All About Me & My Father
The All About Me Hubs are meant to be arenas for Hubbers to provide background information about themselves. Since I pride myself on not just marching to the beat of a different drummer, but to a whole 'nother band, I'll tell you all about the person who most profoundly shaped me, for good and bad: My father.
He was a man blessed with a talent so God-given that during most of his adult life he would likely be classified in the top dozen people in the world in his field. He commanded international respect, fame, fortune, and literal adoration. He rubbed shoulders with celebrities, dignitaries, heads of state, Mafia chieftains, industrialists, jetsetters and tabloid personalities. In an age when people still needed to make a phone call by sticking a finger in a numbered hole and turning a sprung dial, he would chat with me on his mobile phone from the back of his chauffeured stretched Cadillac limousine with his initials engraved in gold on the door.
As a child I would sit on the laps of people who are now legends: A Who's Who of the Sixties and Seventies. I attended school on the few days that I wasn't jetting off to New York, Los Angeles, London or Rome, rarely going to bed before 3 am as I played the role of the littlest adult in an entourage which wined and dined in the finest restaurants long into the night, every night. At a time when a new 3 bedroom house cost $20,000, I would sit and watch as tens of thousands of dollars would change hands on the turn of a poker card in my family's recreation room cum casino. There was so much caviar and lobster being thrown around that I got sick of it and can't touch it to this very day. The family bar was stocked with so much booze that I also now don't drink.
I had world famous operatic stars sing me Happy Birthday. I pressed my initials with my fingernail into the solid gold bathroom fixtures of the Head of the Five Families. I drove myself to school in my own new car from the age of 13, oblivious to the necessity of a driver's license and the age of 16 required to obtain one. When I finally did get my license I got a 427 cubic inch 435 horse Corvette to play with. But I tired of it and got a Lotus. But it was too small to make out with girls in, so I got a Cadillac Eldorado. But it wasn't fast enough so I got another Corvette. And yes, this was all in my 16th year on this mortal plane.
My father loved me with a morbid obsessive love that you would think would only exist in skewed psychotic romantic novels. It wasn't that he gave me everything I wanted, he would get me even the things I didn't know I wanted. How many high school kids need a platinum diamond Rolex? On those rare days when I went to school and those even rarer days when my father would be awake in the morning, he would beg me to not go to class and go into town with him in the limo (or any of our other seven cars) so we could have lunch and shop all day.
My father had no use for education or knowledge. He had dropped out of high school and rode the coattails of his innate talent throughout his career as it brought him all the fortune he could handle. He didn't trust things like literacy, intelligence, science, accountants, investments, lawyers, or laws. His currency was fame. He had all the money he could possibly spend, and the only way he measured status in his career was how many millions of people were your fans. He got into drunk punching matches with superstars, cruised on Onassis' yacht Christina O, was "ol' buddies" with the Governor of New York State, and was told by a Canadian Prime Minister that he should "f*** over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation" which, by the way, is government-owned. He did acknowledge that those celebrities were greater than him. But only barely.
For there lay the Shakespearean tragedy of his personality: He was raised to believe that the entire world was not worthy of kissing his round derriere. He felt he was an peer of the high and mighty and several notches above the rest of the human race, most of which he thought of with contempt. When he visited friends, he was "honoring them with his presence." He believed that friends were around to serve him at his whim. He would not hesitate for a moment should any of his "friends" disappoint him, to kick them in the shins or to smash a plate of expensive restaurant food in their faces. He had countless lurid affairs and would loudly and widely boast about them, much to my mother's humiliation. Although he was maniacally dedicated to his family's material welfare he believed we were there to serve him as well, and when that element is factored into what was a hair-trigger temper, the results were emphatically not pleasant.
My mother would receive regular backhands and slams into walls. I got the living daylights beaten out of me whether I deserved it or not. I once was fueling up one of the cars at the local gas station when he pulled up behind me, stepped out of his car without a word, smashed me in the face so hard he broke my glasses, got back in his car and roared away. The gas station attendant asked me if he should call the police, but I told him it was just a crazy person and to forget about it. When I got home he was crying and apologized saying that "he didn't know what had gotten into him." Thus was his modus operandi: Lose his head, do something inconceivable and unforgiveable, then ask for forgiveness. Oh yes, and a quick shopping trip to blow a few thou on a bauble or toy was supposed to help. Believe me, there were plenty of shopping trips. At one point my mother had about a dozen mink coats and enough diamonds to sink a battleship.
Hey, everyone has their moment of weakness, and we all do stupid things sometimes for which we have to apologize. The problem with my father was that not a single week would go by without a similar incident. You never knew what would set him off. He could be violently offended and not react. You could ask him to pass the salt and he'd punch your lights out. Pretty soon it became desensitizing. His completely unpredictable and sudden extremes alienated those around him. Until he had no one and nothing left.
While living in a drafty, semi-derelict wreck of a house, he died a few years ago in the public ward of a seedy, filthy clinic. He had been barely able to afford groceries on a meager government pension plus whatever random $100 bill I could afford to send him by Western Union. His funeral was attended only by my mother and my aunt. He now lies in what is essentially a pauper's grave, and one that I have never visited.
His riches to rags story was provoked entirely by his deeply flawed character. For a man who lived only for success it turned out that at the end he had no success, whether financial or personal. It is not important that he left nothing material behind. The tragedy is that he left no one behind to miss him, or even say any good words about him. Other than "good riddance."
There are things in this world that are important and things in this world that mean less than nothing. The one lesson I learned from my father's frenzied life is that anything that can be purchased with legal tender is meaningless. You can drown in riches and still be miserable. Would I have traded in all the Harleys and sportscars and Rolexes and first class airline tickets for a real, true, simple father-son relationship? In a New York minute.
Rest in peace, dad. I hope you have finally found the peace that eluded you in your life.