ALSO BY ROBERT GREENFIELD
S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones
The Spiritual Supermarket
Haymon’s Crowd (novel)
Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out
(with Bill Graham)
Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
Timothy Leary: A Biography
Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones
For Jake, Charley, Buddy, Beau, and Waylon Weber, and Gabriel Bailey
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
—JOHN KEATS, “ODE ON A GRECIAN URN”
She fell for all that peace and love and it worked to a certain extent and then it became an excuse for the worst people to get involved with the best people and they were brought down to that level.
—TOMMY WEBER, ON HIS WIFE, PUSS
Funnily enough, I’ve often thought, “I wonder what happened to Tom.”
—HUGH RAMSBOTHAM, TOMMY WEBER’S CLASSMATE
prologue: a day in the life, villa nellcote, june 1971
The boys have had a fantastic day. Beneath a canopy of endless blue sky filled with so much sunshine that the world itself seems to have been spun from liquid gold, they have been out and about and having fun on the French Riviera, the playground of choice for those with enough time and money to afford only the best that life can offer. Now they have returned to the great house where for the past month, they have been staying with their father as honored guests.
Although the boys are brothers and both beautiful in their own way, they do not look at all like one another. The older one, eight years old, has a small, fine-boned face framed by long, straight, blond hair that any girl his age would envy. Having grown up among adults, he is finely attuned to their changing moods. By far the more independent and self-reliant of the two, his six-year-old brother sports a wild unruly mane of thick brown hair that makes him look like a young knight of the realm in training.
As they both rush toward the front door of the house, eager to tell their father about all they have done and seen today, the air is rich and thick with the scent of flowers in full, riotous bloom. Surrounded by exotic trees brought from all over the world that have grown wild into a tangled jungle through which the boys make their way each day like explorers in darkest Africa, this house has become for them a veritable Garden of Eden, where life is an endless party and nothing bad can ever happen.
Their father, a shockingly handsome man of regal bearing who has long since become accustomed to staying in such houses, has always felt very much at home on the French Riviera. Nine years ago, he brought his beautiful young bride, then already three months pregnant with their first son, here on their honeymoon. More recently, he and his two sons spent several weeks on the Côte d’Azur accompanying the beautiful actress with whom he was living as she made her latest film. That relationship is now over. For the past month, he has been waiting for his former wife, who has not been well but whom he still loves, to join him so they can begin putting their family back together again.
As the older boy enters the house, he sees the utterly stricken look on his father’s face. Immediately, he knows something bad has happened. Without any preamble, the father tells his sons that he has terrible news. Their mother has died. The older boy’s reaction is instantaneous. Uncontrollable hysteria. As if on cue, his younger brother begins to weep as well. Finding it hard to breathe, the boy tries to steady himself, but it does no good. As one, both brothers begin wailing at the top of their voices.
Although the father goes on talking, explaining that this was an accident, the older boy can no longer hear a word he says. For him, everything has gone white, like at the end of a movie, when the final credits disappear and the screen is suddenly filled with harsh, brilliant light as the projector burns through empty, flapping frames of film stock. In his head, he can hear only a whirling, symphonic cacophony of noise much like the one created by the Beatles at the end of one of their most iconic songs. It is as though he has been placed into an isolation chamber from which there is no escape. For both boys, the days that follow become a blank and empty period about which they will later remember nothing whatsoever.
If this were a movie, it would track the effect of this disastrous event on their lives. Because it is a moment in time, replete with all the messy complications that occur in real life, the father and his boys know only that the woman who was always at the center of their lives is now gone and that what for them was just a day in the life has suddenly become something else again.
Right from the start, nothing about him was ordinary. Thomas Evelyn Weber, born Thomas Ejnar Arkner on December 1, 1938, was raised in a great house on a twenty-five-hundred-acre estate where those with wealth and power had lived in baronial splendor since the start of the Middle Ages. Located in the Dollerup Hills not far from Viborg, the seat of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, the sprawling manor house that was the fifth and final incarnation of Hald Hovedgaard (the ruins of four castles also bearing the name can still be found on the land) was built in 1787 by a high-court judge known as “the mad magistrate of Hald.” The estate then passed through the hands of fourteen owners before being given in 1936 as an incredibly extravagant wedding gift to Poul Christian Arkner and his brand-new bride, the former Pamela Joyce Weber.
