Porfirio Rubirosa: The Most Interesting Man

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Porfirio Rubirosa was known by friends as “Rubi,” with his surname saved for when someone wanted the large pepper mill in a restaurant. “Pass the Rubirosa,” was a tribute to Rubi’s natural endowment—a moniker courtesy of an American lady who had described it as such. (She also gave me a nickname, calling me “Theodorable,” but I would have preferred Rubi’s.)

During the 1950s, Rubi was among the best-known and most liked men in Paris. His beautiful house west of the city was the hub for Friday night dances and get-togethers. He was a very good polo player whose handicap was as high as a five; an accomplished race-car driver who had excelled on the tracks at Mans, Sebring, and Spa; and a very good amateur boxer. I boxed and played polo with him when I was in my early twenties and he was in his early fifties. He partied hard—“todo líquido,” he would announce—and never ate when drinking and dancing.

His charm with the fairer sex is impossible to describe. He could pick up a guitar and sing softly to a woman, which is toe-curlingly embarrassing, yet Rubi could pull it off. Men were scared of him because he had incredibly beautiful, old-fashioned manners, but he could look at them the way Dirty Harry does before he wastes a criminal.

I used to call him Robin (as in Robin Hood) and he would punch me rather hard on the arm but always break up laughing. He did, indeed, take from the three richest women of the time (Flor de Oro Trujillo, Doris Duke, and Barbara Hutton) and gave to the poor: himself; his beautiful third wife, Danielle Darrieux; and his fifth wife, Odile Rodin.

Fifty years after his death on July 6, 1965, the few of us who are still around always talk about his fabulous charm with both men and women. He was killed coming home from a party after winning a polo match in Paris when his Ferrari hit a tree in the Bois de Boulogne. As the papers wrote, had he would have emerged unscathed had he been wearing a seatbelt. But had he been wearing a seatbelt, he would not have been Rubirosa.