Jet Set Gigolos

Richard Gere made swanning around a major metropolis, earning a decent living as a male escort, look easy. But that’s just fiction, right? Well, not exactly. With not just a…

It remains one of the last great taboos of sexual politics - but is it any shallower to be attracted to wealth than to beauty? Every relationship is, to some extent, a bargain, a weighing up of goods, talents and services offered, and for the very wealthy or very beautiful, the difference is simply that the odds are higher. An Onassis or Getty will never know for sure that they are loved for their wit and sex appeal rather than their house in Mustique, just as a supermodel will never know if her sparkling personality and way with an anecdote really are as important to her lead-guitarist husband as her catwalk-ready physique. And just as there will always be rock stars for models, there will always be gigolos for heiresses: men who see that their greatest talent is to please women, and who choose to make it their profession - some with a little more dedication and success than others.

Such as Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza, for instance. If ever a man made the most of what he had, it was surely 'Rubi'. This Dominican diplomat married two of the richest women in the world, squired pretty much every movie siren of his time, and even survived crossing a ruthless dictator. A Cuban song of the '50s asked '¿Que Es Lo Tuyo, Rubirosa?' ('What Have You Got, Rubirosa?'), and the answer was: all that was needed. He spoke five languages, his manners were elegant, and, though only five foot nine, he was fabulously - and famously - well endowed.

Born into a respectable family, he was raised in France, where his father was Chief of the Dominican Embassy. Returning home, he joined the army, then the Presidential Guard, and then the presidential family, marrying the daughter of Rafael Trujillo, the nation's dictator. Such was his charm that even when the marriage ended after six years, he remained in his position as a diplomat. Trujillo said, 'He is good at his job, because women like him and he is a wonderful liar.'

After politics, he tried cinema and Danielle Darrieux, then France's top star, but packed her in for Doris Duke, heiress to the US$100 million R. J. Reynolds tobacco fortune. After 13 months of marriage, he came away with a fishing fleet, numerous sports cars and even a B-25 bomber. His next heiress, Barbara Hutton of the Woolworth dynasty, matched the B-25 and added a coffee plantation and a lump sum of US$2.5 million - this time, for just two months' input.

Between those marriages, he managed to find time for Marilyn and Zsa Zsa, Ava Gardner and Eva Perón, Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia and Empress Soraya of Iran, as well as the wives of friends and acquaintances, most of them drawn from his other passions, polo and car racing. 'The only things that interested me were sports, girls, adventures, celebrities,' he wrote in his memoirs, but he was a man of remarkable energy, even trying married life once more at the age of 47 with 19-year- old French actress Odile Rodin. He died, no doubt thoroughly exhausted, in 1965 when he crashed his Ferrari into a chestnut tree after an all-night celebration of his polo team's victory in the Coupe de France. RIP, a Rake cover star that never was.

'The only things that interested me were sports, girls, adventures, celebrities.' - Porfirio Rubirosa


James Medd


October 2015


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