A Novel About a Boy Who Changed the Course of History

FEW BOOKS HAVE TOUCHED ON what was the greatest secret of the age: Tsarevich Alexei's curse of hemophilia, ''The Royal Disease." Entwined in this tale of incalculable wealth and global dominance is the enigmatic and magnetic Grigori Rasputin–peasant and holy man. Medical doctors could not help Alexei. Only Rasputin had the power to stop the flow of blood through his brittle veins. Was he saint or sinner?

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Alexei and Rasputin book
Tobolsk Girls

Chapter I
(excerpt)

The Grandfather of All Blizzards
March 1, 1910

   The grandfather of all blizzards was blanketing Mother Russia. Our tiny village of Tobolsk, tucked in the eastern foothills of the Ural Mountains of Siberia, was being pounded by a storm that could be described only in biblical proportions.
   Boris, our faithful yak, grudgingly pulled us along the ice-covered trail in our rickety cart. Razor-sharp snow fueled by fierce winds made it difficult to see the rutted path ahead and almost impossible to talk to one another. A wrong turn would mean trudging off into the wilderness to face a frigid death. 

Rasputin and Romanov Family

Chapter VII
(excerpt)

"Let the Devil into the Church and He Will Mount the Altar"

   Alexei let out a whimper, "Mummy, it hurts. It hurts. Help me." The Tsarina grasped the gold cross around her neck and began reciting a prayer. Two new nose plugs replaced sodden ones.
   Was the heir to the throne bleeding to death through his nose, I pondered?
   Without warning, the massive double door thundered open. A dark figure appeared like a spirit, backlit from the hallway light. The apparition strode in the room like a conquering hero and dropped his greatcoat at the foot of the distinguished gentlemen. 
   This strange man kneeled next to Alexei's bed. He raised his head and looked around him. The blazing, magnetic gaze of his light-colored eyes -- not merely the pupil -- but the whole eye stared at all of us. It was as if we were hypnotized by the power shining from them.
   For the next few minutes he prayed, babbling more incomprehensible phrases. He rocked back and forth and moved his arms over Alexei's body, never once touching it. His penetrating, phosphorescent eyes focused intently on the boy's face. His expression was tranquil, and his voice calming. Finally, he said, "Alexei, it doesn't hurt anymore, does it?"
After a few moments, the prince's eyes opened slowly. He looked to his mother. "No."

Father and Son at Stavka

Chapter XVII
(excerpt)

The Battlefield of Heroes

   As was his father’s hope, Alexei became the center of attention at Stavka. The fighting had not gone well since the war’s first shot was fired, and the Tsar considered that Alexei’s presence would bolster sagging spirits.
   He was correct. Generals and infantrymen alike were given paroxysms of patriotic outbursts when the “Little Tsar” appeared at his father’s side during troop reviews.
   Le Professeur and I would walk behind father and son, amazed by the love and affection shown the boy by war-weary veterans.
   “Look at him,” Gilliard remarked. “The men are fascinated by him. And Alexei returns their emotion with his innocence and sincerity.”           “Oui, Monsieur. They are also appreciative that he wears the uniform of the common soldier.”
   For the next month, Alexei and I had a full run of the camp. He loved the military life, as did his father. The Tsar saw in that culture, discipline, loyalty, and honesty that he observed so lacking in the political life of the court, and he wished to instill these values in the heir.

Grigori Rasputin

Chapter XX
(excerpt)

Death of the “Holy Devil”
December 1916, January 1917

 Letter to Tsar Nicholas from Rasputin two months before his death: "I feel that I shall leave life before January 1. If I am killed by common assassins, you, Tsar of Russia, will have nothing to fear for you or your children; they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia. But if I am murdered by nobles, their blood will remain soiled with my blood for 25 years. Tsar of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Gregori is killed, you must know this: none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years.  They will be killed by the Russian people. Pray, pray, be strong, think of your blessed family.”

JUDY GARLAND "World’s Greatest Entertainer"

A takeoff on the ‘60’s -'70's TV show "This Is Your Life.” Judy is the surprise guest. Frank, Dean and Liza are her guests, singing 24 of their American Songbook signature tunes.

• Time: May 7 1961, two weeks after Judy's triumphant Carnegie Hall performance, termed ‘the greatest night in show business history’.
• The fictional TV show is called “Celebrity Story” and is set in the studio. 

Licensing information

Judy Garland poster
Judy Garland on the couch

(Excerpt Act I)

Sofa glides on. Walter escorts her to sofa. Bar glides on

WALTER
Miss Garland, you look a bit nervous. Would you like a glass of water?

JUDY
(Sees stocked bar SL) Do you have anything stronger?

