Thursday, July 4, 2013


The Conspiracy Peddlers was the first of its kind.

Chapter by chapter, this booklet tackled the Liberty Lobby, Lyndon LaRouche and his various fronts, Conspiracy Queen Mae Brussell, and Peter Beter, among others.

Dr. Beter, a former Import-Export bank official, worked himself into weekly frenzies about "Soviet nuclear warheads buried in U.S. coastal waters." 

He even provided precise longitudes and latitudes of every concealed warhead. 

A lake in West Virginia was cited, and a panicked sheriff named Harley Mooney actually had it drained.

Willis Carto threatened the publisher with a lawsuit.  But never filed one.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Student Newspaper
The American School in London
Wednesday, April 4, 1973

Bear van Wyck, the art teacher who organized for Elton John to perform at ASL, had transformed the amphitheater into a kind of VIP lounge for Elton, his band, and others who got tapped to be there; me, by merit of bringing a half-dozen cakes from my parents’ cake biz, and also because I got assigned to try to interview Elton for the school newspaper.

Longdancer, the supporting act, was already into their set when Bear approached me and said Elton was parked outside on Loudoun Road, would I go greet him and show him where to go?

Together with a Swedish student (I’ve forgotten his name), I charged out to Loudoun Road and approached Elton’s black limo.

Problem was, I didn’t know (nor did the other guy) where Bear meant for us to take Elton.  

This was because Bear had planned a surprise party for Elton in the amphitheater (I think it was his birthday) and the setting was not yet ready to receive him.

So the other student and I stupidly led Elton and his band toward the gym, where the concert was taking place.  We went down a stairway (Loudoun Road side) to a door that would have led backstage.

Fortunately, it was locked.  Elton would not have wanted to remain there, behind the stage, for another hour while Longdancer performed.  Nor even for five minutes.

“It’s locked,” I said.

Elton said, “What the bloody hell’s going on?”

It was a fair question.

I responded by leading him to the amphitheater, surprise party be damned. 

As we sauntered in, Elton looked around, a smile on his face, and commented, “Well, this is nice.”

It was very nice, indeed.  There was wine and various cakes and pies, people milling around.

Elton sat down in the front row, center, facing the amphitheater stage. He seemed relaxed and happy.

I shyly asked him if he minded being interviewed for the school paper. He readily and gracefully agreed.  

Others gathered around as I asked questions.  All I had at my disposal was a pen and white paper plates, and I used about five of them to scribble Elton’s answers to my questions.  Others chipped in with questions of their own, and Elton seemed to greatly enjoy himself.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Boris Berezovsky, the self-exiled Russian oligarch found dead at his home in Britain with a ligature tied around his neck, feared assassination.

I got a personal taste of this fear when I met the supposed billionaire at London’s Dorchester Hotel seven years ago.  He showed up with a bullet proofed Bentley and two very large bodyguards.  He wasn’t scared of me.  But he was petrified of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his arch-nemesis—and Putin’s proclivity for poisoning his perceived opponents, either with polonium or lead.

Short, dark, and shifty-eyed Berezovsky scanned the grand lobby for assassins (usually, tycoons leave this to their goons) and quickly determined we’d be safer in his private club, where members’ guests (myself included) are compelled to pose for mug shots as a condition of entry.

And although The Ambassadors Club was a mere hundred yards down Park Lane, Berezovsky insisted we climb into his tank for the ten-second ride.

This was a man who valued his life.  And had good reason to believe at least one very powerful person wanted him dead.

As New Russia’s New Stalin, Putin, a product of the KGB, had a decade earlier embarked on a systematic plan to eliminate Russians perceived by him to have betrayed the Motherland.

This was, after all, a Communist tradition, commencing with the assassination of Leon Trotsky.

First we had Edward Lee Howard, a defector to Moscow from the CIA, who supposedly broke his neck “falling down the stairs to his basement” soon after he was discovered to have compromised the former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov and embarrassed the Russian special services.  (Ed’s dacha didn’t have a basement.)

Thus followed a series of shootings and beatings, resulting in the death of Russian investigative reporters and assorted political opponents.

But the boldest assassination was that of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB officer resident in the UK, who suffered an agonizing death after drinking tea laced with Polonium 210, which inadvertently subjected others to radiation poisoning.

A former KGB officer executed that hit, as ordered by Russian FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, and approved by Putin.

So Boris, who had been close to Litvinenko, had much to fear—paranoia that even Zyprexa and Abilify would not suppress.  But this guy took precautions not medication.  And he was never treated for depression, the usual cause of suicide.

So how does Berezovsky come to die with a ligature around his neck, as if he were an ill-fated character in The Godfather?

It is reported that two officers from Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), which kept tabs on him, visited this one-time Godfather of the Kremlin on the eve of his demise.  

Did they carry such bad news that the almost-broke billionaire decided to end it all at whim, having already planned a trip to Israel the following week?

Putin’s press machine zoomed into gear (or was already geared), not only blaming the Brits but also leaking a story (true or not) about Boris having penned a missive to Putin begging forgiveness and permission to return to Mother Russia.

Back to my meeting with Berezovsky in London seven years ago:  He spoke with passion of overthrowing the Russian president he helped handpick from obscurity (to replace the drunkard Yeltsin), returning to Russia, and running the country himself.

I, apparently, was not the only person to whom he spouted off.  A few weeks later, his insurrectionist stance got reported in the media, resulting in a censure from the British government after protests from Putin.

