Under the Black Flag

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

In John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation, a young black con man traduces his way into a white, rich, liberal family’s midst by posing as the college son of Sidney Poitier who has lost his credit card and wallet.  The guilt-ridden rich folk put him up with the predictable results.  The family is almost torn apart as the con man brings in a gay lover and robs them blind.  The Broadway show was a success, as was the movie, starring Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing as the rich liberal couple, and Will Smith as the con man.

Just about that time, 20-some years ago, I was writing for a New York city weekly, as well as for the London Spectator and the British Sunday Times, the latter requiring close to 2,000 words per week, an unheard of load for someone who was also pursuing a busy social life in the Big Bagel.  Four thousand words per week made Taki a very dull boy late at night.  So I advertised for a researcher, the first and last time I ever did this, and you’ll soon see why.

No sooner had the ad appeared in the New York Observer, the liberal Bagel weekly to which I contributed a regular column, when a terribly polite voice over the telephone volunteered his services.  I invited him to my house for lunch the next day.  As it happened, my father-in-law, Prince Schoenburg, was also coming,...

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