Ask 10 People About The Killing Of Don Aronow And You Will Get 10 Different Answers
The Killing of Don Aronow: Arguably Offshore Powerboating's most controversial Incident.
Excerpt from Paradise Lost: The Rise and Fall of Ben Kramer. Full story in Véhicule 2020.
Life for Donald Joel Aronow was a series of loud, abrupt noises. The backfires of the junked Cadillacs that he used to flip in1930s Brooklyn, the orders barked when he joined the Merchant Marines in the ‘40s, the crack of a hammer on a construction sitein 1950s New Jersey, or the smacking of his boat’s fiberglass hull against rough midnight waters when he devoted himself to offshore powerboating in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Anything percussive or bodily jarring was his lifeblood. It’s what made him the world’s go- to man for all things loud, fast and buoyant, and it kept him in the industry’s pole position right up until the second he was fatally met by an assassin’s Felco-branded bullet on NE 188th Street, Miami, Florida just before 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3, 1987.
Don Aronow was a bona fide celebrity. He didn’t maintain an ostentatious profile, have an entourage or drive a Rolls-Royce (although he did own a few), but people knew who he was wherever he went. If they didn’t know him, his affable character, openness and magnetism would give his status away within seconds. His competitive nature knew no bounds, which, paired with his undeni- able draw, made sure Aronow was rarely seen without a woman on his arm—even if it wasn’t his current wife. If he was missing a partner, he would have no trouble finding one. It was trophy hunting at its finest, and Don’s pride wouldn’t allow him to come back empty handed.
The company that he kept was larger than life, from white-knuckle boat rides with The Beatles to sustained friendships with the Kings of Spain and Jordan, Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, andGeorge H.W. Bush.
Aside from fostering physical attraction and comradery, his need to win manifested first and foremost as shrewd business sense, which he exercised throughout his boatbuilding endeavors. He wouldn’t beat around the bush, and he wouldn’t talk around the issue at hand. He was—or did a very good job at portraying himself as—transparent. His primary concern was getting the deal done as quickly and easily as possible. If you couldn’t make that happen, it was your loss. He never took a check—always wanted cash. If you needed a receipt, he’d write one up for you on a yellow sheet of paper ripped from a legal pad.
His reputation was ostensibly clean, at least when held up to those of his contemporaries, which made his daylight murder especially shocking. It was only posthumously that his image started to degrade, sullied by the torrent of rumors, accusations and facts that came out in the investigations that started the minute the murder weapon was fired.