Johnny Meyer: Gemstone ’s Link Between Howard Hughes and Aristotle Onassis
by Gerald A. Carroll
Aristotle Onassis carries out a carefully planned event: He has [Howard] Hughes kidnapped from his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, using Hughes，own men (Chester Davis, born Cesare in Sicily, et al). Hughes’ men either quit, get fired or stay on in the new Onassis organization.
One of the more amazing, and seemingly implausible, aspects of the long-maligned Gemstone thesis is this wild tale about Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis masterminding a kidnapping of billionaire defense contractor Howard Hughes in 1957. Researchers who have bothered to dig around in the Gemstone legend have often kissed it off as a fabrication because of a lack of “proof’ that any of the events described actually took place一the most flagrant falsification being this “kidnapping and switch” of Hughes, by Onassis or anyone else.
But a closer examination of the Gemstone language and some cross-referencing with news accounts of that time paint a dramatically different picture, one of deception of the highest degree. For example, the Gemstone thesis states Hughes men either quit, get fired or stay on in the new Onassis organization~following the alleged kidnapping of Hughes in the Bahamas in the spring-summer of 1957.
Indeed, key people did peel off quickly and suddenly in 1957. Noah Dietrich, one of the Hughes Corp.’s mightiest chief executives, was suddenly “fired” by Hughes in 1957.(1)Long-time aide William “Bill” Gay abruptly resigned, citing “mononucleosis” as the cause (2) under mysterious circumstances. Even publicist Carl Byoir mysteriously died right before that ill fated trip to Nassau (3). It was Byoir’s public relations firm—which served the Hughes Corp. for years, even after Byoir himself passed away一”that provided “doubles” including L. Wayne Rector. These doubles were well-known to Hughes’s aides.
Also well-known was a special man named Johnny W. Meyer, who started out with Hughes in the early years as a personal driver and became one of the billionaire’s closest confidantes. He set up elaborate Hughes parties, including attractive female escorts, with such high-rollers as Elliott Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son and a maverick arms dealer on the side.
Meyer is clearly one of the men who “stay on in the new Onassis organization’’ after the events of 1957. In fact, it was Meyer who broke the news to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that her husband, Aristotle, had died of respiratory failure on March 5, 1975. (4) Strangely, Jackie had left her sick husband’s bedside and was skiing in New Hampshire when Ari passed on. Meyer, like he did for Hughes, had to do the dirty work. He notified Jackie of yet another dead husband.
Meyer himself died under even more strange conditions. He allegedly got out of his car one night in Florida in 1983 to relieve himself following his attendance at a party一 and the car rolled over him, killing him. (5)
Clearly, it was Meyer who was the common thread between Howard Hughes and Aristotle Onassis. He was a skilled public relations expert, and manipulated the media at every turn for both men over the years. If Onassis ever wanted to conquer Hughes一 even kidnap him and replace him with a double-~4ie would need the help of Meyer to cover it up and keep a lid on it for years. The existence of a man of Meyer’s abilities is enough to give the Gemstone pas¬sages a sense of truthfulness regarding this bizarre kidnap story. The skills that propelled the rotund Meyer to prominence in the Hughes organization peaked when he covered for the billionaire in embarrassing situations, particularly the so-called Brewster Hearings of 1947, engineered by muckraking Sen. Owen Brewster (R-Maine) when it had become known that Hughes’ airplane contracts with the government were questioned.
It was intrepid Hearst Corp. Newsman Bob Considine who blew the lid off this story, exposing Hughes, Elliott Roosevelt and the velvet cover Meyer had placed over the whole sordid mess. Hughes and Elliott loved to party together and Meyer set up these affairs. Brewster and others were convinced that Elliott used his influence as the president’s son to seek “the intercession of his father in order to override Army Air Force objections” to aircraft supplied the U.S. armed forces during World War II. (6)
Hughes was angry at an earlier warplane design of his was rejected by the Army Air Force~a record- breaking design that later became the model for the Japanese Zero, one of the most deadly warplanes of the war. (7) Meyer got tangled up in the mess when he allegedly “entertained” high government officials lavishly in order to sway their opinions of Hughes’ airplane deals. Many of those parties also included El¬liott and his new wife, Faye Emerson.
Considine, with some help from The Associated Press, originally broke the story on Aug. 3 by releasing a lengthy expense-account list of Meyer’s excesses “duly recorded by Hughes’ bookkeepers. (8) Meyer’s P.R. skills were evident when he was accused of ordering Elliott to stay in Europe~and out of the U.S.—until the 1944 elections were over and his dad was safely re-elected.
Then, astonishingly, at the height of the Brewster Hearings and the public outcry they were precipitating, Johnny Meyer disappeared. With the key witness gone, the hearings collapsed. (9) An international manhunt was launched to find the portly Meyer. The next day, Hughes triumphantly left Washington for California to the cheers of a supportive public (10). Meyer resurfaced in Hollywood on Aug.17,1947’ but by that time, the hysteria over the Brewster Hearings had subsided and his client, Howard Hughes, was temporarily off the hook.
Three years later, Meyer dabbled in oil-rig investments in Wyoming, a deal that would inevitably lead him to Onassis, who at that time in 1950 had tried to monopolize the oil-shipping routes from Saudi Arabia. (11)
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