Thursday, September 24, 2009

Romanian dictator Ceausescu's favorite waiter dies

The Associated Press (AP) — TIMISOARA, Romania

Cornel Urcan, the most-trusted waiter serving the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, has died, according to local newspapers Thursday. He was 67.

Urcan died of a heart attack on Sept. 18, his son Tinel told daily Click newspaper.Urcan began working as a waiter at the Continental Hotel in Timisoara when he was 14 and worked there 30 years, being called on by the dictator to serve on special occasions for state dinners in Bucharest and other towns around Romania.

Known for carrying up to 24 plates on one arm, Urcan waited on eight heads of state and 14 prime ministers at Ceausescu's official dinners in the 1980s before the dictator was executed during the 1989 anti-communist revolt, his son reportedly said.

He also was likely an agent for Ceausescu's feared secret police, the Securitate-a post he would have needed to be allowed contact with senior foreign officials at the time.

After Ceausescu's death and the fall of communism, Urcan tried to buy the Continental but was briefly imprisoned in 2001 for failing to pay loan installments on the hotel purchase.In prison he contracted tuberculosis. He later sued the hotel, which this year was ordered to pay him $500,000 (?338,000) in damages.

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