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- May 07, 1990
- Vol. 33
- No. 18
Marriage with a Midas Touch
Ivana Did It—and Marla Still Could. These Seven Women Found That Snaring a Super-Rich Spouse Is Legal, Tender and Often Surprisingly Simple
But Maples, the small-town beauty queen, needn't always remain a runner-up in the greater pageant of life. Another Mr. Moneybags could be just around the corner. Take the richest man in America, Metromedia founder John Kluge—a sprightly 75 and suddenly on the market following a break with wife Patricia.
The headline-making Trump and Kluge splits have focused the spotlight on the as founding wealth many amassed in the last decade. Billionaires, or near-billionaires, area dollar a dozen these days, and anyone—we mean anyone—who wants to marry one has a chance. Frau Kluge was a soft-porn queen who, as Patricia Rose, appeared in an X-rat-ed movie called The Nine Ages of Nakedness in 1969. Twenty years later, as Mrs. John Kluge, she received a Christmas present from Queen Elizabeth. A chambermaid named Barbara "Basis" Piasecka won the heart of the late Johnson & Johnson heir J. Seward Johnson and inherited $300 million upon his 1983 death; a blond named Suzanne Martin with a drug-arrest record briefly wed Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke; and a calculating real estate broker named Leona Rosenthal became hotel king Harry Helmsley's queen for happily ever after—or until they become separated by prison bars.
Successful billionaire hunters share certain traits, such as statuesque presence, shameless charm, small-town or exotic backgrounds—and enough chutzpah to persist even if their prey is married. Though they hardly qualify as feminists (indeed, most hardworking women would sneer at their retro moves), they usually do have jobs, which can blossom into powerful careers when financed by a deep-pocketed partner. For their part, the billionaires are attracted to their opposites. Bores want bewitchers. Shrimps fall for amazons. Fatties want bean poles. And the haves frequently seek out the have-nots.
Finding a billionaire can be as easy as looking up the word in a magazine, locating the name just to the right of it, then following the prey to his lair. After that, it's merely a matter of reeling in the quarry. "The women usually do everything for their men," says Doris Lilly, 63, author of the 1951 book How to Many a Millionaire (which inspired the 1953 Marilyn Monroe movie) and its 1984 sequel, How to Marry a Billionaire. "They pack for them, make their phone calls and see that their drawers look nice. It's intoxicating for a man to be waited on. Combine this with very, very skillful sex, and that will get them."
Once captured, a billionaire must be nurtured. The traditional maintenance plan consists of building or renovating multimillion-dollar homes, throwing million-dollar parties, sending thoughtful gifts, keeping up spa-induced, couture-enhanced appearances and deflecting criticism by generously supporting charities.
In the end, even if the relationship does not work out—and many don't—a billionaire's ex has gained cash, prizes and entry into society. Patricia Kluge's rumored settlement will include residences in the Virginia hunt country and Scotland. According to her postnuptial agreement, Ivana would leave her marriage with no less than $20 million and a Connecticut estate. As a bonus, she'd also leave with a surgically rejuvenated face. All of which makes these women, if nothing else, terrific catches for men whose tastes surpass the reach of their own wallets.
PATRICIA KLUGE: How to Turn Those Skeletons in Your Closet into Scaasis
With an accumulated $5.2 billion in assets, 5'4" John Kluge, chairman of Metromedia Co., is, according to Forbes, the richest person in America. As for his 5'9" wife of nine years, their "amicable" parting, announced last week, has left her with an undisclosed but presumably healthy income, as well as the 45-room mansion near Charlottesville, Va.—where she'll live with their 6-year-old adopted son, John II—and a shooting lodge near Balmoral. Nice work for a former soft-porn queen.
At 19, Patricia Rose was a belly dancer in a seedy London club. There, she met her first husband, Russell Gay, then publisher of Knave, a British skin magazine. While under Gay's influence, she posed nude and lent her name to a Knave column that dished out sex advice.
The British tabloids exposed "the naked truth" about Patricia's past in 1985, when the Kluges were about to host a benefit for Prince Charles and Princess Di in Palm Beach. Politely, the Kluges begged out. A plucky survivor, Pat, now 41, said the scandal was "the best thing that ever happened" to her because "I realized how many friends I had." Even Prince Charles, she said, sent "a lovely note."
Though she eventually gained footing with a prince, Patricia Rose Gay Kluge began life more as a pauper. She was born in Baghdad to a British father, Edmund, a translator of legal texts, and a Scottish-Iraqi mother, Sylvia. Sixteen years later the divorced Sylvia moved her three children to London. Pat signed up for a secretarial course, but dropped out at once. "I went in and I saw pale, sallow faces," she remembered. "I thought, I am not like them."
