« Revisionist History

A Polite Word for Liar


An early morning raid, a house-full of Nazis, the world’s greatest harmonica player, and a dashingly handsome undercover spy. What could possibly go wrong?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I always flatter myself. I think I will be able to play that fast and I actually can so take it from Europe, the russian again after the three goes: a little slower. If you ever want to treat me, after something wonderful typing, the name Adler in the word harmonica on Youtube. This is Australian program called four corners or nineteen sixty one hundred videos like this, I agree with I do think myself, so I need a rather well in women's rights for the mouth of and not doing this. For a job,
my name is Malcolm Glauber, your listing to revisionist history, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This is the first of two episodes about memory about the myths we hold about it and the games. Our memories play. This one is about an argument between two of friends. Over what supposedly, happened or did not happen during the on a house supposedly full of Nazis in July nineteen, forty five or maybe April nineteen. Forty six. I have no idea This is an interview with Larry Adler by Dorothy Horowitz on February, the fifth nineteen eighty six.
And Larry Adler is the virtue. Wow so hand. Organ player is corrected. Did you say, handle mouth organ could be handled as what you grown from monkey writing. A time very idler, sat down to tell his life story to a historian with the American jewish committee. His reputation was well known No, no, no, no! No! No! No! No! No Mouth Oregon player harmonic as it is. I only use the word mirth urban, but the people who manufacture and. I might add a rack hand, par excellence and we hope you're going. Who indulge in a lot of that, because we're going I do know all about you. You know that
is a very polite word liar. Raconteur is a very polite word for liar that could easily be unmarried idlers. Tombstone very Adler was the greatest harmonica player in the world. You grandparents, exactly who he was, I have to admit. I had never heard of him until I was reading around one day in the oral history archives at the New York Public Library. I ran across his interview, listened to it for a few moments and was about to give up when Adam began, to tell the story of his affair with Ingrid Bergmann back when she was considered. The most beautiful actress in the world they met while address was on tour at the end of the second World war entertaining the troops in Europe, one night he's in a bar in Augsburg, Germany playing the piano and she came into the room where I was playing like what I was playing asked me. What about?
there's something I made up and she said be written down. I said no, I can't write music. I guess you're very smart guy you're, not only ignorant your proud of you, that's our meeting with Bergmann Adler TAT His interviewer that he just recently about a biography of Bergmann, in which Bergman's husband claim that he Larry Adler had come to him and confess their affair, but I knew I wouldn't have done such a thing, because I wouldn't have done that. The English I wouldn't have named what was happening to me. However, it is in the book and I can deny the he said that to the author but, as I say, I'm I can't see me doing is against. By nature and my friends just to be clear, Larry Adler was having an affair with one of the most famous actresses in the world, and the actresses husband says: have her confessed. It in you would
think that would be a memorable event, but address responses. Maybe I guess it could have happened by the way is worn these and I'm paraphrasing, of course, because you can't remember caused by word for word as it. Sequins where a young man who had been at a battle, I think the battle of Borodino isn't it so in a drawing room telling these very attractive young ladys about his war experiences, but we'll behind the lines he didn't see action He only heard about action from the soldiers, but he saw it He was losing his audience because he couldn't give them any time, as a bad lacking. So he, again to use the stories, and other soldiers had told him, but making it personal, as if he had experienced that action Then Tolstoy has aligned very much like this and he realized ass, he spoke. The truth was slipping. From him. Soon he would no longer know what the truth was now think that applies there,
