The playboy called Mr Ever Ready: Despite being short and violent, high society beauties from Monroe to Ava Gardner jumped into bed with Porfirio Rubirosa
By Annabel Venning
PUBLISHED: 18:03 EST, 8 June 2012 | UPDATED: 19:26 EST, 8 June 2012
He bedded thousands of women, including such legendary beauties as Ava Gardner, Jayne Mansfield, Eva Peron and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Not only that, he married the two richest women in the world, first Doris Duke, then Barbara Hutton, and bedded another millionairess, Tina Onassis, as well as queens and countesses.
In the Forties and Fifties no high-society party or jet-set gathering was complete without him. But as the many women who wanted to possess him discovered to their cost, it was this Latin lover who always possessed them.
Dominican diplomat and socialite Porfirio Rubirosa with his polo pony at Palm Beach, Florida, in 1955
Porfirio Rubirosa — Rubi to his friends — was good-looking, although at 5ft 8in far from tall, and was born into a middle-class family from the Caribbean backwater of the Dominican Republic.
He never did a proper day's work in his life — yet his success with women enabled him to mix with royalty and film stars, and own private jets, racing cars and polo ponies. He was charming, attentive and thoughtful, but prone to violent jealousy, graceless and utterly amoral.
So what exactly was it that made Rubi the most desirable man on the planet, the man over whom the world's richest heiresses competed?
Famously, his attraction lay not only in his mesmerising charm but his bedroom prowess — and his remarkable physical endowment. Along the Riviera and in the nightclubs of Paris and Manhattan, Rubi was known as 'Toujours Pret' — always ready — and the large peppermills in Parisian restaurants came to be known as 'Rubirosas' in homage his impressive appendage.
Yet, as a new biography makes clear, his rise to fame and riches was due as much to his ruthlessness as his virility. What distinguished him from other handsome young seducers was his astuteness, his ability to spot a vulnerable rich woman, to know the moment to strike and to make her feel desired and wanted.
Rubi began his career with women at the age of 13. He had spent his teenage years in Paris, where his father had served as ambassador for the Dominican Republic, but was forced to return home when he failed his baccalaureate.
Conquest: Marilyn Monroe, pictured here in 1955, was seduced by the Latin lover
He joined the bodyguard of the island nation's brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo, and soon caught the eye of Trujillo's pretty 17-year-old daughter, Flor. The two fell in love. Trujillo, a murderous psychopath, could easily have ordered Rubi's death. Instead, he ordered him to marry his daughter.
Flor later recalled their wedding night. She was a virgin and when Rubi came towards her naked, the sight of his soon-to-be-celebrated appendage caused her to shriek in terror and bolt for the door. It was some nights before she could bring herself to consummate the marriage.
Although Trujillo had blessed the marriage, the newlyweds are said to have fallen out of favour with the dictator and fled to New York, where they eked out a miserable existence on Rubi's poker winnings.
Their circumstances improved suddenly and dramatically when Rubi carried out a 'favour' for Trujillo: he was rumoured to have organised the killing of a political opponent, then the murder of the assassin. He was rewarded with the role of secretary to the Dominican Republic's legation in Berlin — where the couple shared Hitler's box at the 1936 Olympics — then Paris.
Rubi had been unfaithful from the start of their marriage, but in Paris his womanising became relentless. If Flor remonstrated when he came home covered in lipstick, he would lash out with his fists.
Eventually she fled back home and they divorced. She later denigrated his sexual technique, complaining that he went on so long she grew bored. Nonetheless, for years after their divorce she continued to sleep with him whenever they met up.
Now jobless and penniless — Trujillo had sacked him from his job as 'Inspector of Embassies' — Rubi was in desperate need of money. When a jeweller he knew asked him to retrieve some jewels from Madrid, then in the midst of civil war, Rudi agreed.
But he returned with — he said — only some of the jewels, claiming that the rest, worth some $180,000, had been lost when his car was shot at in an ambush; an unlikely explanation, as the car bore no bullet holes. He had, of course, stolen them.
Rubi further enriched himself by selling Dominican visas at inflated prices to Jews wishing to flee Nazi persecution as war loomed in Europe.