Blonde and good-looking, she was the daughter of a wealthy, well-educated English businessman named Reginald Evelyn Weber, who by dint of his great success in trade and close ties to the royal family claimed to be a baron. Although both Pamela, a talented painter and pianist, and her older sister Ann, could have referred to themselves as baronesses, they never did so, in part because their parents divorced when both girls were still quite young.
Renounced by her family for her part in the divorce, Pamela’s mother, the former Joyce Warner, set off with her daughters to make a new life for herself in Africa. In 1925, when Pamela was eight years old, Joyce married a fifty-year-old retired British army brigadier general named Lionel Boyd, who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Croix d’Officier of the Legion of Honor for his service during World War I. Much like Karen Blixen and her husband, Bror, in nearby Kenya, the couple established a coffee plantation in a forest not far from the city of Arusha near Kilimanjaro in the northern region of what is now called Tanzania.
Unlike Karen Blixen, Joyce Boyd viewed the natives who worked for her as lazy, shiftless children who had little or no ambition. She complained bitterly about trying to live a truly civilized life in a land still so untamed that she would sometimes step out onto her veranda only to find a leopard playing with the household cat. Becoming a dedicated and fearless hunter, she spent her days stalking through the bush in a cloche hat and a long dress with a rifle in her hand, intent on killing anything wild that moved. She also welcomed Edward, Prince of Wales, to her farm, which was renowned for its gardens.
In 1933, four years before Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen’s pen name) was published, Joyce Boyd wrote a book titled My Farm in Lion Country. A classical colonial text, her memoir has none of the deeply felt love for the land and those who lived on it that makes Out of Africa an enduring classic. Nonetheless, whenever Joyce Boyd went on safari in Kenya, she stayed with Karen Blixen on her farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills.
It was there that sixteen-year-old Pamela, who along with her sister had become one of the most eligible and attractive young women in the territory, met the legendary English aesthete and jungle guide Denys Finch Hatton. Pamela also caught the eye of Karen Blixen’s husband, Bror, a Swedish baron who was a big-game hunter and a well-known serial philanderer. Pointedly, Joyce Boyd once told “Blix,” as he was known to his many friends, “There are two girls in Africa you’ll never get your hands on, and those are my two daughters.”
Although she managed to keep her girls out of Blixen’s clutches, Joyce Boyd could not prevent Pamela from falling in love with the handsome Danish former soldier who was nearly twice her age and who managed a nearby sisal farm. From an early age, Poul Arkner, born Poul Christian Anderson in March 1902, seems to have suffered from what his older son would later call delusions of grandeur. Hoping to discover royalty in his ancestry, Poul Arkner once hired someone to trace his ancestry, only to discover that although his family had lived in Denmark since the eleventh century, he was in fact the direct descendant of a casual relationship between a Spanish soldier and a Danish prostitute. He changed his last name to Arkner to avoid being confused with a Danish printer named Poul Anderson, who became a well-known resistance leader during World War II.
After graduating from the Royal Danish Military Institute, Poul Arkner, whose father had served with distinction as a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Danish Army, began what should have been a lifelong career of service to his country. Deciding to look elsewhere for advancement and adventure, Poul Arkner persuaded a cousin who was a medical doctor to certify that he suffered from a heart condition. After being discharged from the army, he joined the French Foreign Legion.
Stationed for five years at Sidi bel Abbès, the notorious desert hellhole that served as legion headquarters in Algeria, Poul Arkner became one of the few foreign enlistees to rise up through the ranks and be commissioned as an officer. Fluent in French, German, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, he learned to speak Swahili in Tanganyika. His older son would later describe him as someone who “just used people all his life and when he had used them up, then he would discard them.” Poul Arkner, who as a young man looked much like Errol Flynn in his heyday, had little trouble persuading Pamela Weber that he was the man with whom she was meant to spend her life.
In 1936, Pamela defied her mother’s wishes and eloped with Poul Arkner to Denmark. The newlyweds were on a boat headed for their new home when Pamela learned that her mother had died of typhoid, which meant that her father was now her sole protector. Fearing that fortune-hunting young men might try to marry his daughters solely for their money, Reginald Weber had already established large trust funds in both their names to safeguard their wealth.