with anybody. Turning any story about anything the officer until stories were in peace, tells a story that isn't true and from then on forget said it is true, Mary under, doesn't call the officer a liar. We're say here didn't make things up at her says. That's the way. Memories work there up for grabs, in fact, throughout the year, history. Adler keeps summoning memories and simultaneously discounting them until he has completely convinced do that's the way we all or tat the interview com aids in the story of the raid on the Munich Boarding House full of Nazis with his old friend, the dashing we handsome spy, named HANS Verna, a John whites, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Very added, I was born in Baltimore and nineteen fourteen to jewish immigrants from Ukraine. His dad was a plumber at the age of He wandered away from home and muslim found at a local bar standing on top of a pool table and singing I've got the profiteering blues to wild applause. He was a prodigy at Fort. And he took his harmonic on the train to New York City and talked his way into performing on Broadway I passed, the Paramount Theater and Rudy Valleys name was on the Marquis. Rudy Valley was paid Equally, the J C of the nineteen twenties I got off the street sneak past the stage the man found reviling started to play for him, and he interrupted me, look I'm just a master. Ceremonies are keen on that. An valley on that very night. It was awful. Even then that add Louis thing special he had perfect pitch an astounding musical memory. He could
the harmonica sing in a way that no one else has ever done If you watch any of those old videos of adder on you, too he's asthma, rising slender long, thin, fingers huge forehead. Oversized eyes, there's a wonderful story about him and the new Yorker at nineteen, forty two, which scribes him as resembling a very young and slightly sinister kitten, once is living in Beverly Hills. How do I get to call from Charlie Chaplin Chaplin says please come over and make a fourth for tennis, because Bill Tilden can't make it bill Tilden I'll, give you the greatest tennis player of all time. Roger Federer, have goes over as a woman there with badly combed hair and black sneakers and with a weird mustache they hit for awhile. Any realises. Oh, the woman is Gretta Garbo
and the man with the weird mustache Savage O, Dolly Tilden Garbo Dolly champion. This kind of thing happens to address all the time he wanted to subtitle is autobiography. Name drops, falling on my head whose friends, the legendary composer Frank lesser, but he hated less his wife, whom he called wait for it. The evil of two letters I mean how much do love this guy Prince Philip, Set me a wonderful, a shirt when my father died from Buckingham Palace and said you know how close they were. That's Peter Adler, Larry Son Prince Philip, of course, is the queen's husband where they were both members of an infamous club called the Thursday club, and I think they were in the thirteen members and they would meet every other Thursday at Wheeler's, restaurant and we'll get
Drunken drum. Tell tales and when it whenever they did and we were living in Grognon Square at the time and in them of the afternoon. My father arrives without warning totally drunk with Prince Philip. They come straight from a Thursday club lunch and an effective, my father. Never given my mother, any warning he was arriving. Would some chick of Edinburgh? Did you forgave him? but the greatest Larry Adler story comes earlier Heather's in Germany. Entertaining the american troops. He's touring reject any one of the most famous entertainers that today and Ingrid burden. Who is just met at the piano bar barn, Augsburg and is possibly already sleeping, and the story is. Jack penny. Ingrid Bergmann and I were in Munich. Jo Leinen in forty five,
met this young man, John White, who is a commander of an oasis unit, John Whites. The second old friend story from the nineteen sixty two nineteen eighties John Rights was a success, well high and men's fashion designer he made kind of clothes, you would put it in an overnight bag before jumping on the com, to make a lunch dated the Savoy in London in shirts. Whites favoured was known as the European CUP, which has a fashion critic once wrote. Disqualified. Anyone without a perfectly flat stomach whites with six for two insanely handsome Ray sports cars in Le Monde and Seeber wrote best selling sweater. And scholarly biographies educated in exclude. In English, boarding schools aristocratic bearing married to a stunning actress susan corner. He was basically James Bond.
