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…..”
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.”
“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?