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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
INTERVIEW WITH BARRY HORENBEIN
This is an interview with Barry Horenbein in his office
in Tallahassee, Florida. The date is January 23, 1990. The
interviewer is David Dodrill.
D: Let's back up a little bit. Tell me a little bit about
your background. Where were you born? Where did you go to
school? Things like that.
H: I was born in Philadelphia. Moved from Philadelphia to
Miami Beach when I was three and I grew up in Miami Beach.
I went to Central Beach Elementary School, Fisher Junior
High School and graduated from Miami Beach Senior High
School. And then went on to the University of Florida.
Graduated from University of Florida from 1956.
D: So Dr. Proctor was a young man at that time?
H: We were all pretty young. That's going back a long
ways. I moved up here to Tallahassee in 1961, went to work
for Rose Printing Company. Was looking to open a public
relations firms. Rose was the largest printing company in
the South at that time. Charlie Rosenberg was doing sixty
percent, I guess, of all the Democratic political printing
out of Washington, plus doing the road maps and everything
in Florida. And I came up here to work with Charlie in 1961
and then left in 1962 and just opened my own PR lobbying
firm up here and I've been doing that since 1962.
D: What's the name of that firm?
H: I think I called it what I call it today, Florida
Consultants. It's been changed from Florida Consultants
Inc. to now it's Florida Consultants Company Inc.
D: What was the year you were born?
H: I was born in October 29, 1935. That makes me old.
D: Not hardly. So you started a consulting firm up here.
Who were some of your major clients in the mid-1960s?
H: My first client was Hillsborough Printing Company out of
Tampa. I was just getting them business out of the state of
Florida, more or less kind of like a salesman. I guess my
first fairly big client was, the city of Miami Beach hired
me. I'm sorry, it was not the city of Miami Beach. It was
the Deauville Hotel. The city of Miami Beach was awarded
the national governor's conference and all of the hotels
were competing against each other for the main function.
The Deauville Hotel hired me.
D: What was the name of it again?
H: The Deauville. D-E-A-U-V-I-L-L-E. It's still down
there now. The Deauville Hotel. It was owned by Morris
Landsberg and Morris Landsberg has some interests in the
Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. I was reading a book called
The Green Felt Jungle. It was about Mob involvement and how
Vegas started and he was in there in several different areas
as one of the investors of one of the first hotels, which
was the Flamingo Hotel. He also owned the Deauville Hotel
in Miami Beach. And they came to me and they wanted to
secure the conference in their hotel. And I forget what
they paid me, $5,000 or something. I then went to work
trying to get the convention in their hotel. They gave me
the dates of the convention and I remembered going to sit
down with the head of the commerce department at the time
here in Florida. And each hotel made their own pitch. I
guess I was the first lobbyist they had ever hired to try to
get it for them. To make a long story short, I remember the
Governor's office calling me, saying,"You can call you
clients at the Deauvile and tell them that they are being
awarded the contract for the national governor's
conference." And I remember calling and talking to Mr.
Landsberg and he said,"We've got a problem." "What's that?"
"We don't have those dates." I said,"Mr. Landsberg, I've
been working on this thing for months. What do you mean you
don't have the dates?" He said,"We have a bowling
conference in the hotel that was booked three years ago over
those dates. And I thought we could move the bowling
conference out but they threatened to sue us. We cannot
move the dates. So would you please go back to the state
and offer them the next week." I said,"You've got to be
kidding me?" He said,"That's it." I went back. I thought
they were going to throw me out of the governor's office.
To make a long story short, something happened in the
national governor's conference that a week's delay was
better for the conference. So we wound up getting the
conference. So that was my first client. My first major
client that walked into my office was 3M Company. They are
one of the top fifty companies in the nation, I guess. And
I have been representing 3M Company since 1965 as one of my
D: I had read that somewhere. What was you first contact
with Gulf American? How did you come to be associated with
H: I think it was through this man named Dick Reynolds who
has since died. Dick went to work for Gulf American as one
of their, I guess, vice-presidents in charge of sales. Gulf
American had been in business for many years before they
contacted me. Governor Claude Kirk was the governor at the
time. And it was very interesting because only one
newspaper that I know of actually wrote the true story and
that was the Lakeland Ledger. I doh't know if you found
this in the archives or not. I was just looking for it.
Because I know I've got this file someplace. I can't find
it. I'll look and see. What had happened was Kirk was
running for governor and I think it ended up between Claude
Kirk and Bob High from Miami. Gulf American had been
supporting Mayor High. He was the mayor of Miami at the
time. Kirk won the election. One of the governor's aides
called Leonard Rosen and said,"We know you're on the other
side. We have a campaign deficit. We'd like for you to
participate and help us with this campaign deficit."
