Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Persian Prince in Poland

Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973), pp. 243-4.

I remember an amusing incident that took place about this time [1907]. A young, handsome Persian Prince came to Warsaw as an exile and stayed at the Bristol, where he took a suite on my floor. All of Warsaw society showered invitations on him, and the press loved to print stories about his social life and his great wealth. Another resident of our floor was a high-grade prostitute, a voluptuous blonde.

One night, as I was going up to my room, she stopped me.

“You must help me,” she said in a pleading voice. “I am dying to meet the Persian Prince. I noticed you talking to him and I know you can arrange it. Please, please!”

I laughed. “My dear woman, I am not a pimp, and I don’t intend to help you. But why don’t you try to catch him when he returns from his party? I wish you luck!”

I entered my room and went to bed. Two or three hours later, a terrifying shriek made me jump up and run to the door. What I saw was a startling scene. The blond beauty, stark naked, was dashing out of the Prince’s apartment, yelling at the top of her voice: “Help, help, he wants to kill me!” By then most of the hotel guests were out in the corridor; a few caught up with the hysterical woman and dragged her into her room, where she kept on sobbing, “He tried to kill me.”

Since I had met the Prince socially, I ventured to enter his apartment through the still-open door. I found him standing there in his dressing gown, perfectly composed. He offered me a seat and explained in his best French what had happened.

“I came home late and was just opening the door when this girl appeared from nowhere, said something in Polish which I did not understand, then kissed me and followed me into my apartment. I found her attractive, I must admit. I had not the strength of character to throw her out.” He paused, then said a little haltingly. “She undressed completely, settled comfortably on this couch, and made a sign for me to join her.” He continued in a confidential way: “I must touch upon a delicate subject. We Moslems are not allowed to have intercourse with women who keep their pubic hair. I tried to explain it to her, but she couldn’t understand what it meant. So I went to the bathroom to fetch my razor, and came back to shave off her offensive tuft. When the girl saw me lifting my arm with the razor in my hand, she gave that shriek, and you know the rest.”