Cuba libre!

17 Oct

the travellerMy dear fellow Flynn fans,

Errol got immortalized in a book called “More tales from the travellers” published in Oxford 2005. This collection of tales by members of the Travellers Club London features a short story done by Mr. Robin Hanbury- Tenison, who recalls his encounter with our Hollywood hero in Havana 6 months prior his death. Thanks to my Irish friend from Galway, Dr. Alexander O`Hara, who provided me with the book, I can post this tall tale here now.

Invited by Baron Joseph de Biskei Dobronyi, a former WWII Pilot born in Hungaria, this Englishman and his first wife Marika, came to Cuba at turbulent times . “I am afraid there`s been a spot of bother this week, well a revolution actually, but that`s normal in these parts and I promise it won´t affect the fun we are going to have.” Those were the words that the two travellers were greeted with by their Hungarian host, who was known to all islanders as “Sepy”. As it turned out they were the only foreign guests at the Hilton apart from another couple, who was friendly with Sepy. Most of the rooms had been occupied by Castro`s fighters of both sexes wearing their green fatigues draped with weapons. “They had long hair and charming manners, didn`t sleep in beds, but used the floors and according to the bemused staff, left everything immaculate.”

One night they went to Sepy`s suite for cocktails and met the other couple of American descent. “An extemely attractive, suave, older man started making a big play for Marika, while I talked to his beautiful and much younger girlfriend. My wife clearly had no idea who he was, although I had recognised him immediately from the movies. It was Errol Flynn.”

At that time as we know Errol was the sole prominent Westener to identify himself with Casto`s cause supporting it actively. “He claimed to have fought with “El maximo lider” and threatened to show us his wound…” Associated with Errol, Sepy`s gang could do no wrong. Appointed guardians and playmates for his much loved girlfriend Woodsie, they visited the sights, such as Hemingway`s house and the bar he patronized. At night they drank and danced at the legendary Tropicana Nightclub, still functioning with all its gorgeous girls and singers playing to an empty house.

Meanwhile Errol was observing the downside of revolution at close range. “As international figure he was useful to the regime, lending some legitimacy to the nastier things they felt had to be done to secure their hold on the country. Quick trials and kangaroo courts followed by executions took place every evening- Errol was expected to attend.” When he joined the others at the club in the small hours, he was grey with strain of the horrors he had seen, but in his inimitable way ready for party soon thereafter. “I am down to two bottles of vodka a day” he would claim.

“One dawn, as we staggered out on the streets where daylight was just breaking, we saw a sight which stopped the film star at his tracks. A car with two huge wooden barrels filled with milk was trundling past. Between the shafts were six white mules.” “This  is my scene!” shouted Errol waving an imaginary sword and leaping onto the cart beside the startled driver. A wad of Dollars dispatched the latter and, as we all climbed aboard, our swashbuckling hero cracked the whip over the astonished mules. Reluctent they broke into a gallop and we careered through the streets of sleeping Havana, milk slopping out of the barrels onto the pavements. El Flynn y sus amigos were doing their thing and reliving a hundred of his film roles.”

I hope you enjoyed this time tavel as much as I did,

— shangheinz


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  1. Tim

    October 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Maravilloso, shangheinz! What a great account of El Capitan Blood, still swinging the sword in Old Habana … not long before shuffling off his famous mortal coil.

    Back in the Eighties, I remember walking by the “Gentlemen’s Clubs” on Pall Mall, thinking how perfectly British they were – right out of Around the World in Eighty Days. The Travelers Club was there, right next to the Reform Club – where David Niven’s great fictional character, Phileas Fogg, was a member. Clearly, as throughout the world, the greatness of Errol’s exploit’s were notably recognized and admired even (maybe especially) within these legendarily elite circles.

    By the way, I think this whole “Cuba Libre” adventure of Errol’s, no matter now misguided, can be viewed as yet another manifestation of his true Robin Hood instincts – “Robbing from the Rich, Giving to the Poor”.

    Here’s a photo of the Travellers Club – with the Reform Club right next door, to our right – and the Athenaeum Club, to our left. … Makes me want a spot of tea and a good book.


    • shangheinz

      October 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Dear Shiver- me Tim,
      thanks for picking up the thread and weaving a web right up to the Gent`s clubs of the British Empire.

      • Tim

        October 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        As they used to say in Old Habana, and here in New San Diego, senor shangheinz: No Problema. … Seemed like the Gentlemanly to do.

    • Paul Harrison

      June 28, 2020 at 8:59 am

      As a Brit who worked in Florida and LA love this story

  2. Inga

    October 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Interesting that Errol was seen at that point as “of American descent”… thanks for sharing that interesting story, Heinz.

    • shangheinz

      October 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Dear Ginger Inga, you are very wellcome!
      Our mutual sharing comletes the puzzled picture and relives the swashbuckling spirit of our Hollywood hero.

  3. Tim

    October 20, 2013 at 1:53 am

    As long as we’re reminiscing over some of Errol’s tropical adventures, shangheinz, I hope you won’t mind if we head a bit north of Habana, above the Tropic of Cancer into sub-tropical Florida, circa 1938, where we can find our hero hiding from Warner (and likely Tiger Lil’) (and God knows who else) on and off the then rather remote isolated shores of Boca Raton, staying at the home of Fred Nielsen, president of Sikorsky Aircraft. (My home is about a half-mile from the location.)

    As you can imagine, Errol used to have a quite a time in Old Florida! He explored and adventured most everywhere around Boca – from the seas to the Glades, where legend has it he was extremely popular with the ladies of the Glades.

    On one particular trip – according to an account I read about ten years ago by a fellow who was involved as a boy – as a passenger on the boat described in the article linked below – Errol was far out to sea, feeling happily safe & sound from Warner’s (and Lili, I presume), when out of nowhere came a plane, chasing him down for J.W. According to the account I read (not mentioned in the account linked here) Errol was infuriated that he found. And, the rest of the ship’s passengers, including he boy who later told the story, were stunned, as it was extremely rare and unexpected to sea any planes at sea in those days, especially doing the dramatic maneuvers this one did.…

    Here’s an image of one of Errol’s old hangouts in Old Florida – Cap’s Place – an old speakeasy, restaurant and casino, which, to this day, guests visit by boat only: One of my favorite places, too!

    (Check out that guest list – from Roosevelt & Churchhill to Flynn to Harrison, among many other greats!!)…


    • shangheinz

      October 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Dear Shiver me- Tim,
      what a splendid read that is! You are great at upturning mongroves and digging up swamp stories about our Hollywood hero. Now what about his projected film projects that never materialised?

      • Tim

        October 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        Travellers Club theme. No intent to shanghai your Cuba libre, shangheinz.

        Regarding potential film projects that never materialized, my contribution to that (in response to Inga’s inquiry) was over on “Errol Flynn: The NEXT Superhero”, where I commented on Confederate Betty’s rebellion against Errol on that movie about the (Un)Civil War. I could add here, I guess, that a sequel to “They Died with Their Boots On” would have have fantastic. … Errol would have been terrific, too, in “The Invisible Man” – though I understand many of his fans can’t see him in that one.


    • Paul Harrison

      June 28, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Fab story. Have to find this place