Who is the world the year I was further muttered habited in cities. If these uncertainties, New York hours Pretty Can a beautiful people set. That's John Whites, his son Chris HE and his brother Paula, both filmmakers. In There is actually a book called the beautiful people in wish. My parents are feature along with the rest of their bunch. You ve, probably, seen some of the widespread as films about a boy, the exquisite in good company american pie, if you wondering their father was a big, And of american pie, yeah. Who is it? he shot and some guys. Wow sarcastically really proud of your kids. For making this horrible film, and I don't know where you came up with this-
Haven't you ever masturbated in your life generates? Was remained born in Berlin and nineteen twenty three as HANS Vera whites, he was also jewish another class of wealthy assimilated German Jews, for whom those who identities not a contradiction. His father Robert had fought for Germany in the first World WAR and one an iron Cross vacations in northern Germany and beautiful life. Then Hitler took power way his family fled in nineteen thirty eight Then onto Shanghai, where he was for his american visa and played the under side and finally to America. In eighteen, forty one John whites joins the: U S army and gets recruited by the legendary wartime spy master Wild, build Donovan into the USS before runner. Day CIA then sent back into occupied Europe as an undercover spy because, of course he doesn't have
to pretend to be German is actually german. He's dropped into France makes contact with the resistance he's part of a group that liberated the most infamous concentration camps, Dhaka he too me about a when he was in the housing, a gas chamber, and there is a little window whereby the operator to tell whether the people inside word we're dead and next to it was a picture of of his little child He described it as being the way that in a taxi driver would have a picture. His family and children. I taped to Ashford. But there was I, with him after the war Tucker was turned into a holding pen for prisoners of war. Whites was sent into the camp to spy on the capture german soldiers to him, We need a german p o W some german soldiers after the war ended, would burn off there s s, tattoos,
the end of a cigarette. Whites got a tattoo and then burned himself as well to make the impersonation real Now you say he had PTSD Ashley, but nobody talks in that way. So he was he now a drink or not a sloppy one, but someone who should have regularly until he suddenly cut it off my call turkey at someone there shouted their childhood, he didn't sleep well, he woke up very early in the morning. He had incredibly, regular habits, born of the army, of Kenneth keeping things in order. She was if he was crossed by a stranger songs read to him or impolite he would be there. Scary and dangerous. He definitely seemed from the war. Someone who had no physical fear of other people.
Risk if a child to to watch. White told his sons, but he didn't know, there. He could ever be a good father. The war had she. TIM too much gristle, They talk about how it is growing up in her. Annie the iron curtain and surreptitious modes of self expression and human? was it and they aspect the fact that we are working together is partly because we should develop a shared sense of humour and it was kind of like a SAM. Is that method? of maintaining our autonomy with a very serve domineering, dad was always ready for things to lapse into complete Oh, I see here a dad who was always ready for things to lapse into catastrophe back to Munich,
The war has just ended It is now running an undercover operation against german guerrilla group called werewolf. It's made up of Ex nazi soldiers who are causing trouble across liberated Europe. A werewolf. Had holed up in Munich Roominghouse not far from the Deutsche Data Theatre. John whites has infiltrated group, under the name, HANS, Ventnor word comes infamy allied brass round up the werewolf members, and just as the order is issued, whites run. Into Larry Adler, angered, Bergmann and Jack penny and he said that He had found a house where they knew there were eight and so did another war was over. Therefore, these soldiers had now surrender Norman Captain captured John and his I said you were going to read them and would jack Ingrid
I like to come along with Jack lingered. Refused there were terrified of the idea. I loved it now, let's just pause here, while I point out the A twenty something John Whites, the dash, Lee Handsome undercover spy. Runs into respectively, America's most famous actress, America's most famous comedian and the world's greatest harmonic. Claire, presumably at a nightclub, any invites all three of them to join him in writing, a house full of Nazi guerrillas and one of them. The skinny harmonica player from Baltimore says: yes, the whites. Others. Disciples of Hollywood do not find this as I did What are the very weird things the story is. You are an oasis of Munich. You going to do. This pass and you bring along a famous the plan was recruited strange about that
