A little while
ago we left Jean-Claude Killy schussing through the solid-gold canyons of
industry picking up $2 million worth of contracts. Clairol got to bottle his
charisma and Chevrolet outdid Henry and Charlotte Ford on the automotive front.
He was television's darling, the cameras not only catching him swirling through
his own CBS series—The Killy Style—on skis, but bullfighting and bon vivanting
on the Riviera. An international poll named him one of the world's 12 best
dressed men. Hollywood directors filled his mailbox with movie scripts. But in
the crowd cashing in on the handsome new ski god down from Olympus, there has
emerged one especially handsome and bold individual—a Killy impostor.
Last month forged
checks for small amounts, signed with a flourish in the name of Killy, began to
bounce in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit. About the same time a group of
Chevrolet dealers in Detroit reported that Killy had appeared at one of their
breakfast meetings and had been, alas, unimpressive. Killy's lawyer and
business manager, Mark McCormack, told Chevrolet there must be some
mistake—first because Killy is always impressive and second because on the day
of the meeting Killy was in Meg�ve. Next McCormack received a telephone call
from a newspaperman in Elyria, Ohio. Killy had been in town and had departed
with two local schoolteachers. "No, no," said McCormack. "Would my
Killy do that? Killy is in Paris." Chicago's Playboy Club advised that
Killy had requested and been issued a membership card. "Impossible,"
cried McCormack, holding his head. The French consul general called...the
Statler hotel called...Hertz called, wondering what had happened to its flashy
sports car. Finally McCormack got on the phone himself, with the FBI, and the
story of Jean-Fraud Killy began to emerge.
those who were fooled by him have called him, appears to have been a relatively
small spender having a big time posing as a celebrity. Measured on nerve alone,
he must be the equal of Killy himself. He is remembered well, for example, by
Mickey Rogula, who owns and manages the Sheraton Motor Inn in Woodhaven, Mich.,
just south of Detroit.
"He was here
twice," Rogula ruefully recalls. "He drove in one afternoon in the
middle of March and I gave him a single room. He was wearing a ski sweater and
had a pair of ski goggles on his head, but I didn't pay any attention to him. A
couple of hours later the man who was working the desk noticed his name. He had
signed the register, ' Jean-Claude Killy, French Olympic Ski Team.' While I was
looking at the register this guy comes down. I've been conned by experts and
I'm no cupcake. But this guy is Jean-Claude Killy. There could be no mistake
about it. We go in the dining room and I buy him a sandwich and we talk about
skiing and the Olympics. I figure to myself, 'Holy cow, the house is yours.'
Jerk that I am, I look at his car and I don't even realize that if he's
Jean-Claude Killy what is he doing driving around in an American Motors AMX
instead of a Chevrolet?"
Rogula keeps a
Polaroid camera in his office to record notable occasions and he had an
employee take a photograph of himself and his celebrity. The impostor
autographed the picture, in French, and told Rogula he would be glad to give
him a letter of recommendation if he came to France. Killy II checked out, but
a few days later Rogula got a phone call from him saying he was driving back to
Detroit and would like to stop by and say hello. Rogula invited him to
breakfast, and while they were eating in the coffee shop some General Motors
dealers came into the motel for their weekly meeting.
"We had 48
guys in the place from Chevrolet," Rogula says. "Well, they flipped
when I introduced them to my old friend Killy and they implored him to come in
and say a few words to the group. He was very shy, but he finally agreed to go
in and shake hands. Afterward I walked him to the parking lot, where he jumped
into his AMX. It had a crest on the side that said ' Jean-Claude Killy.'
Mickey Rogula did
not learn for several days that he had been fooled. He had cashed a $13 check
for Jean-Fraud, which he hopes the bank returns. "I want to take it and the
picture of me with that guy and make a sign that reads 'Dum-Dum' and hang it
all up in my office. I've never been had like this."
But if the ersatz
Killy cut a spectacular path in Woodhaven, it was nothing to what he achieved
in the pleasant Midwestern community of Elyria, Ohio.
time he stopped here was about March 12," recalls David Pierce, the manager
of Elyria's Holiday Inn. "He was a little hard to understand because of his
French accent. He said he was going to Vermont. Two or three weeks later he was
back. I saw him drive up and I went to the lobby to greet him. He said he would
leave the car in front because it would be good advertising for the motel. He
even suggested I try out the car, so I drove it around the parking
" Killy" spent two days in Elyria. He said he liked the peace and quiet
and the fact that he could go unnoticed among the townspeople. During one
pleasant interlude he was introduced at a wedding reception being held at the
Holiday Inn for the daughter of an area FBI agent. He toasted the pretty bride
with proper Gallic flair and shook hands with Elyria's police chief. The next
morning Pierce cosigned a $400 check so that Jean-Fraud could cash it at a