History – Porfirio Rubirosa The Polo Bon Vivant

Article repost from PQ International

By Alejandra Ocampos.

He was a winner as regards both his diplomatic career and among women, who could not resist his charms. His marriages to millionaire heirs, Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton, made him a wealthy man, a car and horse lover and a bon vivant present at meeting places for the international jet-set.

“Most men live to save money. I live to spend it”.

This could be the phrase that best defines Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza. A diplomat, a polo player, a boxer, a racing driver and without a shadow of a doubt, the essence of an adventurous and refined playboy, Rubirosa was a seductive Dominican, a jetset regular of the 50’s and a gold digger who had some of the most famous and beautiful women in the world fall at his feet.

This singular character, known as Rubi in the society pages at that time, which never stopped revealing juicy details of his love affairs and his worldly life, was born into a middle class family in 1909 in San Francisco de Macorís, the third most important city in the Dominican Republic, located in the Cibao region, in the northeast portion of the island. Rubi was raised in Paris, where his father, an army officer, had been posted as the Head of the Business Area at the Dominican Consulate.

Rubirosa returned to his country in 1920, without having completed his studies, and enlisted in the army.

In 1932, Porfirio Rubirosa married who would become his first wife, Flor de Oro Trujillo, who was only 19 years old back then and the daughter of Dominican dictator, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, who sent Rubirosa on his first diplomatic mission in Berlin.

After several infidelities, his wife asked him for a divorce in 1937. The dictator offered Porfirio to choose the embassy in the world he preferred most and, given his growing love for polo, he told Trujillo he wanted to be the ambassador in Argentina, the polo capital of the world. Subsequently, he was appointed ambassador to his country in Buenos Aires. During his time in Argentina, “Rubi” was dedicated exclusively to playing polo and flying airplanes, another of his passions. Here is where one of his quotes became famous:

“I have no spare time to work”, which some say was the reason why Trujillo got indignant yet again and withdrew his appointment as ambassador in Buenos Aires.

His playboy lifestyle became legendary.

He made friends with celebrities such as Aga Khan, John Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, King Faud and Sammy Davis Jr., and he had love affairs with the most famous stars at that time – Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jayne Mansfield, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Dolores del Río, Kim Novak, Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth and Soraya, the exiled Iranian Princess. It is said that his favourite was Zsa Zsa Gabor, the beautiful Hungarian actress, who asserted that Rubi proposed to her thousands of times, despite the fact that she turned him down, and even refused to leave George Sanders who was her husband back then, to marry Rubirosa. This intense relationship, in which at some point they even became engaged, lasted four years.

He was a winner as regards both his diplomatic career and among women, who could not resist his charms. His marriages to millionaire heirs, Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton, made him a wealthy man, a car and horse lover and a bon vivant present at meeting places for the international jet-set.

His countless love affairs did not stop Rubi from getting married on several occasions: he got married four times.

After divorcing Flor de Oro Trujillo in 1942, he married Danielle Daireaux, back then the best paid actress in France. In 1947 he married American millionaire Doris Duke, and in 1953 he wedded another millionaire, Barbara Hutton, whom he divorced only 53 days after their wedding. His marriage to his last wife, Odile Rodin, was the most stable of the lot, since he married her in 1956 and they were together until Rubirosa’s death in 1965.

His divorces entailed great benefits for him. Namely US$500,000 were assigned to Rubi by his second wife, Doris Duke, besides several sports cars, an airplane, a 17th-century house in Paris, a stable with polo ponies and a B-25 aircraft. However, his brief marriage to millionaire Barbara Hutton, known as the “poor little rich girl” due to her turbulent life, was probably one of the best “deals” he ever made. Hutton, back then one of the wealthiest women in the world, bought him a coffee plantation in Dominican Republic, another B-25 aircraft, plus 3.5 million dollars. After his ephemeral marriage to Barbara Hutton, Rubirosa went back to Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Of course, as a bon vivant, Porfirio Rubirosa was no stranger to polo.

As ambassador in Argentina, he had already played polo and had also made friends with one of the best polo players in history, Carlos “Charlie” Menditeguy, who was an all-round sportsman to boot. Menditeguy, together with his brother Julio and the Duggan brothers, Heriberto and Luis, played for El Trébol, the quartet who dominated the polo scene in the late 1930s and the early 1940s, playing unforgettable classics against their eternal rival, Venado Tuerto, who made the stands go wild during memorable finals at Palermo.

