Monday, May 09, 2005
Spy in the White House?
The site of von Kloberg's demise was surely by intent. The Castel Sant'Angelo was originally constructed to be the gay emperor Hadrian's tomb and also used by Puccini as the point of departure for his heroine Tosca.
I would readily accept the suicide explanation given most of the facts. Von Kloberg was in poor health, had purportedly returned to Rome for a failed reconciliation with his Lithuanian lover Darius Monkevicius, left a suicide note referring to the affair and chose an apt location. Nevertheless, how could a man of such flair die with a 1997 photo cover of Prime magazine featuring him with George H.W. Bush?
I mean, who the hell ever heard of Prime magazine? And why go out pictured with someone of so little distinction? Oh... That's right. G.H.W. Bush was formerly head of the CIA. Was the magazine cover a "calling card"? A gentle reminder to those who may have embarked on nefarious adventures similar to von Kloberg's? (Just kidding, I hope.)
Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post gave von Kloberg a Page-One obituary last Tuesday—
Von Kloberg embraced the slogan "shame is for sissies" as well as an unabashedly Edwardian style of living. He arrived at balls and galas wearing black capes, and he traveled with steamer trunks. He added the "von" to his name because he thought it sounded distinguished.
In a life full of flamboyance, his end followed form: The District resident, 63, leapt to his death Sunday from "a castle in Rome," a State Department spokeswoman said. Von Kloberg's sister said a lengthy note was found on the body, and U.S. Embassy officials in Rome told her that he committed suicide.
Epithets abounded. The authors of "Washington Babylon," a muckraking book about powerbrokers, wrote: "Even within the amoral world of Washington lobbying, [he] stands out for handling clients that no one else will touch." Washingtonian magazine once named him one of the city's top 50 "hired guns."
By far the most outrageous and lasting public impression of von Kloberg came from a notorious "sting" operation by Spy magazine. For a story the satirical journal titled "Washington's Most Shameless Lobbyist," a staff writer posed as a Nazi sympathizer whose causes included halting immigration to the "fatherland" and calling for the German annexation of Poland.
According to the magazine, von Kloberg expressed sympathy for the fake client -- and her $1 million offer. And then he was drubbed in print. Shortly afterward, he showed up at the opening of Spy's Washington office with a first-aid kit and sported a trench helmet, "so I can take the flak," he announced.
Friends of von Kloberg saw the article as a revolting caricature of a man whose grace and charm were displayed at intimate dinner parties he threw to unite disparate voices -- 3,500 dinners, each with 12 guests, he estimated.
His voice, said one friend, was marked by an "almost Rooseveltian, high-class accent." He drove enormous black cars and draped foreign medals (Zaire's Order of the Leopard among them) across his tuxedo. At night, he sported one of two favorite black capes: one with red lining, the other with prints of doves.
Well, you can see why Guckert/Gannon would have been attracted.
One of my favorite accounts of von Kloberg is given in a July 2001 issue of The Washington Diplomat—
Donning black slippers embroidered with a devil holding a pitchfork, international publicist and lobbyist Edward J. von Kloberg III greeted guests at his double-penthouse apartment on Cathedral Avenue in NW Washington on May 30.I fear that all those tourists who drop by their Representative's office in the Capitol, perhaps to pray, are missing the real charm of Washington. But Guckert/Gannon obviously had more than just a nose for it.
The group of more than 100 diplomats, government officials and socialites came to watch the investiture of von Kloberg by the exiled Rwandan King, Kigeli V and to bid farewell to Clinton administration Deputy Chief of Protocol Fred DuVal.
The seven-foot-two-inch king touched the tip of a sword—once owned by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie—on each of von Kloberg’s shoulders after conferring on him the Chevalier Grand Croix of the Royal Order of the Intare. "The Intare means the Lion," explained the king as he praised von Kloberg as, "a great friend of Africa and a true aristocrat."
The juiciest speculation yet (2/2/05)