- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

The last act

When he flung himself from a castle in Rome, Edward von Kloberg III ended his life as dramatically as he had lived it.

The flamboyant Washington lobbyist, widely known for lavish parties and a client list that included some of the world’s most notorious dictators, committed suicide Sunday by jumping from the Castle Saint Angelo, inspiring newspapers in Rome to compare his death to the Puccini opera Tosca.

In the third act of the opera, a story of love and betrayal, the heroine throws herself from Castle Saint Angelo.

Edward flew to Rome last month on a one-way ticket in a failed attempt to reconcile with his longtime male companion, who had left him.

Edward, 63, who already had lost his lobbying business and his elegant penthouse condominium in Washington, wrote his last act his own way.

His sister, Carol, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said yesterday that she is still making arrangements to transfer his body to the United States and talked of planning a gathering for his friends.

“Not a memorial service, but the kind of dinner he would have hosted,” she said. “He was a best friend to me, as well as a brother. … He was an amazing person, and I was lucky enough to have him as a brother.”

Edward, a friend of mine and of this column since it began in 1993, once described himself to me as a lobbyist to “saints, sinners, gods and generals.” He was never embarrassed by some of the dictators he represented.

“Shame is for sissies,” he would say.

His clients included Saddam Hussein — during the Iran-Iraq war when Saddam had U.S. support — and Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire, who allowed the United States to funnel aid through his African country to Angola’s anti-communist rebels in the 1980s. Edward was always quick to add that he also represented leaders of many smaller democratic countries and promoted many nations he never expected to get as clients.

In 1997, he hosted a birthday party for Eugenia Charles, the prime minister of Dominica, who urged the United States to liberate Grenada from a Marxist regime in 1983. The party featured Jeane Kirkpatrick, President Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations, and many of Edward’s royal exiles, including King Kigeli of Rwanda, Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie of Ethiopia and Prince Obolensky, a descendant of Russian czars.

When Edward was not pitching a client, he frequently called to share his latest exploits or misadventures. He phoned from a Paris hospital in 2002, recovering from a heart attack he had on a trip to the Ivory Coast.

On New Year’s Eve in 1999, he revealed that he had had a face-lift and noted that he was hiding from the world until his scars healed. Diplomats offered to visit, but he turned them down.

“I’m from the old school,” he said. “Send cards or scotch.”

Edward, sometimes overweight, then declared, “The tummy tuck is next.”

He traveled with Louis Vuitton steamer trunks packed with tailor-made suits and dinner jackets. At the annual Russian New Year’s balls, he would appear in white tie and tails, wearing an array of medals and decorations awarded by his clients.

Edward, who had an inner-ear disease that affected his balance, took a bad tumble in September 2003 on the way to lunch with diplomats from India, one of his clients. He said he ruined one of his $5,000 suits.

But with a contusion, a concussion and three broken ribs, he made it to lunch at the Metropolitan Club. His dedication to his clients (or was it to lunch?) made him recall a story about one of his favorite writers, socialite Violet Trefusis, who, at 89, was warned by her doctor that her frequent, rich luncheons would kill her.

Edward said, “She pleaded, ‘One more lunch, doctor. One more lunch,’ and then she died during dessert on her beautiful porcelain.

“I think that is the way to go.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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