Friday, August 12, 2011

Landau-Savedoff: it gets worse

I omitted a disturbing fact from yesterday's post concerning the release on bond of Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff, who have been indicted on charges of stealing records from the Maryland Historical Society, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, and the New-York Historical Society: Savedoff told prosecutors that he and Landau went to a Manhattan gym and stole the wallets of several patrons because they were looking for identification they could use when visiting repositories.

Some additional details, all of them unsettling, about Landau's bond hearing appeared in a recent Baltimore Sun article that I somehow missed last week.

First, the number of repositories that Landau preyed upon, possibly with Savedoff in tow, continues to grow: documents found in his Manhattan apartment have been traced to Swarthmore College, Columbia University, Yale University, the University of Vermont, the Smithsonian Institution, and the New York Public Library.

With the exception of Cambridge University, all of the institutions to which Landau and Savedoff have been linked are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. However, I don't think anyone should breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Landau has spoken at venues throughout the country -- I'm reproducing and annotating the list that appears on his Web site -- and he may have made "research visits" to nearby archives while plugging his book at:
  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  • President Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis, Indiana, 30 September 2010
  • Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Birthplace in New York City (as noted above and in other posts, documents in Landau's Manhattan apartment have been traced to the New-York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and Columbia University)
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York (the federal indictment against Landau and Savedoff accuses them of stealing seven signed speeches from the library in December 2010 and selling four of them for $35,000)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, November 2007
  • Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, December 2007. (Director Timothy Naftali has publicly stated that Landau did not visit the Nixon Library research room.)
  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 14 November 2007
  • George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas
  • William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, 12 March 2008
  • Cuyahoga County Public Library, Fairview Branch in Fairview, Ohio, 3 March 2008 (Landau's site lists this engagement as the "Cleveland Public Library," which serves the City of Cleveland. The Cuyahoga County Public Library system serves the surrounding suburbs.)
  • Dallas Public Library in Dallas, Texas, 5 February 2008
  • Des Moines Public Library in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Denver Public Library in Denver, Colorado, 25 February 2008
  • State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa, 23-24 October 2008
  • Iowa Historical Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Googleplex in Mountain View, California, 25 February 2009
  • Madison Historical Society in Madison, Connecticut, 17 July 2008
  • New Canaan Public Library in New Canaan, Connecticut
  • St. Louis Public Library in St. Louis, Missouri, 10 March 2008
  • Westport Public Library in Westport, Connecticut, 15 October 2008
  • Book Hampton in Southampton, New York
  • Borders Books in New York City
  • Borders Books in Washington, DC (documents in Landau's apartment have been traced to the Smithsonian Institution)
  • Borders Books, Philadelphia (Landau and Savedoff visited the Historical Society of Pennsylvania -- and aroused staff suspicions -- seventeen times in recent months)
  • R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut
  • East Village Books in Des Moines, Iowa
Second, a fake ID in the name of "Christopher McGovern" was found in Landau's apartment. Jason Savedoff apparently used the aliases "Jason James" and "Justin Ward" on various occasions, and one has to be open to the possiblity that Landau used aliases that have yet to come to light. I have the ugly feeling that many, many repositories are going to have to check their registration logs every time a new alias or set of aliases comes to light.

And on a more surreal note: Landau was one of the witnesses whose testimony supported Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell's claims that Hamilton Jordan, White House Chief of Staff under Jimmy Carter, did cocaine at the club in 1978. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration holds the records of Special Prosecutor Arthur Christy, who investigated Rubell's claims, and it has made the finding aid, in which Landau's name appears several times, available online.

Several years ago, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo wrote an excellent book, Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art, that details how a charming, socially prominent, and seemingly well-to-do Englishman named John Drewe passed off forged paintings to unsuspecting collectors. In order to obscure his tracks, Drewe visited several museum archives in Great Britain, stole records that would have exposed the ersatz provenance of the forgeries, and inserted bogus records that supported his claims. Salisbury and Sujo concluded that Drewe, who was ultimately brought down by a suspicious Tate Gallery archivist, was a fascinating but profoundly empty mix of narcissist and sociopath.

I have the feeling that Barry Landau's life and career are the foundation for one heck of a book. I'm not going to write it, but I'm sure looking forward to reading it.

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