1912 - 1993 (80 years)
Has 6 ancestors and one descendant in this family tree.
||Doris Duke |
|Relationship||with Francis Fox|
||22 Nov 1912
||28 Oct 1993
||This person is also Doris Duke at Wikipedia |
||21 Apr 2017 |
- Doris was raised in austere American castles on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Newport, RI (“Rough Point”) and Somerville, New Jersey (“Duke Farms”). She grew up amongst the wealthy but Doris Duke's money was a different cup of tea altogether. Her chauffeur/ bodyguard carefully monitored all her outings - for fear of kidnapping was an obsession with her father. Doris grew in height to almost six feet tall by age thirteen and she had a very prominent chin (that she eventually altered surgically). All this plus her frequent public exposure just for being Doris Duke only made the shy girl retreat even further. With her body rejecting her like that, it was hard for Doris to trust herself, let alone anyone else. Nonetheless, she persevered.
In 1925 her beloved father abruptly fell ill with pneumonia. The story goes that his scheming wife wanted him dead. Deciding it was time; the wife locked them away in his bedroom for several days. Away from the servants and away from Doris. With the windows wide open in the bitter fall chill, Nanaline Duke kept her husband uncovered while she was swathed in layers and layers of furs, carefully watching him expire. Nanaline was the major beneficiary but Doris wound up suing her mother for control of the estate and won. The value was greatly diminished after the Wall Street crash of 1929, but Doris inherited $30 million dollars when she turned 30, in 1942 and controlled the family’s giving.
Being rich during the Depression was difficult. The tempo of the times didn’t jibe with the ultra-luxe living of people like the Dukes. Society divas were written up in the newspapers daily which left readers both fascinated and disgusted by the extreme living. Doris, however, learned philanthropy early on in life. She carefully watched her father’s 1924 endowment of Duke University (formerly Trinity College) in North Carolina, often traveling incognito to ensure her father’s wishes were being met. The Duke family contributed greatly to public programs and this began her management of the family fortune.
While in control of a checkbook, she hoped to escape from a domineering mother, Doris met and married semi-millionaire James H.R. Cromwell in 1935 when she was 23. Cromwell had a taste for rich women; he was previously married to auto heiress Delphine Dodge. The couple had a child in 1940, Arden, who died twenty-fours hours later. Losing the one thing she knew would love her for herself, Doris mourned the baby the rest of her life. After that the marriage weakened and three years later the couple divorced.
During World War II, Doris worked in a canteen for sailors in Egypt, earning $1 dollar a year. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do something real to help in this war…I’ve discovered, I guess, that it’s fun to work.” She said this was the most useful period of her life. Following the war Doris stayed in Europe and wrote for the International News Service. Moving on to Paris she worked for Harper’s Bazaar as well. Had she been forced to work for a living, Doris might have forged a career for herself, but being Doris Duke was a career in itself. During this period she met and married superstud and divo, Porfirio Rubirosa. A Dominican diplomat and playboy, “Rubi” as he was called, had a reputation as a great lover with an enormous appendage. For years it was a joke in restaurants that the pepper mill offered by the waiter be called the ‘Rubirosa.’ Their affair quickly led to a proposal, but the rich lead a complicated legal life. Some accounts claim that before the ceremony he fainted when presented with the ironclad prenuptial agreement. The marriage only lasted a year, leaving Doris exhausted. In 1953 Rubi would also marry Barbara Hutton, Duke’s only “rival” in that very select world of heiresses, cementing his other reputation as a fortune hunter.
Wounded from her bad marriages, Doris developed wanderlust and traveled the world in search of adventure. She could be found wandering with Massai warriors in Africa as well as a Southern Baptist meeting, singing in the choir. Duke also proved to be a proficient jazz pianist and even penned a few tunes. She fell in love with Hawaii and built the great estate Shangri-La on Diamond Head. In Hawaii, Doris met Olympic surfing champion Duke Kahanamoku.
She also had a passion for the restoration of Newport, one of America’s oldest towns. Her own estate, Rough Point, on exclusive Bellevue Avenue, was adjacent to the public pathway, Cliff Walk. Doris and Newport town officials argued over its right-of-way for years. Then things in Newport changed dramatically in October 1966. Duke and her interior decorator, Edward Tirella, pull up to the mansion. Tirella gets out of the car to open the estates’ heavy iron gates. At first, Doris claims not to have been driving, then changes her mind and says her foot “accidentally” dropped on the accelerator, first dragging Tirella across the street, then crushing him against a tree. The gilded gossip mill went to work as fast as Doris and her lawyers did. People said she and Tirella were arguing and had a big fight on their way to the house. No matter what happened, one week after the manslaughter the investigation was dropped, simply described as an “unfortunate accident.” The Chief of Police retired a month later and Tirella’s family was paid a hefty sum of money after a civil suit. Then Doris suddenly and publicly gives $25,000 to fix the access to Cliff Walk. The arguments cease and public access is reclaimed. Not too long after the accident and still under the shadow of a scandal, Duke founded the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1968. The Foundation helped to restore some of Newport’s oldest structures and rejuvenated tourism in the area. Many considered this appeasement disguised as altruism.
