Humanity’s Search for Answers


Mega Genius® Intelligence Briefing [28]:

 

Strange things happen in the middle of nowhere, which is where I was.

There was barely time to focus through the limousine’s dusky windows on the montage racing by outside, but I noticed that the intense sunlight still sharply defined the lengthening shadows.  It was late afternoon in the middle of the driest of the four North American Deserts: the Mojave.

My chauffeur sped through the intersections along Paradise Road, swerved left onto Desert Inn Road, quickly veered left again, and then braked smoothly at our destination.

Then suddenly, I noticed all the photographers, dozens of amateurs, paparazzi and other professionals, lurking along Las Vegas Boulevard like ravenous spiders anticipating a fleeting opportunity that could be their last.  Their cameras also appeared anxious and alert, hovering on tripods, all their telephoto eyes focused on the hotel’s top floor and its blacked-out windows that concealed their prey.

If you had been there in the mid-1960s, it all would have made sense.  One of the most famous — and least understood — personalities of the twentieth century had just moved into the penthouse of one of the grandest hotels and casinos in the world, the Las Vegas Desert Inn.  All up and down the “Las Vegas Strip,” players were speculating, risking, and winning and losing millions of dollars every day.  Now, however, there was even a chance of winning big-time outside the casinos, too.  The news media had announced that they would pay $25,000 to anyone who could photograph the legendary reclusive billionaire, Howard Hughes.

Of course, the odds have never favored the players in Las Vegas, and the most exciting game that day was no exception.  No one had photographed Howard Hughes for a decade, and no one would … ever again.

I did not know Hughes well at that time, although we had mutual friends, including Barry Goldwater, five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona; Calvin Rampton, three-term Governor of Utah; Elder LeGrande Richards, an apostle of the “Mormon” Church; and several cabinet members of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.  My liaison with Hughes was initially of a business contractual nature.  Soon, though, it evolved into a personal relationship that included in-depth discussions of diverse mutual interests.  Accordingly, I became one of the extremely few people who had direct association with Howard Hughes during the last couple of decades of his life.

Because the late Howard Hughes is no longer able to speak for himself, and because I liked the man and understood him better than he understood himself, I recognize a responsibility to speak briefly on his behalf now.  He was my friend; I owe it to him, and know that he would appreciate the gesture.

There is a considerable difference between being a genius, which is a person with extraordinary intellectual ability to learn and understand, and having a genius, which is a strongly marked capacity or aptitude in a single subject or field.  Howard Hughes was not a true genius (even among those who profess to be geniuses, few are), but he had geniuses for producing movies and for advancing aviation.

Four decades earlier, at age 20, Hughes had become a Hollywood motion picture producer.  Three years later, in 1928, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had nominated his film “The Racket” for an Academy Award for “Best Picture,” and, in 1929, his film “Two Arabian Nights” had won an “Oscar” for “Best Comedy.”

In 1930, Hughes had also written, produced and directed “Hell’s Angels” — the world’s first multi-million dollar motion picture — about Royal Air Force fighter pilots in World War I, starring Hughes’ discovery Jean Harlow, Hollywood’s first “Blond Bombshell.”  For that film, he had spent nearly $1 million just to acquire and house the largest private air force in the world, consisting of 87 vintage Spads, Fokkers and Sopwith Camels, which he had then directed in intense aerial combat over Mines Field, later known as Los Angeles International Airport .

Although “Hell’s Angels” had been the most expensive motion picture ever made, at a cost of $3.8 million, it had set box office records and become a Hollywood classic.

In 1931, Hughes’ film “The Front Page” had also been nominated for an Oscar and, in 1932, he had produced the critically acclaimed movies “Scarface” and “The Sky Devils.”

That same year he had formed Hughes Aircraft Company, which he built into one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, pioneering numerous innovations in aerospace technology.

In 1934, as a self-taught aircraft engineer, he had designed, constructed and personally test-piloted the world’s most advanced airplane, the H-1 Racer, and had won the All-America Air Meet, flying 185 miles per hour.

In 1935, piloting a streamlined H-1, he had set a new speed record of 352 mph.

In 1937, he had set a new coast-to-coast record, flying from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, New Jersey, in 7 hours and 28 minutes, and had won the Harmon International Trophy as the world’s outstanding aviator.  The President of the United States had honored Howard Hughes at the White House.

In 1938, in a special Lockheed 14, he had raced around the world in a record-breaking time of 3 days, 19 hours and 17 minutes, slashing Charles Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris record in half.  “Houston Municipal Airport” was renamed “Howard Hughes Airport” and he was given a ticker tape parade down Broadway, in New York City.