This is a testament to the powers of every kind like a ride along. You know Kevin heart most you. So Larry. I learn prepares for his mission, I'm guessing he's lying in the arms of the world's most pitiful actress. He gets up, puts on a helmet and goes off to capture some Nazis, so I met these oasis men at four thirty. In the morning we got into a jeep and to this house and John He always S. Men burst into the house to the Germans, fired back of the men were killed. The other six were captured key friends. According to John, John Whites remembers gunfight, but after remember something completely different, My story is when we got into the house, there were two old Ladys firing, no one was hurt in any way, and so there are
these two diametrically opposed stories. My two people who were there in on whites his memory house full of Nazis, a nasty battle death drama. Larry Others memory of the same night, nothing, no nazis Oh gunfight? No one dies they burst in they find is a roomful of harmless old women. Presumably, Knitting, but wait there's another version. Same characters same set up only it's supposed to take place. Almost a year later, in April of nineteen forty six, I don't the story to a group of publishers in London. When I made a speech and one of the publishers told me after have miss, rather did you know that the rain, talking about is mentioned in another book and John wages. Engine, but not by name called Vernon, because that was his name as an agent to infiltrate the german lines
John under the name of voter is leading the way you are with him and now, are eighteen, nazi soldiers, thousands by armoured carriers and floodlights an I still remember too old, Ladys. So the question who is right exactly whose right for the rest of their days, Adter, when whites will argue that We are bringing up the story, and you know that Am I the funny thing is be could be very forbidding peremptory with people who crossed him. For some reason he had a sore spot for four Larry Everyone in this house What I heard a lunch was you are rounding up. These and all I saw was over.
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help dot com, Slash, Gladwell, there's a very specific idea about memory. Embedded in the Larry Adler tells from war and peace. The story about the soldier entertaining a group of young Ladys in Moscow and the battle of Borodino, the officer to impress the people around him, so he moves himself to the front lines. And once he makes that improvement on the truth in Aceh. Best of his own ego. What actually happened slips away? He becomes the victim of his own self deception. That's the theory admirably. He tells another story about the time he was in Newfoundland during the war entertaining troops. He needs to get back to Gander airport because he has a nightclub apparent schedule. New York. He finds an ermine who was a cargo plane which is going to be telling a glider, and he says to us. You can write in the glider,
I was in the glider captain within the on plain how exciting it was for me being in the latter being told another most exciting, but came we were over Gander Airport and he cut the glad or lose by release mechanism. Can we fly? laid down in this heavenly feeling I had of escape that I never wanted to land at our tells that story. For years well, my daughter found a diary. It covered my trip to Newfoundland, I wasn't in the glider. I was in the front plain now. You see how that Look over the better story being in the latter. It makes it if you say but I was in the first frontline what we were doing. A glad. That's news. I was in the greater, and that was very exciting. Has more of a story so that after a while, the wish to be in the latter took over and became fact and put me in the glare and the truth is that I've never been in a glad or in my life
That's what I mean by self deception had a newly had a bigger. Simply assumed that his ego was out in the world rewriting history on his behalf, which seems to make sense Adler is, pulse storyteller right, the name dropper in his New York opera file. There's this line. The most casual request for information from a newspaper reporter or interviewer will often bring in reply a twelve or fifteen typewritten go space narrative composed and by Larry in person, and contain dialogue and anecdotes. I think that whenever we run across someone telling a false story, we assume that this is what's happening, but the lie is driven by ego. In the next episode I'm gonna talk about an instant. The chill almost certainly remember, a modern version of Adler Glider story, somebody famous was caught, saying in effect that they were
the glider, when they were actually in the plane, pulling the glass and the overwhelming wellmere assumption was at the story. Teller Chin, the details of what happened because he wanted to look better braver, bolder, but here's my car, Why do we always have to frame memory, disagreements and errors in terms of character? Why do we always need a culprit, because Sure Adler can be explained away in egotist. There are all kinds of ways in which he was anything but at what point. I know life became somewhat complicated here. Padre was part of a group that went to Washington.
