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Exquisite Corpse
Issue 8A Journal of Letters and Life

RX for a Gloomy Sunday
by Milton Beyer
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Fred Koch, the leader of a Detroit clan with a family fortune of five billion dollars, owns a controlling interest in the Capricorn Hotel chain among many other interests. His father and uncle, Harvard-trained lawyers and his immigrant grandfather,who was a pharmacist in Detroit, were the founders of this vast fortune. Fred is a University of Chicago Law School graduate.
     In 1943, my friend, Peter, a boy wonder business tycoon, started a citrus business in Florida at age 21 and later sold out to General Foods for enough stock to become a millionaire. He left General Foods to become president of Universal Foods in Chicago. There he met Fred Koch through Sid Luckman, an All American Columbia quarterback, who later played for the Chicago Bears.
     After one year, Peter, in a palace coupe, was summarily fired while his patron, the legendary Martin Frank, founder and Chairman of Universal Foods was out of the country and not taking Peter's calls.
     Peter left Chicago for New York and within a year he had raised $10 million dollars in a public offering and was in control of a company planning to build English style pubs in the U.S. His English partners were Lord Warwick, the Queen's cousin, Lord Wodehouse of Wodehouse's Bank and Watney's Brewery. Wodehouse asked me at the opening of the first U.S. pub, my view of where U.S. interest rates were headed. My reply, "First down, and then up."
     After opening six pubs in the U.S. that flopped and a U.S. style fast food hamburger restaurant in the English Channel resort in Southend that did likewise, Peter switched gears and started developing wild animal parks and a Disneyland style amusement park. One such was Treasure Island between Baltimore and Washington. It was budgeted at $20 million but wet weather delayed construction and double- and triple-time rates drove the cost to $40 million.
     Fred Koch had introduced his friend Peter to the senior V.P. and loan officer at the Central National Bank of Detroit who shoveled the extra loan money to Peter in order to open for the first summer season. Fred also suggested that Peter pay the loan officer a $25 thousand annual consulting fee which he did. Later, when the loan officer was indicted for similar non-arms length transactions, Peter was called as a witness and the loan officer received a $50 thousand fine and five years probation.
     Peter's first drive-through wild animal park opened in Toronto in the spring of 1970. I was invited to join the opening festivities as was Fred Koch. After the opening ceremony and barbecue next to the lions' park, Fred Koch left for home and asked Peter for a suitable dinner date for his inamorata, a beautiful English girl in her twenties who he was sponsoring in medical school. I was the volunteer and took her to dinner at one of the French bistros in the heart of the city's Latin quarter in Toronto. She told me she was the daughter of the commanding officer of the RAF airbase at Bentwaters, England  where my son was then stationed in the U.S. Airforce. I sometimes wonder if she got her M.D.

* * *

I was driving through the wild animal preserve in Treasure Island in Maryland, built in 1978 by Peter.  I observed a male lion with his pride of lionesses - sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins and perhaps a few strangers - screwing one of his harem. It was over in 20 seconds. (What about her?) The coupling was repeated about 50 times that day with different partners.
     My young friend, Peter, lion-like, also maintained a rotating group of females. He was married, had three children and a lovely wife living in a grand house on the bay in Palm Beach. His offices in New York and London kept him flying and collecting young and pretty stewardesses. He majored in this.
     I met him in the Washington, D.C. airport on his way to meet the parents of his current lover in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He was carrying a two-foot chiming clock wrapped in brown paper as a present for the old folks at home. The lion in summer was carrying a clock to Rock Mount.

* * *

On a muggy summer day in Manhattan, Peter's current girlfriend, Elaine, a leggy former Miss San Francisco, is in the Lenox Hill Hospital suffering with a nervous breakdown.
     Peter, Judy and I are killing time and holding anxiety at bay in Peter's bachelor pad on East 67th Street. Peter, playful, boyish, amoral says, "Let's go to Coney Island."
     We drive to the beach in Brooklyn (shades of Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby tragedy stalks us also).
     Arriving at the beach in Coney Island, we join the ticket line at Steeplechase Amusement Park. The roller coaster is so much fun we ride it a second time.
     After a shore dinner at Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay, we drive back to Manhattan. We check the hospital and discover Elaine has been discharged.
     A week later, at home, Elaine overdoses on sleeping pill and dies alone.


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