By the time that he had purchased controlling interest in Transcontinental & Western Air, in 1939, for less than $7 million — which he renamed Trans World Airlines and transformed into a major international carrier that he sold for more than $547 million — he had held every significant speed record on Earth.  That same year he had been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal “…in recognition of the achievements of Howard Hughes in advancing the science of aviation and thus bringing great credit to his country throughout the world.”

In 1943, he had produced his best-known and most sensational film, “The Outlaw,” starring his discovery Jane Russell.

At the beginning of World War II, Hughes had contracted with the U. S. Government to design and build the H-4 Hercules, a gigantic seaplane with eight engines and 17-foot (5.2 meter) propellers, a wingspan of 320 feet (98 meters), a weight of 300,000 pounds (136,080 kilograms), and the capacity to carry 700 troops.  Because metal was in short supply, Hughes had astonished the aviation industry by announcing that he would build the gargantuan aircraft primarily out of birch.

The news media had ridiculed Hughes and derided his advanced design as “The Spruce Goose.”  Therefore, many people had believed that his H-4 Hercules was a wooden monstrosity that could not possibly become airborne.  Nevertheless, in 1947, Hughes had piloted the world’s largest airplane and made a perfect landing.

Howard Hughes also had a genius for making money … awesomely more than anyone else.  He could buy virtually anything that he wanted, which he usually did.   Intelligence and security agencies code-named him “The Stockholder.”  Accordingly, he could be exceedingly dangerous to anyone who challenged him.

Now, however, the world’s first billionaire had hit Las Vegas, unannounced and in the midst of night, but with a resounding “Ka-Ching!”  It was as if someone had just struck the biggest jackpot in the history of Las Vegas, and one thing was inevitable.  Las Vegas was about to change!

Howard Hughes had booked the entire top floor of luxurious “high-roller” suites at the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino, and the entire floor below, for just 10 days.  At the end of that time, he was required to move out.  Hughes, however, was thinking of staying.  Regardless, the owners urgently needed the lavish accommodations and insisted that he vacate.  Hughes then decided that he would stay.  Finally, the owners demanded that he leave immediately.  Hughes’ response was to buy the Desert Inn … but the owners refused to sell.  Hughes then offered them $13.25 million, which was twice the valuation.  They sold.  Hughes stayed.

During the late 1960s, when I was spending considerable time in Las Vegas, the news media interminably posed, but never accurately answered, the question, “What is Howard Hughes really like?”  It seemed that the whole world wondered.

From the news media’s accounts, some otherworldly creature was haunting the penthouse.  It was widely reported that his hair hung halfway down his back, that his fingernails and toenails were five to eight inches long, and that he stored his urine in Mason jars in a closet.  Because that was what most people read and heard, that was what they believed, but it only reflected the over zealous imaginations of those who desperately sought an answer – any answer – but never knew the man.

There were two keys to understanding Howard Hughes.  The first key, which both Hughes and the public understood, was to realize that he was a visionary.  He neither cared about the past nor even dwelt in the present, except to the degree that understanding both the past and the present helped him to influence and determine the quality of the future.  He had a profound desire to leave the world a better place than he had found it.  His visions enabled him to do just that.

The second key, which only Hughes and a few exceedingly close associates understood, was to realize that he was a perfectionist.  Instead of considering perfection to be a worthwhile, though unattainable, objective, he regarded anything short of perfection as flat-out unacceptable.

There was a third key, though, that neither Hughes, his associates, nor the public understood, which was to realize that he protected his privacy only to the degree that he felt that others did not understand him.  That was why he became reclusive and how he coped with a lunatic world.

The real Howard Hughes was confident, curious, soft spoken, courteous and amiable, with a splendid sense of humor.

He was addicted to codeine and Valium “blue bombers,” to treat injuries from which he continually suffered after a 1946 plane crash had shattered numerous bones and burned the surface of more than three-fourths of his body.

He liked to watch motion pictures throughout the night, every night.  When he used his movie projector and sound system, the top floor of the Desert Inn boomed and rattled.  When he watched movies on television, he used headphones, since he was hard of hearing.  When he grew tired of the films being shown on the Las Vegas CBS affiliate, KLAS-TV, he asked the broadcasting facility to show the movies that he wanted to see, when he wanted to see them.  When KLAS-TV declined, Hughes bought the station

He liked the tiny pieces of meat in Campbell’s® Chicken Noodle Condensed Soup.  So he had tens of thousands of cans of the product trucked to the Desert Inn, where aides, who were humorously known as the “Mormon Mafia” (although not all were Mormons), opened them and painstakingly extracted only the minuscule squares of mushy chicken, which Hughes then consumed by the bowlful.

