By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Antonio Adolfo Boada -- Tony to his friends -- is conducting a personal guided tour of his Brickell Key condo: in essence, a running monologue about his trove of chivalric medals, which he keeps under glass in mahogany display cases. "This is the Order of St. George in England, which I got," he says, his finger caressing a star-shape brooch of gold and ivory. "Um, this is Cordon Bleu again. That's the Order of the Garter," he continues, indicating a starburst of glass and silver the size of a man's wallet. "That's a Mother Teresa dollar, um, from the president of the Czech Republic. And it's not a dollar, it's actually a thaler, with a t."
Boada takes a sip of his bloody mary. It is three hours past noon on a Thursday, and the Cuban emigre is clothed in sweatpants and a black hockey jersey. Of average height and somewhat inclined to fat, at age 39 he exhibits the pallor of a man who spends much of his time indoors. His thinning black hair is combed over a pudgy, rectangular face whose central feature is a well-trimmed mustache. A gold pendant of indeterminate origin shines through the mesh holes of his shirt.
"This is, um, the Royal Order of St. George; I got that for, um, my services in Germany," he says, lifting the lid of a second case. "This one is for Britain -- for serving the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who are the patrons of that order. This is the Order of the Holy Sepulchre," he offers, fingering a small white enameled cross. "I, um, got that from the Pope."
On and on he goes, through all the titles he has accumulated over the years, seemingly more titles than one man could possibly remember: the Order of St. Mary of Palestine, given by the Patriarch of Antioch. The Imperial Hispanic Order of Carlos V, bestowed by the cousin of the King of Spain. Knights of Malta, Order of the Griffon. The Order of Our Lady of Vilavicosa, given to him, Boada says, by the sister of the last king of Portugal. The Order of St. Lazarus, from the King of Spain, who also bestowed upon him the titles of Duke of Campobello and Marques de Alessio. "Those are just Viking knives," he quips as he dismisses two gilded daggers. "Viking and Roman knives. We could kill a few people with them."
The daggers and crosses, ribbons and medals, arrayed painstakingly in their cases, give the tiny two-bedroom condo the feel of a museum of European history. Boada's friends sometimes call the apartment the Gold Cave, because the medals, along with the gold frames on his dozens of paintings, overwhelm the paisley-print sofas and the red Oriental rugs that cushion his bare feet.
"I have things from the Royal Air Force in Britain, you know -- commemorative things that I have done. And over here, let's see," he goes on, padding across to a third display case and stroking a silver medallion therein, "this is the Order of St. George of the Dragon from England. Um, I've also got the Order of Ferdinand from Austria, and um, this is from the centennial of the Orthodox Church of Russia."
He roots around some more, all the while muttering modestly that there's no space left to store all his awards. "Albania awarded me these medals here. Um, I built up their diplomatic corps. Um. I got them their embassy in South Africa. I got them their embassy in London, I got them the embassy in Mexico and the consulate in Houston.
"This one I'm really proud of: I'm president of l'Europe Gastronomie. It's a festival of wine and cheese and so on for all the producers of wine and food in France. I headed that. And this one here is from Austria. That's the -- I don't even remember what order it is. I wore it, I know that!"
A Primer on Chivalry
Sometime during the Eleventh Century, the Pope went into expansion mode. Marshaling his European monarchs, he set his sights on conquering non-Christian lands in Spain and the Middle East. The warriors who took part in these Crusades worked as a team, and those whose bravery and good sportsmanship brought honor to their brethren and their leaders came to be known as knights. The code they followed came to be known as chivalry.
Though the quest for a colossal Holy Land was unsuccessful -- the last Crusade flopped in 1271 -- kings came to appreciate chivalry's utility. By granting orders of knighthood to their closest followers and public servants, they rewarded behavior that furthered the interests of the crown. As the centuries whisked by, chivalry proved to be such a good idea that knighthood remains in place today, still rooted in its Christian and military history, and still viewed as an enviable position to hold in European society.
"It's a big deal," says Guy Stair Sainty, historiographer of the British Order of St. John and a respected phaleristic scholar. "There are only 24 members in the Knights of the Garter, for instance, and they take precedence over other people at state occasions and the like. They have these beautiful robes that they wear once a year, when they meet with the Queen of England."