With the whiff of humiliation behind her, Doris Duke begins to lead a more solitary life. Tending to her charities, Doris emerges as a leading benefactress of the arts. Shuttling between her many estates, including “Falcon Lair” in Beverly Hills, the former home of Rudolph Valentino, her vast farmlands in New Jersey, which houses her extensive art collection or a penthouse on Park Avenue, she sought happiness – finding it in bits and pieces but received the most satisfaction from her philanthropy.
The Doris Duke menagerie grew more and more bizarre. When she purchased an airplane from a Middle Eastern businessman she had to adopt two camels as part of the deal. Baby and Princess lived at Rough Point and helped themselves to all the vegetation on the grounds. When a hurricane threatened Newport, the two camels were brought indoors to live in the solarium that had a large pool and views of the ocean raging outside.
In 1988, while at Shangri-la, she became involved with a Hare Krishna devotee and former belly dancer named Chandi Heffner whom she believed was a reincarnation of her long-dead daughter, Arden. This is a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. Doris’ father Buck asked her to wait for him until he could return to earth in a reincarnated state. Perhaps fulfilling a prophecy of sorts, Duke legally adopted the 35 year old and the two lived together as mother and daughter. Rumors abounded that Duke was simply legitimizing her lesbian relationship with Heffner; others said she was finally careening off into the mental wild blue yonder. Either way, she doted on Heffner for the next three years. Duke gave her a ranch in Hawaii and included Heffner in her will. However, like so many people in Doris’ life Chandi disappointed her and the “mother & daughter” fought often. In 1991 Duke had the adoption reversed and Heffner was banished from the kingdom. “After giving the matter prolonged and serious consideration, I am convinced I should not have adopted Chandi Heffner…" Duke said in her will. As any diva will tell you, one of the advantages of money is never having to live with the consequences of your mistakes.
During this time she also made friends with the Philippine President and his wife, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Around the time of their exile, Marcos was given a $5 million dollar loan (which they had to repay while most loans Duke made were forgiven upon her death). Imelda Marcos and Duke were very close friends and again people spoke of a lesbian affair. This has never been proved or disproved, but Duke certainly didn’t go to any lengths to dispel these rumors, or other strange occurrences in her life.
Once, during an intimate dinner party at Shangri-La, Imelda and Doris were sitting together when their friend, actor Jim Nabors came out of the pool and accidentally cut his toe. Duke's pet leopard was freely roaming the property at the time and when Duke saw that Nabors was bleeding she firmly urged him to move towards the house, “Slowly, very, very slowly.”
Entering the fold was a new butler, Bernard Lafferty, a dimwitted Irishman with a penchant for drink who was formerly the butler for singer Peggy Lee. He soon developed a close relationship with his employer. Very close. As Doris’ health grew more and more precarious, Lafferty began holding off the visitors that came to see her, especially when she was in residence at Falcon’s Lair. Stepbrother Walker Inman, Jr. and cousin Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke, whom she saw frequently throughout her life, found themselves turned away by the peculiar butler. Even her own staff found it difficult to perform basic functions around Duke with the ever-present Lafferty hovering over his mistress.
After suffering from heart problems Doris Duke died in her bed at Falcon Lair in October of 1993 at the age of eighty. Bernard Lafferty was there by her side. She was later buried at sea. Following the funeral of this enigmatic woman whiffs of “the butler did it” began to surface .
If nothing else, Doris Duke was considered a shrewd money manager and investor. She smartly parlayed her $30 million dollar inheritance into a massive $750 million dollar fortune. Duke' entire estate was worth over one billion dollars. Loving animals as she did, Doris ensured the camels were provided for and that a $100,000 dollar trust was set aside for her beloved dog. The majority of the money was earmarked for charity through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that supported the arts, environmental causes and life sciences. What shocked everyone was when the semi-illiterate Bernard Lafferty was named trustee of the Foundation, providing him with a payment of over $4 million dollars and a lifetime annuity of $500,000.
Slowly, Lafferty began to emulate his late employer – literally. He attempted to slim down his rotund figure; colored his hair to match Duke's and even took to wearing her couturier dresses around the mansion.
While the directors of the Foundation carefully gave out the monies as stipulated in Duke' fifty-page will, Lafferty began to spend and spend – far beyond his annual stipend. He was the person who handed over the checks to high-profile charities such as $2 million to Duke University for AIDS research and $1 million dollars to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Lafferty became the much-publicized figurehead for all that was good with Doris Dukes giving and he had to go. After much legal wrangling Lafferty was ousted as co-executor of Duke's will and was finally given an undisclosed amount to go away.
Depressed and embittered over his removal, Lafferty eventually spent his last years drinking and carousing. He died peacefully in his sleep in his Los Angeles home in November 1996. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation continues to support social, cultural and health-related programs today.