D: This is after the election?
H: After the election. I think they went to Leonard before
the election and he said,"I'm supporting my mayor from
Miami. I can't support you." Well, when Kirk won, they
then went back to him. They were a major player in the
state of Florida. And from the story that Leonard tells me
was that they asked him for a campaign contribution of
$25,000 to the Kirk administration to help make up the
deficit. He agreed to that. They, again, this is from
Leonard telling me. They asked if he could pay it in cash.
He agreed to that. They said,"We will come down next
Tuesday, next Wednesday and pick it up." He said,"No. I
would like to deliver it personally to the governor," to
make sure that the governor was getting the campaign
contribution from Gulf American or from Leonard Rosen and
not going through three aides, who knew if it would ever get
to the campaign. Once that was established that he wanted
to meet with the governor personally and give it to him, all
lines of communication broke between the governor's office
and Gulf American. The very powerful land sales board that
the governor appointed and he appointed one of the Mackle
brothers on it, which was Elliott. Elliott and Leonard
hated each other. It was a perfect position for Elliott
Mackle to get back at Leonard and Gulf American. I don't
know if they didn't like the way they were selling their
land, whether there was underwater land being sold, or what.
But there was a definite dislike. And Elliott Mackle was on
the governor's finance committee. So there was another way
to get back at Gulf American. Without going into so many
D: Why do you think the governor shut off all communication
when Leonard wanted to bring it in personally?
H: Well, Leonard never talked to the governor. Leonard
only talked to a couple of his aides. For some reason they
didn't want Leonard and the governor to get together. They
wanted to bring it in themselves, I guess. But they wanted
to keep it that way. I think the governor had heard so much
bad about Leonard Rosen through the Mackles that maybe they
didn't want to put them together. Months and months went on
and the governor's office tried to close down Gulf American.
They said it was unethical sales or for whatever reason,
Mackle played a big part in convincing the governor that
this is bad for Florida, they way Gulf American was selling
its land. Probably wasn't any different than the way the
Mackle brothers were doing it. Leonard was very successful
doing it and was making millions of dollars doing it and I'm
sure cut into Mackles' profits. It got so bad between the
governor's office and Gulf American's office and the
governor accusing Gulf American of so many irregularities
and how they did their bookkeeping, the governor's office
set out as a vendetta against Gulf American.
D: Do you think that came from the governor himself?
H: No. That had to come from the other land sales people.
Probably the Mackles, who were in direct competition. This
was a good way to close the company down. You've got the
bulk of it. It got so bad and the governor had the land
sales board investigating Gulf American that Gulf American
stock was, they halted trading on it on the big board. Now
your stock and trading is the bloodline of any company. So
when you halt that stock from trading, you can bankrupt a
company like that.
D: They stopped it on a number of occasions.
H: Yes. They stopped it. And it was through
investigations by the governor's land sales board that was
stopping it. Leonard would always say that Mackle was anti-
Semetic, and, true or not, there was that feeling there.
And they would not talk. That's when the period when they
hired me to try to smooth out whatever was going on up here,
either legislative-wise or through the governor's office. I
got involved in it and I talked to people in the governor's
office about it. I talked to legislators about it. I
remember getting Gulf American to hire Senator Mallory Horne
at the time, and also Senator George Hollihan, who was the
senator from Dade County. Hired them on a legal capacity
and I think that was written up in the papers.
D: What was the purpose behind that?
H: Well, they needed some strong legal advice and I thought
that having two state senators would probably be able to
talk to the governor's office alot better than I was doing.
You probably couldn't do it now because of conflict of
interest but at that time, half of the legislators were
lawyers who were representing clients before state agencies.
You're going back how far?
H: Yes. So you're going back twenty-something years. So I
know that Gulf American and Mallory Home and Hollihan took
some flak on it but they still represented them. The real
story of all of this has never gotten out.
D: Hopefully I'll be able to help with that.
H: When the governor's office notified Leonard that they
were going to have a press conference like on Friday and
they were going to lower the boom on Gulf American, I was
sitting in my house at about 3 o'clock in the morning and
Leonard Rosen called me from London. He was over in London.