Sainty is not only a certified knight, he's also an expert on heraldry, the study of coats of arms. He developed a Website on chivalry, and he also runs the official Website of the Knights of Malta (of which he is one). The native of Sussex, England, who has operated an art gallery in New York City since 1979, has published more than eleven academic texts, including The Orders of Saint John, an obscure but authoritative treatise on the Knights of Malta. In that book he devotes a fair amount of attention to the "self-styled" imitators of established chivalric orders; there seems to be a healthy supply of individuals eager to hand over cash -- sometimes thousands of dollars -- for a title they can wield at cocktail parties.
"These are the sorts of people who believe, I think, that extraterrestrials have landed in Arizona," Sainty scoffs. "They are willing to suspend ordinary judgment because they want to believe. They've seen Braveheart or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or whatever, and from that they have some idea of European graciousness and history. They think that the title somehow makes them better than their neighbors. And they think they can be a knight by paying money to some people. They really think that's how it happens.
"Of course," he adds dryly, "that's not how it happens."
To earn membership in most legitimate chivalric orders, a person must be of noble birth. Other legitimate orders require extraordinary public service and a certain religious affiliation. What makes a title legitimate? The short answer, says Sainty, is that the order must be given by the recognized head of a sovereign state. Additionally, certain long-established dynasties that have been deposed still award legitimate honors.
And to earn membership in a "self-styled" order? Just write a check.
"It's unbelievable how easily a fool and his money are parted," Sainty muses. "People who in their ordinary lives would take the greatest of care with what they buy somehow believe this twaddle. Once they hear the truth, they don't want to believe it, because they've spent all this money and what have they got? Nothing but a piece of paper worth maybe ten cents."
K The Countess of Boca Raton K
During the 1980s Prince Henri Paleologue was a celebrated fixture in Palm Beach County society. The prince sponsored one of the season's biggest parties, the Imperial Byzantine Ball, and told everyone that he was affiliated with the Knights of Malta and that Pope John Paul II recognized him as the hereditary emperor of Byzantium and Prince of Thessaly. As grand master of the 1986 International Chivalric Congress of the Palm Beaches, Prince Henri bestowed upon eleven locals honorary titles of knight and dame.
But Prince Henri was really Enrico Vigo, Sainty writes in The Orders of Saint John. He hails from Munich, most recently lived in Cannes, and, the author dryly notes, "was reputedly once a hairdresser in Genoa." In a decimation of Vigo's bona fides, Sainty quotes a French court that found that Vigo's "evidence of his ancestry was no more than 'photocopies of passages from unnamed works whose authors and credibility could not be established.'"
Prince Alexis de Anjasou de Bourbon Conde Romanov Dolgoruky of Italy was another "monarch" who worked his way through U.S. high society. Otherwise known as Alex Brimeyer, this "prince" operated mainly out of Houston, claiming a host of titles and links to the French throne, none of which could be verified. In 1971 he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for falsely claiming to be royalty. According to Sainty, Brimeyer awarded nearly 40 bogus titles in the twenty years before he died from AIDS in 1995.
In 1981 he sold the title of Countess of the Order of the Knights of Malta to a woman named Henrietta de Hoernle. She paid him $20,000.
The Countess de Hoernle is one of the most active and generous philanthropists in Palm Beach County. An octogenarian, she has donated millions to charities and other worthy causes, endowing, among many other things, a floor at Boca Raton Community Hospital and a gymnasium at Lynn University, a local liberal arts institution. She even has a motto: "Give while you live and know where it goes."
In 1992 a staff writer at the Boca Raton News was vilified in the community for reporting that the countess's title was bogus. Some 200 people rallied at the Count and Countess de Hoernle train depot in downtown Boca to decry the "gutter journalism" printed in the News. The countess even threatened to deny Boca charities $22 million from her will unless the reporter and the editor were fired.
The countess, who never challenged the accuracy of the story, eventually dropped her threat; she continues to give generously to Boca charities and most recently funded the construction of a new international center at Lynn. Everyone still calls her Countess.
The Press Release
On May 28, 1997, media outlets throughout South Florida received a three-page communique, printed on simple stationery engraved with the legend "Government of the Republic of Liberia."
What follows is an abbreviated version:
"The Foreign Ministry of the Government of the Republic of Liberia have [sic] the honor and pleasure to announce that Mr. Alexander Antony Boada Cartaya has been appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Minister Plenipotentiary with special responsibilities for Maritime Offshore Trade and Finance to represent the Liberian nation. The announcement was made by the Foreign Ministry in the capital, Monrovia, on 21 May 1997.
"Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' marketing director, Annette P. Hogan, praised the decision, saying, 'We feel the appointment is timely and reflects good and sound international business sense. It's a highly competitive market and Liberia scores a first in addressing the needs of the international shipping community.' She went on to [praise] the new Ambassador's records of public service.
"The new ambassador was born in Cuba, grew up in Miami and California, attended Belen Preparatory High School, and graduated from Florida International University. [He] went on to attain Law and Economics degrees in London, Liege (Belgium), Lisbon, and the University of Biarritz. He was formerly married to Anna Maria, Princess von Schonaich-Carolath, who has congratulated her former husband with a reception held at Rotterdam, Netherlands, stating, 'Tony is a born leader and I'm delighted for him in his new position -- his career has gone from strength to strength. He has always known only one way to move: and that is forward.'
"A poolside champagne reception for the new Ambassador's installation ceremonies will take place on the evening of 14 June at the new Liberian Diplomatic Mission on Brickell Key, bayfront, where some 300 guests and dignitaries will participate.
"The Ambassador, in his additional capacity as Commander of the Knights of Malta for the Caribbean region, will be honoring his long-time friend, patron of the arts and well-known Miami publicist, Charles Cinnamon, with a knighthood of the Order of the Knights of Malta.
"Also to be honored are [sic] Mr. Anthony Lammoglia, for his services to Art and humanitarian causes. The well-known, venerated Cuban-American broadcaster and journalist, Dr. Manolo Reyes, will preside as Master of Ceremonies. Senator Daryl Jones will deliver the keynote address."
Anyone who has enjoyed one of Royal Caribbean's cruises to the Bahamas has probably limboed past the red, white, and blue Liberian flag on the way to the Lido Deck. Often referred to derisively as a "flag of convenience," Liberia might be best known for selling its pennant to cruise ship companies, which escape many of the taxes and regulatory inconveniences imposed by stricter nations.
A republic about the size of Virginia, Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa, between Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. It was founded in 1822 by freed American slaves. The experimental expatriation served two ends: It gave many former servants control of their destiny, while it removed them from the still-segregated United States. Curiously, Liberia's founders chose to mimic the government that had oppressed them, duplicating the U.S. Constitution and adopting a nearly identical flag.
While the two nations might seem congruent on paper, Liberia never flourished as a democracy. The primary problem has been the country's majority aboriginal population, which never quite grasped a bicameral system of checks, balances, and campaign finance reform. A century's worth of education could not bring these villagers into the fold, and over the past fifteen years Liberia has descended into a morass of coups and civil war. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people have been killed or died of war-related starvation since 1989.
"Right now it's difficult to even send a phone call over," reports John Kucij of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Friends of Liberia. "There has been a lot of confusion, and a lot of claims and counterclaims on who is running the country."
According to 1990 U.S. Census figures, only 248 Africans live in the City of Miami. Not one of them is Liberian. Local trade with Liberia is nonexistent. The South Florida Trade Zone, which covers all ports south of Orlando, received precisely zero imports from Liberia in 1996. Exports were only slightly higher: $2965 worth of goods were sent from here to Liberia last year, a figure exceeding shipments to only two other nations of the world: Niger and Suriname. "Jeez, that's not even a car," quips Jaap Dinoath, a researcher for the Beacon Council.
The Ambassador's Resume
On the coast of Maine, near the rocky beaches of Portland, lives a 71-year-old heraldic researcher named James J. Algrant. Guy Stair Sainty speaks well of his work, noting that Algrant is a former diplomat with broad knowledge of European traditions. For a brief time Algrant was the secretary general of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, a respected body that labored to authenticate chivalric orders. Like Sainty, he loves to expose the charlatans who traffic in phony titles and orders. And he knows Boada well. "I've been tracking him down for years," Algrant spits.
Around eight years ago, as he flipped through a glossy magazine about royalty, Algrant came across an ad for a book entitled Upward Nobility! How to Make It Into the Aristocratic and Royal Ranks: The Guide to How, How Much, and Where. The tome, said to have been written by a Marina Alexandrine de Feurstenzandt, cost $64. Algrant bought it.
What arrived in the mail was literally a paperback: a bound collection of photocopies. It was also thick, well researched, and, Algrant says, obviously written by Boada. (A person who knows Boada well but did not want to be identified confirms his authorship.) "It turned out to be quite worthwhile," Algrant notes with a chuckle. "He describes what he's doing, everything he's selling, and it all sounds like it is perfectly on the up-and-up. Mind you, I'm not saying he is doing anything illegal; it is just on the verge of doing something illegal."
