Román Lopez Forment - Dusenbergs - Moritz Moszkowsky & Wee Willie WinkieMonday, April 28, 2008
‘You’re a hero, Winkie,’ said Coppy—‘a pukka hero!’
‘I don’t know what vat means,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, ‘but you mustn’t call me Winkie any no more. I’m Percival Will’am Will’ams.’
And in this manner did Wee Willie Winkie enter into his manhood.
Wee Willy Winkie - And Officer and a Gentleman
In the late 50s and early 60s Román Lopez Forment was a weekly guest for dinner at our home ( I lived with my mother and grandmother in Mexico City). Román's mother, Josefina, was my grandmother's sister. She had been widowed in the Philippines so she moved to California with her daughter and five sons. It was there that her sons were adopted by a mafia don.
Román, who as a young boy had had unruly curly hair that made him resemble a Polish pianist and composer, Moritz Moszkowsky was given the nickname Moszkowsky and was a favourite of my grandmother. He quickly became one of my favourite uncles because of his stories of life in California in the 1930s. He and his brothers had money (the mafia don?) so they drove Dusenbergs, Auburns and owned yachts. They wore white slacks, played tennis and did not work much. There were many women. Román scandalized his family by marrying his manicurist who was a Mexican born German. Bertha and Román moved to Mexico. I was never smart or curious enough to find out what happened at the end of prohibition if that is were the Forments lost their regal family fortune. Bertha and Roman had two daughters and three sons and lived in the working class neighbourhood of Tacubaya. It was in Tacubaya where in the American British Cawdry Hospital both my daughters, Ale and Hilary were born. I remember vividly visiting them one day. A relative of Bertha's had appeared driving a Taunus. Bertha proudly told me that it was a German Ford.
When I was 14 Román's brother Vincent sent his son Bryan to stay with us. Bryan developed a terrible toothache. My mother sent him to the dentist. It was a terrible abcessed tooth which the dentist removed. We never heard the end of it as Bryan's father was a Christian Scientist. He told my mother that we should have obtained his permission if Bryan was to see a doctor. I remember this all very well because it was during those days that I had gone to see Grace Kelly's (the love of my life at that moment) last film, The Swan with Lois Jourdan and Alec Guiness (who played the prince who in the film accomplishes what Prince Rainier did in real life, take Kelly away from us!). I had gorged myself on a huge bag of pistachios and was so sick I did not eat a pistachio until last year. Bryan laughed when I mentioned that I loved Grace Kelly's neck. Bryan was more sexually precocious than I was and he suspected (rightly) that I did not know the meaning of the verb form, to neck.
Years later in 1967 I visited Vincent (my uncle Vincent who lived in Milbrae, California. Bryan was in college. Of the visit I remember nothing but I do remember visiting Vincent's brother Ralph who lived and lives in Stockton. He invited me for a barbecue in his backyard. As he was pouring soy sauce on the meat ( I had never experienced the custom of putting anything on cooking meet except salt, after all I am Argentine) I was astounded to see an ocenan liner parade past on the other side of my Uncle Roman's hedge. While I had recently attended a performance of Jefferson Airplane and I had marvelled, during the performance, at the sight of a pretty young girl in a corner staring at the greenness of her tiny glass of Crème de Menthe for what seemed hours, I could not believe my eyes. It was then that Uncle Ralph explained that Stockton was a sea port because of the ship channel and that the channel in question was in his back yard.
It is only now that I am 65 that I am curious enough to want to know who the mafia don was. Where did the money come from? Where did it go to? I had my chance a couple of years ago when cousin Bryan Forment and wife (out of the blue) visited me from San Francisco. He explained how his grandfather had had constant visitors who would kneel in the presence of his grandfather. I never asked. Bryan died last year.
His daughter Page and her husband Charlie Berghoffer (they live in Redmond, Washington) visited today. They don't know the story. I wonder if I will ever know.
Page and Charlie asked me if I was going to add (handwritten by my mother) to my mother's fold out family tree where I showed them how I was related to the Forments. Looking at their young and enthusiastic faces I probably brought them down by telling them that nobody in a few years would care and our decendants would then create their new family trees and we would be in a distant but forgotten past.
I was lucky enough to have an Uncle Román who visited and filled my head with wonderful stories. Could such wonderful stories entertain Rebecca? Can stories be stories if they have no special effects? I suspect it is yes. Lauren and Rebecca had a sleepover with us last night. I had to pick a movie we could all watch. I went to Videomatica with the idea of selecting the 1971 version of Kidnapped with Michael Caine. But I returned with John Ford's splendid Wee Willie Winkie with Shirley Temple, Victor McLaglen and C Aubrey Smith. But it was Cesar Romero's Khoda Khan, the rebellious revolutionary from Northern India that made Rebecca remark, "He is very good looking." This he was and we all (including Lauren) enjoyed a film in which Kipling's original protagonist Percival William Williams somehow becomes an extremely cute Priscilla Williams (Shirley Temple). Kidnapped may have to wait as more Shirley Temple will perhaps be in order.