The above title is a phrase given to grifters or 'con' men. After researching the life of today's spotlighted character, I'm very clear as to why.
Here are the broad points:
*Was born Herschel Geguzin in Lithuania.
*Came to the US at age 10.
*Was alternately known as Harry Ferguson and Harry Gerguson.
*Ultimately settled on the name and persona of
Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitri Obolensky Romanoff.
*At one point after a lengthy stay in England, was expelled for "Impersonating and Marauding"
*Found his place finally in Hollywood where veneer and artifice are understood.
*Proprietor of Romanoffs, the see-and-be-seen eatery of the 40s and 50s.
Now, you've heard of Romanoffs, but did you know (if you spend any time at all looking at photos of Old Hollywood) that you've seen Romanoffs too. The iconic candid photos below were all taken there:
Everybody, everyday and everynight went there. And all of Hollywood knew he wasn't really a prince but he was so charming and the act was so good ("I'm tired", he tells a friend, "I've been on my Imperial feet all day") that the A crowd was perfectly happy to go along, and so from a life of conning and grifting he settled into a legitimate business that made him a fortune and a legend.
Of course, to go straight, he had to use a little larceny at the beginning. David Niven (one of Mike's closest friends) recounts in his autobiography how the restaurant started: