You may remember Claude Khazizian, that French retiree who amused himself by sneaking into state events and taking pictures with the great leaders, chatting with them as if he were one of the crowd. establishment and without anyone suspecting anything.
Or to the ineffable Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter who made himself known in front of cameras around the world during Nelson Mandela’s funeral by making up the gestures because he really had no idea. The imposture It is not something new in history and we can remember cases like that of Madrigal pastry chefwho impersonated the Portuguese king Don Sebastián, or the false princess Anastasia to whom the DNA gave away.
But probably the record of impostors, if only for being insistent, is held by the American Stanley Clifford Weyman. Weymann once said a phrase that summarizes his existence in a graphic and accurate way: “A man’s life is pretty boring. I lived many lives. I never got bored”.
Literally because upon his death, which occurred on August 27, 1960, this ineffable individual had assumed at least a dozen false identitiessome truly daring.
The surprising thing is that he was always successful, despite the fact that over time he became quite well known to the authorities. But it was incorrigible; a time behind bars, released and back to the old ways. In a way, it belonged to another century; in fact, he came to this world in the 19th century, on November 25, 1890 -it’s a pity he hadn’t waited a month to be born on December 28-.
It was in the New York neighborhood of Brooklynson of a modest family that could not afford his higher education, which is why Stanley Jacob Weinberg -which was his real name- he had to get to work from a young age. Apparently he exercised the most diverse tradesbut even then he began to occasionally practice the art of imposture by pretending to belong to a higher class.
Those first dalliances served as an exercise for him to begin his true vocation seriously in 1910, when he was twenty years old and posed as Consulate of Morocco in the USA. As a result, he made a good life, dining for a cap in the best restaurants and entertained as he deserved by his position, at a time when it was not easy to make the pertinent checks.
However, it was a race in an alley with no exit; sooner or later they had to discover him and that’s what happened when he took advantage of the circumstances to steal a camera, ending up arrested on charges of fraud and scamand spending a year in a reform school.
This not only didn’t deter him, but it made him see how easy it was to fool people if you knew how to act. So with that potential to be exploited, he did not take long to reoffend and in just five years he faked three different identities: apart from the aforementioned consul, he assumed that of military attaché of the embassy of Serbia and after that of US Navy lieutenant.
That period ended with a new arrest but, as in the previous case, he was soon released on parole. By then he was already using a false name, the one that made him famous: Stanley Clifford Weymanwho seemed more glamorous -and less Jewish-, although sometimes he also called himself Stephen Weinberg or in many other ways.
In 1915 he became consul again, this time for Romania: the commander Ethan Allen Weinberg; As can be seen, he used his own last name openly. However, he could not avoid a certain thoughtless tendency to expose himself: after an inspection visit to the battleship USS Wyoming which was anchored in the Hudson River, had no better idea than to invite everyone present to a dinner at the lavish Hotel Astorwhich had opened in 1904 in the heart of Times Square and took over in prestige from the Waldorf-Astoria on 34th Street, which had been demolished to build the Empire State Building.
The problem is that this banquet was announced in the press and caught the attention of the FBI (Federal investigation department that had also just been created, in 1908). The agents went to the restaurant and took Weyman under arrest to the lamentations of the other diners, whom he had fallen for and demanded that they at least wait to finish.
He was tried and, as he was a repeat offender, sentenced to one year in prison. He left in 1917 and, unavoidable to discouragement, he re-adopted the identity of a soldier but changed his body, going over to the air force: Royal St Cyr, lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, an auxiliary corps. Apparently, on this occasion it was a military tailor who suspected him and denounced him, being arrested while carrying out an inspection at the Brooklyn arsenal. Jail became his home again for three years.
But he was already totally immersed in that life of a phony and as soon as he served his sentence he got into the skin of company doctor from a construction company that was looking for an inspector for some sanitary installations that it was building in Peru. she moved to Lime and again became a bon vivant who went from party to party wasting money on credit: luxurious mansion, two cars… When he exceeded his limit, the law fell upon him once again.