Any doubts Poul Arkner may have had as to the size of the dowry that Pamela would bring to their marriage were immediately dispelled by her father’s lavish wedding gift. In 1936, when the British pound was still worth five American dollars, the estate known as Hald Hovedgaard was valued at a million pounds. It is difficult to come up with a modern equivalent for this sum. In terms of buying power, fifty million dollars might be a more accurate estimate than five. The title to the estate, first registered in Reginald Weber’s name, was soon transferred to Poul Arkner.
In November of the year she was married, Pamela gave birth to her first son, Anders Reginald Arkner. That Poul Arkner chose to name the boy after his own father rather than the man whose incredible largesse had enabled him to live like a lord at Hald and whom he treated with great respect, always addressing him as “Sir,” says a good deal about the man. So does the fact that when his second son was born two years later, Poul Arkner chose “Ejnar” as his middle name. In Danish, the name is synonymous with dristig, meaning “bold, audacious, daring, frank, or outspoken.” It also corresponds with the Icelandic term for “the one who fights alone.”
At the age of twenty-one, Pamela found herself living with two young sons and her husband on a great estate with a lake, ancient earthworks, moats, battlements, barns, roundhouses, and depots. For a while, life at Hald was good. Thanks to Pamela’s trust fund, money was not a problem. As soon as her first son was old enough to sit at the keyboard, she began teaching him to play the piano. Poul Arkner bought his own plane and began growing potatoes for export to Britain. Becoming part of a social set composed of the local nobility as well as those who had attained some degree of celebrity in Denmark, the couple entertained constantly.
On August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a nonaggression pact that included a secret protocol ceding Finland to Russia as a Soviet sphere of influence. Three months later, on November 30, 1939, Russian troops invaded Finland and the Winter War began. A staunch patriot who had always hated the Bolsheviks, Poul Arkner flew off in his own plane to help the Finns defend their land.
Years later, Tommy Weber could still remember watching his father take off for war from Hald, his plane so heavily laden with sides of pork and crates of schnapps that it barely cleared the trees along the lakeshore. “That was the last I saw of him for a long while,” he said. “I assumed he was fighting the Germans.” Becoming a captain in the Finnish army, Poul Arkner helped battle the invading Red Army to a standstill. When the war ended in March 1940, he returned to Hald.
A month later, on April 9, 1940, Denmark was overrun by the Nazis. Because most Danes could trace the purity of their blood line back to the Vikings and many of them looked like the race of true Aryan supermen Adolf Hitler hoped would soon take over the world (and because Nazi troops were needed to fight on other fronts), the Third Reich offered the king of Denmark a deal. As long as there was no organized resistance within the nation’s borders, Germany would respect Danish independence.
Knowing that his nation stood no chance against the overwhelming power of the Nazi military juggernaut, King Christian X quickly capitulated and the five-year German occupation of Denmark began. Although it is a myth that the king wore a yellow Star of David when the Jews in his country were ordered to do so, the Danes as a people did such a good job of protecting their Jews that when the Nazis finally began rounding up Danish Jews in 1943, most were already gone.
Although the Nazi occupation put an abrupt end to Poul Arkner’s potato export business to Great Britain, a nation the Luftwaffe had already begun bombing on a nightly basis, he had little trouble accommodating himself to the new state of affairs. On a regular basis at Hald, he began entertaining high-ranking Nazi officers, all of whom would have looked on him with favor for several reasons. Poul Arkner could trace his own lineage back through several generations (though not with the results he had expected). A wealthy land owner of pure blood as well as a highly trained soldier, he had already demonstrated his courage and military expertise by serving as an officer in the Royal Danish Army and the French Foreign Legion.
That he had also fought against the Communists in Finland was yet another feather in his cap. When the Nazis abrogated their nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union by invading Russia on June 22, 1941, Poul Arkner’s stock rose even higher. And then there was the way he felt about the Jews. “I wouldn’t say he was anti-Semitic,” his older son would later say, “but when my father spoke about the Jews, it was as though he was speaking about a lesser people.”
