ARISTOTLE ONASSIS by Nicholas & Others Fraser
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He lived and he died, and nothing in this massive dossier compiled by a London Sunday Times team gives force or meaning to Onassis' life but an occasional quote: ""One of the most tragic things,"" a friend observed towards the end, ""was to see this most enchanting and fascinating of men become a bore."" The rebellious Smyrna child caught the popular imagination by his pranks; the buccaneering tanker-man led the flight from costly British or US regulation to the ""flags of convenience""; the solicitous host raised spoonfuls of caviar to the aging Churchill's lips. Intensity of attention to persons, intensity of application to business--and daring: these, one concludes from this and every other account, set Onassis apart and formed the basis of both his legend and his fortune. He had otherwise no accomplishments--no land-based investment as a monument (except, to an extent, New York's Olympic Tower), no innovation or masterstroke that was not a financial manipulation, temporal and transient. What Fraser and his fellow-researchers have done is to disprove some of Onassis' claims (not he but the reclusive Daniel Ludwig invented the long-term-charter scheme of financing ship construction) and disclose additional details that, in some cases, make provisional judgments final. Thus, it appears from an unreleased report (""We managed to obtain a copy"") that ""the aileron controls had indeed been reversed"" on the plane whose crash ted to son Alexander's death. It also appears that the long post-mortem owes more to the authors' possession of privileged information than to what it adds to an appreciation of Onassis' grief. This is wall-to-wall journalism, as if everything said and done were still important, with the result that the aborted Omega-project negotiations (to develop an aluminum-and-off-processing capability in Greece) take on the dimensions of a Constitutional Convention. The telling is toneless, mirthless, and virtually emotionless. About Jackie, one hears the same Onassis-originated innuendos (of her insufficiency and his disillusion) that surfaced just before and after his death; she and her intimates haven't talked. But there's lots here, for the reader to make of it what the authors haven't.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1977
Publisher: Lippincott