Thursday, July 16, 2020


Private Sector Intelligence with Clair George

January 1991, Monaco-London

Harry Schultz was ready to meet Clair George and me in Monaco after first meeting his financial newsletter deadline.

Then: “Let’s meet at the Hotel Metropole [across the street from his hideaway]," he said. "Three p.m."

Though we had already been working for Harry for over three months, Harry had never communicated with Clair, only me, and thus could not be certain Clair wasn’t still working for CIA and had come to rendition him back to the United States.  

But Harry and Clair took to one another immediately.  Harry was discriminating, but he had a weakness for funny, charismatic people who showed him respect.

Clair, conversely, felt comfortable with everyone, whether a prince or a bum on the street. Clair knew how to work people and make them like him, trust him.  He was, after all, a man who built a career—an extremely successful one—based on conning people to betray their countries by revealing sensitive state secrets.

Harry, upon arrival, looked absurd in several layers of clothing in contrasting colors, including a tartan vest and quirky tie.  His hair was greasy, unwashed, and he looked pale.  He said he suffered vertigo.

Clair sympathized and empathized, as only Clair could.

Accompanied by Joy, a rather joyless lass from northern England who had evolved from clerk to concubine, Harry took a full two minutes to decide where everyone should sit.  He was partly deaf in both ears, one worse than the other, so placement to him was important.

Distrustful of his memory, Harry relied on "topic lists" penciled onto a pad of paper, with items such as “What did you mean by this?” referring to an insignificant phrase on a two-month old fax and “Why can’t we do something more drastic to Loony?” (the codename Harry had given his Texan tormentor.)

“What do you have in mind?” I asked whimsically.

“Let’s send him subscriptions to pornographic magazines,” said Harry.

“Hell, Harry, he’d probably like that,” I said.  “He just needs monitoring.  He’s really not that big of a threat to you.”

Had I wanted to make a fortune, I’d have told Harry that Loony was a huge threat.  But Clair and I were scrupulously honest in our dealings with clients, unlike many “rainmaker” charlatans that operated in the arena of problem resolution. 

“Loony thrives on your attention,” I added.  “Ignore him and he’ll buzz off.”

We sat in the Metropole lobby for three long hours ticking off Harry’s agenda.  Then we decided to have dinner.  

I suggested Le Texan, a chance to jump into blue jeans and swig Heineken from the bottle.  

But Harry would have none of it, insisting on hosting us at The Hermitage Hotel nearby, where Russian noblemen spent long winters a century before.  We would re-group at 7:30.

The Hermitage—all of Monte Carlo—was a ghost town with war expected any minute, and whatever war meant.  Saddam Hussein had threatened the worst for Israel (all he could muster were dud Scuds) and Europeans perceived the ramifications as ominous.

Consequently, we were the only patrons inside The Hermitage’s restaurant.  

Harry, clearly, had never learned the French habit of choosing a restaurant by how busy it is.  The ambience in The Hermitage was opulent but their salmon tasted as if it had been cooked a week earlier, refrigerated and microwaved.

Harry talked about the significance of numerology.  He made us tell him our birthdates from which he determined our lucky numbers.  

When dessert arrived, he returned to his agenda, a few items still uncrossed.

“Do you really think we shouldn’t do something to Loony?” said Harry.

I rolled my eyes, tired for sitting many hours and winding up with frightful food. I bluntly asked Harry if he wanted to play games or truly resolve his problem.

He grew timid, retreated, and it was past midnight when we finally parted. 

Back at my apartment, I found on my answering machine a telephone message from Bob F., a New York City lawyer, calling from Zug, Switzerland. 

As Clair and I were in Europe, might we we be available to undertake a side-trip see his client, Marc Rich?

Clair could scarcely believe his ears when I phoned him at his hotel, Loews, with this news. But he was very game.

It meant having to cut Harry short.  

When we met Harry next morning, again at The Metropole, he had added a new slew of frivolous items to his "topic list."  He slowly plodded through them, milking each trivial point for very much more than it was worth.  

I tapped my foot, slapped my knee, and tried to bring each item to speedy resolution.  

But Harry wasn’t interested in resolution, speedy or otherwise. He wanted to vent.

“Now, when you said in a faxed report two months ago that Loony works at an x-ray lab, what exactly did you mean?”

He was really saying:  I paid for you guys to fly out here.  I want my money’s worth.

Finally, he suggested lunch as a means of concluding our sessions with him.  

The last item on his agenda, he said, was UFOs.  He wanted us to find one, along with some aliens, if possible.

We broke bread in the Metropole’s terrace restaurant.  It went slow, oh so slow, until I could take no more.  I hadn’t yet packed and needed to close down my apartment.  

Finally, I excused myself, allowing Clair to draw a curtain.  

The former spymaster ultimately broke free by telling Harry he had to fly off on a secret mission, something about "imminent war"…

We flew to London, already dark past 3:30 in the afternoon, atrocious traffic, bumper-to-bumper all the way into the West End, the Cavendish Hotel on Jermyn Street.

At 6:30, I met my parents in the hotel bar, clean-shaven and garbed in a double-breasted navy blazer, earning good money as an international problem solver. 

Clair joined us briefly for a Scotch and soda, his favorite pre-dinner tipple, and charmed my parents like he charmed everyone.  

I took them across the street to Green’s Champagne Bar and treated them to a bang-up meal.  They wanted to see me the following morning, but I could not, whispering, “We have to fly to Switzerland for the day.”

Clair and I had to drop in on Marc Rich.