The black American fugitive who was recently caught after 41 years on the lam brought back lots of memories. No, I’ve never been a fugitive from justice, and the memories are quite pleasant, because I met all those so-called Black Liberation Army con men in Algeria just about the time George Wright flew in from Boston to join them. But first a few reminders of what it was like back then if one was pro law and order.
Actually, it was pre-p.c. but worse. I remember one night at the Sherry-Netherland in New York in the company of an exquisite beauty, a lady who had the lead part in that haunting film Summer of ’42, which had just come out. I was just back from Vietnam, and after lots of drinks I thought my chances were pretty good, especially since she asked if I would walk her across the park, as back then it was a more dangerous place than Da Nang. Alas, the Nam came up while walking, and I mentioned the fragging of officers by American enlisted men. “It’s one hundred percent black GIs who do it,” I said. If I had called her mother a hooker, she would not have gotten as angry, of that I’m sure. After calling me a racist motherf–king pig she rushed off into the night, and I never saw her again. Jennifer’s reaction might seem over the top now—especially as she hardly knew where Vietnam was—but it was predictable. Black gangsterism was beautiful back then, and to hell with firebombing buildings, murdering judges and policemen, and robbing banks in the name of revolution. Some revolution. When Angela Davis was finally apprehended, Newsweek gushed about her looks as if she were Helen of Troy rather than a rough-looking black woman with a giant Afro and a wide gap between her two front teeth.
White liberal guilt remained out of control until Tom Wolfe’s famous piece, which exposed the hypocrisy of Park Avenue types like Leonard Bernstein and his infamous penthouse party for the Black Panthers. Once Eldridge Cleaver and his merry men escaped the prison that was America for the freedom of Algeria, Bill Buckley thought it a good idea that I go to that hellhole and interview them for National Review. I waited for a visa for quite a long time and eventually got there from neighboring Libya, as it happens. Algiers was grim, with no booze, veiled women, and security police everywhere. The French who had made it a cosmopolitan and pleasant capital had long left, with only a few old shopkeepers still trying to eke out a living. I hung out for a week without being able to make contact, until I met a black South African revolutionary by the name of Futhi Muchatini. Once I heard that his nickname (given to him by Arnaud de Borchgrave) was “Futhi Give Me Fifty,” I knew I would soon be making contact. The Algerian strongman, General Boumediene, had permitted all sorts of revolutionaries to establish offices in Algiers, but he kept a tight leash on them. When Futhi took me to the Black Liberation Army headquarters, I remember thinking that it beat Alcatraz, but not by much. The dumpy little house on the edge of town doubled as living quarters and offices. The only decorations were revolutionary slogans hastily scribbled on the walls. I quickly began spreading the wealth, and both Cleaver and his “field marshal,” Donald Cox, became talkative. “Oh man, what wouldn’t I give for a hamburger,” was the opening by the field marshal. It was the usual diet of anti-American slogans, nothing I had not heard from American liberals back home. Amerika was a prison, the pigs were fascist thugs, the whole system was rigged against the blacks, and so on. Cleaver, I must admit, eschewed all that, and only asked for news. To my amazement, they had not read a newspaper in months, did not speak French or Arabic, and hence were completely cut off from the rest of the world. I seriously contemplated telling him that revolution and a black versus white civil war had broken out, but then thought better of it. I already was feeling sorry for the guy, especially when he showed me pictures of his beautiful wife, Kathleen. (I also thought of asking him for her number, but a self-preservation instinct prevailed.)
In the end all that happened was that I got a cover story from it, the black revolutionaries got bored and asked permission to return to America and face the music, and George Wright went on to Paris and Portugal for close to 40 years of freedom until the long arm of the law got him. I hope he rots in prison, because he murdered a World War II Bronze Star recipient in cold blood and then wrapped himself up in the flag of revolution like Cox and Cleaver. The latter served his time and later sold trousers with a large bump protruding in the front. The scheme did not work, African-Americans not needing such tricks. His beautiful wife left him, and Jennifer O’Neill had a nervous breakdown, but not over me.