Masters & Millionaires
Alfred, the man behind Alkit Camera, was family photographer for President Roosevelt's cousin, FDR, for many years. At Hyde Park, NY, presidential estate, you see photos that communicate what a good photographer sees, beyond the obvious. Young, tall, skinny, energetically gifted with an honest soul, Al had that rarest of accents: the one that physically delights your ears. By the time FDR became President, Al's fortunes were secured. He and a close friend, Armand Hammer, made several trips per year into the center of then-communist U.S.S.R. in days of great peril to help thousands and thousands of Russia's poor. Many of them gave over to his trust lifetime accumulations of a handful of precious rubles, often kept buried underground for upwards of thirty years. He made countless trips to banks in NY, opening incredible numbers of bank accounts for children and grandchildren whom it was hoped would eventually escape Russia. For eighty years of dictatorship, emigration was difficult or forbidden to most, particularly Jewish people. His charity knew no sociological or ethnical limits. He was one of life's helpers.
In the course of his travels, he did countless quiet favors behind the Iron Curtain for the U.S. State Department. There were one or two other official agencies that benefited from his intimacy with back doors and his refusal to display fear to the dreaded, and rightly so, KGB.
Legend has it that his daughter Laurel, who personified the best kind of people we produce, people of rich service, could not resist the blandishments and smooth patter of Eddie Buchbinder, a slightly Jewish John Gotti-wannabe at a time when Gotti was in fifth grade.
By the time that the son-in-law had power of attorney twenty-five years later, he was allegedly blackmailing his father-in-law, who'd just been voted "Man of the Year" by his cherished comrades in the American camera industry. The son-in-law threatened to leave Alfred's daughter and grandchildren with nothing if Al didn't co-sign a one-million dollar loan for Eddie to open his own set of camera shops. Never mind that Eddie had gone from a Marine Corp paycheck to running his father-in-law's lucrative New York chain, and receiving a piece of every dollar coming in. He'd gone from a modest life to parking his own Rolls Royce in the driveway of his million-dollar home.
Eight million naked faces in the city.
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