Porfirio Rubirosa is a man of almost mythic proportions. As charming as he was notorious, “Rubi” lived life fast and large, a legend of the 50’s and 60’s glitterati. In just over half a decade, Rubirosa’s occupations canvassed everything from military man to race-car driving Dominican diplomat and champion polo player, with many a paramour in-between. Rubirosa’s colourful life began in his homeland of the Dominican Republic where a chance meeting with Rafael Trujillo saw the charming soldier soon become both a diplomatic aide and son-in-law to the infamous dictator.
In just over half a decade, Rubirosa’s occupations canvassed everything from military man to race-car driving Dominican diplomat and champion polo player, with many a paramour in-between.
Rubirosa took full advantage of his role as a high-level fixer and goodwill ambassador, hobnobbing from one glamorous occasion to the next, all the while drawing on his Caribbean mystique and impeccable manners to ingratiate himself with the global elite. His formidable employer attributed his professional and social success to a simple formula, “He is good at his job, because women like him and he is a wonderful liar.” Like him they did, so much so Rubirosa collected a coterie of the era’s most eligible women including but not limited to Eartha Kitt, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, the Empress Soraya of Iran, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Eva Peron and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Some he even married, walking down the aisle a total of five times, including two of America’s wealthiest heiresses, Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton with the latter lasting just 53 days.
Rubirosa’s marital endeavours proved a profitable enterprise, with the lothario spending much of his divorce settlements on fast cars (Ferrari being his engine of choice) and his beloved polo career. In a dramatic display of irony, it was a combination of these two pursuits that culminated in the spectacular car crash that led to Rubirosa’s death at just 56 years of age. Following his team’s victory in the Coup de France polo championship, Rubirosa celebrated until all-hours at Parisian hotspot “Jimmy’s” but his fabled fast life would come to an abrupt end shortly thereafter when his silver Ferrari 250 GT cabriolet collided into a tree upon his return home. In spite of the tragedy, his wife at the time, French actress Odile Rodin remarked that ‘Rubi’ would have wanted it that way.
Decades on, and Rubirosa’s legendary allure and high octane life continues to captivate the public’s imagination, with fashion & lifestyle giant Ralph Lauren even naming his empire ‘Polo’ in a nod to the Dominican enigma.