The Nation: Scenes from the Hidden Years

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things worked in the Hughes organization," Stewart said. "You did what you had to do. So I took a deep breath and told him to make up the batch at once."

The food manager at the Desert Inn had been alerted that some ice cream was coming in for Hughes and that it was supposed to be kept secret. "We still had a few scoops of the old banana-nut left when the new banana-nut arrived," Margulis says. "So we were all set for the rest of Hughes' lifetime."

When the ice cream was served to Hughes the next day, he ate it and declared, "That's great ice cream, but it's time for a change. From now on, I want French vanilla." appointed a relative newcomer to the organization as his alter-ego and chief representative to the outside world: Robert Maheu, a former CIA and FBI operative. Hughes built Maheu a $640,000 mansion on the grounds of the Desert Inn.

The single most important feature of the Maheu house was a direct telephone line to the Hughes penthouse. Hughes could now pick up the telephone and talk to his new right-hand man without going through the Romaine switchboard.*

"There were times when I thought the telephone had grown to my ear," says Maheu. "One day I spent 20 hours on the phone with him. It was not unusual for him to call me ten, fifteen, even thirty times a day."

Could, these conversations have been captured on a split-screen movie and shown to someone unfamiliar with the pair, the viewer would have assumed that Maheu was the billionaire and that he was talking to some scruffy indigent who had just had all his clothes stolen.

Hughes plainly saw Maheu as his alter-ego. Maheu was the magic telephone booth into which Hughes could limp and then spring forth as the long-vanished SuperHughes. He could stride out into the world in the form of Maheu, deal with Presidents, governors, bankers, and Mafia chieftains, whisk himself where he wished in an executive jet, throw big parties without a thought of all the germs the guests harbored.

Reclining on his paper-towel insulated lounge chair, the billionaire wrote entire scripts for Maheu-Hughes to play out for him in the exciting but fearsome world. When Maheu did not come back as quickly as possible with his report on a project, Hughes would get anxious. "Let me hear from you, Bob. I want to know that you agree with me."

He was sensitive to Maheu's disfavor. "You frequently get annoyed with me if I interrogate you in any way that might possibly be considered as an expression of uncertain faith and confidence. Now, Bob, I don't know if I can do anything at this late date, but I certainly think we both should give it an all-out effort. Why don't you work your angles and I will work mine and let's hope that between us we can accomplish it." The "apprehensions and restlessness" centered on a possibility that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus might not appear at a Hughes-sponsored golf tournament.

In one memo, Hughes glimpsed that his mind was not functioning properly. "Bob, I have only three really serious problems that might prevent an activation of the mining properties, the new hotels, the automobile race track, and even a few more Nevada projects. These three are: 1. The new Showboat [a rival Las Vegas casino]. 2. The race track legislation which

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