The Lord That Roared

Meet little Daniel Moynihan, or Lord Moynihan, as his Filipino mother, Jinna, insists. She lives for the day he takes a seat in Britain's House of Lords as heir to his late father, Antony Patrick Andrew Cairnes Berkeley, Lord Moynihan the Third Lord of Leeds. It's quite a name to live up to: Moynihan, who died of a massive stroke last November in Manila, left a legacy of scandal. Jinna, a 26-year-old former office worker and Moynihan's fifth mate, just wants to raise her son in the English countryside, where he can ride horses, study at Oxford and learn to do whatever peers of the realm do these days. "My husband's final wish was for my son to sit in the House of Lords," she claims.

With any luck, he'll turn out less controversial than his father. "Tony" Moynihan inherited his title at the age of 29 after graduating from Oxford and serving in the Coldstream Guards. As a peer he loved to mock his colleagues as examples of the pitfalls of hereditary titles. He used to brag that he made love to a girlfriend inside the House of Lords. Fleet Street loved him--the "Bongo Playing Lord" who drummed into the wee hours in West End cafes alongside his belly- dancing second wife.

His London revels ended abruptly in 1971, when he fled the country pursued by British authorities for allegedly stealing from casinos and buying a Rolls-Royce with a bad check. Moynihan settled in Manila, which does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. There he opened a chain of massage parlors; at the flagship New Dawn of Life Health Club, women wearing red hearts sold sex in the steamy lather.

He was a favorite of Manila's more raffish social elements. Friends loved his lavish parties and outrageous antics (at his 50th birthday party, a Siberian tiger greeted the guests). When he died, British diplomats as well as a busload of prostitutes attended the funeral. But his life as both lord and pimp denied him his last wish: to return to London and raise his son to inherit the title.

So why don't Jinna and Daniel, who just turned 1, simply hop a plane to Heathrow? There's one small problem: Andrew, Moynihan's other son. He's almost 3, and his Filipino mother, who calls herself Lady Moynihan, claims that Andrew is the rightful heir. Moynihan, it appears, was not so fond of his fourth wife's son; two years ago he placed an obituary in The Times of London declaring young Andrew dead. In fact, he's alive and well, last seen with his mother, Editha Ruben, at the Flamingo Massage Parlor, which Moynihan gave to her as part of a divorce settlement. Ruben insists that under English law the title must go to the oldest son. She also claims that she and Moynihan were never formally divorced. Jinna counters that Moynihan is not Andrew's father.

Now the Committee of Privileges at the House of Lords must decide which child-if either-will inherit the title. Should neither win, it would fall on Moynihan's half-brother Colin, England's junior energy minister. But he is not eager for the honor because it could force him out of politics. "A wife and a son exist," Colin has said. "He should be the heir." While the struggle over the title continues, Moynihan's old friends will fly to Manila next month to celebrate the late lord's birthday, drink his port and swap tales about the man who claimed to have been a bagman for African dictators and to have disco-danced with an elephant. Tough shoes to fill.