Further to our investigation of Sucrets boxes, confiscated as evidence, consider the case of Rudolf Ivanovich Abel. (also known as: Willie Fisher, Emil Robert Goldfus & Martin Collins)
Arrested at the Hotel Latham by the FBI in 1957, Abel was a Soviet secret agent. (also known as a: spy, scout or секретный агент) It was purportedly thanks to his espionage that the Soviets were able to build their atom bomb(s).
His story holds personal interest for me for a couple of reasons.
a. His “cover” was that he was an artist — a painter/photographer with a studio in Brooklyn — and the hotel where he was living when he was arrested, turns out to be the same hotel where my roommates and I temporarily lived 20 years later. (I’ll have more to say about my stay at the Latham Hotel, in a future post.)
b. News coverage of his arrest often included the same kind of unwanted product placement that I was talking about in our previous post.
There was no relief from the ocean because what breeze there was came from inland, and no air-conditioning for Fisher at the Latham. It was not that sort of hotel. He slept with nothing on — if he slept at all. The stakeout had closed in on him. It was now more like a siege: eight FBI men on the eighth floor taking turns watching the corridor and listening from room 841, immediately next door to Fisher’s.
Agent Ed Gamber knocked on the door of room 839 and asked for Mr. Collins. Fisher woke and answered as he was. He was not even wearing his false teeth. He made no attempt to resist or run. After answering a few basic questions about himself (as Martin Collins), he fell silent. Gamber watched him sitting naked on a double bed that nearly filled the room and noticed his Adam’s apple rising and falling involuntarily in his throat.
… The contents of Fisher’s room at the Hotel Latham and his studio and storeroom were laid out on twenty-five large trestle tables in the FBI field office in Manhattan. They included a hollow-handled shaving brush, a complete set of cipher tables on edible silver foil, a lathe, three pairs of reading glasses, an Aladdin’s cave of specialist photographic equipment, a small library including The Ribald Reader and a volume on thermonuclear weapons, dozens of Sucrets throat lozenge boxes, and a half-empty box of Sheik brand condoms.
Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War
For a product’s name brand to be mentioned in coverage like this — full of disreputable implications (“…not that sort of Hotel,” sleeping naked, false teeth) — might not be the type of product placement a company would wish for. Once your product has been sold, however, there’s just no telling where its packaging may wind up. (See also: Packaging & Moral Turpitude)
A secret 1959 CIA document, declassified in 2007, lists among Abel’s “PECULIARITIES” that he “…uses throat lozenges which come in a tin box (Sucrets, probably)”
(Another photo & more mentions of “Sucrets,” after the fold …)
Life Magazine, August 1957
They [the FBI] returned August 16 and took 126 other items from his storeroom down the hall from the studio. These things were packed in twenty pasteboard and wooden boxes. This was some of what the FBI found, and it seemed to be a measure of my client’s dual life in the United States: a one-third-horsepower generator; a Hallicrafter short-wave radio and earphones; a Speedgraphic camera and a great clutter of photographic equipment and supplies; metal dies and tools; numerous film containers and some clothing; a typewritten set of notes, “You Cannot Mix Art and Politics”; a general map of Bear Mountain-Harriman section of Palisades Interstate Park and street maps of Queens, Brooklyn, Westchester and Putnam Counties, New York; other maps, of Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles; loose nails, film strips, cuff-link “containers” and odds and ends packed in 13 Sucrets boxes; a schedule of international mails; a clip pad with mathematical formulas; musical scores, a phonograph and records; art sketchbooks; scientific magazines and technical pamphlets; a bankbook; an oil painting of a refinery; a box of prophylactics; and 64 artists’ paintbrushes.
James Britt Donovan (Donovan was Abel’s court-appointed defense attorney)
Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel
Abel (as Emil Goldfus) in the studio, 1957; Photo by Burton Silverman