Among the grantors of chivalric titles that the book recommended was the British-based Patriarchate of Antioch.
"Ostensibly it was an independent church of Eastern tradition and so forth and so on, which apparently felt it could dispense titles of chivalry, using as a legal basis that the Vatican does it, so why can't this church do it," explains Algrant. "Of course, when people asked where the church was located, nobody knew -- because everything came out of a P.O. box in London."
Pamphlets from the church revealed Boada's connection: The patriarch was said to be "aided by Antonio, Duke of Campobello," who was based at Queensgate Associates Ltd. -- the same firm that published Upward Nobility!
While the book has been out of print for some time, the church still appears to be open for business. The same cannot really be said for Albania, a chaotic East European nation where Boada founded the Albanian College of Arms in 1992. Not only did the college sell titles bestowed by the shaky Albanian government, it also confirmed -- for a price of $5000 or more -- the legitimacy of titles obtained from other governments. "In other words," says Algrant, "if you had a funny title from a so-called Byzantine prince and everybody who knows about titles was laughing up their sleeves because it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, then you could have gone to the Albanian College of Arms to get a confirmation of this thing. One phony was confirming the other!"
Algrant penned a lengthy refutation of Boada's Albanian enterprise, which he posted on a Website devoted to matters of chivalry. Without directly naming Boada, Algrant's article describes the college's founder as "a foreigner, with no background in heraldry, genealogy, or in comparative nobiliary law." In a second paper, posted on a similar Website, Algrant euphemistically calls Boada "a fast Cuban-Dutch gentleman."
Algrant says he last heard of Boada about four years ago, when an internal bulletin of a private organization called the Spanish College of Arms announced Boada's resignation.
The Press Release Deconstructed
William Addams Reitwiesner, head of the European Genealogy Section of the Library of Congress, is dubious about Boada's reference to his supposed ex-wife, the Princess von Schonaich-Carolath. "Not only can I not confirm or deny the marriage, I can't confirm or deny that anybody named Princess Anna Maria von Schonaich-Carolath even exists," says Reitwiesner, who notes that of the 26 living members of the Schonaich-Carolath family alive in 1984, not one of them was named Anna Maria. "True, that's not all that recent," he muses, "but I would presume that anybody who's old enough to currently have been married would have been born by then."
The Knights of Malta, known in this country as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, is the oldest and the most prestigious of all orders of chivalry, dating back to 1070. Exclusive and highly secretive, the Knights' membership comprises rich Catholics (among them Lee Iacocca) who are committed to charity, spiritual growth, and church doctrine.
Boada says he is affiliated with "an ecumenical branch" of the Knights and that he was named commander while living in the Netherlands. "Now, when you get involved in Europe and you have a title like a dukedom, suddenly you're called to do a lot of things from all different quarters and you don't even know why," he explains. "But one begets the other. I was the Duke of Campobello, the Marques de Alessio, and um, then I was offered this and I took it because it was ecumenical.
"And then I decided to move over here and they said, 'Well, all right, we'll let you leave the, you know, commander or whatever for the Netherlands. Can you head the thing up in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, and so on?' So I ended up being that."
In The Orders of Saint John, Guy Stair Sainty delves into the issue of the numerous "self-styled" orders of the Knights of Malta. Boada's order, according to Sainty, is not one of the five recognized Knights of Malta orders.
In at least two cases, Sainty adds, people have been criminally prosecuted for selling bogus knighthoods in orders that they concocted themselves. The problem, he writes, seems most acute in North America: "Despite the fact that generations of impoverished Europeans bearing both genuine and false titles have come to the United States and Canada to improve their fortunes with nothing other than their social pretensions to assist them, Americans seem particularly susceptible to accepting the most bizarre and unfounded claims by pseudo-princes and dukes whose claim to such title could be verified in most major reference libraries."
The knight-to-be, Charles Cinnamon, already has a title of sorts: Around Miami he's popularly known as the Dean of PR. He is not, however, Tony Boada's "long-time friend." Back when Boada was a communications student at FIU, Cinnamon handled the press for Elizabeth Taylor's stage debut in Coconut Grove, in a play entitled The Little Foxes, and he gave Boada a chance to interview Taylor. "After that he was a very, very eager kid," Cinnamon recalls. "He did good work that kept him coming to the theaters. He was a very eager guy."
