- The art of the Con
The Biograpgy of Howard
Seems that there was a guy around at that time by
the name of Howard Hughes that everybody had heard of but that was about it.
No one had seen him for some time and he was hanging around with a group of
Mormons that acted as bodyguards and kept him sanitized from the rest of us
- riff raff. Hughes had a lot of weird tendencies but someone that was worth
$1 billion when that was real money can really do whatever he wants. That was
exemplified by the fact that he designed and flew custom made planes, produced
movies and hired the most gorgeous of Hollywoodâ€™s female actresses to star in
them and then took them home, owned several of the largest industrial companies
in the United States and his estate funded the then largest charity. This was
indeed a man that had the interest of the country and yet could never be found.
Rumors abounded that he was in poor health, that he had wasted
away, that he was wearing a disguise and that he had left the country. All of
them were probably true at one time or another. The public was clamoring for
the real story and it was Clifford Irving that Howard Hughes agreed to meet
with and give and exclusive story to. Everyone wondered why Hughes chose Irving
but he was a reasonably good writer and people thought that Hughes had reached
an agreement with him that he would tell the Hughes story in a way that would
make Howard look bigger than god.
While this made a lot of sense, it wasnâ€™t what really
occurred. It seems that Irving; knowing that historically Hughes would never
talk to anyone; he could make up whatever story seemed plausible make a fortune
of the book. If it was not too outlandish, Hughes would never refute it. Irving
started the scam by creating claiming to the press that he had been authorized
to do a biography on the man and had already accumulated tons of manuscripts,
letters from Hughes himself. Another trick that Irving had up his sleeve was
the fact that Hughes had not spoken publicly for over a decade and that even
if he did indicate that Irving was a fraud, who would believe it was really
the man himself. Moreover, Irving biggest bet was that no matter what the circumstances
were Hughes would never appear in person.
That was about the only thing that Irving was right about.
He socked away a $765,000 from the publisher, McGraw Hill, as an advance for
the autobiography supposedly to be written and edited by Irving as told by Hughes
himself. For those days that was a literally obscene amount of money and the
public literally began screaming for the book. This was the man that had created
the brazier for Jane Russell in the movie the “Outlaw” a near porn movie at
the time, but extremely tame be todayâ€™s standards. To some degree, this alone
had made Hughes a folk hero.
Eventually excerpts of the book came out and while
everyone loved it, there was not a ring of truth in the entire thing. In the
meantime, Irving did the radio - television road show circuit and was superb.
He was so good that in March of 1972, after it had already been revealed that
the book was a con job, Irving was nominated as the best actor of the year by
60 Minutes. He also was dubbed “con Man of the Year” by time magazine. Everyone
called him something, but for the most part it was very good. The whole scheme
unraveled when Hughes agreed to be interviewed on the telephone by seven reporters,
some of whom had talked to Hughes during his more formative years.
Irving had his fifteen minutes of glory and got 14-months in
the slammer at Allenwood, a literal country club for white color criminals but
was soon up-streamed to the big-house for his bad boy behavior. Before Irving
had finished paying for his crime he would serve time in Lewisburg, mostly in
solitary and in Danbury a maximum-security type of place where at one point
he was accused of trying to kill the warden. Moreover, he had to return the
money he had taken from McGraw Hill. As if to add insult to injury, his wife
and supposed researcher, Richard Suskind also was given similar prison sentences.
However, when the whole thing had ended, the public had gotten a great joy ride
for their money. Irving, who had been a decent writer before the incident, slipped
into oblivion and makes some bucks now and again by talking about his moment