PORFIRIO RUBIROSA The last Playboy or Outrageous 'Gigolo' ?
THE LAST PLAYBOY The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa By Shawn Levy "The only things that interested me were sports, girls, adventures, celebrities - in short, life." That version of life requires money, and Rubirosa, despite his polished manners and undeniable charm, had none. That changed when he caught the eye of the Dominican Republic's new strongman, Rafael Trujillo, who saw in Rubirosa a potential ally who could win over the country's golden youth to his regime. For the next 30 years, Rubirosa profited by the connection, sometimes serving in diplomatic posts and, just as often, playing the unofficial role of goodwill ambassador and high-level fixer. Rubirosa's first audacious move was to marry Trujillo's daughter, a potentially career-ending, or even life-ending, bit of chutzpah. In time, he would capture even bigger prizes. While a diplomat in Paris, he set his eyes on Danielle Darrieux, France's biggest female film star, who quickly became his second wife. When, after the war, the couple were interviewed by Doris Duke, heir to the R. J. Reynolds tobacco fortune and one of the richest women in the world, Rubirosa suddenly decided that the American version of the woman could be rather appealing too. Marriage No. 3 took place in 1947, followed quickly by divorce and, in 1953, by marriage No. 4, to Barbara Hutton, another fabulously wealthy American heiress. All the while, Rubirosa pursued his side interests with zeal. "One woman is not enough for him," Darrieux complained to the press. "A man like him needs a harem." Just what was the appeal? Mr. Levy, the author of "Rat Pack Confidential" and the film critic for The Portland Oregonian, makes a fairly convincing case that the Rubi magic came down to a combination of charm, mystique and, quite possibly, physical attributes, not limited to Rubi's darkly handsome features. (Mr. Levy writes that cheeky waiters referred to the largest pepper-mill in the house as "the Rubirosa.") Rubirosa spoke five languages, three of them fluently. His dress and his manners were impeccable, his appetite for women stupendous. He preferred that they be rich and beautiful, but in a pinch, anything with curves would do: the hat-check girl, a waitress, a low-rent prostitute. In his prime, he was unstoppable. "He wraps his charm around your shoulders like a Russian sable coat," the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote. Even women determined to resist, and warned in advance, found themselves saying yes when Rubirosa mounted a full-scale offensive. Even Zsa Zsa Gabor, a grandmaster at the sex-for-money chess game, succumbed, although she drew the line at marriage. Her tempestuous relationship with Rubirosa provides Mr. Levy with some of his best material. Rubirosa, who surely saw in Ms. Gabor the challenge of a lifetime, pursued his prey ardently and relentlessly, in full view of the panting press.(By WILLIAM GRIMES Published: September 16, 2005, B.Times.R.)