And as Leonard usually was, he sat there and told me some
stupid joke at 3 o'clock in the morning from London. It was
pretty funny at the time. And he said,"Barry, get a yellow
pad." So I said,"Sure," and I got this yellow pad and for
about forty-five minutes, I wrote down probably half the
yellow pad. He said,"Now, if the governor is getting ready
to play hardball with me," he said, "I'm prepared to play
hardball. I've sat back and let them take shots at me and
I've let them do this and they've stopped me from doing
this. They closed down the stock market on me," he said,
"I've had it." And he started giving me details on some of
the governor's people. One was head of the Commerce
Department. Shelby Dale. He tried to purchase a plane from
Gulf American and was about to purchase it at a ridiculous
price. It was almost like Gulf American was giving it to
him. A couple of the governor's key people in the
legislature were very close friends of mine and, in some of
his stories he was telling me, they were involved. Some of
the plane dealings and some of the other dealings that they
were trying to work out with Gulf American. And he gave me
ten pages on this and I was saying,"Oh, shit." It was three
o'clock in the morning and I said,"Leonard, what are you
going to do with all of this stuff?" He said,"I'd like you
to take it to your friends and tell them that I've got all
this." He had hired an investigator and they were
investigating the governor's position in all of the land
sales things. And he had stuff on the Mackles, that the
Mackles and the governor were talking, and some of the
people in the legislature were talking to the governor. It
was like,"They were trying to put my company out of
business, Barry, for the good of Mackle. And I've taken it
long enough. I like you to go in and talk to these people
and show them what I have and if they still want to hold
their press conference, let them hold their press conference
and I'm going to hold mine. And I'm going to tell them
about Shelby Dale and I'm going to tell them about this
person and I'm going to tell them about that person. And
I'm going to tell them how much they asked me for in the
governor's race and why they asked for cash." He said,"I'm
ready. I've had a year of this shit and I'm ready." And I
sat there and I said,"Oh, shit. If this gets out, this will
be one of the biggest stories to ever hit the state of
Florida." About seven o'clock in the morning, I called a
couple of friends in the governor's office and I read some
of the stuff to them. And they said,"Barry, can you be in
the governor's office at eight o'clock in the morning?" I
said,"Sure." I went to the governor's office. Governor
Kirk sat there, a couple of his aides sat there and I just
read. And I said,"The reason I'm bringing this to you is,
this is a friend of mine, that's a friend of mine. We don't
need all this shit in the paper. I think there's got to be
a better way, Governor, for you to work this out. Come up
with some solution." And I guess I was in there for about
an hour. I left. They all thanked me for bringing this
information to them. They said,"This isleally great stuff,
Barry. We appreciate you doing this and not going to the
press with it. Let's see what we can work out." I felt
great about it. I told Leonard that I did all that and he
said,"Let's see what they want to do. We've got three days
before their supposed press conference."
The next day, I'm sitting in my office and I get a
call. A guy introduces himself, sort of like you did, picks
up the phone and calls me. And said,"My name is so-and-so.
I'm with the Scripps newspaper." I guess it was the Wall
Street Journal at the time. And he said,"I'd like to come
down and interview you, Mr. Horenbein." Now, we're going
back twenty years. I had just started lobbying. Maybe I
had been lobbying for three or four years. I certainly
wasn't one of the more powerful lobbyists. I certainly
wasn't one of the most effective lobbyists there. I was
just getting into it. And I said,"Why do you want to
interview me?" And he said,"We're doing a story on five of
the most powerful lobbyists in the South. We're doing one
in Alabama," he mentioned the name. One in Georgia and he
said we want to do you in Florida. Of course, my ego, and I
said,"That's great. But," I said,"why don't you
interview..." and I gave him the name of the guy who does
all of the lobbying for the racetracks. All the powerful,
powerful lobbyists. And he said,"Nope, we thought about it.
We want to do you because you're young, you have nice
clients." 3M was a client at the time. "You have major
clients and we feel you have done such a wonderful job with
your clients in this company." So I said,"Fine, come on
over." Half an hour later they came down to my office and
took one of these (taperecorder) out. He asked me questions
about where I was born, where I went to school, about where
I played professional baseball, what my batting average was.
I had a picture of my wife and I and my horses. I was just
getting into to breeding of horses and everything. He asked
me about, I don't know how Governor Frank Clemonts got
involved in there. My roommate in Florida was Governor
Clement's aide so we became friends. And I gave him
everything. He never asked me anything about Gulf American
or anything. Just a beautiful interview for two hours.
Interview is over and he says,"You know something, Barry, I
hate to do this because you seem like such a nice guy and
you've been so honest with me. I really came here under
false pretenses." I said,"What do you mean?" He said,"We
just left the governor's office and someone in the
governor's office said that you tried to blackmail him
yesterday. And we're doing a story on your blackmailing
him." After two hours, I was taken back. And I said,"Well,
there was no blackmail. I just sat down in the governor's
office." I even told him,"Yes, I met with the governor's
office. We discussed some things. I went in there to see
him about some 3M business." Which I lied about but I
didn't want to say anything. And if anybody says that I
tried to blackmail them, I know I didn't try to blackmail
them. I told them exactly what Leonard said. Here's what
Mr. Rosen is going to have at his press conference when you
have yours. Well, I found out afterwards that the governor
wanted to get a jump on Gulf American. So the very next
day, the governor said that a representative of Gulf
American tried to blackmail me. And it hit all the papers.
D: I have several copies of those from around the country.
H: It hit all the papers and for about a week, my name was
never in there. It was just 'a representative of Gulf
American.' Every time the governor had a press conference,
some reporter would say,"Well, Governor, would you please
name the person who tried to blackmail you. Blackmail is a
federal offense." The Governor would ignore the question
and go on someplace else. He would never actually sit down
and name me. Well, evidently when the Wall Street Journal
guy came, they had said that day, somebody had said,"Barry
Horenbein." So they did this whole background with me and I
don't know if you saw the Wall Street Journal article?
Here's the Wall Street Journal, front page, right-hand
column. My uncle was an attorney in Buffalo and he called
my father who was living in Miami because he didn't know how
to reach me and he said,"Usually I get up in the morning and
I read the Wall Street Journal while I'm taking a dump. And
the first thing I did was read about Barry blackmailing the
governor. I got very concerned." He called my father. I
finally went out and got the Wall Street Journal article. I
mean, with so many major stories, here is says,"Barry
Horenbein, 34," I remember that,"is a young man, 34 years
old, blackmailing the governor." It went on, where I went
to school. It said he's got world-champion Tennessee
walking horses that can be seen on his twenty acres. It
made me look like I was a multi-millionaire.
D: I remember the article. It did very much that way.
That's one of the reasons why Dr. Proctor said,"You need to
go talk to this man."
H: It made me look like I was a multi-millionaire, that my
wife and children could be seen riding my world-champion
walking horses. I think I had two pleasure horses at the
time. It went into my professional baseball background,
that I had signed a professional baseball contract with the
Baltimore Orioles when I got out of school. The whole front
page was one me. And then it went into Gulf American's
problems. Well, the moment I saw it, and then my picture
appeared in half a dozen newspapers. The day my picture
appeared in the newspapers with my name, we were having a
party at my house for about 150 people. And I called my
wife and I said,"Marilyn, I don't want to be at this party."
And she said,"Oh, yes, we're going to have this party. You
didn't do anything wrong. If you try to hide from this,
it's going to show you're guilty." Leonard Rosen called me
after it broke in the Miami Herald and he said,"Barry, why
don't you and your wife go to Europe for a couple of weeks.
Let me send you a couple of tickets and go over there with
an expense account and just go over there and play until all
of this dies down." I thought it was great and I was ready
to go." My wife said,"You're not leaving. If you leave
here, you're guilty." We had our party out there the same
day all the papers broke with my picture as a blackmailer.
Some of my friends came up to me and said,"Barry, we've
known you for eight or nine years. We never knew what you
did. Now we know what you do. You're a blackmailer."
Kidding around. But I went through the whole evening and I
went to see Mallory Horne at the time. And I said,"Mallory,
I want to sue the Wall Street Journal and I want to sue the
governor's office." I was pissed because I know what I did
and I know that there was no blackmail. And I know someone
at the governor's office had to get the jump on Gulf
American and you're a patsy in it. And I was just sue, sue,
sue. Mallory sat down with me and said,"Barry, I want you
to think about it for a couple of days. You're upset now."
To make a long story short, he said,"You know, Barry, suing
the Wall Street Journal, alot of people have sued. 99
percent of the people, you're not going to win. I hope you
have deep pockets because it could take ten years before it
even comes to trial or a hearing. The governor has three
more years in office and you're just starting lobbying. And
suing the governor's office is not going to make you very
popular. And the governor's office, which you need on
occasions for your clients and in the legislature. Let me
give you some advice, in two or three days, this is going to
be over and you're not going to hear any thing about it. If
you can just weather that storm." I didn't want to but I
did. And nothing was ever said again about it. The
Lakeland Ledger, about maybe three weeks or a month
afterwards, and I kept that. And when you called, I went
and looked for it. I've got it someplace. I can't find it
yet but he wrote a story on, well, if there was a blackmail
charge, blackmail is a federal offense, why hasn't anybody
been charged? He went on and showed how a governor's office
can wipe out a company. The odd thing about it was that
probably a year after all this, and they fought back and
forth. I don't think anything ever happened?
D: Well, Gulf American was suspended from sales for thirty
H: But then they went back.
D: They went back into sales again.
H: That thirty days almost devastated them and that's when
I was involved in that, the portion there.
D: Because what happened was that other states followed
suit, and also suspended them. I know that New York did, I
know New Jersey did.
H: But it was for thirty days and then it was business as
usual again after the thirty days. But another company, it
probably would have devastated them. It probably would have
bankrupted them. Oddly enough, GAC was purchased by GAC,
General Acceptance Corporation, and the guy's name was
Hayward Wills. Hayward Wills went down and bought the
company from Gulf American. About $200,000,000, I forget
what the price was.
D: It was something like $200,000,000. It was in stock so
it wasn't in cash. Very little was in cash.
H: He bought the company from Leonard. The first thing
that Hayward Wills did was take Tom Ferguson, the Governor's
chief of staff, and hired him as president of Modern Air.
So here's Tom Ferguson, who was involved in getting money
for the governor's office, involved in trying to put this
company out of business. The governor's office, from what I
understand, through Ferguson found Hayward Wills to come and
buy this company. It's almost like saying,"Here's a company
we've beat down. You want to come in on a bargain and buy
this company?" They purchased the company. The first
person they hire is the governor's right hand man to come in
and run it.
D: So what you're saying is that the governor's office and
in particular, Tom Ferguson, went looking for someone to
come in and?
H: I understand that Leonard Rosen did not know GAC
Corporation. Probably some people in the governor's office
said,"Here's a company. You can probably buy it for alot
less now that we've had them suspended." For whatever the
reason was, Hayward bought it. The first thing he did was
to bring Tom Ferguson from the governor's office, who I met
with that morning at eight o'clock in the morning and I read
all these things to. The second person they brought in was
Dick Warner, who was the governor's PR man. He came in as
vice-president. The third person, was another one. So they
brought three people from the governor's office into run
this company that they governor's office was trying to put
out of business.
D: Who was the third person? I've not heard any other
H: One was Tom Ferguson. One was Dick Warner who is now
the vice-president of some bank. And I forget who the third
one was. One of the aides there in a pretty good position.
I kind of laughed about it. I said,"This is the way to rape
a company through the power of the governor's office and
have your friend come in and buy it."
D: It seemed like the heat was really taken off of them
after the sale.
H: Oh, you got it. There were no problems after the sale.
And especially from the governor's office when he hired
these three people to come in from the governor's office. I
got a call about a month after Ferguson and Warner went in
as president and vice-president of different divisions down
there. And they called me and they said,"Barry, we're sorry
all this shit hit with you. There was nothing we could do.
We're sorry it leaked out." They gave me some guy's name
who leaked it and whether he leaked it or not, I don't know.
Whether Ferguson and them leaked it, that I tried
blackmailing, "We needed to get an arm up on Gulf American.
We were afraid that they were going to have a press
conference and say 'One, two, three, four, five, whatever'.
We see your contract with Gulf American has expired. We'd
like to hire you." I said,"What, Tom? After all I fought
you guys on, the legislative ones and through the cabinet
and everything." And he said,"Yes, and as a matter of fact,
we'd like to hire you at double the salary that Gulf
American was paying you because you did an honorable job
with us. You came and told us what was going to happen.
You played strictly fair with us. And we would like you to
consider it." And I considered it and I went to work for
them under Hayward Wills. And I think I worked for them for
a couple of years until they went into bankruptcy. Ferguson
ran Modern Air. Dick Warner was one of the senior vice-
presidents. When they went into bankruptcy, they all went
different places. I bumped into Tom at the Super Bowl in
California one time. He was working with the Perini
brothers, one of the larger builders. Dick Warner, I talk
to occasionally. When I went out to the Super Bowl last
year, he helped me get rooms out there. He's the vice-
president of Pacific, one of the larger banks out there.
And that was my involvement. That's the true story from a
person who was there. I know what I said. They know what I
said and it was the power of the governor's office through
the help of the Mackle brothers that was trying to put this
company out of business and almost succeeded and probably
Leonard said,"Fuck it. I've had enough of this. I'm not
going to fight them the rest of my life." Somebody came and
made an offer and he sold it.
D: So the Mackle brothers and Claude Kirk were very close?
H: (affirmative nod) I just bumped into Claude Kirk in
Atlanta the day before yesterday. He said,"Barry, how are
you? What are you doing up here?" I said,"Well, I
represent the lottery. Our client has the lottery." And he
said,"Can't you get me some business?" This was last
Tuesday in Atlanta. I mean, they knew and I knew that the
blackmail shit was a smokescreen. I got very nervous about
it, cause like I said, I was only lobbying maybe five or six
years out on my own. I had just picked up 3M as a major
client. I had had them maybe three years as a client. And
they got very concerned and they got all the press clippings
up there. I remember one of the vice-presidents of 3M
calling me and saying,"Barry, come meet with us in Miami.
We're concerned about this." And I don't blame them. I
mean, why would you want your lobbyist, that you're paying
money to work the governor's office, being called a
blackmailer by the governor's office. You'd think I had no
credibility there. I sat down with 3M and told a similar
story. I mean the same story. As a matter of fact, I went
back to the governor's office and I had the governor's legal
guy at the time, write 3M a letter for me and say,"Barry
Horenbein has not lost his effectiveness in this office.
He's done a wonderful job, is a good friend of the
governor." That saved my job with 3M because they were
concerned. So here the governor's office was writing a
letter of recommendation for me after calling me a
blackmailer. I mean, they knew.
D: Do you think that the things that Gulf American had some
of Kirk's people was politically damaging or do you think it
H: Yes, probably but you know, I didn't see any major,
major things there. They were some things to do the
purchase of a plane, where some of the interchanges were
going to go on the interstate. Gulf had property there and
they were aware of it. They were supposedly going to buy
some of that property around the interchanges. Stuff like
that. I read about that every day now. It goes on all the
time. Shelby Dale did resign.
D: Was he forced out or did he...?
H: I think he was forced out. I mean he did things like
try to buy this plane and use the plane on occasions that
the governor didn't know about. And the governor had no
other choice but to ask him to resign. And that was in the
Lakeland paper. They said that if Gulf American was so bad
and they tried blackmail and all this, why did the
governor's number one appointment resign? I mean, there
were a lot of questions that were never answered but it was
D: That requires too much thinking from the public.
H: Oh, yes. Thirty days later, there was never anything
about blackmail. Never anything about Gulf American
anymore. Once that other company came in, it was a really
nice company. They used to send a Falcon jet up here at my
disposal during the legislature.
D: Who would send the Falcon jet?
H: After Leonard sold it to Hayward Wills, when Ferguson
and Warner went down there, they knew the value of the
political process up here. "Any time you need the plane
Barry, let us know." We flew down for an FSU-Florida game.
I flew cabinet members down on GAC Falcon. We flew some
people over to one of their developments over in Cape
Eleuthera for a nice weekend. It was business as usual
after Leonard sold the company.
D: Do you think that Leonard was really combatative with
people or was he just politically naive?
H: Both. I found out that he was politically naive. I
really did. But he was a fighter, he was a street fighter.
You know, he didn't know anything about the land business, I
don't think, when he came down here. He sold hair products
and made a lot of money at it.
D: I think it surprised him that he could sell land through
the mail. When they first started, that's how they did it,
through the mail.
H: Ten dollars down. I bought some for my girlfriend, my
wife now, when she was flying. We bought some property in
Poinciana. I think we since gave it up. We got tired of
paying ten dollars down, ten dollars a month. Alot of
people did that, got tired. They would sell it over again.
I don't know how many times they would sold the same
property over again. You know, that wasn't my problem. I
learned to love the guy. The guy was just super with me. I
liked his style. I would go down and sit in a meeting with
him. And he never wore a jacket and a tie. He was a tennis
nut and I remember flying in one time, and he had this
beautiful penthouse office on 79th Street causeway, right
off the causeway. He had his own restaurant and little bar
up there and everything. I would sit in there and wait for
him and we would go play tennis together. And he would be
in the meetings there with twenty people, all in business
suits and he would be sitting there in a pair of sneakers
and tennis clothes. One of the funniest stories was, I was
supposed to meet with him and I was in Miami. He was flying
up to Philadelphia for a meeting and he met this very
attractive stewardess aboard the plane. Instead of getting
off the plane in Philadelphia for his meeting, the plane was
deadheading back. They were just making a turnaround. He
stayed on the plane and flew back and called me and
said,"Barry, I want to meet you at the King's Inn." It was
a restaurant in Miami Springs where he frequented alot. And
it was where a lot of stewardesses stayed because my wife
used to live out there. I met him at the restaurant and it
was a pretty high-class restaurant. Leonard had flown up in
a pair of long white pants with sneakers and a white t-
shirt, because he probably just came from the tennis court
to catch this plane. He met this girl and convinced the
girl to go have dinner with him. So I meet him at the front
of the restaurant and he walks in. I say,"Mr. Rosen, it's
nice seeing you. Here's your jacket." You needed a jacket
to get in. They kept a jacket or two for him because they
knew he never had one. We get in there and sit down for
dinner. And I've always wanted to do this but, of course,
I've never had the balls to do it. He ordered some fine
wine. And the place is crowded. Leonard, of course, didn't
give a shit. He would do anything if he wanted to. He
ordered the wine, poured the wine, he tasted it. He
went,"phhhhhhhh!" (spitting sound), spit the wine all over
the floor. He said,"This is shit. Give me some good wine."
