Under the Black Flag

A Magical September

On September 1, 1957, a pretty French girl by the name of Patricia and an Italo-French couple, Feruccio and Ellen, joined me in the old harbor of Cannes waiting to board the super-new luxury liner Cristoforo Colombo.  Our destination was Capri, and we had decided to go on the spur of the moment.  Capri’s season back then followed the summer months of the French Riviera, and as all four of us had just turned 21, we felt adventurous.  “We’ll buy shirts and pants in Capri,” said Patricia.  “They’re far prettier and cheaper.  Let’s just take our toothbrushes and go.”  Back during those innocent times, travel was easy.  One went on board, bought an overnight ticket, and presto, we would be in Capri at lunchtime the next day.

Just then a dark-haired man wearing wraparound dark glasses came around waiting for his motor launch to take him to his yacht.  He was Aristotle Socrates Onassis, then considered the richest man on earth, and a friendly one at that, as it turned out.  I knew him slightly from El Morocco, the fabled New York nightclub, as he was a friend of my father’s.  “What are you children up to?” asked the great man.  Once we told him, he said to forget the liner—he was on his way to Capri, and we were welcome to have a ride on his fabled Christina.  I remember him laughing when he inquired about our luggage,...

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