With his newfound wealth, he had a nose job (he had always hated his broad nose). The best barber in Paris cut his hair, and the best tailor made his suits. His bespoke underpants were shipped over from London's Jermyn Street and his shoes were handmade.
Ava Gardner, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood from the time of her film debut in the 1940s through to the 1960s, was another who had her heart captured by Rubi
Zsa Zsa Gabor pictured laughing about her relationship with Rubirosa in 1954
He was even restored to his diplomatic post after Trujillo came to Paris and Rubi introduced him to the seamier side of Parisian nightlife, acting as Trujillo's pimp, to the dictator's delight.
At a party, not long after the Nazi occupation of Paris began in 1940, Rubi met the beautiful young French actress Danielle Darrieux.
'Be careful, this man is dangerous,' warned the hostess, but within weeks Danielle had left her husband for him. When Rubi was interned by the Nazis, after the Dominican Republic sided with the Allies, Danielle performed a concert for German troops in return for his freedom.
As a result, she was seen as a collaborationist. Rubi, too, was suspected of being a German agent and in 1944, two years after they had married, they were shot at in an ambush, probably by the French Resistance. Rubi was hit in the kidney but survived.
At the end of the war they decamped to Rome, where Danielle was making a film. A female American journalist, Doris Duke, came to interview them in their hotel suite. Nearly 6ft tall, gangly and badly dressed, Doris was not the sort of woman who would normally have attracted Rubi. But she did have one attribute that more than compensated for her physical shortcomings: incredible wealth.
Doris was the richest woman in the world, heiress to the American Tobacco fortune and worth a staggering $100 million. She had become a journalist following the collapse of her first marriage — her husband had been unable to accommodate her sexually. Rubi had no such difficulties. 'His purpose was to satisfy women,' Doris later recalled, and he achieved it with distinction. They became lovers, an arrangement that suited him perfectly.
His seduction technique could be crude: seated next to a beautiful woman at dinner, he would take her hand and place it on his lap to show her just how exciting he found her.
Rubi once said: 'Most men's ambition is to save money. Mine is to spend it.' And here was Doris Duke, willing and able to provide. He divorced the loyal Danielle and proposed to Doris.
She knew that he was a gold-digger, but she did not care. Her lawyers, however, did. Moments before the wedding in Paris in 1947, they demanded he sign a prenuptial agreement. Rubi was so angry that he got drunk, passed out after the ceremony, and withheld his sexual favours on their honeymoon.
It was not an auspicious start to the marriage. And, as the months passed, Rubi's flagrant infidelity upset Doris, while he chafed at her imperious ways: once, in Cannes, she sent him down to a hotel lobby to fetch some cigarettes. Her ran into an old girlfriend and did not return for three days.
Doris sought to secure his love with extravagant gifts: a townhouse in Paris, a stable full of polo ponies, several sports cars and even a converted B25 bomber. Rubi loved flying himself as a pilot, but never bothered learning to navigate, and frequently got lost.
Impressed by Rubi's new status, Trujillo made him ambassador to Argentina, where he amassed yet more conquests, including Eva Peron, the beautiful wife of the country's dictator. But Rubi tired of Argentina and he and Doris were soon back in Paris, where Rubi kept up his punishing schedule of partying and polo-playing.
'I find it impossible to work, there's just no time,' he declared.
Doris grew increasingly clingy and needy, while Rubi became cold and distant. One night, in despair, she slit her wrists. She was rushed to hospital, where she had a blood transfusion. She survived, but the marriage did not — it had lasted just two years.
Free and rich — despite the pre-nuptial agreement, he still had the Parisian townhouse and $25,000 a year in alimony — Rubi enjoyed himself. He was cited in several divorce cases and enjoyed the favours of Tina Onassis (wife of the shipping magnate Aristotle), Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe, among others.
His seduction technique could be crude: seated next to a beautiful woman at dinner, he would take her hand and place it on his lap to show her just how exciting he found her.