In the middle of the Mccarthy Euro, to protest the anti communist hysteria sweeping through Hollywood. Then he got accused of being a communist. He went bankrupt, fighting Mccarthyism at the height of his career. He was blacklisted lost everything then Roy could always Mccarthy's adviser offered me a deal. He had arranged that I would give testimony secretly before the Mccarthy Internal Security Committee? And he said I was gonna, do it? I prepared a list of names for you all of these things, who had been named by others. They ve already been name. We know their names read their named off and you're not hurting anybody in the hell of a national hysteria, one that would end up ruining countless lives. Have there is offered a get out of jail free card. He won't take it MR combat the houses in the mean me reading a list of names that you already know so you
out of the window and spread his hands in his ears. Go fights anyhow were all trying to get you back. To work glaring, you're, not helping us, so that was that I, I wouldn't have given the name of an enemy. I am against the principle of the informer. I always have been. I still am Adler that moving his whole family to London. He gave up their house in Beverly Hills. The beach house in Malibu, the tennis matches with the stars, started over Chris White, says his father liked We are not just because of his musical genius or his hilarious stories, but because he had- and I am quoting a major set of balls- here's Peter Adder Again- he would really take huge risks on principle. He was a very, very principled man and em. I remember him during which terrified me he did a public reading
these satanic versus with various other artists. At the time that Salman Rushdie had the fatwa put on him, you know simply to protest against this kind of nonsense. And he would do a lot of things like that and he wasn't. He wasn't doing it for publicity he's doing it cause he really cared about it. So maybe, when the young, John Whites asks Larry Adler if he won to do a ride along on that rate in Munich, It's not a lark. Maybe he series, and maybe admiral volunteered because it was important. Remember he's a Jew in Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi Party, it's all a lark, then the grandmother version is funding is the kind of person You can imagine landing well at a Hollywood dinner party, Larry Adler, the compulsive storyteller wins over another crown but if he is serious about the raid,
The grandmothers aren't funny you're, not a punch line. There are sad awkward end. My story, is dollar one we're, not everyone tells a story, and I were only because that is my memory of and he's right, but then consider his companion John whites would go on to write many books, among them, friends in high places, a thriller with a really complicated corps, The main character was somebody who is in the auto industry and was joining the Nazi Party in order to get ahead in his career, and he of about himself at the Andaman, Jewish- maybe them further- God would go his moral centre. When John Whites turned to running serious historical biographies, his subjects were
and from the same class he had come from wealthy cosmopolitan intellectuals who ended up serving Hitler. You don't have to be a psychoanalyst to make sense of these stories. Their white's is attempt to sort through the conflict between his love of his native Germany and his devastation about what is Germany a done. It is odd, go now I know, but tat will. I was young and I get were all sorts of close and makes them look real. In ninety. Ninety seven whites, when on the jolly Rochelle he and rose, talked happily about whites, his new biography until rose started to ask whites about whites his own experience during the war. It will go into Germany. I wonder when, after pull this out of you John The journal is white, doesn't want to talk about it. I started in France,
the general time. The invasion plans plans. If they can, you buy are shooting tonight. Oh, no, oh, never! How'd! You get it over you many ways being delivered, but not by version kazoo cannot get so how'd you get Oh you going by both aren't you anyway. Small plan might end up whereby by my small aeroplanes, small aeroplanes that landed, there were many, teachers loves wildlife landed on you fly over the dead state as this goes on and on and they trips did you make in and out of France up up up up up ten o clock no no lesser known all much less, let alone one less than four legs Lauren timely rose, just guess, exasperated Tell me why you're so at this late stage,
hold on hold. What is the code? It keeps you from being more forthcoming. Well down. Donovan issued a memorable Donovan. Yes, our boss had other westwards, for as long as people alive. I spoke to one. Day before yesterday on the phone eighty nine year old, external answers of armed forces. Nice cross were always a resistance answer. His answer people alive you'll, be a man he's at Hamley the Germans, stupid ones. Would still be angry at some, who brought for resistance. This nineteen. Ninety seven, the way has been over for more than half a century, and whites refused to give anything more than the barest details of his experience. Because
of a memo written by his former boss, who, by the way, has been dead for decades, whites and Adler, our principled men, it's just at their principles, take different forms on matters of emotional significance, one man shrouds his memories. In a blanket of chatter and Whimsie, the other fall silent and retreats winning encounter a conflict in memory. We want to well one party as a liar. You want to make a judgment. This strategy is authentic. This strategy is dubious. Adler is the egotistical one white says the evasive one, but why? Why can't we just exe, that all of us deal with the uncertainty of our experiences in different ways. Memory does not reveal character. That's our mistake.
