Profiles In Secret Balling: Porfirio Rubirosa Edition
Way back in simpler times, I wrote a post called ‘Profiles In Secret Balling: Rex Harrison Edition.’ I loved the shit out of writing that post, and always meant to write more. But I had a hard time finding the right subject. Unlike our celebratory posts of a couple’s love or one man’s ability to out kick his coverage, the Rex Harrison post was not pure or innocent. It was tawdry. It was salacious gossip. It got deep into the dirty secrets and heartbreak of Harrison’s personal life, and set up a home there. Which feels very, very wrong to do to some who is still with us and actively engaging in dirty secrets and heartbreak. In order to keep the madcap amazement of the post from turning into judge-y voyeurism, you have to find exactly the right person to write about specifically: 1) they should be dead (so no Anna Friel in the ‘Balling Profiles’ although she will eventually get her own ‘Great Job’ post), 2) they need to be not well known (so, no, I won’t be telling you about a little dame named Liz Taylor and all her beaus), 3) their love-lives need to be a little bit bonkers (so if, for instance, you were a world renowned playboy from the ’30s - ’60s whose penis is so large restaurants named their giant pepper grinders after it, you might be right up my alley.) Wait, is there actually that guy?!
Fuck yeah, there is. May I introduce Porfirio Rubirosa.
Or Rubi as his friends called him.
In addition to having one of the greatest sounding names in history, Rubirosa, one can only assume, must be the basis of the Most Interesting Man in the World. Or at least he would be if TMIMITW were also an assassin for a Caribbean dictator. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to try to organize all of this bonkers shit into three main categories, but you’ll have to forgive some bonkers-shit crossover. First up:
1) The Wives
Rubirose was married five times, which is a feat all by itself. The women he married, though, make it astounding. His first wife was Flor de Oro Trujillo aka the daughter of Rafael Trujillo. Rafael Trujillo himself is better known as the Crazy Ass Tyrant Who Controlled the Dominican Republic with an Iron and Bloody Fist and Also Murder Squads. For those paying attention at home, this is also the dictator who most likely employed Rubirosa as an assassin. At least there was something going on between Trujillo and Rubirosa because when Rubirosa divorced Flor in 1938, Trujillo didn’t straight up murder him. All the better for us I guess.
Next was Danielle Darrieux who was not the daughter of a war criminal. She was only one of the greatest French actors of all time. NBD.
Wife number three married Rubirosa just over three months after his divorce from Darrieux. In fact, the third Mrs. R had to pay off Mrs. Two in order to make the divorce proceedings go quickly. Luckily the third wife had some cash to throw around in that she was Doris Duke and therefore the sole heir of the Duke tobacco fortunate worth an estimated $100 million upon her father’s death in 1925 (technically she and her mother split her father’s fortune, but Doris was their only child. When Doris’ mother passed in 1962, the fortune had grown to $250 million. Girl was never hard up is what I’m saying). Unfortunately the millions of dollars couldn’t replace Rubirosa’s need to bang a lot of chicks, and the marriage ended after five years.
Now, Rubirosa’s divorce settlement included $25,000 a year from Duke until he remarried, meaning he could have easily turned being a kept-former-husband into a full time career. But loved called again, and Rubirosa had no choice but to return to the alter. Fortunately for him, loved called again in the form another millionaire heiress. Barbara Woolworth Hutton was the American heiress to a large chain of department stores (Venture, I think). She joined the Mrs. R club for only eight weeks in early ‘54, but it ended up costing her $2.5 million. So totally worth it I guess.
And finally, the last and only widowed Mrs. R. was disappointingly not a millionaire. As I’ll explain later, Rubirosa’s lifestyle cost more than even two cushy divorce settlements from millionaires could cover, and poor Porfirio had to remove himself from the high-roller life. In the end, he was “nearly penniless,” having to live quietly in the suburbs of Paris with his night-clubbing, 19-year-old French actress wife Odile Rodin. It’s a goddamn shame the way we use and forget about our greatest playboys, leaving them with nothing but a solidly middle-class lifestyle and smoking hot wife.
OK, so those are the women he made his wives. But that’s not nearly the end of …
2) The Women
With this list, I am not commending the shittier aspects of Rubirosa’s life, but I do need to acknowledge that he looked like this:
Yes, Porfirio was rumored to be a Nazi collaborator (more on that to come), but you can’t deny the man his looks. All told, Rubirosa was romantically linked to Dolores del Río, Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Soraya Esfandiary, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Joan Crawford, Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, Judy Garland, and Eva Peron. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s the second woman with direct ties to murder happy, Latin American rules and two of the names dropped in ‘Vogue.’ Two.
But, as always, there’s only one HBIC. And in Rubirosa’s case that Bitch was Zsa Zsa Gabor. Zsa Zsa, herself married nine times, was unsurprisingly married when she first met Rubirosa to actor George Sanders. Rubirosa gave approximately zero fucks about her wedded state, and actively pursued Zsa Zsa. He continued, however, to give zero fucks about her wedded state when Sanders divorced her, and Rubirosa refused to marry her. It seems five marriages is cool, but Porfirio couldn’t bear the thought of ending it with six. Their romance continued throughout his marriage to Barbara Hutton, and even included Gabor making public declarations that he would leave his wife for her. And then he totally did. There must have been some shortage related to World War II because as far as I can tell, nobody had any fucks to give in the early 1950s. Like just absolutely no fucks. Which is really where we get into the good stuff.
3) General Balls Out, Crazy Shit Behavior
I don’t want to make it seem like I believe Rubirosa was a good guy. He seems from all accounts to be an absolute dick bag. But crazy ass behavior comes in all flavors including “bonkers” and “vile.” Let’s get the vile out of the way. During WWII, while married to Danielle Darrieux, Rubirosa was suspected by the French Resistance of being a Nazi collaborator, which led to an assassination attempt on their part. While I haven’t been able to find what evidence the Resistance had on him, Rubirosa was selling Dominican visas at wildly inflated prices to Jews desperate to escape the Nazis. So yeah, all around dick move. Also there are those reports that he regularly hit the women he was bedding. Because even when you just want to have a good time reading about the crazy ass exploits of a long dead playboy, that playboy has to ruin your fun by being a goddamn Nazi woman-beater. I am making no excuses for Rubirosa. He’s a terrible person. But he’s a terrible person who led a bonkers ass life. So let’s finish on a bang. Literally.
The reason that Asshat Extraordinaire was able to sell Dominican visas? That’s because he was a Dominican diplomat who was assigned, to among other places, Argentina and France. But he didn’t really care for “being a diplomat” or “working in general.” He liked bedding ladies, playing polo, and racing cars. So, if you were able to tell him that he “died in the early morning of July 5, 1965, at the age of 56, when he crashed his silver Ferrari 250 GT into a horse chestnut tree in the Bois de Boulogne after an all-night celebration at the Paris nightclub ‘Jimmy’s’ in honor of winning the polo Coupe de France” he’d probably say, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I wanted to go out.” If only there were a woman close by he could punch.
As a final contribution to the world, Rubirosa has mostly been forgotten. Except for the previously mentioned pepper grinders. The next time you hit up your local Italian place and the waiter gracefully offers you a two-foot-long, stylishly simple fresh pepper grinder, remember those are always referred to as “Rubis.”