Age of Secrets, by Gerald Bellett, afterword by John H. Meier, published by Voyageur of North America,1995, reviewed by J.S. Bradford
Age of Secrets
By Gerald Bellett
Ann, the lady who cuts my hair every couple of weeks, always has an entertaining tale to tell. Her running commentary calls to mind the short story by Ring Lardner appropriately titled “Haircut.” The last time I slipped into the chair, Ann regaled me with a story about the time she was summoned to a county jail in 1978 to cut the hair of a fugitive named John Meier. The way she told it, Meier was being prosecuted for some questionable services on behalf of Howard Hughes, the reclusive and eccentric billionaire who presumably died in 1976.
Admittedly motivated by a compulsion to determine the bona fides of Ann’s story, I searched and discovered a book titled Age of Secrets: The Conspiracy that Toppled Richard Nixon and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes written by Gerald Bellett, with an afterword by John H. Meier, published by Voyageur North America in 1995. The key figures in Age of Secrets are John Meier, Howard Hughes, and Donald Nixon (President Nixon’s brother and his liaison with Howard Hughes).
In the early 1970s, John Meier worked for Howard Hughes in Las Vegas. One of his primary duties was serving as an adversarial point of contact with the Atomic Energy Commission. What Hughes wanted was a cessation of all nuclear testing in Nevada. His environmental convictions, at the time dismissed as paranoia, were so intense that he was prompted to make a million dollar donation to the Nixon reelection slush fund through Bebe Rebozo, the President’s friend and confidante. In return, Hughes demanded the cessation of nuclear testing. Meier, who seems to have possessed an uncanny knack to be in the wrong place at the right time, was a witness to the transaction. A Democrat, Meier later conveyed what he knew about the transaction to key people associated with the Democratic National Committee. As suggested in Age of Secrets, it was the search to destroy the evidence of this unreported gift that precipitated the Watergate burglaries and Nixon’s downfall.
Even before Watergate, Meier was a target of interest to the Nixon Administration, including years of surveillance and electronic eavesdropping by the CIA. Meier later moved to Canada, in part to frustrate pursuit by government lawyers, but eventually was extradited for obstruction of justice. But this was just another in a long string of legal woes and exploits. Most notably, Meier relates his 1976 journey to the island of Cay Sal, 30 miles off the coast of Cuba, where he was covertly led ashore in the middle of the night to view the frozen body of Howard Hughes, contained in a translucent cryonics chamber, stoically awaiting resurrection. But that’s another story.
Oh, I should mention that Age of Secrets verifies that when Meier was confined to the county jail in 1978 awaiting trial, he was treated generously and granted any number of personal liberties. So, Ann, thanks for sharing a good story … ah, comb it dry if you don’t mind.
~Reviewed by J.S. Bradford