Tragic tryst

CIA set up King Hussein and Jewish actress, with fatal result

Declassified reports on JFK assassination help shed light on reported romance between the Jordanian monarch and Susan Cabot

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Susan Cabot stars in Ride Clear of Diablo,  1954. (YouTube screenshot).
Susan Cabot stars in Ride Clear of Diablo, 1954. (YouTube screenshot).

A date between the late Jordanian King Hussein and a Jewish B-movie actress, organized by the CIA, probably resulted in the birth of a child who later bludgeoned the actress to death with a weightlifting bar, according to a real-life story that sounds more like Hollywood fiction.

The tale was revealed by declassified documents about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

According to a CIA memo among more than 35,500 records released by the National Archives, “female companionship” was to be found for the monarch — referred to as a “foreign head of state — during his April 1959 visit to Los Angeles, when he was aged just 23.

“The foreign official was especially desirous of female companionship during his Los Angeles visit and it was requested that appropriate arrangements be made through a controlled source of the [CIA’s] Office [of Security] in order to assure a satisfied visit,” the anonymously written memo said, according to a Wednesday report in USA Today.

Actress Susan Cabot, born Harriet Shapiro to a Russian family in Boston and raised in eight different foster homes, according to Wikipedia, met Hussein at a party on April 9, 1959, according to a Los Angeles Times report, and made enough of an impression for the young king to ask to spend time with her while he was in New York.

To facilitate the continuation of the tryst, the CIA rented a Long Beach, Long Island, house for Hussein and signed Cabot into a New York hotel under an assumed name.

The late Jordanian King Hussein (right) with his cousin King Faisal II of the Kingdom of Iraq, 1957. (Jordanian archive, Wikipedia)

News reports about the relationship at the time wondered whether Cabot’s Jewish background might cause a problem for the Muslim monarch.

Cabot, who had a short-lived career, appearing opposite costars such as Lee Marvin, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson, reportedly described Hussein as “the most charming man I have ever met.

Suspicions that the couple had a child together surfaced after Cabot, who married twice and had become mentally ill in later life, was beaten to death by her son Timothy Scott Roman in December 1986.

During Roman’s trial in 1989, his defense lawyer produced evidence showing that Cabot “received a regular sum of $1,500 a month from the Keeper of the King’s Purse, Amman, Jordan. There is written indication in the handwriting of Susan Roman that this money is from a trust. … For better or worse, it looks like child support,” the attorney, Chester Leo Smith wrote.

According to a Los Angeles Times report from April 1989, the Jordanian government had no comment on Smith’s claim linking Roman to Amman.

Another Times report, from October 1989, revealed that Roman was born a dwarf but had grown to 5 feet, 4 inches thanks to “thrice-weekly injections of a hormone derived from the pituitary glands of cadavers.”

Roman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

King Hussein of Jordan at London Airport, May 4th 1964. (George Stroud/Express/Getty Images via JTA)

Hussein ascended to the Jordanian throne in 1953 after the abdication of his father Talal.

He visited the US in 1959 to ensure the continued flow of aid to his country after the British — former colonial masters — had stopped their financial support two years earlier.

The US was interested in cultivating him as a pro-Western ally in the Middle East.

The New York Times reported in March 1959 that “The United States officials were impressed by the King’s personality.” The officials “discussed the possibility that in time he might develop into an Arab leader comparable to his grandfather.”

His grandfather, Abdullah, was assassinated when Hussein was just 17.

Hussein died from cancer in 1999 and was succeeded by his son from the second of four marriages, Abdullah.

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