Sometimes you google a name and wind up disappointed that the person doesn’t live up to his advance billing.
That’s not the case with Aaron Richard Golub ’64.
Golub is a high-powered Manhattan attorney who has represented Donald Trump, sued Martin Scorsese, and counted the colorful denizens of Andy Warhol’s “Factory” among his clients. He wrote a best-selling crime thriller, “The Big Cut,” and produced a movie, “Factory Girl,” about Warhol “it girl” Edie Sedgwick. When singer Jackson Browne released a hit song/video, “Lawyers in Love,” which Golub felt was critical of the profession, he responded in kind with his own videos, “He is My Lawyer” and “Dancing for Justice.”
His personal life? Ex-wife Marisa Berenson was an icon of the 1970s social scene and starred in Stanley Kubrick’s historical epic “Barry Lyndon.” His brother-in-law was actor Anthony Perkins. The New York Observer once did a story about Golub’s manservant,” yes, his manservant.
As Golub told Worcester Mag recently, “To write about characters, you have to be a character.”
Golub returned to the Clark campus in November to speak to students as part of the Alumni in Residence program.
A Worcester native, Golub was a tenement kid who palled around with Abbie Hoffman and who started his college career at UMass-Amherst before transferring to Clark as a business major. He returned to campus in November as part the AIR program to talk to creative writing students about his latest novel, “Feisengrad,” a surrealist/science-fictional tale of a city called Z where the people are hatched from eggs, drive vehicles fashioned from oversized carrots, and the government is a “1984”-like police state. The book is tinged with autobiographical details.
“The city is Worcester deconstructed, where there are two societies: a wealthy, powerful group that dominates in every way, and the people they use to perpetuate their wealth. Worcester was like that when I was growing up,” he said.
Golub grew up above the small grocery story his family ran in the Green Island section of Worcester. As a boy, he helped pack eggs in one of the tenement’s apartments that he calls “egg headquarters.” There’s a Damon Runyon feel to his reminiscences of winos on the stoop pleading with young Richie to get them some hot peppers (to attain an ersatz high once the booze ran out), and of neighborhood bars like the Casablanca with its 24-hour card games run by a guy with the one-of-a-kind name of Jigger McGrail.
Golub attended several different high schools, and says he got tossed from Worcester Academy (there was an incident with fireworks) and Classical High (a disagreement with a teacher that turned physical) before finishing up at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
As a Clark student, Golub attended a speech by Malcolm X in Atwood Hall in 1963. “I’ll never forget that night as long as I live. He was surrounded by Black Muslim bodyguards; it was very intimidating.” He was initially angry that Malcolm X was allowed on campus to deliver such a “threatening” talk, but may be softening that stance given the historical context. “When I look back on it now, was it a good experience, was it a bad experience? I don’t know, the scale isn’t tipped either way.”
His legal career has been as colorful as the man himself, full of high-profile cases involving actors like Brooke Shields, William Hurt and Sharon Stone, corporate titans like Trump, well-connected political figures, and fringe celebrities like director Ken Russell (“Tommy”), whom he represented in a lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, and David Hampton, the con man who inspired the play and film “Six Degrees of Separation.”
Golub’s first foray into writing, the novel “The Big Cut,” sprung from a murder case he was working on in the late 1970s in which he represented the wife of a man who was thrown down an air shaft. The case was “fixed” in the defendant’s favor, he maintained.
“Sometimes you get involved in these cases as a lawyer and you just want to go right back to your office and start writing down what happened because it’s so fantastic,” Golub said. “When you get involved in a fixed case you go on this ride, and there are so many hairy things you get involved in. I’m much craftier now; at my age I deal with it a lot better instead of in that bold way of stepping forward and saying “‘you’re on the take.'”
He talks of cases that have unfolded like movies, complete with femme fatale clients, combative attorneys, and crooked judges making deals in chambers with “25-foot-high ceilings and huge windows with pigeon-blood drapes.”
“It was great dramatic stuff, and that burned my fuel,” he said.
Golub, who lives in New York and has a 3-year-old son, Darrow, said he’s “nowhere near retirement.”