On June 25, 1941, Finland declared war on Russia, beginning the Continuation War, which went on until September 1944. Although many Danish Nazis went off to fight the Soviets, Poul Arkner refused to serve with them and instead joined a Swedish-speaking unit of the Finnish army. At Hald, he left behind his two young sons and Pamela, whom the Nazis considered an enemy subject.
Clearly identifying themselves with their mother and the land of her birth, both boys began riding around the vast estate with Union Jack flags affixed to their bicycles while wearing caps bearing the red, white, and blue roundel of the British Royal Air Force. Six months after the Continuation War began, Great Britain, now an ally of the Soviet Union, declared war on Finland. Technically, Poul Arkner was now fighting against his wife’s homeland. Returning to Hald after his term of service ended, he resumed his position as the lord of the manor.
By then, Pamela had realized that, much like the armed conflict raging throughout Europe, her marriage had now also become a long and bitter war. A lifelong alcoholic who became angry and violent whenever he was drunk and his wife dared to confront him about his behavior, Poul Arkner once beat his young wife so badly that she ended up in the hospital. Fearing for her life, she left him three times, only to return to Hald to care for her sons.
The marriage finally ended after a rancorous argument at the breakfast table in front of both boys on Easter Sunday 1943. “I don’t blame her for leaving the man,” her older son said, “because he was a vicious bugger. He was a bully and he struck me. It’s horrible for a son to say about a father who’s been dead for twenty years, but he was a sod. The truth is that neither my mother or my father had the slightest conception of what it meant to be a parent.”
Moving to Copenhagen, Pamela went underground and began working as a cipher officer for the British navy. In return for being allowed to hide out in an attic, she played boogie-woogie piano in a nightclub for a well-known swing band. At Hald, where Poul Arkner was now in control of his sons, neither boy could escape his wrath for long. Uncontrollable even as a child, Tommy later remembered that his father regularly kept him tethered to a ring mounted on a post in the yard outside the manor house.
One night, during a big dinner party attended by several drunken Nazi officers and their lady friends, Anders dared Tommy to crawl under the table and urinate in the officers’ boots. Instead, the boy relieved himself in his father’s shoes: “I pissed in his pumps, and Pa recognized this little tinkle in his boots and he looked down, and there I was, laughing at him. He picked me up by the scuff of my neck like a rabbit in front of all these people and said, ‘This is an Englander and he has just pissed in my boots.’”
After he had been given a “frightful beating” for somehow managing to flood his father’s office on another occasion, Tommy ran to one of the henhouses on the estate. In a fit of anger, he emptied all the laying boxes and threw the eggs against the wall. As he later said, “I’m sure I got another beating for that.” Subconsciously, Tommy may have also been sticking up for his mother, with whom he now had contact only via the radio. Avidly, he would listen to her play piano whenever she performed. Saying “I’m playing this one for my son,” Pamela would launch into her own rendition of the Andrews Sisters’ worldwide hit, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” a song she knew that he loved.
As she neared the end of her life more than sixty years later, Pamela would often sit down to play the piano, only to begin looking nervously over her shoulder. Abruptly, she would then put an end to her performance. It was a habit she had picked up during the war while performing in nightclubs where Nazi officers came to be entertained. Living underground while working for the British navy, she was by then firmly convinced that her husband had denounced her to the SS, thereby giving her good reason to fear for her safety.
By 1943, the Nazis, whom Tommy would later remember as being “very easy-going” when they first occupied Denmark, had ratcheted up their own activities throughout the county. Three years earlier, they had seized the large tuberculosis sanatorium that had been built near Hald because the climate was considered beneficial. Scouring Denmark, Norway, and Finland for itinerant gypsies, whom the Danes called zigeuners, the Nazis converted the sanatorium into a large holding facility for the Romany.
Coming home from school one day, Anders heard a loud commotion at Baekkelund, the railway station nearest Hald. As the seven-year-old drew nearer the railway siding, he saw two Nazi officers, one with a monocle in his eye, standing side by side. Wearing tailor-made uniforms with long great coats, riding breeches, and high leather boots, they were chain-smoking cigarettes from long holders as they engaged in a very intense discussion, quite possibly about what they planned to have for dinner. Neither paid any attention to the noncommissioned officers who were using Alsatian dogs to herd hundreds of gypsies, some playing violins, into transport trucks for a journey to Auschwitz from which few would return. The scene made such an indelible impression on the young boy that to this day, his attitude toward “the Germans as a nation is one I still can’t repeat.”
