BRAZIL: The Gay Victim

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A fugitive from justice in the U.S., where he is accused of stock swindles amounting to at least $14 million, Lowell M. Birrell, 52, is still living it up in Rio. Last week he whiled away the balmy tropical evenings in the company of beautiful women at the Copacabana Palace, Le Bon Gourmet and other nightspots, spending upwards of $200 a night on food, drink and fun. One night he even dined at the home of Colonel Eugenic Castilho Freire, warden of Central Prison, where he had been an honored guest while the officials brought a predictably fruitless deportation case against him.

Chain-drinking vodka-and-soda at the Hotel Gloria Bar, the fugitive reflected on his happy life. "I like people, particularly the Brazilians," he said. "They're about as sweet, tender and kind a group of people as you could ever find." He pointed to his night-shift bodyguard, Alvaro Fernández, a police plainclothesman by day. "Alvaro here and a lot of friends in the police are taking care of me on their days off. I have a lot of friends."

The future looked good, Birrell thought. "The big problem in Brazil is to select which opportunity you want to concentrate on. It's like being a hungry kid in a candy store. You don't know which box to pick from." Take castor oil: "It is the only lubricant for cosmic travel. That's what they call it—cosmic travel. A man wants to talk business with me. It has an incredible future."

Birrell was outraged about the U.S. effort to bring him home. "Some American authorities will try to get Brazilians to violate their own constitution and laws. Just to get at me. That's not diplomatic. Some day, I'll go back home. I certainly won't let those charges go unanswered. But I'll answer them at my own convenience, not at the convenience of some parasitic public official."

Expatriate Nostalgia. With more vodka came wistful recollections of Birrell's fieldstone showplace in fashionable New Hope, Pa., where he once kept a shiny, vintage fire engine, and reportedly entertained such celebrities as his friend the master swindler Serge Rubinstein, and some of Mickey Jelke's choicer, $100-a-night call girls. "I always took a big interest in the volunteer fire department in New Hope," said Old Fire Buff Birrell. "Volunteer firemen are a great thing in rural America." He also liked the autumn hunting. But "my house and nine-acre farm are in litigation now. They took it from me; nobody will get anything except the lawyers."

By late in the evening, Birrell's delight with life in Brazil was gone in a wave of man-without-a-country nostalgia, and his eyes were glistening. "I don't know what I'm a victim of," he said, "but I'm a victim all right."