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THE IRRESISTIBLE CON by Francis Wheen

THE IRRESISTIBLE CON

The Bizarre Life of a Fraudulent Genius

By Francis Wheen

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2005
ISBN: 1-904095-74-7
Publisher: Short Books/Trafalgar

Wheen (Idiot Proof, 2004, etc.) investigates the life of Dr. Charlotte Bach, whom a coterie of learned Londoners took, for a while at least, to have outsmarted Darwin and Freud.

Charlotte Bach was, in fact, Karoly Hajdu (1920–81), a con man who, even after a close shave, was not a very good-looking lady. As Bach, Hajdu offered clever Britons an inscrutable new theory, suggesting that “sexual deviation operated as the mainspring of evolution.” Before assuming the persona of the big woman, Hajdu, late of Budapest, was an autodidact who sometimes enjoyed being a girl. He devoted much of his life to the growing addiction after debtors’ prison and the death of a wife (from whom he inherited a nice wardrobe). Smart, self-aggrandizing Hajdu progressed from a cosmopolite boulevardier, complete with goatee and monocle, playing on the English attraction to titled folk. He dubbed himself baron and count. He lied about being a university lecturer and a military officer. He was, rather, a feckless Paddington estate agent and a thieving fundraiser. Using a variety of names and invented credentials, he practiced sex therapy and hypnotism. He wrote autobiographical case studies and novels. The role of dominatrix paid the rent. But cross-dressing was a crime, liable to cause a breach of the peace, much to the worry of the transvestite community off whom the artist sponged. The story of Hadju, who affected false fronts literally and figuratively, will be, perhaps, of most interest to the special congregation of men who express their feminine side in dress. Dr. Bach, incidentally, never won the Nobel Prize she expected.

A brief history, sad and dismal, of a dishonest cross-dresser who achieved a bit of fleeting notoriety.