Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Story of Lex Barker. Part 1

Winnetou Romania
By Big Chief

May 8, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the best of the Old Schatterhands, the American actor Lex Barker, who has gained unfading glory in the Old World. In 1964, during the filming in Yugoslavia, Dirk Fonda, a journalist for the German magazine BRAVO, spent a whole week with our hero and learned from him things that no reporter had ever heard before. The story will be long, so stay tuned ...

The first meeting of the German journalist and Lex Barker occurred under circumstances that could be called life-threatening. Judge for yourself - the word to Dirk Fonda.

                 [URA Magazine U-Turn No. 51 for 1964 / © BRAVO]

Rushed early in the morning! At exactly seven in the morning the first explosion literally threw me out of bed in one of the rooms of the Argentina hotel in Dubrovnik. Half-muffled and as if under anesthesia I rushed to the window to ascertain two things: the hotel had a foundation pit, whose rocks were being hammered with dynamite, and also it was raining heavily.

Rain! This means that today the entire caravan of the CCC-Filmkunst film studio will not be able to set off on the road to Trebinje to shoot the next scenes of the movie “Treasue of the Aztecs”. This means that Lex Barker is free today and I will finally be able to “reel” the whole history of his life onto a tape recorder! That's all - from the first scream to this day, to the first explosion in the construction pit.

In the corridor, meanwhile, loud voices were heard of the rather awkwardly awakened guests. I peeked out the door. The guests shuffled around in their pajamas and dressing gowns and curses were heard. I went out, moved along the corridor, and also grumbled.
About ten minutes later the second charge exploded: bam! At that moment, I walked past the door of Ralph Voltaire’s room and heard how he, after the second explosion, shouted awake: “Come in!”

Italian actor Rick Battaglia jumped out of another room. He, like from a cornucopia, strewed with all Italian words, which are usually used in such situations, while foaming at the mouth. It turned out to be a toothpaste. Excitedly, Rick pointed inside the room. I looked in. In front of the washbasin were fragments of a broken mirror and a weighty rock fragment the size of a fist. Looks like it almost hit Rick. It was probably very interesting, but my goal is different. I need Lex Barker!

So, I slipped into the annex, and from there I ended up in the Scheherazade villa associated with the hotel, the luxury miracle from The Thousand and One Nights. Many famous statesmen, such as the Duke of Windsor, stayed there. And now Lex Barker was in on of the best rooms. I almost ran into him in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. He just sat there in his pajamas, like me. Sleepy like me. In the same terrible mood as me.

[Villa Scheherazade is the most expensive villa in Croatia, built in 1929.]

After Lex Barker, Richard Burton stayed there with his wife Elizabeth Taylor and many other famous people, including Viktor Vekselberg and Nursultan Nazarbayev

Lex grumbled:
You again? See what happens ... Do you think we will get a cup of coffee?

“Of course,” I said, and he almost grabbed his head:

Of course? Whether it's a plague epidemic or a deadly lightning strike ... In Yugoslavia, nothing surprises me anymore! Want to know how I spend my days here?

- Just waiting for this!

[Lex Barker and Carmen Titus Server]

Hmm. Well, usually I get up at five in the morning. At six we are already leaving, then about sixty kilometers along impassable terrain, along subtle roads that resemble dried river beds. Two hours - and we are in Trebinje. About nine we are standing on the set in makeup. Then work ... At noon everyone is given a bag, there - a hard-boiled egg, a piece of cold meat, a couple of slices of bread. After a pause, we continue to work until four. When the sun disappears, so do we. Then again, two hours drive, as in the morning, only in the opposite direction, which is not particularly better. Somewhere around six in the evening we are here again.

“Well, then you have a wonderful long evening ...”

"Beautiful" ... The newspapers are ancient, there is nothing to understand on TV, there is nothing around to at least have a little fun. We sip wine, play cards, read every scrap of paper that we accidentally comes across.

- M-yes. But, at least with you, you have your delightful bride Carmen Titus Server.

Yeah, at least. But I do not stop dreaming about the day, like today, when you could have a good night's sleep, but - no, you are thrown out of bed with explosions. Do you know how it turned out that a certain Alexander Krichlow Barker from the city of Paradise in the state of New York ended up in this strange circus? ..

- Tell me ...

Lex Barker had to talk for a long time. It rained not only that day, but also the next. It poured a whole week, causing floods and floods ...

[Alexander Crichlow Barker, Sr. New York, 1946.]

Want to know? Hmm, it all started that day, which I can’t remember with all desire. This happened in May at our family’s summer home in Paradise, about twenty miles from New York. I was born there. At what year? No matter how it shocked my fans. Many fans are so young and believe that every man in his forties is a mossy Methuselah. And yet: it was in May 1919. It was likely that snow suddenly fell that day, and the flowers were destined to freeze. How do I know that? They told me ... I don’t remember how my father threw me into the water when I was only two years old. So I learned to swim. And when I was three, my father put me on a horse. So I learned to ride.

My father had an iron rule: you’ll start earlier, you’ll learn better! My father always loved sports, was the captain of a hockey team in Montreal Canada. And this was not just a yard club.

I anticipate the question of noble origin. It seems like the truth, since the history of our family can be traced back to 1044. Barkers in England belonged to the aristocracy, always served at court. On one line, our family is related to the Duke of Windsor. Has the nobility passed on to me? The topic is interesting.

My grandfather moved to Canada as an English officer. My father was born there, but then moved to the United States. He was an engineer. Mother is a real American, Marianne Beals. Her ancestors arrived in the New World on the famous Mayflower, the first English ship to reach the shores of America in 1620.

I have too little time to spend on genealogy. The present is much more important than the past.

