The Nation: Scenes from the Hidden Years

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one point he did say some funds should be sent down from his organization to help rebuild the hospitals. Later I was told that Bill Gay vetoed the idea of giving Nicaragua any money."

From the smoldering ruins of Managua, Hughes sought refuge at London's handsome Inn on the Park, where the arrangements were made by the British branch of the Rothschild family. While in London, Hughes received one of the greatest thrills of his life—after twelve years of bitter litigation, which he had lost at every level of the federal judiciary, the Supreme Court reversed earlier rulings and declared that he was not guilty under antitrust laws of imposing self-serving deals on TWA, and dismissed a $170 million judgment that had been hanging over his head. His spirits were so buoyed that he decided to take the controls of an aircraft again.

But if he was going to fly, he would have to have some clothes. He could hardly man the controls of a jet wearing his drawstring shorts and an old bathrobe. Margulis got the assignment of outfitting Hughes. "We went out to Simpson's in the West End, a very expensive establishment. I'd always wanted to buy clothes at Simpson's. I bought eight light-blue shirts—four with short sleeves and four with long sleeves—and two suits. I didn't ask the price of anything. I don't know what the salespeople thought.

"After I bought those clothes, Mr. Hughes decided that he wanted the kind of old leather flight jacket that he had worn when he was flying back in the 1930s and 1940s. We went back out and scoured London, and finally found the right kind of leather jacket in a thrift shop.

"Then we discovered that his old snap-brim hat was missing, the one Mell had rustled up for him in Las Vegas. It probably got left behind in Managua during the earthquake. So I had to go out and find a snap-brim Stetson, which wasn't the easiest thing to do in London in 1973. I located some at Dunn's hat shop. We were in luck and they had his size.

"While we were fitting him out, I tried to get him a new supply of drawstring shorts, because he was down to just a couple of pair. If there is any shop in London that carries drawstring shorts I wasn't able to find it."

The where-do-we-get-drawstring-shorts question was solved internally by the Hughes entourage. Fred Jayka [an outer-circle jack-of-all-trades] said he was an amateur tailor and would be happy to whip up some underwear for the billionaire.

[Hughes] was sixty-seven years old, hadn't flown for at least twelve years, and his eyesight was so poor he couldn't read without a magnifying glass. His weight was down to around 120 pounds, and he was poorly coordinated. On top of all this, he did not have a valid pilot's license. His medical certificate had expired in the late 1950s. For several years thereafter, rather than risk a turndown by an examining doctor, he had simply flown without one.

No one in his entourage was about to raise any legal objections to the billionaire's plans. None of them, however, was eager to go along with him physically. Stewart put it bluntly. "Howard Hughes doesn't have enough money to get me on a plane that he's flying."

Jack Real [a former Hughes flying companion who was a member of the entourage] had a private jet

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