He liked banana-nut ice cream.  When Baskin-Robbins’® discontinued that flavor, Hughes paid the firm to manufacture 350 more gallons of the dessert, which he then had trucked from Los Angeles to his Desert Inn.  Then, the next day, he decided to eat only French vanilla.

Howard Hughes was an eccentric.  He could well afford to be.  Before you judge the man too harshly though, ask yourself this:  If you were to become the wealthiest person on Earth, are you certain that you would never indulge in any practices behind closed doors, in the privacy of your own home, that the public might consider “deviations from conventional or accepted conduct, especially in odd or whimsical ways”?  That is the definition of eccentric.

I have crossed paths with many moguls of big business who artfully manipulated their public images to appear rational, but, behind closed boardroom doors, were outrageously stranger than Howard Hughes.

Now that Hughes had arrived in Las Vegas, the powers there were in for a rude introduction.  Hughes knew that the Mafia had been skimming cash from many casinos for years, so he had replaced the casino managers at his newly acquired Desert Inn.  Johnny Rosselli, formerly an employee of Al Capone, was a senior crime boss in Las Vegas.  Johnny Rosselli was accustomed to getting his way.  So was Howard Hughes.  When Rosselli sent word to the reclusive Hughes that the Mafia would dictate who managed the Desert Inn Casino, Hughes sent word back that the Mafia could go straight to hell.

Las Vegas creaked!

Could Hollywood have dreamed up such a scenario?  Just imagine, behind the locked and vigilantly guarded doors of the Desert Inn’s penthouse lived a high school dropout who had become the wealthiest person on earth.  He was a 60 year-old “invisible,” six-foot-three-inch tall, 150 pound  hermit, who bathed in rubbing alcohol, lived naked beneath a bed sheet, and shuffled about in his darkened “germ-free zone” wearing empty Kleenex® tissue boxes on his feet.  Steadfastly avoiding all face-to-face contact with even his highest-level executives, including his chief-of-security, he used only memorandums and a telephone to direct all the operations of his multi-billion dollar empire.

Now, smack-dab in the middle of organized crime’s playground, the “new kid on the block” had ordered the Mafia to back off his turf.

Was the man crazy?  The Mafia in Las Vegas had annoyed Howard Hughes, so Hughes decided to break its back.

The tycoon knew what cards the Mafia held.  His attention focused on just three.  First, Las Vegas was the “Entertainment Capital of the World.”  Second, the Mafia’s favorite entertainer, and a frequent associate of organized crime figures, was the man known as the “Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra.  Third, Sinatra’s favorite hotel was the Sands.

So, Hughes bought the Sands Hotel and Casino, to which he decided to add 500 rooms, along with 183 more acres of prime real estate, for $14.6 million.  Then, just to punctuate whose new playground it was, immediately after Frank Sinatra’s wife had lost $20,000 in the Sands’ Casino and the singer, himself, had lost $50,000 trying to win it back, Hughes cut off Sinatra’s credit.  Sinatra went berserk, trashed his suite at the resort, crashed a golf cart through the hotel’s front plate-glass window, and heaved a chair at Carl Cohen, the casino manager.  Incidentally, Mr. Cohen then punched out Frank’s two front teeth.  The Mafia was distressed.

Then Hughes bought the Frontier Hotel and Casino for $14 million, with more huge parcels of undeveloped real estate on which to build.  Then he bought the Castaways Hotel and Casino for $3 million.  Then he bought the Silver Slipper Hotel and Casino for $5.3 million.  The Mafia was livid.

Then Hughes bought the Landmark Hotel and its two casinos, which was the tallest structure in Las Vegas, for $17.3 million, and agreed to pay $30.5 million for the Stardust Hotel and Casino.  Almost overnight, Hughes had become the State of Nevada ’s largest employer.  The Mafia was living a nightmare.

Then Hughes began buying ranches, mining claims, and various other properties throughout the State, including the North Las Vegas Airport, and announced plans to build both a gigantic new airport in Las Vegas and a $150 million new “Super Sands” that would be the world’s largest resort.  In a memo he wrote, “We can make a really super environmental ‘city of the future’ here — no smog, no contamination, efficient local government, where the taxpayers pay as little as possible, and get something for their money.”

The Mafia took a powder.

Las Vegas had changed!  Hughes had succeeded where all others had failed:  he had legitimized Las Vegas.  As Nevada ’s Governor Paul Laxalt said, Hughes’ investments had given Las Vegas the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”  People from all lifestyles who never would have considered visiting the city began vacationing there with their families.  More visitors meant more guests in Hughes’ hotels and more players in his casinos, and that meant more money for the multi-billionaire.

Howard Hughes was crazy … like a fox.

