Denver area sports fans know Terry Frei's work at the Denver Post, and may know some of his non-fiction as well. He has a new book out called "Olympic Affair: A novel of Hitler's siren and America's hero".
This is a piece of fascinating historical fiction that focuses on the little known relationship between legendary German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and American gold-medal winning decathatlete Glenn Morris. Their relationship began at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
Terry was nice enough to give me a few minutes to discuss his latest book.
The Big Mac Blog: If Riefenstahl was not a Nazi, why did she make films in colloboration with Hitler and the Nazi party?
Terry Frei: It was a calculated decision on her part. She was doing her job. Anybody who was seen Triumph of the Will knows her role and can see it and I think grasps her part in perhaps convincing people to jump on the bandwagon. She was an opportunist through and through.
The Big Mac Blog: Was Riefenstahl an anti-Semite?
Terry Frei: Yes, she was. If you look at some of her earlier work from earlier in her career you can see that. Among other things, she had Jewish partners on some of her early projects she quite willingly disowned and bitterly denounced later, going along with removing their names from the credits.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you think as she aged she regretted her relationship with the Nazi party and her anti-Semetic views?
Terry Frei: No. She really was the classic opportunist. She always rationalized what she did and convinced herself that anything was OK that advanced her career. And if you look at her later in her career and her life she was around people like Mick Jagger and her repuation really was rehabbed and allowed her a little bit off the hook.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you think she conned Glenn Morris into that relationship because it could advance her status?
Terry Frei: You are talking about a 24 year old kid who grew up on a farm in Colorado, and at the time he had gone to Colorado State which then was very much an agricultural school. It was a different time. At the time of the 1936 Olympics, (Riefenstahl) was one of the most famous people in the world, and she was throwing herself at him. He was duped and he bought the act, but he was also a willing participant.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you think he was bitter about this relationship as he aged?
Terry Frei: Glenn died so young in 1974 that it did prevent us from picking his brain too much. I tried to get to know him in different ways. As he grew older he became bitter and shook his head that (those 1936 Olympics) was supposed to set him up for life. It left him embittered and led to alcoholism and mental problems later.
The Big Mac Blog: What do you think Riefenstahl's legacy is?
Terry Frei: She was very much human and had human emotions. She was an artist. She was maleable and a manipulator. She had a tremendous ability to advance her career at a time when women did not do that. If you look back at her career you can see these pictures of very powerful men in a room and there she is the only woman in the room. She was a pioneer in so many ways for women and did things at a time when women did not do them. She did have a trail blazing role.