Rest Easy, Bagelites
Okay, New Yorkers are feeling anxious, depressed and helpless after the "toxic way" the FBI presented the risks involving terrorist acts. But not to worry. I am here to offer you some relief. As Onassis once said to Arnaud de Borchgrave, when the latter hinted that the interview he wanted from the Greek tycoon and his bride Jackie would be more favorable if they cooperated, "Go ahead and write anything you like, I shall enjoy reading it on my yacht."
Now some of you may not have yachts?I've never been able to figure out how people actually can live without one?but here goes: Just after the collapse of the Greek junta in 1974, terrorist organizations sprung up like wildflowers all over the birthplace of selective democracy and electrolysis. Having worked for the colonels as a press spokesman, I considered myself a low-to-medium-size target. After the terrorist organization November 17 murdered Richard Welch, the CIA Athens station chief, I began to feel anxious, depressed and helpless. I lived next to the Royal Palace, and my Merc was always parked outside my house while I toiled away writing the greatest book ever written, The Greek Upheaval. My father advised me to leave it in his garage, half a mile away, but half a mile is a long way to walk when coming home dead drunk, as I used to do back in those good old days. (O, to have my liver of 1974.) So, every time I used to get into the car, and just before turning on the ignition, my life would pass before me, my heartbeat would rise and then I'd turn the key. Every time I'd hear a motorcycle roar by, my life would quickly pass before me, my heartbeat would rise. (It was and is November 17's favorite way to kill; after 27 years and at least 22 murders not a single assassin has been caught.)
Then a miracle happened. One day I came down, got into my car, turned the ignition on and halfway to the beach I realized that my life had not passed before me and the heartbeat had not risen, and in fact I hadn't even thought of being blown up. Such are the joys of habit.
Twenty years later, while in London, I was informed that the boat I inherited from my father had been blown up by unknowns while anchored in Piraeus. Richard Johnson rang me up and?as I was writing a column for the Post at the time?I gave him an exclusive. It was obviously a cuckolded husband, I told my buddy Richard, and I even think I know which one among the many I've cuckolded. For any of you cuckolds out there, not to worry, it was a joke.
Richard ran with it on "Page Six," and that is all the insurance company needed to know. Cuckold's revenge was not included, so they paid me 40 cents on the dollar, and I was lucky to get even that. What really happened goes as follows: There are small-time gangsters in Piraeus who specialize in blowing up boats for people who are trying to screw the insurance companies. Having the reputation of a hard-liver and an easy touch, the gangsters figured they'd blow my boat up and then approach me for half the insurance moolah. Which in time they did. I flew to Athens with my lawyer, Willy von Raab, met with one of their representatives and told them that I was as likely to commit insurance fraud as they were to be mistaken for aristocrats. "If you threaten me I will injure you, if you injure me I will make sure you will die, and if you kill me you will die under torture by my people," was the elegant way I put it to him, face to face. Then I turned his name over to the fuzz and flew to Gstaad for Christmas.
Thus began a game of cat and mouse that was rather unpleasant for yours truly and my family. Not to mention those who worked for me. Two of them had their front doors blown out as a warning that next time it would be their bedrooms with them inside. The wife of one of them was beaten up while she was shopping. We retaliated by having an ex-DEA agent fly into Athens, identify the leader and have his daughter photographed next to the agent as she was leaving school. In the meantime the cops were doing nothing as the gangsters were part-time police informants. My wife received threatening telephone calls almost nightly, and three large black men jumped on me one night in London while I was on my way home. Luckily I was sober, managed to hold them off with the minimum of damage and the incident turned out to be just another London mugging. The worst was having to check the garbage every day right here in the Big Bagel. I live in a townhouse with a small garden in the front, as ideal a place to leave a bomb as I can think of. Then another miracle happened: an Israeli government biggie arrived at the apartment across the street and the place filled with New York's finest. I spoke with a couple of regulars, told them of my predicament and they said they'd keep an eye on the place.
More good news followed. The man who spoke for the gangsters and with whom I had met and verbally jousted was found beaten up rather badly and tied up inside the trunk of his car. I could not possibly comment as to who was responsible, but it did take the wind out of his sails for a while. The story finished with a whimper rather than a bang (pun intended). My people refused to press charges because they were intimidated; the gangsters realized I was not about to be intimidated and pay them and the man in the trunk decided it was better to be poor and in the fresh air than to expect to be rich and inside the trunk of a car. End of an unpleasant story.
Which brings me back to the stress suffered by Bagelites as I write. Shrinks are already trying to horn in, as they would, wouldn't they. But just as I forgot to even get nervous before starting my car, so should you, dear readers, forget all about warnings and threats and go about your business. Que sera, sera! Obviously if you see a man dressed up in sheets with a large bulge underneath them, it would be wise to call for help, but then the next time it happens the perpetrators will not be as obvious. Even terrorists learn their lesson, and in my not so humble opinion, if they do strike they will be dressed like cops or soldiers, or even ambulance drivers or New York's bravest. Unlike the ludicrous Democrats on the Hill who tried to make political hay out of the warning that never was, we are not about to close the city down. Life goes on. Do any of you remember the picture of Wilhelm Furtwangler, I believe, conducting the philharmonic?the audience all in white tie and tiaras?shortly before the fall of Berlin, with interruptions only when the bombs began to fall? Life always goes on, and the less one worries the less likely they are to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Just remember the heroes, like my friend Christian Regenhard, who knowingly went to their deaths following 9/11, and you'll feel safer for it.
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