Much has been written, speculated and whispered about the man, Porfirio Rubirosa. One thing is for sure, he led a life that few can imagine, let alone rival.  Truth is always stranger and more interesting than fiction, especially in this case– the infamous and always dapper diplomat, skilled sportsman and legendary lothario. Pass the (eh-hem) pepper grinder, please.

porfirio rubirosa polo horses

The infamous playboy Porfirio Rubirosa with his Polo ponies.

Porfirio Rubirosa – Rubi to his countless conquests and to grateful headline writers across the globe – stood head and shoulders above the rest of this international pleasure pack. Rubirosa, the Dominican Republic’s answer to Pepé le Pew, provided the model that others could only emulate. A tireless presence at chic nightspots and watering holes, a keen race-car driver and polo player, a friend to the rich and infamous, a relentless pursuer of women with huge bank accounts, he went on a lifelong tear that ended, fittingly, with a spectacular car crash in 1965 after a night of heavy drinking at a Paris club. Even his 28-year old wife – his fifth – agreed that Rubi would have wanted it that way.

rubirosa race car driver

Porfirio Rubirosa loved fast cars and loose living, and sought rich women to support his playboy lifestyle.

rubirosa car

Porfirio Rubirosa loved to be behind the wheel.

As Shawn Levy amply documents in “The Last Playboy” his bubbly, breathless and appropriately inconsequential biography, Rubirosa worked hard at having fun. Well into his 50’s, when he crossed paths with the Rat Pack, he set a pace that few could match.  Sammy Davis Jr., wrecked and staggering after a night on the town with Rubi, ran into his host the next day at lunch.  Rubirosa, none the worse for wear, was leaning against the bar, elegantly turned out and casually sipping a Ramos gin fizz. Davis asked him how he did it. “Your profession is being an entertainer,”  Rubirosa said. “Mine is being a playboy.”

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Porfirio Rubirosa, the life of the party and desired by countless women.

He found his vocation early. While attending school in Paris, where his father had been posted as ambassador, he took every opportunity to haunt the nightclubs of Montmartre. “Books didn’t find in me a very faithful friend, nor did the professors find a conscientious student,” he wrote in his memoirs. “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 polo player

The only things that interested me were sports, girls, adventures, celebrities – in short, life.” –Porfirio Rubirosa

rubirosa polo match

Porfirio Rubirosa

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.

Doris Duke Porfirio Rubiros

Porfirio Rubirosa with one-time wife Doris Duke.

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Porfirio Rubirosa and Doris Duke.

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.”

rubirosa don juan

Playboy Porfirio Rubirosa

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.

rubirosa the flirt

The charmingly irresistible Porfirio Rubirosa

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The suave, dapper and decadent Porfirio Rubirosa

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.

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Zsa Zsa Gabor and Porfirio Rubirosa

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Zsa Zsa Gabor and Porfirio Rubirosa– red hot lovers.

It made for spectacular theater. When Ms. Gabor refused to leave her current husband, the actor George Sanders, Rubirosa struck her. Ms. Gabor called a news conference and showed up wearing an eye patch. “In Spanish, Rubirosa means a red rose, but to me it’s a black eye,” she told reporters. The headline in The New York Daily News read: “I Said No, So Porfy Poked Me: Zsa Zsa.”

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Porfirio Rubirosa and Barbara Hutton


Porfirio Rubirosa married Barbara Hutton and cashed-in quick.

Strapped for cash, Rubirosa proceeded to marry Barbara Hutton. The marriage lasted 75 days and netted the happy husband cash and property worth $3.5 million, enough to finance his polo ponies, tailored suits and lavish partiers for years to come. And Rubirosa, a superbly conditioned nightlife athlete, had lots left in him. Eartha Kitt, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, the Empress Soraya of Iran – there was scarcely an actress or princess alive whose name was not linked with Rubirosa’s at some point in the 1950’s and even the 1960’s, when he began to slow down just a bit.

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Porfirio Rubirosa with his young French wife, Odile Rodin.


The younger Odile gave Porfirio Rubirosa a little taste of his own medicine.

There’s some poetic justice in Rubirosa’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep up with his fifth wife, the French actress Odile Rodin. A ferocious nightclubber, she would frequently skip off to Paris, and the arms of her many male admirers, while Rubi stayed home in the suburbs, tending the garden and playing with his Chihuahua. He came to enjoy the simple pleasures, but then again, for Rubirosa, everything in life was simple.

“Women like to be gay,” he once explained to a radio interviewer. “I like to be gay. They want to be happy. I try to make them happy.” That’s all there was to it.

Story from The New York Times

rubirosa tabloids

The tabloids loved that scandalous rascal Porfirio Rubirosa

rubirosa tabloid scandal

Zsa Zsa Gabor and Porfirio Rubirosa in the tabloids, along with rumours of Rubirosa’s bloodline.

Story from The New York Observer


  1. first time i read about the pepper grinder, i could simply not believe it. all that catholic training…

    we believe you are best new thing to hit the blog charts, and have mentioned so (hat tip in right hand column)

    keep up the magnificent work, sir, we doff our caps to you

  2. Great collection of photos.
    The Gabor bit reminded me of a quote from a very funny VF article about her a couple years ago (link): “the only way you can tell the age of a Gabor is from the rings around their gums.”

  3. …How about the casual “negro blood” insinuation in the New York Daily News spread. Gotta love the 50’s.

  4. 1. Doris Duke was quite “unfortunate” looking.

    2. Google “panache report” and “rubirosa” — they are accusing him of a lot more than being well endowed.

  5. It makes me wonder if ever Mr. Robert Greene author of The Art Of Seduction, ever knew this character ? Funny how all his characters with the exception of Casanova & Don Juan don’t measure up to the standards of Rubirosa and yet he is not metioned–all well…at least hollywood got a kick out of him.

  6. Ahh, things were so much simpler then…Rubi, Adam Clayton Powell, Marcello M…eat your heart out Tiger!

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