The bad blood between him and Onassis had never been resolved. At the time of Patronikolas's abandonment I had said to myself, How could this possibly be, that a man could die all alone? That day in the American Hospital it all came back to me, the shock and wonderment and lack of understanding. If ever there was a family that played out its tragedies in the ancient Greek style, it was this family, and all too often I had been caught in the thick of the strife. And if there was one figure around whom the many recurring elements of my life revolved, it was Aristotle Onassis. Oil, Nixon, the CIA, Saudi Arabia, the Kennedys, Eisenhower, Howard Hughes, Josephine Baker, William Rogers, Achilles Vlachopoulos, Z—all were bound together in my association with this intensely difficult, larger-than-life man who now lay alone in his bed like a pile of neglected bones. It was only his wealth that remained vital; his physical self had already become insignificant. My association with Aristotle Onassis went back to the 1950s, when he was having big legal problems with the U.S. Department of Justice. The source of these problems remained a secret until 1978. Had I known before, the mysteries that bedeviled me all those years would have been clarified. Everything makes sense now that I know the deep involvement of that now-familiar combination: the giant oil multinationals, the CIA, whose agents performed for the multinationals as if they were on their payroll, and Richard M. Nixon. The plans to ruin Onassis were carried out in the name of national security. Call it a dry run for Watergate. In 1954 Aristotle Onassis was already a millionaire many times over. He had just signed an agreement with King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia that would enable him to ship 10 percent of the oil flowing out of the kingdom. The king, however, died shortly after the contract was signed, and the giant oil companies in America were outraged that their hegemony had been threatened by a man whom they feared they could not control. Then a mysterious and alarming chain of events began that nearly did Onassis in.
He was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General Herbert Brownell. The indictment was prepared by Warren Burger, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. Onassis was accused of violating the Merchant Ship Sales Act, which forbade the sale of American surplus ships to foreigners. His legal problems were soon compounded by what seemed to be a plot to destroy his character. He was called anti-American, that pervasive fifties charge, as well as a Nazi sympathizer and a Communist sympathizer who intended to ship all that Arabian oil to the Russians. The character assassination went on all over the world, and Onassis was unable to find out who was behind it. Then private information concerning his business affairs began leaking everywhere. Onassis had the utmost confidence in his top executives. Many were family members or close lifelong associates. Suddenly their confidential transactions were being made public. It didn't take him long to conclude the telephones in his offices in America, Europe, and Saudi Arabia were tapped. Several of his executives also told him they thought they were being followed. Matters got even worse. The Saudis, under the new king, reneged on their agreement. Onassis's whaling fleet was attacked by Peruvian planes, and all over the world his tankers lay empty, the result of a concerted boycott by the oil companies. Once his agreement with Saudi Arabia had been revoked, the pressure subsided, but the Onassis empire was still reeling from the full-scale war directed by parties unknown and therefore impervious to counterattack. Shortly before Eisenhower's second inauguration, and at Onassis's request, I discussed the savage attacks on him privately with Eisenhower, telling the President they seemed to emanate from within the U.S. government. In his usual perfunctory way Eisenhower reached for the telephone and called Attorney General Herbert Brownell. He asked Brownell what the situation was with the Onassis indictment. I don't know what Brownell told him, but it was short and sweet. Eisenhower hung up the telephone and said, "I don't know what's going on, but Brownell is going to talk to William Rogers and get back to me. I thanked him and left. Several days later, on a Sunday, I had lunch with Onassis, Johnny Meyer, and Darryl Zanuck in New York at the King Cole Room in the St. Regis Hotel. "It's all set," Onassis said to me cryptically. I knew what he was referring to. "Call me at the Pierre tonight at eight." When I called him that evening he told me his troubles with the Justice Department would soon be over, though he had no more insight into why the persecution had ended than why it had begun. He believed one very hefty contribution to the Republican party had been part of the solution at that time. My association with Onassis in the following years was always difficult because I resisted his pressure to work for him as an employee. I preferred to remain his representative on certain business affairs, particularly those involving Saudi Arabia, where I could be useful to him. He offered many incentives, even throwing in Maria Callas at a time when I was trying to get a commitment from her for a musical production. Callas had been as unreachable as the moon. Suddenly she was practically in my lap, a paragon of sweetness and cooperation. However, when I still refused to go to work for Onassis, her cooperation dissolved. Aristotle Onassis was a firm believer in mixing business and pleasure. Marriage was also a matter of commerce. My association with him was further complicated by my deep friendship with Professor Gerasimas Patronikolas, who was also the great favorite of Onassis's son, Alexander. Patronikolas was warm and giving. Onassis could be unbelievably remote, even cruel, toward his family. He was estranged from his son. When Alexander died in the airplane crash, Onassis belatedly realized how much he had lost. However, the enlightenment that came with grief did not result in a renewal of ties with his brother-in-law. In fact, the enmity increased. As in a Greek family tragedy, the daughter was just like the father, and consequently there was something of a bond between them. In 1973 a new business relationship, again with Saudi Arabia, this time under King Faisal, rekindled our friendship. Shortly before his final illness I told Onassis that I had paid for many of Patronikolas's medical expenses myself and had received no reimbursement. After his death I expected Christina to honor his pledge, as she was well aware of her father's promise. I gave her all the necessary documents, which she looked over without a word, cold as an icicle. I have yet to see any repayment—and don't expect it. This year, 1978, the complete story of the plot to destroy Aristotle Onassis surfaced. It sounds sadly familiar. All the usual names are there: Howard Hughes, William Rogers, every big American oil company, John Roselli, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, and Richard Nixon. The game plan: to maintain the American corporate stranglehold on Arabian oil under the cover of national security. Richard Nixon was Vice President, and the orders came directly from his office. Onassis was to be smeared, bugged, indicted, physically threatened, and destroyed in the name of free enterprise and the safety of the free world. Nixon succeeded in having Onassis's contract with Saudi Arabia broken. The plan was carried out by agencies of the United States government without the knowledge or approval of anyone but Nixon and his underlings, and paid for by the United States taxpayers, all for the benefit of the giant oil companies and Richard Nixon. William Rogers succeeded Herbert Brownell as Eisenhower's Attorney General, surfaced again as Nixon's Secretary of State, and is now the representative of the Shah of Iran. John Roselli went on to plan the aborted assassination of Castro and the effective assassination of Trujillo. He was brought into CIA employ by Robert Maheu, who soon rose to prominence in Howard Hughes's Sanctum Sanctorum. The American oil companies continued to pour money into Nixon's campaign coffers as freely as they siphoned oil out of Arabia. The CIA went on to involve the multinationals in other assassinations, other coups. Warren Burger was appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Nixon. Aristotle Onassis went on to even greater wealth and a marriage of commerce to Jacqueline Kennedy, catapulting himself into the very lap of the gods. Still, he died a very bitter, lonely, disillusioned man. Richard Nixon went on to the Oval Office, where he assembled a similar but much larger cast with a much more ambitious intent, and he came very close indeed to success. How close he came is the part that sometimes keeps me awake at night. A book about a person still caught up in the thick of living is difficult to end. Recent events, flowing as they do out of the names and places described in my story, are hard to put in perspective: my life remains open-ended, unresolved, subject to surprises and change of heart. The greatest change for me has already taken place. My decision to tell about the things that have happened to me up to the present has meant that for the rest of my life I can no longer be what I have always preferred to be: an anonymous man.