This is a true story, sort of. Fishbein really was aboard the Normandie at the same time as the Brinkleys, who departed Europe for home on August 11, 1937. As far as what actually happened when the two men crossed paths – if they crossed paths at all – there are conflicting accounts. None of the sources we consulted said Brinkley winked at Fishbein; we made that up. We based our encounter mostly on Brock’s version of the story, but we added the wink to make it more visual. Here is how Brock describes it:
“There was nothing left now but for the principals to meet. In all these years, the two great foes had never laid eyes on each other, and Fishbein wanted to keep it that way. Brinkley had other ideas. Scouring the deck he found Fishbein in a lounge chair and his face to the sun. Brinkley approached . . . Fishbein pretended he wasn’t there. After a minute or so of this queer pantomime, Brinkley made a strangled noise, turned, and stalked off” (215-16).
There is also come confusion in the historical record about whether Brinkley snubbed Fishbein, or Fishbein snubbed Brinkley – this “snub” inexplicably became an issue in the libel trial of 1939.