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Meditation on a murderer: Ira and Me

Where have all the Hippies gone?

Take Ira Einhorn. Please.

Every generation has its Sexual Fascist, and mine was Ira Einhorn.
Like Picasso before him, he was burly and, some believed, brilliant.
Bewitching to women, bewildering to men. But I saw him as a bearded guru
wannabe with bad BO.

On the surface, Ira was King of the Hippies, a paunchy paragon of
Radical Chic, Mr.Peace-and-Love-and-Flower-Power-Personified, a
pot-smoking, LSD-popping, sex-happy counter-culture activist. Poet.
Philosopher. Physics person. Psychic phenomenologist. Became a New-Age
networker with CEOs and rocket scientists and whiskey heiresses and rock
stars like Peter Gabriel. Sold them informational blueprints of the
future. Launched our city’s Earth Day celebration. Ran for Mayor of
Philadelphia as a self-proclaimed Planetary Enzyme, a catalyst for
global change. Lost. Even was a Fellow for one semester at Harvard’s
prestigious Kennedy School of Government.

But you just knew the Age of Aquarius was truly over when Ira, one of
its most visible emissaries, was charged with an awful crime, the murder
of his girlfriend Holly. She had been repeatedly bludgeoned to death —
her skull fractured in a dozen places — and then stuffed into a trunk
on his porch.

This was after a stormy five-year relationship with “The Unicorn,”
when Helen “Holly” Maddux had
been missing more than a year. Ira claimed she simply went to buy some
tofu and sprouts at the food coop and never returned. And then Holly’s
37-pound partially mummified corpse was found decomposing in a padlocked
steamer trunk in his Powelton Village apartment after neighbors
complained of an ungodly stench from icky fluid oozing down the walls,
grisly as something out of the Coen Brothers. “You found what you
found,” the Hippie deity stonewalled to Detective Michael Chitwood on
March 28, 1979, insisting he was the innocent victim of an international
CIA plot, framed maybe because of his rumored deep involvement in Mind
Control projects for US Intelligence.

But Holly’s friends and family knew different: she was finally about
to leave him. “Violence,” he wrote long ago in his journal,
marks the end of a relationship.”

The Cheerleader and the Charlatan. It’s the stuff TV specials are
made of, isn’t it.

But wait, it gets better. Ira’s canny criminal defense lawyer was a
former Philly District Attorney named … Arlen Specter, before his
election to the US Senate 18 years ago, which makes some folks mighty
unhappy. “Politics,”
Specter once told me while he was briefly out of the limelight, “is in
my blood.” “Darlin’ Arlen” has this way of finding himself at the
epicenters of these great historical dramas, doesn’t he? This is the
same Specter who went on to devise the oh-so-convenient magical Single
Bullet Theory for the Warren Commission Report on the JFK Assassination.
Most recently Specter was the Republican Senator who provided a crucial
swing vote in springing President Clinton free during the President’s
impeachment trial. And you can be sure that vote has NOTHING whatsoever
to do with Bill Clinton appointing Mrs. Specter, Joan, my favorite
former pie impresario, to a plum national arts job last summer on the
eve of Specter’s successful surgery for a brain tumor, Clinton, of
course, aware there would likely be an upcoming impeachment vote. And
then we see Specter breaking ranks with fellow Republicans, citing
Scottish law. Sigh.

As Ira’s attorney, Specter engineered a small legal miracle — he got
Ira, a documented batterer, abusive bully, and accused murderer, off on
a mere $40,000 bail which required an even punier 10 percent downpayment
of $4,000 fronted by one of Ira’s richest friends, Mrs. Edgar Bronfman
of the Seagrams whiskey family.

So what happens? Naturally, Ira jumps bail and flees!! Missing for
the better part of two decades, the fugitive was traced to Ireland as
“Ben Moore,” briefly sighted with still another girlfriend in Dublin,
and then Stockholm, eluding everyone. Eventually he’s discovered June
12, 1997 under an assumed name in France’s wine country with a
statuesque strawberry-blond Swedish wife, Annika Flodin, living
picturesquely in a converted moulin bankrolled by her parents. InterPol
and Philly’s DA office had joined forces to track him down, and he was
arrested. “Unsolved Mysteries” claimed credit, too.

Though Ira had been tried in absentia here in Philadelphia and
convicted, back in 1993 — guilty of murder in the first degree and
sentenced to life imprisonment — France initially waived extradition.
The trial-in-absentia went against their legal grain. After several
months in custody in a French jail, still insisting he was “Eugene
Mallon” — a Trotskyite bookstore-owning buddy from Dublin — Ira was
set free, and France gave a gigantic Gallic shrug.