I mean, I was embarrassed. The girl, I thought she was
going to get up and walk away. You know, if you don't like
the wine, you know, but he spit it all over the floor and
said,"This is terrible!" But that was Leonard.
D: That sounds like the stories I've heard. What are some
other things you remember about him?
H: I remember flying down there one time before I was
married with a young lady from, I forget where I met her, a
stewardess or somebody up here, and the two of us went over
to see Leonard. And she was looking for a job down there
and he was in the middle of a meeting. He sees me with this
good-looking girl and he gets up and excuses himself. He
has his brother or somebody take over the meeting. He comes
in there and opens the bottle and we start drinking. The
last thing I remember, he and the girl got in the hot tub
together and I left. In the middle of the meeting. But
this was Leonard. I would go play tennis with him at the
Jockey Club, is where he played alot and he played in a
couple of other private places. But he always had some
nineteen or twenty-year-old girl there. The last time I saw
him and he had just been through open heart surgery and I
bumped into him at the Jockey Club. And Leonard, of course,
was probably in his late fifties or early sixties at the
time. He had one of the most gorgeous girls I've ever seen.
She had this little tiny T-shirt on and obviously no bra
because nobody on the tennis court could play tennis. She
was bouncing all around and he was having a ball. You just
had to stop and watch but this was Leonard.
D: How could he do that? Was it just his personality?
H: He had a great personality, plus he was a very giving
man. He never had a problem with good-looking women being
with him. Whether he paid for it or gave them gifts or
hired them or what, I never asked. He had a wonderful
personality. I remember him sending me a letter many years
afterwards from Vegas on a new invention he came upon. It
was a beautiful two-page letter, tongue-in-cheek letter
where it was something you would buy, a little piece of
rubber that you would buy for like five dollars, like a
ball. And you would put it in water and it would open up
into a pussy. And he said,"This is the greatest marketing
thing. Let me show you how I can sell this." He went on
for two pages and wrote this thing to me, signed, your
friend, Leonard Rosen. To take time out from his, he had to
dictate it to somebody, and it was hysterical. It had to
take him an hour or two to do this and it was just his sense
of humor. Like, here is is, dip it in water and it turns
into pussy. And he said,"Just think how you could sell
this. Sell it for ten dollars, sell it fifty dollars for a
dozen of them. If you get tired of one, you get another and
you have instant pussy.
And I was told he was ruthless in business, ruthless.
I was told he had a terrible temper. He would just yell and
scream at people. I never saw it. The relationship we had
was totally different. He would go away to London and pick
up the phone and say,"I just heard this joke, Barry," and
call me and tell it to me. And I'd hang on and say,"Why
would you call me at 2 o'clock in the morning to tell me
this joke?" But he would do that. And many years
afterwards, I went out to Vegas and I would call him. He
would have a Rolls Royce come pick me up where I was staying
to go play tennis with him or to go have dinner with him or
go have a drink with him. We had an unusual relationship
that started during a bad period of his life and I think I
was the only one he confided in in these problems. We kept
in touch over the years.
D: In that respect, do you think he was, he had a lot of
people around him but do you think he was alone alot?
H: Yes. He always had alot of people around him but most
of them were business people, either working for him or in
deals he was working on.
D: Did you ever know Jack Rosen?
H: His brother? I met him a couple of times but never
really had anything to do with him. Is Jack still alive?
D: No, he died in 1969. He died of a heart attack right
after they sold the company within about six months. He
didn't have that many close friends that carried on
throughout his life. A few people who were his associates
carried on, Milt Mendelsohn was one of them. I don't know
if that name rings a bell?