In 1945, as the war in Europe began winding down, Pamela was sent with Wing Commander Hamish Mackenzie-Kerr to find the graves of British pilots who had been shot down over Denmark. The two fell in love and planned to be married when they returned to England. Before they could leave Denmark, Pamela had to reclaim her sons from Poul Arkner, who was now facing charges for having fought with the Germans, which he had in fact never done.
When Pamela returned to Hald for the first time since leaving her husband, she was accompanied by a crew of technicians so she could play the piano there for a live radio broadcast. Hearing the thrilling sound of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu coursing through the house, seven-year-old Tommy ran into the music room only to realize that his mother, whom he had not seen for two years, was home again. Turning from the keyboard, Pamela saw her son and said, “Ah . . . Tommy!” Forsaking Chopin, she launched into “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” “I had this smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off,” he recalled. “She stopped in the middle and played my song, a boogie. It was a wonderful, wonderful reunion. Then came the legal battles over the estate and who it belonged to, and Pa was on criminal charges for fighting with the Germans. They were going to drop all the charges if he gave up both me and my older brother and he said yes.”
Fairlie Mackenzie-Kerr, one of Pamela’s two daughters by Hamish Mackenzie-Kerr, tells a slightly different version of the story. After Pamela hired a lawyer who sent Poul Arkner a letter stating that Pamela was going to sue him for three manslaughter attempts at Hald, Arkner contacted Pamela and said, “No, no, no, don’t do that. I’ll meet you and give you the children. You can have the children and we’ll forget about all that. And you can go.”
A meeting for the transfer of the children was arranged. As Poul Arkner drove there with his sons, Anders sensed something was about to happen and kept a tight hold on his younger brother. After handing over Tommy, Poul Arkner drove off with his older son, leaving Pamela screaming hysterically in his wake. “We were a pair, the two of us,” Anders remembered. “We were inseparable, like a pair of twins. We even shared a bicycle because we could not get two sets of tires during the war. I would go to school in the morning on the bicycle and meet him halfway in the afternoon, and he would bicycle to school and then back again in the afternoon. And that is why, when we were separated, I can still see it in front of my eyes. The car. The open door. My mother. My father. And me, struggling and holding on to Tommy. I wouldn’t let him go. I will never forget that.”
With help from Pamela’s uncle, Sir Edward Neville Syfret, lord commissioner of the Admiralty and vice chief of the British Naval Staff, two British navy officers flew Tommy from Jutland to his mother’s cottage by a fjord in Halbeck. To the end of his days, he would remember being “literally captured and kidnapped, screaming with a broken arm in a cast, by two British navy officers.” Quickly, the boy was then transported with his mother to England on a Royal Air Force Dakota C-47 commanded by a British army general who let Tommy sit on his lap during the flight while Pamela made polite conversation with an admiral.
Far too young to understand what was happening, Tommy could not have known he was now leaving the vast estate where he had been free to roam wherever he pleased on land that belonged to his family in every direction as far as he could see. Nor could he know that he would never again have significant contact with the older brother to whom he had always been so close.
Quite clearly the product of a marriage that should never have taken place and most certainly a casualty of the greatest war the world had ever known, Thomas Ejnar Arkner, seven years old and unable to speak a word of English, was on his way to the country where he would spend the rest of his life. Although nothing about it had been ordinary, his childhood was now over.
They called her Puss because even as a child, she looked like the cat who had swallowed the cream. With her lustrous, thick black hair, enormous almond-shaped eyes, and perfect complexion, she was the great beauty of a family whose own history was as tortured and complex as that of the man she would eventually marry.
Born on December 3, 1943, Susan Ann Caroline Coriat was the daughter of Priscilla Chrystal Frances Blundell Weigall, an extravagant heiress of great wealth, and Harold Isaac Coriat, the former land agent for her first husband, Viscount Edward Richard Assheton Curzon. A direct descendant of Admiral Richard Howe and General William Howe, the two brothers who commanded the British forces during the American Revolution, Richard Curzon would in time himself become the sixth Earl Howe.