José Luis “El Ruso” Merlos is Héctor “Cacho” Merlos’ brother, a legendary Santa Ana player, and Pite, Sebastián and Agustín’s uncle. Currently, “El Ruso” lives in England, and he knew Porfirio Rubirosa. “He was a very good guy, very likeable, a very good friend of his friends”, mentions “El Ruso”, who was in charge of preparing Rubi’s horses. “He wasn’t very good at that, so I made sure his horses were ready whenever he wanted to play”. “El Ruso” was mostly dedicated to playing polo in France and he also spent a lot of time with this famous Dominican.

“We went to lots of parties at the Bagatelle club house in Paris. That’s where we all used to meet up and, of course, Rubi was there. He was a very good friend of Charlie Menditeguy’s and Roberto Cavanagh’s. He used to play a lot with both of them”. As a polo player, “El Ruso” maintains that Rubi was quite acceptable. “He reached a 4-goal handicap. Pretty good. But I remember him as a very good person, a real seducer with the ladies. When he died, in 1965, I was precisely there in Paris, at Bagatelle”.

Argentine polo player, Luis Sosa Basualdo, lives in the countryside, in the Province of Santa Fe, and he met Rubi in 1964, when he was very young. “I was introduced to him by Paul de Ganay in Paris and I made a very good impression on him. I was very young at that time and I was only just starting to play polo”, mentions Luis. “He helped me a lot as regards polo. He introduced me to lots of people”. Sosa Basualdo asserts that Rubi “liked sports very much and especially polo. He was a player with a great fighting spirit, who always kept going with great determination.

I remember a phrase he always used to say at the pony lines, “don’t leave alone”. He also recalls that “Rubi was a likeable, charming guy. He was a really cool and fun chap. He obviously liked women very much, so we also shared outings with young ladies”. As regards Rubi’s personality, Luis highlights his generosity: “Not only was he a pleasant and fun guy, but also a person who really helped all the young men who were starting to play polo”.

Mainly, Rubirosa took part in polo tournament in France; he used to spend the month of August in the sophisticated city of Deauville. Precisely, in Deauville, with his team Cibao La Pampa, together with his friend Charlie Menditeguy, Rubirosa won the prestigious Gold Cup in 1951. Jesus Sol�rzano and Alejandro Gracida completed the team. With Cibao La Pampa, he also won the Paris Open on three consecutive occasions – 1953, 1954 and 1955. Occasionally, he also participated in the Palm Beach seasons, “back when he was married to Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton”, recalls Luis Sosa Basualdo.

Furthermore, he made his foray into racing in the Le Mans 24-hour circuit and Formula 1, though he wasn’t so successful. As regards the latter, in 1955, driving his own Ferrari 500 (the same one Alberto Ascari had driven when he won the 1952 and 1953 championships), he made his attempt to compete in the Bordeaux Grand Prix, which did not award points for the world championship. However, Rubi’s experience came to nothing, as he was unable to participate because he fell ill on the day of the race.

In 1957, Rubi, at age 47, married Odile Rodin, an aspiring French actress who was only 19 years old at that time, with whom he settled down in a house on the outskirts of Paris. Little after, he was named ambassador in La Habana, a post he held until 1962.

In May 1965, Rubi boarded a cruise ship with his friend and Greek shipowner Stavros Niarchos, Aristóteles Onassis’ great rival in the shipping business. That same year, on July 4th, Cibao La Pampa won the French Cup and Rubi went out to celebrate with his friends at a great party that took place at Jimmy’s, a night club in Paris, and lasted all night long. Rubirosa, who usually had a chauffeur to drive him around on the countless occasions when he had too much to drink, decided to go off on his own. Around 8 o’clock in the morning on July 5th, 1965, the dean of playboys’ Ferrari crashed into a tree in the Bois de Boulogne.

At age 56, the man named Porfirio Rubirosa died and the legend was born. When his second wife Danielle Daireaux found out about his passing, she stated: “He died the way he lived, and the way he would have wanted to: in a violent and fast way”.