So began an even more intricate judicial ballet. In January 1998,
Pennsylvania dangled a new trial. This past September, Ira was
rearrested by French gendarmes and released a week later, ordered to
stay home in Champagne-Mouton in the South of France until his
extradition hearing. Pauvre Ira.

Hot off the presses: finally, on Feb. 18, 1999, the French court
granted extradition for accused murderer Ira Einhorn with the proviso he
must get a new US trial if he asks for one and must not receive the
death penalty. Once again, he remains free pending his lawyers’ expected
appeal of the ruling they see as part of the “barbaric and unjust”
persecution of their client. The real question is, Will Ira again flee
in the interim? Holly’s sister Meg thinks so. But the CyberPosse
is ready and waiting and

Close to 60 now, Ira Einhorn looks like his own ghost. Stocky and
grizzled, he’s 50 pounds lighter than his guru days. His dark hair has
turned snow-white, his Biblical patriarch’s beard replaced by a goatee,
his blue eyes are undimmed. Ira Einhorn resembles nothing more than a
nearly prosperous burgher in a Truffaut film, yet wanting his simple
peasant pleasures of good crusty bread, robust wine, tangy cheese, fresh
pate, a loyal woman, and being left alone by a carnivorous international
press that would chew him up alive and spit him out in little
pre-measured pellets of electronic entertainment.

In his months of intermittent “freedom” between his June 1997 capture
and his most recent extradition hearing, Ira attempted to resume his
normal, which is to say, abnormal bucolic routine interrupted by two
weekly visits to the French police station. As always, he had a
worshipful woman and no job, amid whispers of her family’s wealth. She
effervesced about his genius, great books in the making, hints of
prodigious Internet activity, his inevitable recognition as a thinker
and visionary. And yet, for all his vaunted smarts, Ira has consistently
demonstrated an apparent inability to master even rudiments of the most
fractured French, or most other foreign languages, for that matter. She
was the stylish, convivial European who conversed openly with villagers
and charmed shopkeepers with her allure. He was the gruff, sometimes
surly American grizzly most comfortable with himself. “Harmless.” That’s
what she calls him.

Whatever the outcome of the current transcontinental judicial
tug-of-war, Ira Einhorn still faces eventual reckoning for his illegal
entry into the French countryside — lying his way in, changing his
identity, traveling with a fake
. He
could be deported. Someplace.

This is all fascinating grist to feed a media frenzy.
Soon, a TV
miniseries on the Holly Maddux story. Did you see the actual interview
of Ira by Connie Chung of 20-20 showing him living like a minor caliph
in wine country? Or the A&E special? Or Holly’s two sisters, American
overseas attorney Ted Simon, former detective Mike Chitwood, and
Philadelphia DA Lynn “Tough Cookie” Abraham battling it out for the mike
on Larry King?. Or, celebrating
his capture after 17 years on the lam, yet another obligatory local TV
rehash, where Philly pundits omnisciently pontificated on Ira’s hippie
roots run amok. Or the meticulously crafted book by Newsweek’s Steve
Levy called ”
The Unicorn’s
.” Or the tons of
tabloidesque speculation — repulsive window-dressing — Tragedy becomes
Spectacle becomes Divertissement. How gross!! To many, Ira was a Hitler
of the Heart, the Anti-Mumia, guilty but inexplicably living free.

I knew Ira Einhorn. Way back. Before he became the Powelton Butcher.
Not well. But in several distinct eras of his life.

Thankfully, not everyone has to meet a murderer, or in this case, a
murderer-to-be, as part of their job. Journalism is like that. It
doesn’t discern essences, the way poetry can. And being a murderer isn’t
something someone wears, unless they are in prison garb. Murderers look
human. Ira was my Hannibal Lecter, and these were my notes. I share them
with you now, in the interest of history:

Once Ira asked me out, but I didn’t go. I just recalled that detail,
typing all this out. More than a decade before Ira was nabbed in France,
they nearly got him in Ireland, when police received a tip he’d been
staying in a sod-roofed cottage, where somebody found his pipe on the
mantle. One rumor was he had been practicing medicine without a license,
listening to the tales of villagers and secretly writing them down at
night. Another tale, told by Ira’s old Dublin party pal, Courtney Love’s
father, recalled gargantuan spaghetti feasts and “two-day orgies with
six naked women.” Remember how Ira DID have a PhD in English Literature,
and didn’t my late friend Annson always say that an artist without an
art form becomes a criminal? Then maybe that’s an answer. That, and Ira
Einhorn’s journal notation for July 31, 1962: “To kill what you love
when you can’t have it seems so natural. …”