Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A real-life Zelig

Zelig is a Woody Allen film about Leonard Zelig, a "human chameleon" who shows up (thanks to very clever editing) in all sorts of historical places. There are echoes of the idea in Forrest Gump (better known for the line "life is a box of chocolates").

Robert Furman, age 93, died last week. He was a real-life Zelig - as a young man, he supervised building the Pentagon, helped bring scientists to Los Alamos, tracked German scientists like Werner Heisenberg across Europe during and after World War II, and worked with baseball player turned spy Moe Berg. When the war was over, he didn't speak of his involvement but instead returned to a quiet life, eventually becoming a builder of shopping malls.

An obituary well worth reading. And a man I wish I had known.

[For a fascinating biography of Moe Berg, read "The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg." It mentions many of the same incidents listed in the obituary, with more details, although it disputes the claim in the obit that Berg spoke seven languages.]


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