And here I was assuming that the insulated world of Washington lobbies was droll…
From the article:
As part of Washington’s image machinery for more than two decades, Edward von Kloberg III did his best to sanitize some of the late 20th century’s most notorious dictators as they sought favors and approval from U.S. officials.
A legend of sorts in public relations circles, he counted as clients Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Samuel K. Doe of Liberia; Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania; the military regime in Burma; Guatemalan businessmen who supported the country’s murderous, military-backed government; Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire; and, in a figurative coup of his own, the man who overthrew Mobutu and renamed the country the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
A greedy, amoral bloodsucker, right? Ho hum. But wait! He was WEIRD:
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.
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.
As was said of the Bloomsbury diarist Violet Trefusis, a writer he admired, von Kloberg had a “taste for outmoded splendors.” He believed such flourishes were essential to conducting business with world leaders, the kings and presidents for life whose presence he relished. When they listened to his advice, it was “very invigorating,” he said.
I find myself starting to warm to him….
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 â€” 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…
At one gathering, he persuaded Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations under Hussein, to meet Jews for the first time. He also brought together District residents, diplomats, socialites and journalists; many of the latter were fond of his famously accurate news tips.
…By encouraging investment relations between the United States and his clients’ countries, he hoped to foster a democratizing influence abroad. He cited the case of Ceausescu, for whom he won U.S. trade concessions. In return, he said, the dictator permitted the printing of Bibles for the first time in decades and, for a stiff price, allowed Soviet Jews to travel through Romania on their way to Israel.
…Some people were untouchable, as far as he was concerned. He said he once turned down work for Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, who offered $1 million shortly before he was shot to death in 1996. Von Kloberg said there was no potential for “turning around” that country. Among those he wanted to help was Alfredo Stroessner, but he said the long-serving Paraguayan strongman never hired a lobbyist.
And as always, there is symmetry:
His final years were painful medically. He had cancer, diabetes and the inner-ear condition known as Meniere’s disease, which caused a ceaseless ringing sensation. In 2002, he retired after suffering a heart attack during a flight from the Ivory Coast to Paris. He had with him five trunks of luggage, which he claimed before going to the hospital.
Never one to go anywhere unprepared, he phoned The Washington Post months before his death to arrange an interview that he hoped would lead to a better understanding of his life. He said there had been greater challenges and rewards in his career than had he crusaded for a “good” cause.
Survivors include his companion, Darius Monkevicius of Rome; and a sister, Carol van Kloberg of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.