In December of 2004, Hollywood released “The Aviator,” an epic motion picture about Hughes that packs one hour of stimulating entertainment into three hours, while covering his life only from 1927 to 1947.  The film inaccurately characterizes him as being haunted by symptoms of mental illness, at age 30, and rapidly degenerating into hallucinations, paranoia, and acute obsessive-compulsive behavior to the point of becoming habitually nonfunctional by age 42, when the film conveniently ends.  Given the producers premise, they had no choice.  If they had continued the story line past 1947, with or without effective editing of Hughes’ earlier years, they could never have justified their allegation that he had disintegrated into insanity.

The motion picture fails to explain Hughes’ ability, in 1947, to act exceptionally rational when testifying before the U. S. Senate in publicly televised hearings, and to do so again when he chose later that year to pilot what is still the largest airplane ever flown, and whenever else the need arose.

By taking the years from 1927 to 1947 out of context, thereby disregarding the remaining three decades of Hughes’ life, the film also avoids having to explain how, in 1948, an allegedly crazed Howard Hughes was sufficiently competent to purchase RKO Studios for $8.8 million and, for the next seven years, direct the operations of one of the “Big Five” motion picture studios in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

It also evades addressing the fact that, in 1952, Hughes formed the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Then, by turning over all of his stock in his billion-dollar-a-year Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, he morphed the defense contractor into a tax-exempt charity.  Although the Internal Revenue Service challenged that maneuver, Hughes battled the IRS and won.  The Howard Hughes Medical Institute became the richest charity in the United States and the nation’s largest private source of support for biomedical research.

It dodges the fact that, in 1961, he founded the Hughes Space and Communications Company, which soon became the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial satellites.

It ignores the fact that, more than 20 years after Hughes had supposedly disintegrated into a morass of mental illness, he was sufficiently astute to challenge and outwit the Mafia in Las Vegas.

It ducks the fact that some 25 years after the end of the film, on 10 June 1973, Hughes was sufficiently mentally competent to pilot his own Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft for an entire day around Hatfield Airport, near London, England, even during a blinding rainstorm.

“The Aviator” has been greatly acclaimed.  The American Film Institute has raved, “’The Aviator’ soars into the stratosphere of classic American filmmaking.”

It has received numerous awards.  For example, the Producers Guild of America honored it with the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award for “Best Picture.”  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association bestowed upon it a Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture – Drama.”  The British Academy of Film and Television Arts honored it as the “Best Film.”  Even the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominated “The Aviator” for 11 Academy Awards, including “Best Picture of the Year.”  Even though it did not win in that category, it received five Oscars, more than any other film of the year.

Although Hollywood has traditionally produced erroneous biographical motion pictures, for it to portray Hughes so inaccurately, and then shamelessly promote “The Aviator” as “a true story” – knowing that portions of the biopic were false – is disgraceful.  Hughes, a prominent pioneer of the motion picture medium, deserved better from Hollywood … as did every one of the movie’s patrons.

For the industry to so honor such a deceptive film is more bizarre than anything Howard Hughes ever did.

In 1972, four years before Howard Hughes passed away of kidney failure on a flight from Acapulco, Mexico, to Boston, Massachusetts, he was inducted in absentia into the Aviation Hall of Fame, in Dayton, Ohio.  Another inductee, who knew Hughes well, described the recluse as “… often misunderstood, sometimes misrepresented and libeled by malicious associates and greedy little men.”

You will recall that in the late 1960s the public had no answer to the question that the mass media perpetually posed, “What is Howard Hughes really like?”  Consequently, most people believed the fallacious reports of stringy hair hanging down his back, Fu Manchu fingernails, and hundreds of bottles of urine stored in a closet.

Now, decades later, Hollywood is alleging that actually it was even worse — that two decades earlier, by age 42, Howard Hughes had spiraled into madness.  Again, the public readily believes it.

My objective is not to criticize a motion picture that has some entertainment merit and talented actors.  Those who produced “The Aviator” misunderstood and misrepresented a man who believed that his private life was no one’s business but his own, but they were neither malicious associates nor greedy little men.

They simply never knew Howard Hughes.

My intention is to accurately characterize the Howard Hughes that I knew well, and call your attention to the underlying law that clarifies why Hollywood would produce such an erroneous motion picture, why the motion picture industry would lavish it with worldwide acclaim, and why the public would readily accept it as factual.

Unless your intelligence is immeasurably high, you would probably be astonished at how many of humanity’s conclusions — accepted as facts — this law explains.

It is worth learning and remembering:

 

The collective mind of humanity considers that a false answer is preferable to no answer.


And that is why the majority of humanity’s answers are false instead of true.

 

Mega Genius®

28 February 2005

 

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