That didn’t stop him. Back in his country, he tricked the Princess Fatima of Afghanistan, taking advantage of the visit that she made to the US in search of official recognition from the government; It was one of her high points, as we will see.
While the State Department ignored the Afghan woman’s proposal, Weyman introduced himself to her as naval liaison officer apologizing for the delay and promising to arrange a personal interview with President Warren Harding.
With surprising persuasive skills, he convinced her that some officials would have to be bribed, managing to rip ten thousand dollars; that money was used to reserve suites in the opulent Willard Hotel in Washington, located two blocks from the White House, where he will accommodate the entire entourage – including him, of course – and even rent a private train. Of course, the standard of living of the brazen impostor rose like foam during those days.
The most incredible thing of all was that he carried out his efforts and, in effect, got appointment with the Secretary of State and with the President himself, taking place on July 26, 1921. But what was to be his ultimate triumph was his undoing, as Weyman made several protocol errors that aroused suspicion.
Discovered, he went through the courts once more and was sent to prison another two years. However, the move had been promising enough to try another similar one when he went free, although this time on request.
The Evening Graphic I wanted to do an interview Mary of Saxe-Coburg-GothaQueen consort of Romania and wife of the sovereign Ferdinand I. She was a very popular character and in 1926 she was on an official visit to the US, where she was enthusiastically received, but it was difficult to reach her, which is why the newspaper turned to Weyman.
He fulfilled his mission impeccably, posing as the Secretary of State and agreeing to an interview; also, it is assumed, receiving a good reward for it.
That same year he rounded off his resume with the usual audacity that characterized him. On August 23 he died in New York, due to a sudden peritonitis, the famous gallant Rudolph Valentine.
The funeral was impressive, an event in which a hundred thousand people packed Manhattan to say their last goodbyes and which ended like the rosary of dawn when the police had to charge into the crowd to impose order in the midst of collective hysteria; in fact, everything was a succession of grotesques, with the Polish actress Pola Negrihis presumed girlfriend, standing over the coffin crying loudly and several actors hired by the owner of the funeral home disguised as Mussolini black shirts forming an honor guard.
Imposture was the order of the day, as can be seen; What’s more, they say that the corpse deposited in the coffin was not even Valentino’s. The fact is that this seemed the ideal breeding ground for Weyman: pretending to be the Valentino’s personal doctor, helped the fainting of the inconsolable Pola Negri during the burial and then continued to care for her, prescribing sedatives and publishing press releases in which she reported on her client’s state of health; he even used the house of the deceased to see patients, just as he had already done in 1922 when collaborating with a famous chiropractor who was visiting the United States. As expected, some complaints fell on him but none from Negri.
Weyman’s longest prison term, of the thirteen times he was convicted, took place during World War II: seven years since 1941 for an obscure case of advising soldiers on how to fake illnesses to avoid being sent to the front; for this he posed as a lawyer and even opened a consultancy in the middle of Broadway.
In 1948, already free, he took control of journalist credentials to access the UN and interview important personalities, among them Warren AustinUS ambassador to that body, and Andrei Gromyko, who was the representative of the USSR; with both she maintained a friendly relationship.
In that same journalistic role, he managed to convince the delegation of thailand that he had worked in the US Office of Strategic Services and was appointed official press attaché.
However, for once Weyman wanted to be legal and consulted the State Department if there were any impediments; As soon as they saw who it was, they notified the Thais, who backed down and dispensed with his services.
The years passed and the world changed. It was no longer so easy to trick and even less with the limitations imposed by age. Despite everything, he continued with his career, always on the edge of the knife, making minor scams and visiting the courts periodically until, perhaps assuming the end of his glory days, he accepted a humble job, like those he carried out in his youth: hotel night porter from New York.
It was there that he definitively redeemed his past. On August 27, 1960, trying to prevent an armed robbery, he was murdered. He had no lives left to usurp.
Grand Masters of Scam (Nestor Durigon)/Frauds, hoaxes and scams in history (Gregorio Doval Huecas)/A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History’s Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds (Michael Farquhar)/Reporting at Wit’s End. Tales from The New Yorker (St. Clair McKelway)/Wikipedia