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Writer Rich Cohen had the pleasure and the frustration of being late billionaire investor Teddy Fortmann’s shadow during his last days.In 2010 Cohen was contracted to ghostwrite Forstmann’s biography, but Forstmann died of brain cancer before he could finish.
Before then, though, Cohen ate, traveled and riffed with the legend. He wrote about the experience in the February issue of Vanity Fair. The article is a melancholy look at a man who seems almost subconsciously aware of his own end — and he’s lonely.
From Vanity Fair:
In the fall of 2010 I started to write Teddy’s book. This meant a change in our relationship. Instead of being me and Teddy in the world, it was going to be me and Teddy in my mind, and he didn’t not like it. It increasingly seemed to me that, for Teddy, the purpose of the book was fun, and the fun was having a friend to pal around with, tell stories to, a friend who would listen and be impressed and make you believe that it had all been worth it after al. Teddy or his office would call several times a week. He wanted me to travel with him to India, New Orleans, Brazil. when I said no, it was time to write, he got pissed. “What kind of ghostwriter are you?” he asked.
It was this frustration on Forstmann’s part that lead to his one and only argument with Cohen. Forstmann wanted Cohen to have dinner with him on the first night of Rosh Hashanah and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
For the first time, I got mad at Teddy. I stopped being a ghost. I put my body on and started to shout. I mean, here i was on Rosh Hashanah, with my wife and my children, my little thing, my on lt little thing in this too big world, and a billionaire who had everything else was demanding I give him this too. I said something like, “First of all Teddy…Rosh Hashanah is two days and two [email protected] Second, you call yourself a dodger fan? I though Sandy Koufax settled this about 40 years ago. If Koufax didn’t pitch in the World Series on Hom Kippur, I’m sure as hell not coming into the city to have dinner at Marea on Rosh Hashanah.
It stunned Teddy. He was not used to people talking to him this way. He behaved like a bear that had been slapped in the nose. “I’m not mad at you,” he said finally. “When I get mad believe you will know it.”
Cohen writes that he only saw Forstmann one more time after this argument before he died.