WALTER
(rises and walks to DSR in special)

Last week, on the evening of April 23rd, 1961… 3,165 privileged people packed the world-famous Carnegie Hall in NYC beyond its capacity, primed to witness what was arguably the greatest night of music in show business history. The audience filed in with an almost religious anticipation; described as the musical equivalent of a Billy Graham revival. By the time the conductor raised his baton for the overture, the wildly applauding crowd was in a transport of ecstasy!

JUDY
Whoa. Down boy, down boy. I'm not the only one who needs a drink, Walter.

WALTER
Of that singular performance, a NY Times columnist wrote…....’after Judy’s final exit, two and a half hours after her first note, the audience refused to leave. It was a shame they had to pay for their seats; they were never in them! Their eyes were riveted on an empty stage. They understood Judy had bestowed upon them every fragment of the Garland essence. 3,000 people had become joined together in an exalted state. They were NOT about to let go’.
Miss Garland, can you tell us what happened next?

JUDY
(laughs) A man yelled from the balcony… “just stand there!”

WALTER
back to sofa
Judy Garland, as she has done throughout her extraordinary career, takes an audience in her arms and they hug her right back. And tonight, on our TV show, we will trace the celebrity story and career of this legendary figure sitting beside me.

JUDY
(sarcastic) While we're there - if you don't mind - I’d like to make some changes.

WALTER
Your older sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy Gumm, were talented. They were troupers. But soon Frances, or “Babe” - as you were nicknamed - commanded all the attention. You acted and looked like any other preadolescent ... but you sounded like ... well, a chanteuse.

Sofa slides off. Walter exits. (Judy sheds long coat, unveiling the classic short tux).
Dancers enter thru UC curtain. Dancer hands her the fedora. GET HAPPY

Judy and Kaylan

GET HAPPY (JUDY and dancers)

WALTER
Hollywood, this city of Oz, devised dreams the way Detroit assembled autos and DuPont spun nylon. And yet Judy, to you, Hollywood may very well have been an evil parody of the land of Oz. MGM had absolute control over employees. The system was something quite different from what the public saw as “glamour”. The system…

JUDY
…Call it by its rightful name: indentured servitude. I was personal property stamped with Leo The Lion right here (hand to forehead). In our teenage years, Mickey and I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. Most of the time we were shooting one movie in the morning and rehearsing for the next one in the afternoon.

WALTER
To MGM you and your fellow child actors were commodities. Already in your early teens you suffered your most irrevocable loss…your childhood.

JUDY
Everyone told me what to do, where to go, how to act. I never went to a prom.

Walter enters. Judy and Liza to sofa.

WALTER
MGM employed a studio Dr. Feelgood; the resident drug dispenser.

JUDY
ONE Dr. Feelgood? Ha. Let’s put it this way. MGM had a lot of actors and technical staff who were on 14 hour a day schedules. The so-called doctors were all over the place. We all knew who they were and their job.

WALTER
Amphetamines were given out like penny candy to both increase your energy and suppress appetite. But “speed” would not let Judy sleep. She had natural insomnia. MGM, in league with your mother Ethel, had an answer...barbiturates...sleeping pills. No one knew the long-term side effects, but for the co-conspirators, it was a miracle.

JUDY
Ethel called them my “vitamins.” If someone criticized her about it, she would quickly put them in their place. (to audience) “I’ve got to keep my little girl going.”

Walter, still on sofa, gets up. Special on him

WALTER
Judy, you were given the whole rainbow of little colored pills…innocently skipping down your own yellow brick road into the tangled forest of addiction. By the age of 15, before The Andy Hardy series, before “The Wizard Of Oz”, Judy Garland was a drug addict. You didn’t know it. And those who did, didn’t care as long as the money kept rolling in.
(Awkward silence)

Judy Frank Dean on stage

Smile (JUDY)

JUDY
(X to C and speaks to audience)

