B. 12 February 1907; St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia
D. 7 November 1951; Off the coast of Morocco
Some Olympians find heroics in their sporting careers, some find it in their lives after the Olympics, some find it in the bedroom, and some find heroics in selfless attempt to save lives. Here’s one who did the last two.
We have talked how we all have certain favorite Olympians. Freddie McEvoy was the favorite of Ian Buchanan, esteemed British Olympic historian, and the first President of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH). This is one is in Ian’s memory.
Freddie McEvoy was a swashbuckling legend in aristocratic British sporting circles. He was educated at the Jesuit School of Stonyhurst, and early turned his attention to sports, becoming an expert in shooting, race-car driving, deep-sea diving, and boxing. He competed at the Olympics in 1936 as a bobsled driver, after having won the 1935 World Championship in the 4-man. Among his professions are listed jewelry designer, public relations consultant, professional gambler, smuggler, black marketer, and gigolo. He was well-known in European gambling casinos and was known to have won and lost fortunes during his lifetime. He admitted to being a rogue, swindler, and con man who used his intelligence and charm to move among the highest of the monied classes. In appearance, he was almost a twin of his very close friend, Errol Flynn.
McEvoy was that rare individual whose life was more exciting than the legend. Among the stories that surround him are that he once killed a man in a barroom brawl in Marseilles, that he once won a $10,000 bet by driving from Paris to Cannes in under 10 hours, and that he once won $25,000 playing backgammon in Monte Carlo and then spent that money the next day to buy a Maserati. In the Maserati he placed 3rd at the 1936 Vanderbilt Trophy races at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island. When McEvoy won car races, he usually used his earnings to bet on the horses, and when he picked a winner he celebrated by drinking pink champagne.
He used his connections and his sociability to marry well several times. The first was in 1940 to a woman twice his age, Beatrice Cartwright, an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. He and Cartwright had lived together at the Badrutt Palace in St. Moritz for several winters, prior to their marriage. One year, McEvoy brought a much younger model to “care for him,” explaining to Cartwright that he must have a younger bedfellow than her. The marriage lasted two years, and in the same year they were divorced, he married Irene Wrightsman, the 18-year-old daughter of the president of Standard Oil of Kansas. That marriage also lasted but two years, and he spent most of 1944 going back and forth from Mexico City to Beverly Hills, smuggling arms, jewelry, liquor and other valuables into the United States. In Mexico City he stayed with Dorothy di Frasso, one of Freddie’s most generous patrons. Di Frasso spread his fame among her friends for his bedroom performances, which she said was worth all the money she gave him. American bobsledder Billy Fiske, once commented on how much he admired McEvoy, and when someone protested that he could not, he noted, “Yes, I do, I admire anyone who can get away with something that I could not do myself.”
In 1945, McEvoy began a long-running affair with the wealthy heiress, Barbara Hutton. Hutton agreed with di Frasso concerning Freddie’s skills, considering him a superb lover, and felt that he understood women better than any man she had ever met. They later lived together at a fashionable ski chalet in Franconia, New Hampshire, which Hutton bought for McEvoy. They never married but remained friends throughout his life. McEvoy eventually married French fashion model Claude Stephanie Filatre. In November 1951 they were sailing on his 104-ton schooner, Kangaroo, near Cap Cantin off the coast of Morocco when a storm hit. The ship went down, but Freddie lashed his wife and maid to the mast, and then swam to shore seeking help. But he was unable to find any assistance and swam back out to the mast. He and Claude Stephanie then began swimming to shore, but she was unable to make it. He attempted to tow her to shore, but the waves pulled them to sea, they crashed against the rocks, and were not seen alive again. Their bodies were recovered the next day.