Twilight Man ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Through no effort on his part, William Andrews Clark Jr. (1877-1934) was heir to a vast copper-mining fortune. He had two wives, both of whom died young. He had one son who also died young. With his money, he became a philanthropist and a well-known figure in and around Los Angeles in the 1920s and early ‘30s. He started the Clark Memorial Library, which specializes in rare and extremely valuable books. He founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and was instrumental in building the Hollywood Bowl.
W. A. Clark Jr. also had a secret. He was a gay man at a time when men of stature were never gay, when being gay was, to most people, the worst thing a man could be. Men like him were not, could not, ever be a pervert! A deviant! A degenerate! With his vast wealth, he was able to keep his sexual orientation a closeted secret.
Around 1919, W. A. Clark Jr. met a young man working as a clerk in a store. The young man’s name was Albert Weis Harrison (later changed to Harrison Post). He was twenty years younger, darkly handsome, slightly Semitic-looking, with smoldering dark eyes. W. A. Clark Jr. was immediately taken with Harrison Post. With all his money, he might have anything—or anybody—he wanted.
From the moment of meeting W. A. Clark Jr., Harrison Post’s life was never the same. He didn’t come from a wealthy family. It was lower middle-class, at best. With his association with W. A. Clark Jr., Harrison found himself in a world of wealth and privilege, international travel and celebrities. He counted among his friends Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Bebe Daniels and other Hollywood luminaries. He became a celebrity himself, a millionaire clubman, a socialite. He was born to the role. Of course, W. A. Clark Jr. and his inner circle went to great lengths to conceal the true nature of his relationship with Harrison Post. They called Harrison an employee and he collected a hefty salary, for which he did nothing. He was the “Twilight Man” of the book’s title.
W. A. Clark Jr. and Harrison Post were together for fifteen years. When W. A. Clark Jr. died suddenly at age fifty-seven in 1934, he left his partner Harrison Post well-provided for, with two houses and a large bequest. Harrison Post was thirty-seven at the time. It seems that Harrison would have been able to live happily and comfortably for the rest of his days, but this was when his troubles really started.
Harrison was in poor health. He had a stroke, along with other health problems. His greedy sister, Gladys (a phony countess), assumed control of Harrison’s money and had him declared incompetent. She and her unscrupulous husband, Charles Crooks, kept Harrison confined to the house, sedated and drugged. The idea was that they were taking care of him, but the truth was they were trying to gain control of his wealth for themselves. This sorry state of affairs went on for a number of years. Harrison was essentially helpless, under Gladys’ control.
In time, Harrison’s health improved enough that he was able to get away from Gladys and Charles. He went to Norway with a “companion,” a Norwegian masseur. He became trapped in Norway when the Nazis invaded and eventually ended up in a Nazi prison camp. This was certainly an unexpected twist in his strange life.
The war ended and he was able to leave Norway and return to America. He planned to go back to Norway, however, and buy a hotel after he reclaimed (through the courts) his rightful fortune that Gladys and Charles had stolen from him. Meanwhile, they (Gladys and Charles) had absconded to Mexico, where they kept themselves well-hidden, living in comfort and luxury. The rest of Harrison’s life was spent in a fruitless legal battle with his sister and her husband to reclaim the money and property they had taken from him when he was “incapacitated.”
Truth is stranger than fiction. Twilight Man by Liz Brown is an ironic, exhaustively researched, meticulously detailed account of an unlikely alliance between two vastly different men of different backgrounds and classes. It’s story of wealth, concealment, hypocrisy, loss, greed, and war. What else do you need to make an interesting (true) story? Truth is stranger than fiction.
Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp