Who was Richard Weininger?

According to his extraordinary and rarely read memoirs (they were published privately by Exposition Press), written when he was 90 in 1978, “Exciting Years”, he was friends with (or at least spent time with): Cosima Wagner (Richard Wagner’s widow), the French Minister of Justice (pre-World War I), Feodor Chaliapin, Stanislavsky, Henry Goldman (the Goldman of Goldman & Sachs), Otto Kahn, Henry Flagler, Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler, Franz Lehar, Heinrich Mann (Thomas Mann’s brother), Charles Evans Hughes, Richard Strauss, Rainer Maria Rilke, Bela Kun, Thomas Masaryk, Oscar Homolka, Max Reinhardt, Ruth Draper, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Sacha Guitry, Maurice Chevalier, Cole Porter, Artur Rubenstein, Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, the Warner Brothers, Gorges Wildenstein, Hjalmar Schacht, Franz von Papen, Martha Gellhorn, Jan Masaryk, Harold Macmillan, Diego Rivera, Howard Hughes, Harry Truman, Ramon Magsaysay, Rudolph Bing and Ernest Hemingway. And many more.

A few interesting excerpts:

“At this point I met Howard Hughes, not to become involved in business deals with this most extraordinary of all businessmen, but to converse about the state of the West European economy. This was the time when Hughes lived in such complete seclusion that it was literally not known even where he was, or what he looked like. He broke from this seclusion only to dencounce the author of a Hughes book that turned out, indeed, not to have been authentic. At any rate, I did meet Hughes, and I maintained silence about the encounter……

“At once I could see that all the journalistic speculation about Hughes was a lot of nonsense. Far from being old and frail, he looked rather younger than his age – he was in his sixties – and he moved about the bungalow in an athletic, even boyish manner. Far from being decked out in long robes, he was wearing a trim business suit appropriate for the meeting. Yet Hughes appeared to me to be a tragic figure. He had all this concentrated energy, but he was completely deaf……

“For no less than four hours, with only routine pauses, I sat in that chair and talked with this man who was supposed to be an exhausted old cripple…..”

AND

after the Nazi victory in Germany and why his personal concerns were limited at the time:

“Our attitude, perhaps, was reinforced by the fact that we lived in the city of Berlin, which voted consistently against the National Socialist ticket. On our daily rounds, we simply did not meet people who voted for Hitler, and so we did not take him seriously. Similarly, many of our business dealings were conducted in the city of Hamburg, another anti-Nazi stronghold.”

AND FINALLY

“One evening, I escorted Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler to a performance of a German opera at the old Metropolitan Opera House. The opera, by Kranek, was “Johnny Spielt Auf”, in which the leading role of Johnny, a black, was being played by a German actor named Michael Bohnen. I remember that Al Jolson, the classic minstrel, was unimpressed by the black make-up being used on Bohnen’s face. So, in the first intermission, Jolson offered to go back stage and put things right and his offer was almost as incredibly accepted. That night, Al Jolson, the singing fool, was a Metropolitan Opera makeup man, and he was also a great gentleman.”

Who was Richard Weininger?

9 thoughts on “Who was Richard Weininger?

  1. He was undoubtedly the younger brother of Otto Weininger, the badly disturbed author of Geschlecht and Charakter (Sex and Character), published in Vienna in 1903, the year Otto shot himself. Otto was born in 1880, so Richard’s birth year of 1888 would fit. Cousins of mine who were brought up by Otto and Richard’s father, Leopold (a famous goldsmith), mentioned Richard and his coming to the US one step ahead of the Nazis.

    After Otto killed himself he was proclaimed a “genius”, an accolade still accorded him by some; he made a profound impact on, inter alia, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Many of us have reservations, to say the least, about the nature of his “genius”. There are several websites devoted to Otto Weininger so you can draw your own conclusions.

    I have books by and about Otto but don’t have a copoy of “Exciting Years”. Do you know where I could get one?

      • Hi, I don’t know whether anyone could kindly help me with some research into Richard Weininger as an art collector and patron, please? I’ve come across his name in some research I’m doing and would love to know more. I haven’t been able to find the book either but is there perhaps a family member or friend who could help me? Happy to provide details. Many thanks.

      • Dear Gloria,

        do you have any informations about Richard Weiningers conversion to protestantism in July 1906 in Vienna?
        Thanks Astrid

      • Dear Mrs. Gloria Weininger:
        I wonder if you could tell me the birth and death year of your late husband Thomas? All Richard’s book says is that he died in New york of leukemia at age 50.
        For all interested readers, I have compiled a biographical index of names and places for Richard’s book which I gladly send (as an Excel spreadsheet) upon request. My email is: helmutbooks@gmail.com.
        By the way, Richard’s memoir was not published PRIVATELY (as thinkingarthur puts it, but quite publicly, the only difference being that Exposition Press was what is called a Vanity or Subsidy publisher, meaning that the author was charged most of the expenses for producing the book.

    • how do you dare to talk about Otto Weininger with such superficiality? Maybe because you are related to him, he was morally quite higher over the moral standards that show your uninformed comments, and indeed he was quite a greater man that you will ever be. Indeed Richard was much more vain than his elder brother as Rosa Weininger explicitly said.

  2. Richard Weininger was a business associate of my fathers and because we were born on the same day, July 27, he called me his “birthday sister.” He was incredibly generous and played a fairly large part in my life, flying to Geneva when I had been expelled from school and somehow getting me re-enrolled; buying me a train trip across country when a relationship went bad; and generally supporting many of my youthful adventures. His country home was amazing to visit.

    He gave me a copy of his book, which I will find and reread now. He was very kind to my father when my mother died and at the same time Dad turned 65, so “retired” from his job in NYC.

    I had just seen someone on TV who reminded me of him, so I decided to google his name. I still have many of the letters he wrote to me. He always had a table in one room piled high with new books. And I remember all kinds of polo trophies in that room. I have no idea how many languages he spoke.

  3. Richard Weininger was a remarkable person who not only supported art but actually was instrumental in the development of the play about Otto Weininger. He not only knew all those persons you list but had ongoing correspondence with many of them as they found him a brilliant thinker.

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