By Warren C. Carberg
Yankee Magazine, October 1966
[To his Boston and Hampton friends of long standing, he's still just plain "Bill Frary" -- born in Lynn, Massachusetts. To kings, queens, head of state and other assorted leaders of the world, he is Baron William Frary von Blomberg!]
When I first knew Baron William Theobald Frary von Blomberg, back in the thirties, he was eking out a precarious existence from his hole-in-the-wall public relations office on Devonshire Street, just off Newspaper Row.
I was a struggling young reporter on the now-defunct Boston Post, earning the magnificent salary of $45.00 a week, plus any fringe benefits that might accrue.
To the newspaper fraternity the Baron was, and still is, Bill Frary. He certainly is to me. He was born in East Lynn in 1904, to Yankee-Irish parents. Back in 1933 (I think the year after I first knew him) Bill became a nationally known figure -- almost over night. It was in November of that year that his friend and sponsor, the elderly Baroness Adelheid von Blomberg of Germany decided to adopt the handsome young American publicity man so that the famous name of von Blomberg, dating back to Charlemagne, might be perpetuated.
The sister of Bill Frary's foster-mother-to-be, the Baroness Eva, contested the court action; but eventually the legal storm subsided and Bill Fray acquired the right to carry beautifully engraved cards on which his new name was emblazoned.
Recently I interviewed the Baron at his American homestead at 111 Exeter Road, Hampton, New Hampshire -- which looks like something out of Currier & Ives. At 62 he talks with a gentle, detached melancholy about the kings and queens, exiled or in power, affluent or bankrupt, whom he has advised and befriended, and by whom he is accepted as one of them.
The Baroness is now dead. She passed away in 1950. One feels that even Bill Frary has died and is only recalled by an oil painting hanging on a wall showing him as a handsome youth whom news hawks said resembled Buddy Rogers.
But Baron von Blumberg survives, with business interests that are worldwide. Besides his Boston office at 66 The Fenway, he maintains two others, one at Sawan Ashram, Gur Mandi, Delhi, India, and another at Park Alice, 86, Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg, he says, is his second home. But in Europe his name is regarded much more seriously than was his former name when Newspaper Row was a Row.
A few years back, the Baron became co-president of the World Fellowship of Religions. Also serving as co-president is His Holiness Sants Kirpal Singh ji, Maharaj of New Delhi. The co-president, with Her Highness, the Princess of Jind, and Madame Raja Ram have been house guests at the Hampton home of the Baron.
But behind the immensely imposing facade which the Baron has erected about himself, one who knows the art of public relations realizes that the Baron is an extremely dedicated person who has worked untiringly in the interests of his royal clients. During the '40s, while on assignment for the Boston Post, I met the Baron in Rome and Paris, always surrounded by nobility.
The Baron met King Zog of Albania in Egypt when he was working with the refugees. Bostonians will remember King Zog's visit to Boston in the '30s. In Egypt, King Tog lived in royal fashion. When he crossed the street to visit the then-king, Farouk, he first called for a guard of honor. When the Baron was in Egypt doing refugee work, he was called in to act as advisor to both ill-fated monarchs and was their chief of publicity. King Zog fell ill and died, but the Baron has used some of his ideas to help royalty and their families, all of whose problems seem to have much its common.
Referring to his first meeting with the late Albanian monarch, the Baron said: "When the King and I discussed this plan during our first meeting, His Majesty asked whether I would like to meet the Queen, the Hungarian Countess whose surprising romance with the King has caused so much comment.
"When she entered, I was flabbergasted -- she was so young, and as beautiful as a spring wind. When I am asked, 'Which of all your queens is the most beautiful?', I have to answer, Geraldine (Albania) , and Fredericka (Greece) is the most intelligent."
The Baron added that he still maintains close contacts with the Albanian royal family, and they have rewarded him liberally despite the fact that some of them have become so impoverished they have had to seek employment.
The Baron has known King Leka, Zog's son, for years and, on occasion, has acted as his mentor. "If Leka does something that it not right -- and what young mandoes not do that? -- I make him feel it. We have had out differences, but we have always let bygones be bygones.
"If Albania should ever become a monarchy again, Leka will be a good king. He has the brains, even if he does not use them in the most intelligent manner. He still has to acquire a great deal of experience, and he can only do that in a job. It is quite an undertaking to find a job for a king, but fortunately Leka is willing to work and I have no doubt he'll succeed."
Some of his "people," the Baron says, arc extremely economical, even avaricious, though very wealthy. Others just never think of money.
"You just can't ask a royal person for money," he said. "Why don't I stop advising? The answer is simple. I believe in the kings and the monarchy. In my opinion it is the only government that stands above the parties. I believe it has a great future. I don't mean to say that all royal persons are intelligent. They make you ask yourself whether it is all worth while, but I intend to continue. I advise them about their political and financial problems!"
One day he received a plane ticket from King Farouk, whom he had met via King Zog. He took off for Cairo to act as advisor for Farouk and his late brother, Prince Mohammed Ali. They were both in a situation which had become extremely critical. When Farouk went into exile, the Baron accompanied him to Rome. It was the Baron's job to get an apartment in one of the largest and most expensive hotels, without telling anyone he was King Farouk's guest.
This King was interested in improving his public image. "Why do Christians judge me by their standards?" he complained to the Baron. "I am a Mohammedan ruler and my religion allows the four wives and as many concubines as I can keep within reason. However, I have never had more than one wife at a time. I am a good father and a friend of the West." Of course, Farouk did not gain his bad reputation on gossip alone. He frequented too many nightclubs and his behaviour with many women was imprudent. Nevertheless, many took advantage of him.
