I had the wonderful fortune this week to spend time with a prominent member of Miami’s Cuban American community. In his late seventies now, he grew up in Havana and was very familiar with Errol’s legendary times in pre-Castro Cuba. In fact, he saw him on one very memorable occasion at the Havana Hilton, in a scene somewhat reminiscent of Dodge City.
After we first met and he mentioned his time in old Cuba, I eventually asked him if he ever remembered hearing “anything about Errol Flynn?” Instantly,he broke a big smile and said “Errol Flynn? Errol Flynn was the man in Havana. Everyone knew when Errol Flynn was in Havana. Everyone. And the women, they all loved him. He couldn’t go anywhere without women chasing him. And he was the man for all of the men. Nobody was bigger than Errol Flynn in Havana. It was the perfect town for him.”
I asked if he had ever seen Errol, and he had, the first time being quite amazing. He believed it was in either ’57 or ’58, shortly after when the Havana Hilton opened. His uncle took him to see the hotel and when they entered the nightclub area they witnessed wild commotion and a huge brawl. For reasons still unknown to him, Errol was fighting with someone near the bar, by the the dance floor. The show was stopped and there were “chairs flying”. He knew nothing more, no details of why this happened, nor who Errol was fighting. He believed however that it likely was over a women, because “all the women were always after Errol. He was older than, but still very handsome.”
He recalled too that Errol often drank at La Bodaquitos del Medio.
The other big thing he remembers, which he said was big news around town when it happened, was that Errol’s hotel room at the Hilton caught on fire and it was a ver big deal. That’s all he ever knew, again not how nor why.
He said that the Hilton was in not too long taken over by Castro’s guerillas, but his parents got him out of Cuba to the U. S. (via Jamaica) before that happened. He said he loved Cuba so much and didn’t want to leave, that Havana was so great for a young man, but soon it was all ruined, especially after Castro sided the Soviets.
He added saw Nat King Cole quite a bit, at The Flamingo, not ever the Hilton. He emphasized though that “no one was as big as Flynn, not Hemingway, not anyone, Errol Flynn was the man.”
— Gentleman Tim