Certainly not. After shedding Gay in 1976, Pat started a low-budget film company. Later that year, at a fund-raiser in New York City, she first laid eyes on John. Never mind that Pat was engaged to a London psychiatrist, or that Kluge was married to second wife Yolanda. "I remember thinking about John that this is a brilliant man," Patricia later recalled.
A self-made man, Kluge admired Patricia's spunk. Before long, her wedding was off, and so was his marriage. "John was so in love, he even converted to Catholicism to marry her," said Barbara Sinatra, a family friend. They wed in 1981 in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Patricia began enjoying John's fortune immediately by constructing their Virginia homestead. But the Georgian country house, Gothic-style chapel, 18-hole golf course, helicopter pad, stables and gardens were only the beginning. In 1989 the Kluges, who also have residences in Manhattan and London, bought an estate in the Scottish Highlands, close to Balmoral. Patricia, who had ingratiated herself with other royals, went to work on Queen Elizabeth but was repeatedly ignored.
Still, the Queen's Christmas gift of a Labrador retriever seemed to indicate a softening. And few insiders question Pat's ability to retain her hard-won social stature. Despite her tarnished reputation. John has called his third wife "the greatest treasure of all." Available again, her value has appreciated considerably.
CAROLYNE ROEHM: How to Get the Guy, Chair the Ball and Design the Dress
Thirty-eight years ago, in Kirksville, Mo., a tenacious little girl named Carolyne Jane was born to Kenneth Smith, a high school principal, and his wife, Bresee, a teacher of handicapped children. Janey, as she was called, wished to be a fashion designer, and upon graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, she moved to New York City to seek her fortune.
After a few false starts, she got a job as assistant to society dressmaker Oscar de la Renta, "picking up pins and getting sandwiches," as she put it. When she left nine years later, she was Carolyne Roehm, future wife of leveraged buyout king Henry Kravis, whose fortune is estimated at $400 million.
Designer Victor Costa, who knew Roehm before the metamorphosis, told the Washington Post last year, "She's a different person now....A different voice—everything." Janey Smith's champion was de la Renta himself. When he and his late wife, Francoise, entertained, they frequently invited his young assistant, Wanting to be "an admirabled inner partner." Roehm improved herself with French, riding and cooking lessons. In 1978 she charmed West German chemical heir Axel Roehm. They wed within months, but the relationship soured after a year.
It was at a cocktail party in 1981 that Roehm met Kravis, now 45, a father of three who was separated from his first wife, Helene. The Tulsa-born son of self-made millionaire Raymond Kravis, Henry had attended the Eagle brook boarding school in Deerfield, Mass., with Michael Douglas, who later studied his pal while preparing to play Wall Street's despicable arbitrageur Gordon Gekko.
Roehm and Kravis had their first date in Vail, Colo., where they were vacationing independently, It was not love at first sight for Roehm, who, at 5'9½". dwarfs Kravis. But Carolyne came around because Kravis—unlike Gekko—was "so kind and nice." Three years later, it was Henry who apparently had cold feet. When Roehm told de la Renta she feared he wouldn't marry her. Oscar buzzed him. "I will be very disappointed if Carolyne becomes the mistress of a single man," he said.
In November 1985, Kravis—by then the backer of Roehm's fledgling design company—made an honest woman out of her. A hundred guests attended the ceremony in their new $5.5 million Park Avenue duplex. Roehm designed her own black velvet and white lace dress.
By most accounts, the couple's life is still a fairy tale, complete with homes in Connecticut. Coloradoand Southampton. L.I. Their nightlife revolves around charitable galas, but they don't have too much time to kick back. As members of the "working rich." each is in the office by 7:30every morning. "Both of us like to achieve and accomplish." Kravis once told W magazine, suggesting there's no aphrodisiac like workaholism.
GAYFRYD STEINBERG: How to Marry Money and Still Be Taken Seriously—for a While
Like actors and rock stars, the high-flying rich blow in and out of favor. Take Gayfryd Steinberg, 40, third wife of chubby corporate raider Saul Steinberg. Until two years ago. her highly publicized charity work made her the most respected of Manhattan's sparkling society brides. Then two ostentatious private parties abruptly knocked her off her pedestal. First there was the 1988 wedding of her stepdaughter, Laura, to billionaire Jonathan Tisch, where the flowers alone were said to have cost $1 million. It was followed last August by an estimated $10,000-per-person 50th-birthday extravaganza for her husband that, when reported by the tsk-tsking press, left Gayfryd with an image only slightly more sympathetic than Marie Antoinette's.
Before that, U.S. News& World Report deemed Gayfryd "the queen of nouvelle society." Even the often-brutal Vanity Fair, in a fawning story by editor Tina Brown, called Gayfryd "the most likely to succeed" of the new-money socialites. Instead of dipping into her husband's half-billion dollar fortune only for dresses and decorating, Mrs. Steinberg had become an organizer and fund-raiser for the writers' organization PEN. a board member of New York University's Institute of Fine Art and. with her husband, adoptive parents of a class of students in the South Bronx.
Saul's head was first turned by Gayfryd's independence when they met at a dinner party tossed by art dealer Richard Feigen. But Gayfryd was then married to her second husband, oil tycoon Norman Johnson. By her next encounter with Saul—at a party at Steinberg's Park Avenue digs—she had asked Johnson for a divorce. Suddenly, her half-pint host looked irresistible. As Gayfryd confessed to Vanity Fair, she thought, "This is a very attractive guy, Anyway. I was looking for someone to be bad with that night, and this seemed to be it."
The candid Gayfryd was born in Vancouver. B.C., in 1950 to Ross McNabb, a telephone company clerk, and his wife, Margaret, At 20, she dropped out of the University of British Columbia to marry a metallurgy engineer, with whom she moved to South Africa. That union ended in 1976, after the couple had relocated to New Orleans. Never one to spend her nights playing solitaire, Gayfryd married Johnson one month after her divorce. Despite his fortune, Johnson did not prove to be the best provider: By 1982, he was charged with evading taxes on $7 million of personal income. He pleaded guilty, and after his conviction, Gayfryd divorced him. (Johnson was sentenced in 1983 to a 14-month prison term. He committed suicide in 1985, soon after his release.)
Next time, Gayfryd was more cautious. Though Steinberg, the Brooklyn-born son of a rubber manufacturer, could offer her everything—and love—she insisted on an old-fashioned courtship of weekend-only dates. She secured the wedding ring in December 1983, along with a 34-room Park Avenue apartment and a beach hideaway in Quogue. L.I. Although she immediately began filling the closets with couture designs and hired a Metropolitan Museum of Art employee to curate her husband's collection of old masters, Gayfryd has said she is happiest spending quiet hours with their extended family—her 12-year-old son by Johnson, Saul's four children and their 6-year-old daughter.
The only thing missing from Gayfryd's full life appears to be restraint. Saul's birthday party last year was so excessive it rated two articles in the Washington Post and an editorial in the New York Times. Some 250 guests as diverse as Barbara Walters, Brown University President Varian Gregorian and Sen. Alfonse D'Amato celebrated at the Steinberg's' Quogue weekend house. There, Gayfryd had built a replica of a 17th-century Flemish house adorned with 10 animated tableaux composed of live models—including a nude representing Rembrandt's Danaë. There were identical twins dressed as mermaids in the swimming pool and Oriental rugs covering the grass. The five-tiered cake was flanked by two children dressed as cherubs.
Though the press was struck by "wretched excess," the guests swooned. Not the least touched was Saul, who toasted his wife with a glib, "Honey, if this moment were a stock, I'd short it." To which Gayfryd earnestly replied. "My mother always says, 'Don't tell people you love them, show them." And this is my way of saying, 'I love you.' "
GEORGETTE MOSBACHER: How to "Go for the Best," No Matter What's in the Way
In 1987, she barreled in, uninvited, to an exclusive D.C. brunch for Kennedy Center honorees. Now she's on everybody's A list, yet she rarely shows up. But then, Georgette Mosbacher, 43, third wife of Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, 63, never modeled herself after Emily Post. Called "nervy, sexy, flashy and filthy rich" by the Washington Post Magazine, dubbed a "social cyclone" by W, she follows her own fancies.
Simply put, whatever Georgette wants, Georgette gets—be it three rich husbands or her own company. In 1988 she paid $31.5 million for La Prairie, a Swiss cosmetics firm. Georgette's motto: "Always go for the best."
The oldest child of Highland, Ind., bowling-alley manager George Paulsin and his wife, Dorothy, Georgette helped raise her brother and two sisters after their father was killed by a drunk driver when she was 7. Her mother worked as a hotel clerk to support the family, but reality never interfered with Georgette's caviar dreams. As a young girl, she labeled her costume jewelry "diamonds" and "pearls." Soon she'd have the real things.
After working her way through Indiana University as a model and switchboard operator, Georgette moved to L.A., where she met and married real estate developer Robert Muir in 1970. The marriage failed, and in 1977 she decided to start over in New York City. A job in the licensing division of Faberge brought her close to the company's chairman, George Barrie, then 67, who married her in 1980.
Two years later, alas, Georgette was on the market again. This time, her social peers whisper, she researched the whereabouts of rich, eligible men and zeroed in on Houston—site of Mosbacher. Later she would confess that it took her more than two years to talk Robert, whose wealth is estimated at $200 million, into marriage. But on March 1, 1985, they walked down the aisle.
A passionate redhead with (lawless skin and a wardrobe of low-cut dresses, Georgette is a charmer. When the Mosbachers rented a swank house in Washington, D.C, natives eagerly awaited their invitations. But when Georgette stayed close to business in New York City instead, social Washingtonians reportedly felt "snubbed." No sweat for the powder-puffed Georgette. According to Advertising Age, La Prairie's sales were up 30 percent last year.
CLAUDIA COHEN: How to Reach for the Stars and Settle for a Stellar Bank Account
It wasn't exactly a personal ad in the back of a city magazine, but it served the same purpose for New York City gossip columnist Claudia Cohen, now a contributor to the syndicated talk show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, On Jan. 4, 1983, the Village Voice reported that the frizzy-haired brunet, then 32, was "hunting for a kind, middle-aged tycoon as a 'very special friend.' "
A year later, entrepreneur Dennis Stein, who was then Elizabeth Taylor's constant companion, spotted Cohen lunching at Manhattan's posh Le Cirque and introduced her to a man who filled the bill: corporate raider Ronald Owen Perelman, then 40, After a speedy courtship. Cohen and Perelman were married on Jan. 11, 1985, in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony, with Stein and Taylor among the high-profile guests. After a honeymoon in St. Moritz, the couple settled in at Ronald's Upper Hast Side town house and established an East Hampton. L.I., retreat. They expect their first child this summer, an addendum to Perelman's four children by first wife Faith Golding.
Perelman, who owns Revlon, is short, bald and smokes cigars and has a personal fortune, Forbes estimates, of close to $3 billion. Still, the whole package bowled over Cohen, former New York Daily News and New York Post columnist and the daughter of wealthy book and magazine distributor Robert Cohen and his wife, Harriet, In her single days Cohen, who dated Ben Gazzara and Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager, reportedly advised underlings that they should find men with "wealth and power."
Though his billions are self-made, Perelman grew up in considerable comfort. The son of Raymond Perelman, owner of Philadelphia's Belmont Industries, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and worked for his father's business until 1978, when he left to build his own fortune. In 1984 he divorced his first wife, Faith, following embarrassing publicity about a torrid affair he'd had with a florist.
Known as a fiercely private person, Perelman's pairing with the flashy, party-going Cohen seems incongruous. Still, it is said to be a love match. When they wed, their friend, the late lawyer Roy Cohn, Said, "It knocks me out that God made a couple this compatible."
SUSAN GUTFREUND: How to Quit Your Job as a Flight Attendant and Still Get to Paris
Salomon Brothers' portly chief executive John Gutfreund, 60, was a frugal and unsociable divorcé when he met vibrant, blond Susan Penn at a New York City dinner party in 1980. He changed lickcty-split, as they courted, married in 1981 and began dropping millions to ingratiate themselves into international society. Women's Wear Daily chairman John Fair-child called them "the first of the nouvelles to make a splash," while others suggest they are the models for the gaudy, party-giving Bavardages in Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel, Bonfire of the Vanities.
Indeed, in the decade of self-indulgence, stories of Susan's decorating and entertaining spread like flames. A Francophile who reportedly uttered, "Bonsoir, madame," when introduced to Nancy Reagan, Susie—as intimates call her—is said to have spent $20 million transforming the couple's six-bedroom Fifth Avenue duplex into an 18th-century French-style palace. Once she had the backdrop, the elaborate theme parties began—including a Proustian evening featuring gold candelabra centerpieces.
But not every interior arrangement went off without a hitch. In 1982, when the couple were living by the East River, neighbors complained when the Gutfreunds used the terrace above to hoist a 22-foot Christmas tree into their living room. Susan, 44, also has been lambasted for ungracious gift giving. She once sent 120 orchids along with a note declining a dinner party invitation, and later told the hostess how much she paid for them. "Eventually, she lets you know how much things cost," says one appalled recipient.
