Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Late 1990

In addition to the matter I brought to Clair George’s attention and which he, in turn, took to his client, The Circus (resulting in the long-term project I am forbidden to write about), The Circus tried to maneuver us into a second assignment:  their long-running war against animal rights activists.

This did not sit well with us, but we went through the motions, if only as a learning exercise.

The Circus had been suffering revenue losses at the gate due to the protests of animal rights activists, who espoused the notion that circus trainers were cruel to animals.  On a political front, they advocated the banning of animals from circus acts.

To defend itself, The Circus had, three years earlier, hired a private dick named Dick (“call me Richard”) Froemming, emphasis on dick.

The Dick purported to have been in the FBI, but this changed to having been a Washington DC police officer.  Truth was, he’d never gotten beyond rookie, and one night, after getting shot in the arm, he left the force and set up shop as a spouse spy, transforming himself into the James Bond of matrimonial disputes.  Much about him was sizzle, like the vanity tags on his Mercedes sports car:  Shamus. (It should have been just plain Sham.)

The Dick had amassed a huge amount of material on animal rights activists for The Circus.  Clair was called in to relieve The Dick of his files.  And Clair called me.

Clair and I arrived at the same conclusion:  The Dick’s operation was all intelligence collection and no analysis.  What did it mean?  How could it be put to use?

Clair conveyed this to his chief contact at The Circus, Charles F. (“Chuck”) Smith, who would have preferred a career in the FBI.   (He had tried to join, was rejected.)  Chuck relished investigations.

“We have boxes and boxes of information,” Chuck told Clair, echoing what we had already determined, “and we don’t know what to do with it.” 

Chuck asked Clair to devise a strategy with objectives.

And Clair asked me.

First step, meet with The Dick for a comprehensive debrief.

The Dick came to Clair’s house, whose cozy den often played venue to our meetings.

The Dick seemed nervous as he rambled on about “six or seven operatives” he allegedly ran inside the animal rights movement.   When we saw him to the door, he seemed awkward and clearly discomfited.

After he left, I said to Clair, “He doesn’t have six or seven operatives.  Maybe one, or two, tops.”

“But he’s billing for six or seven,” said Clair.  “Chuck says these operatives are costing eighty grand a year, each.”

“The Dick is getting rich off fake agents,” I said.  “We should be investigating him, not animal rights activists.”

After evaluating the so-called work product of The Dick’s bogus operatives, it was even clearer he was pocketing six or seven salaries in addition to his own.  

Clair relayed such to Chuck Smith.

The Circus’s top executives wrangled about it, even considered suing The Dick.  But that would turn into a public relations nightmare, they reasoned, so instead they removed him from the animal rights beat and promoted him to vice president, PR.

So The Dick was initially happy to turn everything over to us.  Until he realized we had probably figured out he did not have “six or seven operatives” to turn over, as we requested.

So The Dick began to sabotage the transfer, and even went on the offensive, dispatching critical memos about the spymaster and me back to Circus headquarters in an attempt to obfuscate his own wrongdoing.

To us, he blamed his own shortcomings on internal squabbling at The Circus, and moaned about having to seek legal opinions, at the insistence of The Circus, from a series of law firms, all eager for a hefty slice of the pie.  But The Dick could not name one such lawyer, even though that kind of relationship would have been useful for attorney-client privilege.

“What if the animal activists find out about your work [against them] and subpoena your documents through Discovery?” I asked.

“F--- it,” he replied.  “I’d burn them.”

I reviewed all of the material through the weekend, determined that, quite likely, it had been acquired illegally, and suggested Clair return it to Chuck Smith.

A decade later, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sued The Circus, and named Richard Froemming as the investigator who had stolen confidential documents belonging to them.

But, by then, bad karma had already caught up with The Dick.  He succumbed to death from cancer at a young age, and never lived to see his chicanery exposed.

The best story I heard working for The Circus had an intriguing if rather bizarre animal rights connection, as it dealt with their so-called unicorn.  

According to Chuck Smith, The Circus subsidized a mad scientist who ran a lab in a remote part of California.   It was this scientist that had implanted a horn onto a growing goat fetus.  The goat was born with the horn, which continued to grow, and thus the Circus was able to flaunt a unicorn.  

Apparently, the mad scientist’s compound was full of animal experiments that had gone wrong, like in The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Monkeys with three arms and the like.  

Apparently, the scientist had recently called to say, I can create a mermaid, want one?  

On the heels of their unicorn controversy, legal counsel at The Circus declined that opportunity. 

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