The 12 Original Playboys – Part 5
Part One — Death of The Original Playboy: Gunter Sachs, Porfirio Rubirosa
Part Two — Style & Grace: Gianni Agnelli, “Baby” Pignatari, Alessandro “Dado” Ruspoli, 9th Prince of Cerveteri.
Part Three – The Americans: Howard Hughes, John. F. Kennedy
Part Four — Easy on the Curve: Alfonso de Protago and Prince Aly Khan
Part Five: The Party’s Over
As we conclude our series on The 12 Original Playboys of the Jetset Sixties, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that much of our intrigue on the subject stemmed from Graydon Carter’s timely, eloquent memorial of Gunter Sachs in the July 2011 edition of Vanity Fair. “For it’s a subtle craft,” writes Carter, “the art of the playboy – the creation of a life of tasteful public and private pleasure – and it’s one that is completely lost on the rich of today.”
We also owe Taki Theodoracopulos (a renowned Playboy in his own right) a well-made cocktail for gracing us with his kaleidoscopic obituary of Sachs and recollection of a typical day spent with Porfirio Rubirosa…
We’d wake up around 9am, breakfast in his large garden, then box in his ring for 30 minutes or so, put on our boots and jodhpurs, drive into the Bois de Boulogne, where the polo club was located, and work the ponies. Then we’d meet our wives or girlfriends, as the case may be, lunch with them and friends like Gunther, a de Ganay or two, or perhaps ale heir Mark Watney and the great Belgian tennis champion Philippe Washer, then drop the wives off to go shopping, and more often than not we’d go over to Madame Claude’s, the most elegant and exclusive brothel in the City of Light. Dinner time was party time, followed by a de rigueur visit to Jimmy’s, the Boulevard Montparnasse nightclub that lasted for 20 years and was the school for budding playboys. The next morning, however badly one felt, it would start all over again. But everyone was young, in good shape, and recovery time was a sign of weakness.
While we have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating these extraordinary men over the last five days, it’s worth restating the cautionary tale we presented at the onset of the series: These were by no means perfect men – and had the capacity to be downright cruel. Tanya Gold agrees, and does so with (somewhat) justified conviction. “Playboys are the most morally dubious and naffest ‘icons’ in the history of mass media; it is only justice that eventually they gave their collective name to a porn mag.”
Sure, Playboy has always been in the business of pornography – but as any 14-year-old boy can attest, there’s a really, really big difference between Playboy and a “porn mag.” Women are celebrated in Playboy, not exploited. Playboy’s editorial content was, for decades, considered to be among world’s most sophisticated.
Our final three Playboys exemplify this dichotomy. One hosted what is still considered to be the “The Party of the Century.” One had a heart attack in the years following charges that he statutorily raped two underage girls. And one, miraculously, simply ran out of a billion dollars.
NATIONALITY: Australian & Irish
WEALTH: One of Hollywood’s highest paid stars in the 1930s and ’40s
NOTABLE WOMEN: Lili Damita, Nora Eddington, Patrice Wymore, Beverly Aadland, Nell Gwynne
PASSIONS: Sailing, Drinking, Boxing, Sex
AGE AT DEATH: 50
CAUSE OF DEATH: Heart Attack
QUOTATION: (On deathbed, re: mistress) “Don’t let poor Nelly starve.”
WHAT TO LEARN FROM FLYNN: Beat two statutory rape allegations and the world will adopt a saying with your name. i.e. “In like Flynn.” Read more on the case.
OCCUPATION: Hotel and Port Owner. Family built and owned Copacabana Palace Hotel.
WEALTH: Born into what was once Brazil’s richest family. Mission was to spend as much of that fortune as he could, and died bankrupt.
NOTABLE WOMEN: Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Veronica Lake, Susan Hayward, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Kim Novak, Romy Schneider, Hedy Lamarr, Anita Ekberg.
PASSIONS: Author of the book “Jazz Panorama,” and helped finance some of the first bebop recordings in the 1940’s by musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Thelonius Monk and Oscar Pettiford.
AGE AT DEATH: 88
CAUSE OF DEATH: Aortic aneurysm
WHAT TO LEARN FROM JORGE: Even billions run out sooner or later.
Don Carlos de Beistegui y de Yturbe
NICKNAME: “The Count of Monte Cristo”
NATIONALITY: Mexican/Spanish. Left Mexico after the execution of Emperor Maximilian in 1867
WEALTH: Multi-millionaire (silver, agriculture, and real estate)
OCCUPATION: Art collector and interior decorator.
PASSION: Throwing massive galas. His ball in 1951 at the Palazzo Labia in Venice is still referred to as “The Party of the Century.”
Being a good friend also means being a good host, of course, and no one was better than Don Carlos de Beistegui. His Le Bal Oriental held on September 3rd, 1951 is still considered “The Party of the Century.” Christian Dior and Salvador Dalí designed each other’s costumes.
- — C. Brian Smith