Suicide Freddie: Olympic daredevil, rake, gun-runner, diamond smuggler

Dirty rotten scoundrels don’t come much bigger, better or more reckless than Aussie-born, international high-society gatecrasher Freddie McEvoy.

McEvoy was a swashbuckler, a daredevil race driver, world bobsled champion, Olympic medallist, a gambler, diamond smuggler, gun-runner, suspected Nazi spy … and one of the most expensive, most highly-chased male escorts in Europe.

Freddie supposedly killed a man in a Marseilles bar-room brawl. Coupled with his athleticism, humour, refined charm and extraordinary network of filthy rich and royal friends, it made him irresistible to women.

Rich and powerful women.

He married some of the world’s richest women: Standard Oil heiress Beatrice Cartwright – he was 33, she was 62 – heiress Irene  Wrightsman, and a wealthy French-Algerian fashion model Claude Filatre.

He might have married the world’s richest woman, old pal Barbara Hutton, in between but made the blunder of introducing her to a Russian mate, Prince Igor Troubetzkoy. It didn’t last.

Along the way he tupped with Nazi spy Sandra Rambeau and a raft of dripping-rich society and titled dames – they were a weakness. McEvoy was sought not just for his boudoir skills but as a status symbol. Stepping out with Freddie showed they could afford him.

Smooth operator, charmer, Lothario, rogue, philanderer, rake, whatever you want to call him, Freddie was equally a great weakness for women. Adjectives for this impeccably-mannered playboy included debonair, witty, charming, fascinating and elegant.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, his best friend was another smooth-talking Aussie satyr, Captain Blood himself, Errol Flynn.

Far from any celebrity hanger-on, if Freddie Mac was anything to Flynn it was a role model on how to develop and execute his wicked, wicked ways. They’d met as teenagers in Queensland then again in London in 1934 where they became thicker than thieves.

They were brawlers, drinkers, gamblers and womanisers par excellence. After Flynn hit the big time, they made the Hollywood Rat Pack of the 1960s look like choirboys.

When Flynn was facing prison on rape charges in LA in 1942, the biggest celebrity story of the year, Freddie was ready with car and hired muscle to break him from court and escape to Mexico. Flynn, with whom McEvoy has played bit parts in his movies, was acquitted and the two retired to his Mulholland Drive ranch to take up the cavorting and carousing where they’d left off.

Proudly a man of no visible means, the Maseratis, grand yachts, French Riviera lifestyle and tuxedos of ‘Suicide Freddie’ – as he was nicknamed for his speed freak addiction – were also part financed by a variety of his own means; from brokering meetings of rich wannabes with society to smuggling between LA and Mexico on Flynn’s yacht.

Guns, diamonds, whiskey, cigarettes, people … it was all great fun and adventure for Freddie. That is, until sailing a yacht from the south of France to the Bahamas with some ex-SS Nazis, he came unstuck.

Shipwrecked off the coast of Morocco, he and wife Claude were washed up dead, their heads so pulverised they were thought to be scalped. Two others were washed up, naked, while two more were washed off the yacht while it was being battered on rocks.

Three others, the Nazis, survived. They reported that Freddie had been fearless aboard the sinking craft, swimming 200 metres to shore for help and then back to the boat when he couldn’t find any.

He hauled his wife almost ashore but 20 metres from safety they disappeared in the crashing surf. So the story goes.

What really happened is anyone’s guess.


By Frank Walker