That was twenty years ago. "Literally I had this call out of nowhere," says the publicist. "I hadn't spoken to him in many years, and it took me a moment to remember him. He said he was back in town, and that he had never forgotten that I had been kind to him, which was very sweet. Other than that, I don't know anybody who really knows him."
While Boada did graduate from Belen Prep and FIU -- he earned a B.S. in communications in 1980 -- he would not produce proof of any law and economics degrees from London, Liege (Belgium), Lisbon, or the University of Biarritz. There is some question as to whether the University of Biarritz even exists: According to a University of Miami spokeswoman, there are no public universities in Biarritz, a resort town on the southeast coast of France near the Spanish border. The only private institution, structured for mature students and retirees, is the Universite du Temps Libre de Biarritz, or Leisure Time University.
The Diplomatic Mission and Activities Thereof
Boada's personal assistant Maria Camacho toils in a makeshift office just down the hall from the Gold Cave. A petite, weathered-looking woman with strands of gray invading her wavy black hair, Camacho answers the phones, faxes the press releases, and fends off inquisitive reporters. When Boada accepts a visitor, she scribbles notes on a yellow legal pad and, upon command, scurries to the kitchen to prepare a tray of biscuits and French onion dip.
Camacho refers to herself as an attache to the Liberian Diplomatic Mission. "I just transferred from the embassy in Madrid," she says. "They needed someone bilingual in Miami, someone who speaks Spanish, so I came over here." (Strangely, she cannot recall the name of the ambassador for whom she worked in Madrid, nor the names of her supervisor or any of her co-workers.)
Other staffers at the Liberian Diplomatic Mission include Special Counselor for Investment Juliana Alvarez (the realtor who sold Boada his two apartments in Brickell Key II), First Secretary Mario Lamar (a local attorney), and Vice Consul for the Palm Beaches Col. Bert Grove.
"I assist him, is what you might say," Grove clarifies. "I suppose it has to do largely somewhat with business -- helping people who want to set up businesses in Liberia, Acomprende? That's not the entire thing, but that would be number one, I suppose. I already know several people who would not be opposed to setting up in some cases quite large enterprises."
At age 81, Grove lives alone in Pompano Beach. Back when he was still working, before radiation therapy for skin cancer destroyed one eye and took his hair, he published a Palm Beach society newspaper. His passion is heraldry; he is, he says, a Knight of Malta, a Knight of St. Lazarus, and oh, one or two more that he can't recall right now. He boasts of helping Prince Henri Paleologue (a.k.a. Enrico Vigo) dole out titles in ceremonies held at Palm Beach's Flagler Museum.
Grove's consuming dream is to establish a heraldic center at Lynn University in Boca. At the fast-and-loose tip of the New World, where people pour in by the thousands aiming to reinvent themselves, he wants to set up an academic institution that documents blood ties to the old countries.
"I am what is called the curator," he says. "It hasn't been officially established yet, but the concept and my proposal have been accepted at the university. It's supposed to be established in the near future. We're going to have armor, knights, shields, and a replica of the Bayeux tapestry, a very famous thing," Grove continues. "It was the first of man's attempts to show heraldry, dating back to 1066 and the Battle of Hastings. There will be shields and swords and helmets and everything from about the Tenth to the Fifteenth centuries."
Lynn University Vice President John Gallo confirms that a heraldry center is in the works, though plans have not been finalized.
Grove hopes that primary funding for the center will come from the aforementioned Countess de Hoernle; ideally, the heraldic library will be housed within the new international center she donated. "The Countess and I have known each other for ten years, I suppose. And I know that she is very vitally interested in heraldry," he says.
Of the article that caused such an uproar on behalf of the Countess, Grove says that there "was confusion and misinformation and it was corrected." Boada, he adds, assisted in the rehabilitation of the Countess's titles: "I know that the ambassador has been working through Spain on her behalf."
Grove also says he gave Boada $10,000 to get the heraldic center rolling. "He has a vital interest in it," the colonel affirms. "Every other day, certainly, he calls me to discuss it."
The Countess is in Europe for the summer and could not be reached. When asked what he intends to do with the $10,000 given to him by Grove, Boada did not respond.
Chinks in the Armor
At New Times's request, Guy Stair Sainty conducted his own "tour" of Tony Boada's chivalric honors.
The Order of Cordon Bleu: "That is a cookery award, for being a good cook."
The Order of Signum Fidei: "It isn't given any more. It's a fantasy, a complete invention. Worthless."
The Order of the Garter: "The annual Whittaker's Almanac, published in London, lists the members of the Order of the Garter, England's highest honor. He is not listed in the almanac. He is not a member. He is lying. You can say that with absolute certainty."
The Royal Order of St. George, for services in Germany: "This is a legitimate order, limited to Bavarians who can prove that their 32 great-grandparents are all noble. And he's not a member, I guarantee it."
The Imperial Hispanic Order of Carlos V, given by the cousin of the King of Spain: "It's given out by somebody who happens to be a distant relation to the King of Spain. It's completely unrecognized. It's worthless. It's like somebody saying, 'I'm the cousin of Bill Clinton' and issuing presidential proclamations or vetoing bills from Congress."
The Order of St. Lazarus from the King of Spain: "That's a lie. That's completely false. I can say it's absolutely 100 percent a lie. First of all, I know the King of Spain perfectly well. Secondly, the Order of St. Lazarus is not given by the King of Spain."
And with that, Sainty concludes his tour. "I love to find these people," he chortles. "I love to expose them, because they are complete fantasists. You might as well call yourself a Knight of the Order of Coca-Cola, you know what I'm saying?"
All Hail the New Ambassador
At a little before eight o'clock, Liberia's newly appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Minister Plenipotentiary with special responsibilities for Maritime Offshore Trade and Finance descends to the basement of his Brickell Key II condo, where the reception in his honor is in full swing. Although a white tent has been erected poolside, heavy rains have temporarily forced everyone into a cramped foyer. A string quartet huddles in a corner near a folding table covered with liquor bottles. A Liberian flag hangs from a bookshelf, anchored by a copy of a hardcover mystery entitled The Silent Salesman.
Boada works the room. He wraps an arm of his dark blue suit around each of the dignitaries. "There's Mr. Charles," he proclaims. "He sells estate jewelry. There is Senator Daryl Jones and his wife. Would you like to meet them? And of course, there is Mr. Blackett and his deputy, Mr. Dunbar, down from Washington. Would you like to meet them?"
Konah Blackett, the highest-ranking Liberian official serving in the United States, is wearing a blue-and-gold Ghanian ceremonial robe called a kinte, and a matching cap. His deputy Abdulah Dunbar's khaki-color kinte is nicely set off by a pith helmet. Both men flew down from our nation's capital especially for the reception.
"[Boada] went through an official in Europe who came to me and said that his buddy asked me to go down to Miami to this party, so I did," explains Blackett, who is officially Liberia's trade minister. A farmer by vocation, he says he accepts virtually every invitation to speak if it means he can educate people about his forlorn country and raise money for its rebirth.
No local consuls are present. Few, if any, of the 200 other guests appear to have a connection to Liberia, though one gentleman, obviously recognizing a rare opportunity, sports a black nehru jacket with a leopard-skin collar and a matching hat.
When the squall stops and the party moves out to the tent, Daryl Jones steps onto a small stage, where a microphone is affixed to a podium draped with the Liberian flag. "This is a very significant day politically, because Liberia has now seen fit to establish diplomatic representation in the Miami area and in the South Florida area," Jones orates. "And Tony is not only the ambassador-at-large, but also a cabinet member plenipotentiary." The state senator from Florida's 40th District stumbles on the word plenipotentiary.
"It is especially significant," Jones plows on bravely, "that Liberia has recognized our position in world trade and has sought first to appoint an ambassador of Antony's caliber. Mr. Boada, I am proud that you landed here. We are pleased that you decided to come back to South Florida and be a part of our community."
("My wife and I met him around at functions like this," the senator had said earlier. "He's a social animal! Everyone says he's a great guy. Definitely.")
Konah Blackett follows with a short speech about his country's ongoing and brutal civil war. Annette Hogan relieves him with an address "on behalf of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines," where she works in the marketing department. "Tony," she says, "I hope we can continue our close relationship. You have our very best wishes."
Finally Boada himself takes center stage. Standing behind the Liberian flag, his thick hair curling in the humidity, he wipes his hands on his suit jacket. Immediately he addresses a sticking point.