Porfirio Rubirosa and Athina Mary Livanos, the wife of Aristotle Onassis, dancing in 1956 at the Night In Monte Carlo Ball, New York
Heiress Doris Duke with her second husband Porfirio Rubirosa in 1950
At other times he was more romantic. When he met the film star Zsa Zsa Gabor in a New York hotel, she was married to her third husband George Sanders, a handsome but violently jealous actor. Undeterred, Rubi had her suite filled with red roses. Zsa Zsa invited him into bed and was hooked.
'After one night with Rubi,' she recalled. 'I lost all sense of reality.'
For months, Zsa Zsa ricocheted between George Sanders and her possessive lover. Rubi frequently hit her, once blacking her eye just before she was due on stage, but still she found him irresistible, describing him as a 'sickness'.
By now, Rubi's funds were running low. While holidaying in Deauville in France with Zsa Zsa, he met Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth's fortune.
Barbara was the archetypal poor little rich girl. Aged four, she had found her mother dead of a drug overdose. At 12, she inherited $28million and as soon as she became an adult she set about spending it.
Insecure and desperate to be loved for herself, not her money, she was doomed to fall for men who were interested only in the latter. Then aged 40, she had already been divorced four times (her third husband was film star Cary Grant) and was dulling her misery with a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that left her emaciated.
Rubi saw a solution to his money problems and set about wooing her, serenading her with a band outside her bedroom window. The fact he had previously been married to her friend and rival Doris Duke made Barbara determined to have him, too. Months later, in December 1953, he had become her fifth husband and she his fourth wife.
Failed marriage: Doris Duke, with Rubirosa during their honeymoon at Cap D'Antibes on the French Riviera. Commodore Charlie Drouilly is pictured in the centre
But within hours of the wedding — at which Barbara could scarcely walk because she had taken so many barbiturates — Rubi's charm had evaporated. He spent their wedding night with a showgirl while Barbara lay collapsed in bed, and almost every night of their honeymoon with other women.
Like Doris Duke, Barbara showered him with gifts including an estate in the Dominican Republic and another B25 plane, but he continued to humiliate her with his infidelity and cruelty. One night, at a dinner party, she punched him and walked out. Rubi merely shrugged, then flew off to join Zsa Zsa Gabor. The marriage was over: it had lasted a mere three months, but once again left Rubi considerably richer.
Again, he resumed his playboy career, drifting from Monaco to Capri, from the beaches to the ski slopes, and one woman's bed to another — the Press charted his conquests from film star Rita Hayworth to Queen Soraya of Iran — until in Paris in 1956, aged 47, he met a pretty 19-year-old actress named Odile Rodin.
'I've heard much about you, Monsieur,' she told him. 'None of it good.' But like all the others, her resistance soon crumbled and before long they were lovers, then were married.
Odile may have been young and fresh, but she was worldly and independent. Rubi tried to dominate her, making her give up her career and making her dress conservatively. She rebelled by leaving her underwear at home when they went out.
Despite being besotted, he was still unfaithful — one female journalist who went to interview Rubi was shocked to find him in a semi-naked and aroused state — but he was slowing down.
When his benefactor Trujillo was assassinated, in the Caribbean in a military coup, Rubi's job with the Dominican embassy evaporated — and with it his income. He was forced to sell the grand Paris townhouse and move to the suburbs.
In his 50s, Rubi could still stay out all night drinking, but it would take him two days to recover. Often he would remain at home while Odile went out, taking lovers of her own.
'All my life I've controlled women,' he admitted. 'Every woman I've ever met, except this one. She is under my skin.'
But if he had finally found a girl who could tame him, it was too late. In 1965, after drinking all night at the nightclub Jimmy's in celebration of a polo win, Rubi drove home at 7am and crashed his Ferrari into a tree. The steering column crushed his chest and he died on the way to hospital.
He was 56. He had lived and died fast. After nearly four decades of partying, he had little to show for his life. He had never had children — despite his virility, he was sterile — and had spent all the money he acquired.
His only real legacy to the world was that, in certain restaurants, when people want a pepper mill, they still request a Rubirosa.
* THE IRRESISTIBLE MR WRONG by Jeremy Scott will be published by Biteback on June 14 at £20. To order a copy for £15.99 (including p&p), call 0843 382 0000.
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