[Lex with mom]

My first memories are like scenes from Karl May films. I grew up in the countryside; my father went for a walk with me and once showed me the remains of an old covered wagon from the days of the pioneers of the Wild West, which was attacked by the Indians. From that moment, I began to search for Native American arrows and tomahawks. As a child, I "fell ill" with the Indians.

Until the age of five, every summer I played with peers in Indians and cowboys. Until the day I, in Native American clothing, was tightly bound by my pale-faced friends and put to a tree. Then they ran away somewhere. Apparently they were called home. And everyone forgot about me. A thunderstorm broke out, I began to call for help, but because of the rain and thunder I couldn’t cry out to anyone. Then it got dark. I grumbled all night at this tree. The next morning the sun rose, midges fluttered and began to bite me. My parents came to their senses during breakfast. Only in the morning they remembered about their son Lex. The search began, the inquiries of my friends. And they remembered that I was a redskin bound. This experience greatly quenched my admiration for Native American games.

My first educational institution was the New York School of St. Bernard, which was run by the British. I played on the hockey team there and specialized in athletics, and ran in hurdles. Always loved sports. I must admit that in other disciplines I was not so good. I had plenty of medals and other awards, but, for example, bad marks had accumulated in mathematics. I hope that none of my young friends will read it literally - they say, if Lex is bad at mathematics, then I'm bad at it too. Later, - and this will still be - I will tell you how bitterly I had to regret my poor grades.

When I was ten years old, the ten best students of the school, together with the principal, went to England to a summer camp. Thanks to my success in sports and in English, they also took me there.

The summer camp was in Frinton-on-Sea, right on the English coast. Once I went there for a walk with two friends, brothers Jeffrey and Malcolm. We took advantage of a motor boat - they simply escaped on it. Where we were headed, I don’t remember, but the plans were grandiose ... Before we could sail, the coast guard sounded the alarm. The patrol boat that finally found us was much faster than our boat. Ten miles along the coast we were hauled in tow, and then we fell into the hot embrace of the director, who personally gave us the “sweetest” bashing I had ever received.

At age 12, I went to Fessenden Private School - a boarding school in West Newton, near Boston. The new school opened for me a new sport - football. It is not worth confusing with ordinary football. American football is a form of English rugby, a rather crude sport.

[Lex Barker in sportswear at Exeter School in New Hampshire. The picture says: “Father - are we hoping for a record this year? Lex "]

As a result, I entered the first team of the Fessender school, constantly playing football. He broke bones several times and wished for only one thing - to someday become famous on a real professional football team, but at the same time - I will not hide my feelings - and rich. The students of that school considered the highest happiness the right to wear one of the so-called winner's shirts. Winners in a separate sport received such a shirt. Soon it was right for me to open a shirt shop, since I already had five of them: in swimming, hockey, athletics, tennis and, of course, in football.

Then I changed schools again. It was at 15 years old. I was sent to Exeter School in New Hampshire. One of the best schools in America. There are no religious or racial restrictions. Two boys of different backgrounds could live in one room. My roommate was a black man, a true friend. I saw my parents only at Christmas and Easter. Father also could not be found at home - being constantly on the road.

One day I heard a story from a friend of my father about a friend who owned a luxury ranch in Wyoming. The ranch was far in the mountains, away from the big world. 500 horses and 1,500 head of cattle - this is what the owner owned. From that moment I lost peace. I had to get to this ranch. I begged and prayed, until I was allowed to work on this ranch in the Incampent during the summer holidays.

For three magnificent summer months I helped in haymaking, took care of horses, fed cows and felt like a zealous hereditary cowboy. That was great! And even better was that I could earn my 50 dollars a month. I urgently needed money, because I had only one desire - to buy Dick!

I have never spoken about Dick to any reporter. But I often remember him. Especially now, when I sit on the magnificent Mustang in the films based on Karl May, as Old Shatterhand, my thoughts involuntarily return to the Incampent, there - to the giant, free pasture, on which my herd of 500 horses rumbled with hoofs. I remember very well how I whistled, and a magnificent stallion with pointed ears and bloated nostrils jumped straight out of my horse "crowd". It was a Dick.

Already the first summer we made friends at the ranch, then I turned to the owner: “I must have this horse. Please sell me Dick! ”He agreed. He took 400 dollars for a horse, which, of course, cost much more. For two years I paid off my debt for Dick, for two years I paid a cent for a cent. In the third summer, Dick finally became mine. It is hard to describe my feelings then. I rarely then was in my life as happy as I was then.

But it was precisely this summer that misfortune happened at the ranch. Once, for some unknown reason - I couldn’t figure it out - the horses became very nervous. They began to panic, threw their heads back, stood on their hind legs, collided with each other, and then suddenly threw themselves into a stampede. 500 horses, panicked and galloping - it's impossible to forget! I looked at everything with a feeling of complete powerlessness.
They rushed to the rivulet, which snaked through the valley where the pasture was located. Dick — I could clearly recognize him — raced ahead in a large group. I whistled so that it seemed to me that my carotid artery was bursting. Useless. Dick heard nothing in the clatter of hooves. I managed to see how splashes of water scattered when Dick jumped into the river. I saw him stumble, stand on his hind legs and tumble down on his side. Other horses were on top. Hundreds of heavy horse hooves must have walked right through it.
When I was near the river, almost without breathing, the distraught herd disappeared long ago. Dick lay in the water. He drowned. He was dead ...

                        [The second spread of BRAVO magazine No. 51 for 1964 / © BRAVO]

Leaving the place, I carved a wooden cross. I dug a hole in the pasture under a mighty tree. He called several workers with the ranch, with whom we buried Dick, buried for real. And then I cried ...

Used photos from the book Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme: Lex Barker - die offizielle Biographie.

Translation from German - © Big Chief

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