Susie's more mysterious about other things. Although she has said she was born in England, her father, retired Air Force pilot Louis J. Kaposta, names Chicago as his daughter's birthplace. But Kaposta's career did take the family, including his Spanish-American wife, America, and Susan's five brothers, around the world. While living in Paris, where she studied briefly at the Sorbonne, Susan became a Pan Am flight attendant. It was on the job that she met her first husband. John Roby Penn, a Texas real estate heir. In 1970 they married and settled down in Fort Worth, where Susan began honing her social skills. When their marriage ended in 1976, word got out that Susan Penn was looking for another rich husband.
Wall Street's Gutfreund, the son of a Scarsdale, N.Y., trucking company owner and the divorced father of three, was her man. An Oberlin graduate who rose to the top after a 25-year career at Salomon Brothers, he was attracted by Susan's spirited style. "This guy really thinks he's the frog and she's the princess," one friend of the couple told New York magazine. At the very least, her charms once prompted Gutfreund—who draws a salary and whose wealth is measured more in millions than billions—to remark: "My wife has spent all my money, but it's worth it."
After the October 1987 stock market crash, though, Susan's binges became less becoming to her American audience. She began spending more time in Paris, occupying—with her son, John Peter, 4, and his nanny—a Left Bank apartment the Gutfreunds had purchased earlier that year. With characteristic extravagance, she installed an eat-in kitchen, a parking garage, a gold sink in her private bathroom and roomfuls of 18th-century furnishings. "She bought everything," remarked one incredulous Paris antiques dealer. With the house finished, she has now turned her attention to entertaining. Le tout Paris—from the Rothschild clan to Marella and Gianni Agnelli—accepts her invitations. "Of course she's an arriviste," says one observer, "but she's made it."
Yet Susan Gutfreund can't live everything down. Not long ago, when she was returning home from St. Moritz on Stavros Niarchos's private jet, she asked another passenger to get her something to drink. "Get it yourself," the woman snapped. "You're the one with the experience at that kind of thing."
MERCEDES BASS: How to Snare a Billionaire from Under His Wife's Nose
All's fair in the pursuit of a billionaire. When they met at the Black and White Ball at Great Britain's Blenheim Palace in June 1986, Fort Worth oil and investments man Sid Bass had been married to Anne Hendricks Bass for 22 years, and Mercedes Kellogg had been the wife of retired mining executive and former Ambassador Francis Kellogg for 15. Still, wowed by her vampy vitality, Sid scribbled Mercedes's number on a napkin. Nine weeks later, while the two were reportedly holed up in a suite in Paris's Plaza Athenee on an amorous rendezvous, Sid and Mercedes phoned home.
Anne, it is said, was reading a British rag called Trollope when she received the call from the father of her two daughters, requesting a divorce. Next, the 69-year-old Ambassador was reportedly greeted by Mercedes with a terse. "Goodbye, darling, I'm marrying Sid." Before the jilted spouses could reach for the tissues, gossips started spreading the news with such blaring headlines as MERCEDES HOOKS HER BASS.
A hearty, vodka-drinking extrovert whose dark looks have been compared by Women's Wear Daily to those of Minnie Mouse. Mercedes outwiled Anne, a Vassar-educated Midwestern blond known as the Ice Princess. Mercedes treats Sid reverentially, "bolstering his ego at every turn and lavishing him with affection," one source told the press. "She never stops touching him."
Born Mercedes Tavacoli Diba 45 years ago in Iran to a privileged family with ties to the Shah, the second Mrs. Bass was named for her father's costly car. She has had expensive tastes ever since—including a $30.000-per-year personal maid without whose assistance, it is said, she cannot dress. But with a family fortune estimated at $4 billion, Sid, 47, can afford a lady-in-waiting, as well as all the Hermes handbags Mercedes can handle. Their wedding, on Dec. 10, 1988, reportedly set him back at least $500,000.
Now settled in as cozily as jet-setters can be, the couple often land in Fort Worth. New York City. Aspen and on the Continent. Anne eventually settled for more than $200 million, but ramifications from the divorce arc still being felt. The split has divided social scenemakers into two camps. Anne claims Mikhail Baryshnikov, Georgette and Robert Mosbacher, Charlotte Ford Downe and Barbara Bush as her supporters, while Mercedes has Nancy Reagan, Oscar de la Renta, Hubert de Givenchy and Marie-Helene de Rothschild on her team. Money can buy a swell party, but it can't always ensure the guest list.
—Elizabeth Sporkin, with bureau reports
April 27, 2015
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