In the early nineties, John Whites talk to historian name, Perry biggest come, who is working on a book about the werewolf movement, biggest comb found. What's his name in the phone book and called him out of the blue. This time, whites told yet another version of the rate. In this version there was no shooting no resistance. No one died. The members of werewolf were all punks too young to a fault in the war full of false bravado whites and his team of allied soul, is surrounded the housing complex with a werewolf lived and arrested them then- and I am quoting now from business- comes note. The scene was invaded by forlorn mothers and grandmothers each insist
that her lad was really a good boy and could not possibly be mixed up in this werewolf nastiness. Do you see what whites did? He took his version and combined it with very adders version there were arrests and they were grandmothers. I have no idea what it was conscious or not. The end of his life, whites decided, the friendship was more important than memory. He does I did not to be a memory fundamentalist, Larry Adler, for his part, gave his last concert in May of two thousand and one at the Royal palace call it was Prince Philips, eighteenth birthday celebration and the Duke wanted his old friend play for him Adler, is near the end, his
Peter knew he wasn't well now he was He was ill. He was in hospital and he much to my horror had himself checked out and he was wheeled onto the stage Thrall Albert hold by a nurse in a wheelchair, If the past is hazy and uncertain, Then all you have to present that swept propelled Larry Adler to seek his fortune on Broadway as a kid to give the harmonica its due to risk at all fighting Mccarthy to leave Ingrid Bergmann in the early morning hours to go round up some nazis, even at the very end of his life. He wasn't This day in the hospital was privileged experiences of remembrance, and he played the Monica from from the wheelchair. And blue every other Asha shocked the stage and he was wheeled afterwards Innovation is looking straight into
in short me you do not tell me what to do died a few days later. I checked he actually died. Two and a half months later, somewhere, Larry Adler, is laughing Religions. History is a panoply production, the senior produce, There is mere la belle, with Jacob Smith and Camille. Baptista are editor, is Julia Barton. Flown Williams is our engineer fact checking by Beth Johnson original music by Luis Kara special thanks to
Andy Bowers and Jacob Whisper. I'm not gonna. I tell a story about getting to these two Israel just happened, six day war special services are met me, the airport, I even remember his name majors every year, he told me that an israeli soldier had written a song, Sharm El Sheikh, I learned it was good too. I play it further elaboration, the Sinai and there about two hundred times about you. And so is general Rabin who then cheapest happy with their eyes they and the orange went mad Claude, went on and on. I pleaded again it made me play at six times, and I then said my friends. I haven't got the vocabulary to describe the emotional experience at this moment. I'm never forget it, but there are other artist.
Come down to the Sinai there waiting to entertain you. I don't know what that the show. Please don't ask me to pay Sharm El Sheikh again, and an israeli soldier calls out your player till you get it right: Right story is not it's. An opera story is the tender singing Pollyanna G, all the details I told you major software, the Sharm EL sheikh- playing it. Adela reach, that's all true, but believe me, I only played it once, however, twisting that Restoring around makes it a much better story. I agree on July tenth, twenty four dean. A young woman named Sandra Bland was stopped by a police officer on a highway and rural Texas. Then everything went wrong. I have written a book called talking to strangers. It starts with that encounter, but I didn't just right. For the page, I recorded an audio books as well.
New kind of audio book, that allows you to hear the voices of the people I talk to and come with me to the places I go because You shouldn't just listen to an audio book. You should experience. It talking to strangers the audio experience available now, where ever audio books or sold.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-12.