The 12 Original Playboys of the Jetset Sixties
When 78-year-old Gunter Sachs killed himself with a single gun shot to the head in May of this year, the world not only lost an accomplished marksman, but also a fine bobsledder, photographer, and manufacturer of ball-bearings. Of greater concern, though, was the fact that Gunter was widely considered to be the world’s last remaining “Original Playboy,” of which there were twelve.
“Twelve, and no more,” Gunter said of his bronzed, international jet-setting comrades. “The golden age when an elite breed of professional pleasure seekers fascinated the world is over. We were charming and spoke languages and behaved well with women. To go with a girl to Tahiti was incredible. Now everybody goes to Tahiti.”
In short, it’s not all ball-bearings these days…
Gunter’s Brazilian counterpart, Francisco “Baby” Pignatari, was similarly despondent over the state of things in South America toward the end of his life. “Last time I was in Rio during Carnival Week,” Pignatari said to a friend in Miami, “it had slowed down some because of television and the banning of sprayed ether.” Brazil’s new-found unwillingness in 1975 to crop-dust its most populated city with recreational anesthetics must have been a real bummer, indeed. But it seems Pignatari and Sachs were actually mourning something far less tangible, and far more tragic: Chivalry wasn’t just dying, its lifeless body was being poked and prodded by unmannered men devoid of class and virtue.
Given the repugnant procession of 21st century US sex scandals, it seems they had a point. Whereas John F. Kennedy arranged for private use of a Swedish castle in order to properly honor Gunilla von Post as a princess, and Gunter Sachs scattered thousands of roses over Brigitte Bardot’s beach house via helicopter, the Congressman from the 9th district of New York tweeted a photo of his erect penis along with the caption: “This thing is ready to do damage!”
Of course, JFK, Sachs and the rest of The Original Playboys benefited from the absence of an insatiable 24/7 media sloth. That said, the Playboys of the jet-set 60’s were, above all else, well-mannered men of class and dignity. Camera crews from TMZ, The Insider, and whatever ridiculous program Mario Lopez is currently hosting could have followed Jack Kennedy day and night for twenty years and not once would they have caught him snapping and sending a photo of his testicles to a middle-aged Los Vegas blackjack dealer. (That’s not to say Kennedy wouldn’t have romanced and actually slept with such a woman — precisely the contrary.)
Weiner would most likely have been the next mayor of New York City if he’d embodied one of the other central tenets of being an Original Playboy: Be a good friend. “Kennedy inspired affection and loyalty from the members of his team and his supporters,” wrote biographer Richard Reeves. “This included the logistics of Kennedy’s liaisons, [which] required secrecy and devotion rare in the annals of the energetic service demanded by successful politicians.”
The Original Playboys seemed to have little interest in living past the age of 60. “Die young and you will always be handsome,” said Oscar Wilde. Most did so: Spanish race car driver Alfonso de Portago checked out at 27 after crashing his Ferrari into a crowd of spectators. Porfirio Rubirosa, nicknamed “Toujours Prêt,” or “Always Ready” also left the building in a Ferrari after wrapping his around a chestnut tree following an all-night party to celebrate winning the Coupe de France polo cup. (Perhaps “Almost Always Ready” would have been a more apt moniker.) Prince Aly Khan was 49 when he hit an oncoming car en route to a party in Paris. Juan Capuro: Porsche, 63. Errol Flynn: Heart attack, 50. JFK: Assassinated, 46. Prince Raimondo Lanza vaulted himself out of hotel room window in Rome after ingesting copious amounts of what must have been either very, very good or very, very bad cocaine.
They were inimitable lovers who, for the most part, possessed extraordinary phalli. Truman Capote claimed Rubirosa’s “was bigger than a size 11 shoe and wider than a man’s wrist.” Pepper mills in Parisian restaurants are still, to this day, referred to as “Rubirosas.” Flor de Oro Trujillo, his first wife, reported “extreme discomfort” when seated in the weeks following their honeymoon.
The Original Playboys relied upon a perfect storm of pleasurable circumstances: The world was at peace; airplanes began flying internationally; their parents were members of the 1920’s cafe society and raised progressive, well-mannered, fashion-forward children; they possessed unparalleled wealth, there was no Internet – as a result, they will forever remain an inimitable breed of elite, professional pleasure seekers, the likes of which the world will never see again.
While there is a great deal to learn from these twelve men, a word of caution is in order: They were by no means perfect and could, at times, be downright cruel. One afternoon, out of the blue, Baby Pignatari called his second wife into the kitchen and said: “I am tired of you and I am now going to the office. When I come back at 7 o’clock you will have left and taken all your things.” She did, and she did.
Over the next five days we will be introducing you to a couple Playboys at a time. (To present all twelve at once, in our opinion, would be like presenting you with a gallon of dulce de leche ice cream.) Do not attempt to mimic them. Rather, consider what follows to be a tasty, chivalric buffet. Pick and choose that which is most appetizing to you. Just remember to chew with your mouth closed.
We begin with Porfirio Rubirosa — considered the granddaddy of all Playboys – and his pal Gunter Sachs, whose passing in May marked the end of an era gone for good.
Nickname: “Toujours Prêt”
Cause Of Death: Crashed his Ferrari 250 GT into a chestnut tree.
Occupation: To Sammy Davis Jr. “Your profession is being an entertainer. Mine is being a playboy.” Also rumored to have been a spy.
Wealth: Married three of the world’s richest women
Notable Women: Dolores del Río, Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Soraya Esfandiary, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Joan Crawford,
Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, Judy Garland, Eva Peron, Flor de Oro Trujillo Ledesma, Doris Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Barbara Hutton, Danielle Darrieux, Odile Rodin
Passions: Beautiful women, fast cars, polo
Age At Death: 56
Quotation: “Rubirosa was Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Charles Boyer, Burt Lancaster and Tyrone Power all in one, and I was out on the town with all of them.” – Ertha Kitt
What To Learn From Rubi: If all of Paris refers to 16-inch pepper grinders as your last name, you can marry the richest woman in the world. Three times.
Nickname: “Sexy Sachs”
Occupation: Claimed to have never worked a day in his life.
Family: Mother was the daughter of Wilhelm von Opel. Father was Willy Sachs, sole owner of Fichtel & Sachs, a leading manufacturer of ball bearings, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Notable Women: Soraya Esfandiary, Anne-Marie Faure, Brigitte Bardot, Mirja Larsson
Passions: Photographer, author, industrialist, and latterly head of an institute that researched claims of astrology
Age At Death: 76
Cause Of Death: Suicide
Quotation: “The loss of mental control over my life was an undignified condition, which I decided to counter decisively.” (Sach’s suicide note)
What To Learn From Gunter: Roses won’t necessarily win over a lady like Bridgette Bardot, but a thousand, released over her home from a helicopter, might.
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: Errol Flynn, Jorge Guinle and Don Carlos de Beistegui y de Yturbe
- — C. Brian Smith