I mentioned my bizarre meeting with Boris to a friend who happened be a senior member of SIS, asking if continued contact would have any upside.  My friend looked at me mournfully.  After a few moments silence, he said quietly, “There’s nothing but death associated with Boris Berezovsky.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Tim Hardin (1941-1980) at Tricky Dick's Coffee House, London, 1978

This (unpublished) interview was conducted in mid-1979.

Tim died from an overdose of heroin December 29, 1980

Tim Hardin used to live in a squat (a derelict house) around the corner from Tricky Dick's, my late-night coffee house in Hampstead, north London.

One evening, Tim wandered in and played his guitar:  a very powerful performance featuring his mighty voice and self-written classics like If I Were a Carpenter.

We became friends and, somewhat down and out, he'd hang with me through the day as I made supply runs for coffee, ice cream, etc.

Early evening, we'd hang at the local bars:  Swiss Cottage, The Red House, and The Old Bull and Bush, where he'd alternately make fast friends and provoke fights.

Later, Tim would play a set at Tricky Dick's in exchange for a burger and fries (and a pint of whiskey under the table).

Many customers had no idea he'd been a famous pop star, fallen on hard times, and when he improvised new lyrics extemporaneously, they'd prat-call that the words were wrong.

Once, Tim stopped playing and smacked a smug heckler on the stomach.  

But mostly he played, because that's what he liked doing best of all.  

He lived for his art and felt good only when he was in his zone, strumming, tapping keys and singing.

ERINGER:  Tell me about your rise and fall situation?

HARDIN:  When I was 19 I got a scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York.  It was too much like school, so after about six weeks I dropped out and bought a guitar with my last forty bucks.  Didn't know how to play it or anything.  Figured out five or six chords and started writing tunes because it was easier than learning other people's songs.  I got a gig in Greenwich Village where they passed the hat, hot dog money and bus fare.  Out of that I got a publishing deal:  I'd send them a song, they'd send me some bread.

The music business is based, like every other business, on making as much money as you can for as little effort and as little time spent as possible.  There are some people who do not know how to coordinate their lives that way.  They find out something they can do that's exciting for them to do, which in my case is singing and playing.  It's the only thing I can do good enough to make me feel good.  So, helplessly I go, feeling good and playing, not knowing that when somebody says, "I want to make you a really fair contract"--not knowing that they don't feel the same way about their gig as I do about mine.  It's a business where if you can't lie, or if you don't have somebody to tell you that somebody else is lying to you, you're always going to lose.  Just always.  You might stack up some bread, but you're going to feel such a fool when you realize you're only getting one percent of what you're supposed to get.

You know, I said to my first contract people, who screwed me real good, "I said, "Should I have a lawyer look at this contract?"  They said, "Sure, our lawyer's right next door!"  Hey, man, almost everybody knows better than what I did.

When I realized what was going on, I just walked on them, split, which also cost me a lot of money.  At that time I was so young and, it seemed me, so rich, that I couldn't make a mistake.  That I had some money in my pocket made me so f------- cocky I decided to stop recording for anyone and start my own record company.

ERINGER:  When was that?

HARDIN:  About 1972.  But then I got an offer to record with Rod Stewart's people, GM Records.

ERINGER:  That's when you moved to London?

HARDIN:  Yeah.

ERINGER:  Why London?

HARDIN:  Well, romantically I had something going with Mary Frampton.

ERINGER:  While she was married to Peter Frampton?

HARDIN:  Yeah.

ERINGER:  Did Peter know?

HARDIN:  No, he didn't.  And neither did she!  I was just so in love with her that I just went over there [London] and waited till somebody f----- up.

ERINGER:  What happened?

HARDIN:  Well, I didn't f--- up, so I got it.

ERINGER:  Got what?

HARDIN:  Mary married me.

ERINGER:  How were  you for money at that time?

HARDIN:  Until just after Christmas, '75, I never realized that I wouldn't have all the money I ever wanted ever.

ERINGER:  After being a millionaire for a bunch of years you were suddenly broke?

HARDIN:  And would be in terms of anything I could make off of what I thought I owned.  Then my manager, a so-called "friend," came over and said somebody offered me a quarter-of-a-million for my catalog of songs.  Well, I needed money at the time so I said okay. When I came round to my senses a week later, I changed my mind. So this "friend" came to England and told me he'd gone to the IRS and told him my story about the kind of tax shortcuts everybody takes, and he said they'd extradite me from England and put me in jail.  So I signed the paper and sold the catalog.

ERINGER:  But, still, how can you be so down and out?

HARDIN:  I had to pay my ex-wife Susan an awful lot of money.  I wish she'd give me some.

ERINGER:  Why won't she?

HARDIN:  Because she knows I hate her so much and she hates me, too.  She doesn't even like to see me.

ERINGER:  When did you last see her?

HARDIN:  About seven months ago.  She met me at her office, where she does organic make-up.  I had tea and a cupcake with her.  I asked her if she could lend me some bread to pay for parking across the street.  She said, "Oh, Tim, are you really broke?" and I explained the whole thing to her.  So she gave me twenty bucks instead of five. She could tell right then that I was very capable of killing.

ERINGER:  How did it feel when it finally occurred to you that you were dead broke and had to change your glamorous lifestyle?

HARDIN:  It grabbed me by the nuts, put its thumb up my asshole and scratched my brains from inside.

ERINGER:  You were addicted to heroin, right?

HARDIN:  I was addicted to heroin from age 19 to 26.  I'll tell you what:  My drug experiences were not a drag.  I felt so good so much that I will never, ever be sorry.