"Yes, we have been called a flag of convenience," he bellows. "And I've had that hurled at me as something I should not be proud of. To which I say this: Isn't it convenient to have a flag that stands for freedom of navigation? I think it's important [to promote] freedom of the seas, freedom of commerce, and to have our flag waving in Miami and in every port of this continent, and all the other continents every day of every year for more than 100 years." Pausing to emphasize his main point, he wipes the sweat from his eyes. "A flag of convenience is convenient to have!"
As he assumes "this very powerful office," Boada says, he wants to express his gratitude to his late father (who taught him to wield "power without arrogance"), to his mother (who taught him that "defeat isn't an option"), and to Daryl Jones ("thank you for your intelligence"). Lastly, he beams, he would like to thank the person who got him started on the road to diplomatic dominance: Charles Cinnamon.
The Dean of PR twitches timidly when Boada calls him forward. "I've had basically zero opportunities given to me in life," the ambassador-at-large proclaims. "I have created my own. But then there are those few angels who come around, and Charlie was one of them."
Boada calls to Mario Lamar, his First Secretary. Rising from the front row of chairs facing the stage, Lamar brings forth a golden dagger. "Malta tells me we have to go through the formalization of the accolades," Boada intones, clasping the knife and tapping Cinnamon on each shoulder. "It gives me great pleasure to declare you, Charlie Cinnamon, Sir Charlie Cinnamon."
The End of the Party
After the musicians have packed up their instruments and the tiny Liberian flags on the hors d'oeuvres have been tossed into plastic garbage bags, the guests that remain move upstairs to Boada's apartment for an after-party. His mother scurries around the kitchen, trying to clear space for a bartender, who lugs in what's left of the champagne and beer. The kitchen sink is filled with ice to cool the liquor.
"I am very happy about it," Mrs. Boada says of her son's diplomatic appointment, "but to tell you the truth I don't want to give an interview or anything like that, because I am not authorized by anyone to give an interview."
The new ambassador sheds his blue suit in favor of a multicolor kinte and a white Muslim kufi, approximating the African headgear of Konah Blackett, who has settled onto a couch.
"He's a chap, you know? He knows people," Blackett pronounces with more than a hint of admiration. "I have never seen someone who knows so many people of substance. I have talked to some people in London, people who impress me, and he knows them personally. I don't know how he is able to penetrate in Holland as well, but he knows the highest people there, too. Those at the top! I mean, he had a senator at the party! This kind of man can be of use to us."
Two weeks later, ensconced back in Washington and speaking by telephone, Blackett will revise his assessment somewhat: "He is not the ambassador, he doesn't have documentation. Liberia doesn't have any representative in Florida. We don't have one now, and we don't have plans in the immediate future to do anything in Florida. And if we decide to have an ambassador, we will make sure it is done properly."
Such situations are not uncommon in Liberian diplomacy, Blackett will concede: "Three years ago a guy flew into Miami from Canada and said the same thing, that he was the ambassador from Liberia. Apparently Miami is the hot spot for this kind of thing."
Perhaps coincidentally, in the weeks that follow the party Boada will drastically lower his public profile. In response to phone calls, his attache will say her boss is out of the country for an indeterminate amount of time and cannot be reached. A faxed list of questions concerning his credentials and the business of selling titles will go unanswered.
But for now, with the embers of his party gracefully dying -- a leggy model dancing a mock flamenco here, an FIU professor slumped wearily in an easy chair there -- Boada is still giddily riding his VIP high.
"I feel very little motivation to do anything right now, because I have in terms of money, in terms of achievement, very little that I haven't already done," he offers. "A friend of mine said I must be going through a midlife crisis. Now, in most midlife crises, you get to 40 and you realize that you've accomplished nothing of what you set out to do. But she said, 'Tony, the problem with you is you've accomplished everything. And now you're probably wondering, "Where do I go from here?"'"
It's past one in the morning when the guests begin scrounging up their umbrellas and kissing Boada on the cheek before hastening out to the hallway and home. A few, worn out from all the pomp and curious circumstances, move more slowly. One of the latter is Anthony Lammoglia, a long-time friend of Boada who, like Charles Cinnamon, was the recipient this evening of a knighthood. After he trudges into the elevator and presses the button for the lobby, he politely introduces himself to a fellow passenger.
"Tony Lammoglia," he says.
"You mean Sir Tony," the passenger replies.
Lammoglia turns back toward the elevator doors and glances uncomfortably up at the floor indicator, then back at the guest. "No," he says wearily. "It's Tony. It's just Tony.