D: He's probably the man who gave Leonard the idea about
starting in the land business when he was down there, when
he had arthritis. From what I understand, he had arthritis
pretty bad in 1956 early on there. Did you ever see any
evidence of it?
D: Most people said that he seemed to be cured from it. He
went to some of the spas down there for several months in
H: You see, when I met him, it was 1967. He was a
character. But he was one who was a self-made man. Nothing
was given to him. If someone would have said to you, you
take your $100,000 that you made in hair business and you
can turn it into $100,000,000, you'd say that's crazy. And
that's just about what he did. Now, you know, how he sold
his land and so forth, I don't know. You heard all kind of
stories, you know, the boiler rooms they had selling it and
that he sold land that was underwater. Or that he sold the
same lot ten times or twenty times. It could be true, I
don't know. My relation was through that period and then we
became real good friends afterwards. And I remember going
through this building one time, and Leonard showed me one
floor in the building that he was turning into an art
gallery. And I said,"What do you know about art?" He
said,"Nothing." He had hired an art consultant and they
went to Europe together and he probably bought $1,000,000
to $1,500,000 worth of art. He original Picassos, Degas, he
had Madiglianas, awesome up there. And I said,"Why did you
buy that?" He said,"Because if I paid $10,000 for that, it
may look like a piece of shit. I know in three years, it
will be worth $20,000." He didn't buy art for art. He
bought it for investment. And he did very well on it.
D: Do you think he was really driven by the idea of
building the largest land company in the world or do you
think he was just satisfied doing what he was doing?
H: I think a little bit of both. I think the ego the
building, what he was building was tremendous. And at that
time, he was a very close family man even though he was
screwing around alot. He was always at his house. He was
always at a religious function. He gave lots of money to
the United Jewish Appeal, different organizations. He was
very big in that.
D: So he was still very close with his family?
H: Oh, very close.
D: So he was still married during this time period. Do you
know when he got a divorce?
D: It seemed like, for Leonard, alot of it was the
challenge of putting the whole thing together. The money
was not the issue.
H: Yes. Somebody asked me today, we were talking about
gambling and betting on the Super Bowl and giving thirteen
points or ten points. To alot of the real gamblers, the
money isn't the thing. It's the action. They would just as
soon bet on frog's race as the Super Bowl. It's the action
of knowing you got something going and it's not the winning
of the big bucks. And I think Leonard was alot like that.
It was, I remember him coming up here one time and I
said,"Leonard, you need to establish some foothold in
Tallahassee. Let me tell you what you need to do. There
were about 500 acres about five miles down this road here,
gorgeous property, beautiful. I think they were asking
about $750 an acre. A steal at $750 an acre. I said,"Why
don't you buy it? We'll put up a hunting lodge up there.
We'll be able to bring whatever dignitaries we need right
down here. We could form a base. If you really want to get
politically involved, these are things you need to do." We
took a helicopter and flew over the property. It was
gorgeous. We walked the property. At $750 an acre, it was
a steal. He offered $300 an acre. They said,"No, $750."
He went to $400 an acre. I think he finally went to $500 an
acre. And they said,"Let us think about it." He could have
paid $750 for it and stole it. It was the challenge. And I
asked him about it. He said,"I wanted to see if I could buy
it at that, Barry. It's the challenge of outsmarting them
to buy it at that." The acreage now is probably $10,000 but
it was not, it was the game, it was the challenge of him
outdoing somebody and buying it at a bargain as to buying it
at what they wanted. If they would have said $1,000, he
probably would have said $750. They said $750 and he said
$250 or $300. That was him.
D: He was a marathon negotiator.
H: Oh, yes. And he had time. He didn't need to buy
anything. So he didn't buy when he didn't want to buy.
D: Well, I think we've covered the waterfront here.
H: I don't know if that's done anything for you but it was,
I admired the man greatly. I admired him that he could go
from nothing to where he is. I admired him that he could
play the game and walk out of a business meeting and go play
tennis or go get laid if he wanted to do it in the middle of
an important business meeting. It showed me a couple of
things. He could be serious and ruthless but he also had
another side to him that business was not his entire life.
And he could give hundreds of thousands of dollars to
charities and he could still walk out of the middle of
business meeting on a $500,000,000 deal or something because
he's late for a tennis match or he thinks he's going to get
laid. Or he flies that flight and just turns around and
flies back on it to impress this stewardess. It wasn't that
he was a good-looking man. He just had a way of being able
to sell something.