Tampa Tribune/February 4, 1949
Just after the First World War, one of the Ziegfeld comedians, probably Eddie Cantor, sang a song which ran, “I’ve Got My Captain Working For Me Now.” The experience of Matty Fox, of Hollywood and New York, a man of vision and lively, speculative bent, is similar but more so.
Fox is now, as I have said, the business agent of the projected Indonesian Republic of 70 million souls, more or less sharing a total monopoly on the imports and exports and the financing of this incipient political entity. His partners in the monopoly are a few stranded Indonesian politicians of the melancholy, bleeding-heart type who haunt the lobbies and ministries of the world weeping for their rights.
After the war, Fox joined his old commanding officer from London and Paris, Maj. Gen. Royal B. Lord, retired, a remarkably youngish man to be a major general and to be retired. They formed the Worldwide Development Corporation and this demure title was soon implicated in works in Brazil and Argentina. By February, 1947, however, they parted on friendly terms because General Lord says, “Matty wants to be in all sorts of business. If the possibilities look good to form a company, he will at least throw a retainer at you. My idea was to stick to things we know how to do. Designing ports. Hydro-electric works. Harbor works.”
As a junior officer, General Lord served a hitch as assistant manager of athletics at the military academy at West Point during the era of wonderful nonsense. The manager was Major Philip B. Fleming. They paraded the cadets, until then a cloistered order of ascetics, with bands braying and girls squealing from Cambridge to California. They made character for the academy and ran up great profits for the athletic department. Afterward they built the Passamaquoddy Dam as far as the money went. Fleming turned out to be a New Dealer under the skin and often sat in cabinet meetings. He, too, is retired as a major general.
Early in the war young Fox, who is only 37 now, landed in Washington with the War Production Board. He was eligible for the draft, however, and finally was inducted at his own request and sent to a center at Long Island City where soldier teams were being taught to make battle movies. Fox was picked by name to go to London for public relations work, and while thus engaged he wrote a report and recommendations which so pleased General Bedell Smith, of Eisenhower’s household, that Smith got him a commission as captain. Fox says Smith would have made him a major right away but that, as a specialist in public relations, he presumed to advise the brass that this would be a mistake.
Anchored in London and later in Paris, Fox improved each shining hour and established business relations with J. Arthur Rank, the English movie monopolist. . .
In October, 1947, a New York lawyer telephoned Fox the sad story of a half-dozen Indonesians stranded in town because the bankers wouldn’t pay them $80,000 for a shipment of vanilla beans and kapok. By telephone, Matty convinced the bank that the wistful strangers really did have title to the stuff and talked them out of hock.
It was not strange therefore that Dr. Sometro Djodjoadikoesoemo, whose card reads “Financial and trade representative plenipotentiary,” took a shine to him. Doctor Jojo had talked himself hoarse with New York bankers with bleak results. Now he told Fox that he wanted to tie his country’s economy to ours. They were first in quinine and pepper; second in rubber and tin; rich in petroleum, copra, palm oil and good bauxite and of affectionate disposition when they were gentled. There were almost 70 million of them, including cannibals and head-hunters, but not too many.
Fox had some money and knew where to raise more. He has put up $400,000 to bind a contract, promising 5 per cent commission on all the imports and exports of the old Dutch colonial empire for 15 years.
The waifs in New York, up against it for eating money and room rent, eagerly gave Fox monopoly, retaining for their government, should it ever come into power, only the conventional 49 per cent usually awarded to short-enders.
The State Department thus far has been on Matty Fox’s side and there is all hell to pay.