in Bangkok in February, so I bought a ticket – the money from the car took me as far as A’dam via BKK but no further. I kept back a few hundred dollars to tide me over a few weeks. This was long before credit cards.
One weekend before leaving, Steve and I went go-kart racing with a group that included the Duke of Kent at Kai-Tak airport. The go-kart club had set out a challenging circuit and we had a great time. The airport was amazing – built on land-fill right in downtown Kowloon; the planes nearly touch the buildings on landing. It is now a cruise-ship port among other things.
My parents were scheduled to stay at the old Erawan Hotel in Bangkok. Now the site of a modern Grand Hyatt, it was a large wooden structure set well back from the road across from the Bangkok Sporting Club’s horse-race track.
Mom and Dad had no idea I was coming. As their taxi arrived, they saw me on the front steps and were shocked. I blurted out that they had been right that night in Hawaii, that I was very sorry for arguing, that I had sold my car and left Hong Kong, and was enroute to Geneva to get a real job.
It sank in and soon there were smiles and hugs. Dad got me a room for the two weeks they were going be here, and paid for it!
Mother said they had a dinner tonight and would see if I could be included. Something arranged by the Junior League with an old acquaintance of Dad’s.
My room was down a long, very tall hall. Everything was teak. The doors were nearly nine feet high; the ceiling almost twice that! Fabulous style, but the furnishings were “old, maid’s room.”
Mom rang through, “Let’s meet in the lobby at six.”
I couldn’t help noticing that the staff was all really cute boys!
A very long car pulled up and Dad motioned us in. We crawled through the snarling traffic, and arrived at a dock where an even longer, canvas-topped boat sat idling. It had an automobile engine perched where you’d normally expect to see an outboard motor, and had a propeller shaft that looked as long as the boat – weird. We got on and pushed off; it was the most “out,” outboard imaginable. The motorman was swinging the huge engine and waving the prop shaft and spinning prop all over the place. Then he lowered it into the water, and we were off, planing down the crowded, narrow klong (canal).
We pulled up at a small dock and teetered ashore. A housemaid led us through a lush garden to a brick-paved area. Taking off our shoes, we admired the stone statues arranged around the many posts holding up the house above us.
We went into a small hall with wooden statues in silk-lined alcoves and European-looking, black and white marble flooring, and followed our guide upstairs. The walls were lined with Thai paintings. We were ushered into a large, black-stained, swooping-ceilinged, teak living room with glowing multi-colored silk drapes and pillows, and then out onto a terrace overlooking the klong.
A white-haired, white-clothed gent came out and my father introduced him to us. I didn’t get his name. Drinks on the terrace were followed by a delicious, multi-course dinner in the teak dining room. The sideboard held beautiful, antique, Chinese, blue & white porcelain, and Thai decorations that looked like they were made of flower blossoms.
I was rather precocious, and the Gent and I spent the meal discussing the “Tiger” economies and challenges of Southeast Asia. Singapore was part of Malaysia (not becoming a sovereign nation until 1965,) and Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were mired in war – Thailand being on the side of South Vietnam and the United States.
We wandered the house; he described where the beautiful pieces had come from and how he had constructed the house by taking apart six, Ayutthaya-style, Thai houses, moving them some 50 miles to Bangkok, and reassembling them as one, multi-roomed home.
We paused downstairs in the marble-floored hall. Over the door to the rear, a sign read, “Let No Tigers Enter Here.”
I looked at him quizzically…
“Well, you don’t see any tigers do you?” he chuckled.
We all moved back to the dock, and onto the long-tail boat. Through the din of the engine, I yelled at my mother, “I never got his name, who is that man?”
“He is Jim Thompson, dear; he’s in silk,” she shouted back.
Mr. Thompson, now with a white cockatoo on his shoulder, waved goodbye.
Three years later, during the Easter weekend in 1967, Mr. Thompson disappeared while on vacation in the Cameron Highlands, a northern Malaysian resort area. An extensive and extended search failed to reveal any clues about his disappearance.
I am reading the latest book about Jim Thompson. One rumor about his disappearance was that a tiger ate him. I remember "Let no Tigers Enter Here" was a sign that no longer hangs over the inside of the front door as it did in 1964 when I visited his beautiful home for the first time…
The visit to this house, and the many times I have returned to soak in its ambiance, is the reason I have now retired in Thailand with my own version of his home and furnishings.
Back to 1964:
A few days later, I invited the boy who ran the snack bar to the movies. He was happy to hold hands in the dark. My instincts said to cool it and I did. A year later, I got a letter from him saying now he understood my intentions to be more than just friends and he hoped we could meet again. Didn’t happen.
The handsome boys of the Erawan were why Dag Hammerskjöld said it was his favorite hotel. He was the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, and one of only four people to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize. US president John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century." Lucky boys!
My parents and I visited all the famous sights that Bangkok Has to offer – I was amazed to discover that Wat Arun is made of shards of broken pottery that was used as ballast for the ships arriving from The Netherlands a century or more ago.
I also remember going to see a sword fight in a dark theatre – very frightening! I don’t think that is done any more.
Time up, Mom and Dad got back on their ship; I flew to A’dam, checked in at the Hotel Come Back at Singel 458, just a few steps from both the COC and the DOK!
The next morning, I took the train to Geneva and checked in to a small hotel next to the railroad station. I called W. Thad Lovett, Executive Vice President of I.O.S., to make an appointment to meet in his office after lunch the next day. He gushed about my sales successes at the end of 1962 in Okinawa, knew that I had been in Hong Kong, and looked forward to seeing me tomorrow.
IOS Headquarters is a seven-storey apartment building at 119 rue de Lausanne, over a petrol station, overlooking Lake Leman and the Jet d’Eau. I took the elevator to the seventh floor and sat in the reception room. One after another, the resident directors were coming back from lunch - Ed Cowett, the company’s head lawyer; followed by Allen Cantor, head of world sales; and Bernie Cornfeld, himself, who came over to welcome me! Finally, Mr. Lovett arrived and I followed him to his office.
I laid out my case that the administration of the company was in a mess, commissions are late, and documentation gets screwed up. I have sales experience, know what working alone in the field is all about, and how much salesmen and their clients need loving care. I said, “I’ve come all the way from Hong Kong to show how much you need me to help fix it.”
Before he could say anything, I rose and said, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you. I’ll be in my hotel and I’ll wait to hear from you no later than tomorrow. If I don’t hear, I’m off to the United States.”
I left and went to the hotel. If this doesn’t work, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do. No money, no real alternative.
I ate at a Mövenpick, and went to bed.
The next morning, the phone rang. It was Thad.
“Would you like to come and see your new office?” he smiled.
I jumped in a taxi, and… started another new life!
END OF CHAPTER THREE
I cannot remember how I first met Stasha Halpern in the 1960’s. Probably via his lady-friend. I promised him X Fr. per month for a year with the proviso to choose 4 paintings at the end. We became very friendly. 1968 he suddenly had to move back to Melbourne. He suddenly died a year later. I sent a monthly stipend to his “widow” which I had to terminate when IOS crashed. End of story.
Story: Stasha got a show in Copenhagen. Once there, he was told each painting HAD to have a title. In a panic, he telephoned a friendly Paris art critic. What to do? “Ok, write this down. First painting: “Mystery at work.” Next painting: “Omega seven” Next painting…… "
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