(up tempo mood)
   Thank you, thank you so very much. You make me feel so loved. Before that dreary Wilhelm gets back and spoils all our fun…that’s his name, right? Wilhelm? my oh my, he could depress a hyena! Well, couldn’t he?? Where in the world does he get all this material about me?
   Oh, well, anyway… I’ve got to tell you about another thing that happened to me when I went abroad. I went to London...they’re terribly sweet, wonderful. They were terribly sweet to me. But if you know anything about the English press…they’re rather odd. They really are. They just say terrible things about people. They say miserable things about people and then they sue them and they get paid off and then they sue them again. It’s a never-ending thing.
   Well, anyway, I landed in London and I was taken to a press conference in a hot, airless room and with all the photographers, reporters, etc., were asking very impertinent and rude questions. And I was being, you know, SO nice. There was one young girl… and she was kinda cute and she was next to me all the way through the party.
   And she said to me, ‘You look marvelous! I’ve never seen you look…you look lovely. You look relaxed. What have you been doing lately?’ Well, I said ‘I don’t know…. I dunno, I feel fine’.
And she kept following me around the room saying ‘I can’t get over… come on, you’ve never looked so well’. Well, I was there an hour and a half and by the time I left I felt pretty good with this girl.
   And just as I was leaving, she said ‘Would you mind dropping me off at my hotel, for I’m afraid I can’t get a taxi?’ And I said ‘Come on...I want to hear more!’. So, we get in the taxi and on the way to the hotel she just kept saying ‘I just can’t, I just can’t get over it…and I’ve seen you…well, I’ve never been…’.
   I dropped her off. The next day I picked up the paper the next morning and went to her column…and she had a whole page…and the headline said “Judy Garland arrives in London and she is not chubby, she is not plump...she’s FAT!
   A terrible girl…a miserable thing to do after all the time…and taking her to her hotel. She went on in the article and said ‘She’s jolly, she’s jollier than I’ve ever seen…and if you say anything funny to her she throws her head back and her chins joggle happily. And yes, then, but, she has a lovely smile. Her teeth are crooked but I think they’re her own.”
That’s all. 

Judy Jenny Rainbow

WALTER (OFF-STAGE)

   When Dorothy Gale entered Oz, Judy Garland entered immortality. “The Wizard Of Oz” speaks to your feelings, not to your intellect. It comforts and inspires. Children identify with Dorothy’s fears. Adults... with her dreams. A young girl is sent down a perilous path. Along the way, she must slay wicked witches and stand up to mighty wizards.
Dorothy’s journey to Oz is one of self-discovery, a spiritual passage from adolescence to adulthood. Her destiny is hers to determine. No one else can do it for her. She teaches all of us that we can confront our fears - either real or imagined - and determine our own future.
In Oz, we are made to see all the fantastic adventures through Dorothy’s wide and innocent eyes. Dorothy conquered the demons that Judy could not. .
And in the end, the traveled little girl understands...

Spot on Judy

JUDY
...If I ever go looking for my hearts desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with. . Is that right?

Over the Rainbow (JUDY)

Bows

— A little about Greer

-- Graduate of U of Delaware '69: Major in Creative Writing and minor in Russian History. The 300 year Romanov dynasty fascinated me, especially the era of the last Tsar.

Robert Massie's 1967 tome, Nicholas and Alexandra, was the opening door into this history. Fate guided Massie. His own son was born with hemophilia. The image of OTMA, the four Grand Duchesses, haunted me when I first laid eyes on it. It continues to haunt me, knowing how those ethereal beauties and their family met their horrific end. And then there's the Tsarevich. His incurable disease, "Fate's Joke on Kings," was inherited from no less a historical titan than blood relative Queen Victoria, grandmother to Tsarina Alexandra. Alexei's hemophilia was the greatest secret of the age. Then what followed was Rasputin, WWI, Lenin, and the Socialist Revolution leading to the assassination of the royal family, the greatest outrage of the age.

-- 1969 - Founder and first GM of UD Radio Station WHEN and was in their first HOF class. -- 1972 - Opened the second Earth Shoe Store in America, '72, eventually owning 7 (in 6 states).
-- 1985 - Founded Delaware's Best of Broadway, a community-based theatrical production company that had its final curtain in 2000, having donated over $150,000.00 to local non-profits. I then began writing productions based around the music of George Gershwin and Cole Porter.
-- 2019 - Most successful show is JUDY GARLAND, "World's Greatest Entertainer" ( judygarlandthemusical.com), based on the popular TV show of the '70s and '80s, 'This Is Your Life'. Set in 1961, our TV show welcomes Judy as our surprise guest and Frank, Dean, and Liza as her guests. The quartet, along with dancers and an onstage orchestra, sings 24 American Songbook tunes. The show is now available for licensing worldwide.

-- 2011, my then 18-year-old daughter suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest. In 2014, I founded and continued to direct Heart In The Game Foundation (heartinthegame.org) to give FREE EKG screenings to Delaware students. That same year we passed The Grace Firestone Act for SCA in Delaware. Our mission is to make Delaware the "Heart Healthiest" state. Aside from the fictional narrator Sergei Protopopov, his family, and his love interest Mathilde, all the characters mentioned and the facts in the book are researched and authentic. Due to Nicholas II having photographers accompany the royal family, we are treated to many photographs. My friends on my Facebook group have colorized them. I imagine there is no other book on the family with as many such photos.

The chapters in quotes are old Russian proverbs that providentially lend themselves to the story.

I hope you enjoy reading my book. Please consider joining my Facebook group Alexei Romanov The Last Tsarevich. At this writing, there are over 3800 members from around the globe.

– Greer Firestone

Author