"When Farouk called me," said the Baron, "it was always a trip in the unknown. In the beginning this made me nervous. It is hard to get accustomed to the large number of waiters hovering around the tables." At the Roman hotel, the Baron began to worry about the money he was spending. He feared the management was beginning to suspect him. Then one day, after three weeks, there was a knock at his door. It was King Farouk's secretary. He threw a suitcase on the table. Out of it fell hundreds of 10,000 lira notes.
"Now you can pay your hills." said his visitor.
Appointments with Farouk were always made with deep secrecy because of the numerous attempts on Farouk's life. The Baron would receive a call from the secretary asking him to watch at the hotel entrance for a car with a certain registration number, or to go to a certain bar and take a table near the wall. The king was never allowed to sit with his hack to a door or window.
Court protocol is perhaps strictest in the Arabian countries, the Baron says. "My first insight was the handling of Arabian refugees. I travelled to Jordan where I was invited to the Yellow Palace in Jericho. Nobody could sit down, get up, speak, or eat without permission of the King. A large Negro, armed with a whip, saw to it that people obeyed. The dinner consisted of 32 courses. Because I am a small eater, the banquet was just torture for me. I did what the King did. When he used his hands for eating, I did the same.
"One dish looked like a large pot of glue. I made believe I did not see it. But when the King noticed, he placed a large portion on my plate and I had to cat it. Toward the end of the dinner, the King said, 'I have a surprise for you -- something special.' The surprise was two Arabs with bagpipes. He had had these two trained as pipers in Scotland. This type of music I have always abhorred, but the King was delighted. He laughed and slapped me on the back so I had to laugh too. This went on for five hours while we drank Arabian coffee.
"A few days after this, Abdullah was murdered while attending a mosque. His son Talal suffered fits of insanity. I have seen him (Talal) riding through the streets of Amman with a whole gang of laughing, cursing children pursuing him. It is said that he tried to kill one of his sons by throwing him out of a window. Instead of Talal, his son Hussein succeeded him. Hussein was a brave and remarkable young man, who was so foolish, however, as to marry for the second time an English typist."
The handling of public relations is not always crowned with success. There was the reception for a king from one of the African countries. The Baron invited 50 prominent Bostonians. The king proved difficult. When the Baron met him in the entrance hall, he said, "In my country one has to meet a person three times before one can consider him a friend. Consequently, I can't receive your guests."
The Baron told the king that he was causing him considerable embarrassment because many people were waiting upstairs to meet him. The king thought about that for a moment, and then said, "Of course, I can't go upstairs. I shall receive them here."
The Baron has acted as a royal marriage broker, and once he was called to break off a love affair between a prince of royal blood and a pretty young model. "I had been an advisor to the family for many years, and, when I was asked to come, I responded immediately. When I arrived, nearly all the family was present. I talked to the young man about his family and his duties, and told him he must marry in his social class if he was to succeed his father.
"But the young prince was stubborn. He was willing to renounce all his royal rights to marry the girl. The family was naturally disturbed. I realized that I must do something at once. I went to the home of the girl and talked to her father. I told him I had come to hunt a job for the prince. 'Isn't the family rich?' he asked. I shook my head. 'They arc practically penniless,' I said. Within five minutes the meeting was over. The girl wrote a letter to her prince, breaking off the engagement."
The Baron had three brothers and a sister. The sister died in the flu epidemic of 1917-18. His father was a foreman in one of the shoe factories and the family was poor. As a youngster, he craved popularity, but failed on that score; like many talented per sons, he had little aptitude for athletics. But even then he had immense capacity for work and plenty of energy.
"I started to work while I was still in grammar school, helping out after school in a grocery store. Out of my $7.00-a-week pay, I bought my clothes and gave the rest to my mother to help with the housekeeping.
"I was unable to do anything with sports, but I wanted to be popular and important, so I took dancing lessons. At last I had found something I could do well. I even won a few prizes. I became popular. I volunteered for all kinds of work. During vacation I was asked to go to Boston to arouse interest for an exhibition of paintings by Negroes.
"I started to ring doorbells of aristocratic homes on Beacon Street. By the time the exhibition opened, many of the people I had invited in this manner attended. One, whom I did not know, was a small elderly woman carrying a hearing aid -- one of those horns seldom seen even then. The wife of the governor introduced us.
"Thus I got to know my foster-mother-to-be, the Baroness Adelheid von Blomberg. We proved congenial, and soon afterward I was taking German lessons at the home several times a week. She and her sister were the only members of the German aristocracy living in Boston at the time. She was 75 and deaf. She regarded the affliction as a blessing because when anything was being said she did not want to hear she only had to lay aside her horn!"
The Baron was a poor linguist and admits that even today his German is poor. It was after an acquaintanceship of a number of years that the Baroness suggested he permit himself to be adopted into the von Blomberg family. A lot of people believed that Frary engineered the adoption for money. This was not so. The Baroness was virtually penniless. A crook had persuaded her to buy worthless German stock. She even had to economize on food.
The Baron has made a great deal of money in his public relations business. During the last war he did a lot of work for so-called enemy aliens -- Germans and Italians. He helped Greek-Americans purchase War Bonds so that they could aid their second homeland. In 1996 he went to Athens as a special assistant to the Royal Greek Government. His job was to inform the world about their problems, the internal war, the Yugoslavian refugees, and the kidnapping of children.
"One morning I received a phone call that King George II expected to see me. Through him I met his brother and successor, Paul, and his wife, Fredericka." It was the Baron's introduction to European royalty, and he suddenly made a startling discovery. He was 'in,' and he has remained 'in' ever since.
Would he do it again? The Baron believes that he would. The name has opened many doors which otherwise world have remained closed and the name has enabled him to help many who need help -- the out-cast royalty and nobility of the world.
And in Boston, as well as Hamburg and Delhi, the Baron can whistle up a sizeable army of friends.