Deyan Ranko Brashich
This is “intern month”, a time to review the play between power and youth. Articles and documentaries revisit Monica Lewinsky’s encounters with Bill Clinton, the stained dress, the perjury, the false statements, impeachment and trial for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, a prelude for what awaits Donald Trump once the Democrats control the House and Robert Mueller drops the other shoe.
I have an intern tale devoid of sex and scandal of my own, just an innocent coming of age yarn. Back then you had benchmarks – the first furtively smoked cigarette, the first underage beer, the first game of spin the bottle, a learner’s permit, your draft card and first legal beer at 18 – none as important than your first work permit.
A work permit – government authorization for a full-time summer job, or a part time job for the rest of the year – assured you an income, independent of the largesse of parent. You had to be 14, and after a medical exam, be of sound mind and body. The permit was goodbye to the demeaning dogsbody of newspaper deliveries, lawn cuttings and babysitting.
Back then you didn’t have today’s “internships”, the non-paying slavery of gofers exploited with by snake oil salesmen’s promising future opportunities and riches. The work was hard but respected; appreciated and paid for in cash, not promises.
So, for years I worked at dirty, unpleasant well-paying jobs. That changed when my father volunteered me for one of those “intern” jobs that are part of this generation’s rite of passage – all prestige and glory without any compensation whatsoever. The “job” that I did not want was the unpaid “gofer” to HRM King Peter II of Yugoslavia,
So, I found myself in a suite in the Conrad Hilton Hotel on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago answering the phone, taking messages and doing errands for one bitterly cold week in December, 1965.
King Peter, living in exile at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, was on his yearly trip to the United States visiting his no-longer-subjects, rallying the troops, raising money for the privy purse and keeping the flame of the Karađorđević Monarchy alive, or at the least flickering. This was a chore that he found demeaning, loathsome. HM’s ire was kept in check by his aide General T. K. Militchevich, a role now filled by General John Kelley for President Trump.
The highlight of the Chicago portion of the trip was a black-tie dinner reception where pundits would speak, gentlemen would display their ribbons and medals, ladies would curtesy and show off their gowns and all would gorge on hotel banquet roast beef in Hilton’s Continental Ballroom.
Not being part of the powers that kept HM in check – dancing to a tune not of his liking – I became an unwitting ally. Like schoolboys we would sneak out for a drive but always accompanied by HM’s security detail, a Chicago Police Department Detective. A blue and white squad car complete was our vehicle of choice. The detective and the King were old pals – he was a Serb and had served on this detail for years – knew all of HM foibles and peccadillos. Sneaking out sometimes meant tasting the forbidden – in the case of HM, dropping by a local saloon for an early afternoon drink or three, an indulgence strictly forbidden by the General.
During these forbidden excursions, HM and I debated the assets of the ladies that had appeared in the first three James Bond films – Dr. No [Ursula Andress in a white bikini], From Russia with Love [Daniela Bianchi with her Lektor decoder] and Goldfinger [Honor Blackman just being Pussy Galore]. Notwithstanding our differences, we were unified in our unqualified agreement that the movies were the cat’s meow. During one such outing I casually mentioned that the latest Bond thriller Thunderball was playing at one of the movie palaces downtown and was closing the night black-tie affair.
That lit HM’s fuse – every subterfuge to get us to see the movie before it closed failed. Every foray out of the hotel was chaperoned and our every minute accounted for – right up to the opening welcome at the black-tie affair.
The evening was dull and tedious and seemed to stretch interminably. That is until His Majesty walked unannounced to the podium and made an announcement:
“I am sorry to interrupt this reception but I have a major issue to attend to. Please continue enjoying your evening and thank you for attending”. With that said, HM motioned to me to follow and we marched out of the Continental Ballroom. Timing was crucial – we had 10 minutes to catch the movie. With the siren on and lights flashing we made it to the Loop sliding to an icy stop before the theatre. Enjoying Thunderball made “the winter of my discontent glorious summer” by this son of Karageorge, who was my very first client when I started practicing law.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com