fireworks and freeloaders

It never ceases to amaze me what rich folk spend their money on. In the 1940s Huntington Hartford was one of the wealthiest men alive and his money was burning a hole in his pocket.

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The fireworks were imported from the Riviera. The chartered jet flew in from New York with a cargo of famous stars and freeloaders. Zsa Zsa was there, and so was model Cristina Paolozzi, famed for her recent bare-breasted exposure in Harper’s Bazaar, and now doing penance in the form of a needlepoint sampler that reads NUTS TO YOU (“For my mother,” she explained).

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For super glamour there were the Prince and Princess of Windisch-Graetz, Lady Sassoon, the Earl of Hardwicke, Baroness Peggy de Gripenberg, four U.S. Senators and two people named Connie and Nonnie van Vlaanderen. By rough count there were 850 sparkling personalities jammed onto little Hog Island in Nassau harbor in the Bahamas for its transformation into Paradise Island, a brand-new Caribbean resort. The champagne, the swimming, the golf and the jet were all provided free.

Paradise Island

H.H. also set up a foundation for artists, composers and writers, who were invited to spend up to six months at an estate in Los Angeles’ Rustic Canyon. He founded the Huntington Hartford Theatre in Hollywood, built his own art gallery in Manhattan and tried his hand at playwriting with an adaptation of Jane Eyre for Broadway. It flopped.

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Hundreds of thousands of dollars went into Hartford’s researches on graphology believing that some day it would be possible to predict human behavior through handwriting analysis. “My handwriting,” said he modestly, “shows I’m something of a perfectionist.” And so he was. At Paradise Island, for example, he devoted more than an hour of serious conversation with an aide to the question of whether to charge guests $1.50 or $2 for the use of the tennis courts.

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His free-spending ways and roving eye for attractive young women made him a darling of the tabloids in his youth. He sank millions more into Show magazine, which was devoted to highbrow arts but also featured a girl-of-the-month picture spread that Hartford insisted on. Some of Hartford’s domestic disarray became public in 1981 when his neighbors ousted him from a 21-room Manhattan apartment, saying undesirables streamed through his doors at all hours.

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He had a sad end to his long life, filing for bankruptcy after receiving squalor warnings from the Health Department. I suppose some of it must have been fun but it’s not the way I would live if I had oodles of money. Though sewing a needlepoint sampler on a Caribbean island would be nice for at least one month of the year…..

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Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 9:59 am  Comments (46)  
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  1. That pic, second from the bottom? My mother would have given her hell for not having her seams straight.

    • they were straight before someone hog tied her 😦

  2. Was it $1.50/$2.00 an hour or a game? I do like to get all the facts

    • I’m sure the decision is on record somewhere… perfectionists like keeping data

  3. Had he gone for $2.00 an hour, rather than $1.50 a game, he might have ended his life in splendour after all.

    • See what it all boils down to….. small change and balls

  4. the health department issues squalor warnings? is that sort of like what the national hurricane center does, except for crashing finances, instead of crashing surf?

    • I got nuthin’

  5. Hmmm….the old story: spent half of his fortune on women, drink and drugs, and wasted the rest.

    • you forgot the fast cars

  6. “Huntington” is a cute name for a pet. My cat Jazzy still needs a middle name … meanwhile, my kitchen sink and laundry basket are proclaiming a bit of “domestic disarray” at this point.

  7. I thought needlepoint only became a penance if you allowed someone else to stitch you up

    • you’re confusing tapestry and acupuncture again Lulu

  8. “Huntington” – such a cute name for a pet cat who likes to go on the prowl. Meanwhile, my sink and laundry basket are showing a little “domestic disarray”.

  9. Evolution rears its ugly head via the strangest of humans.

    The Huntington Hartford Theatre was originally the Lux Radio Theatre, and is now the the Ricardo Montalban Theater. The history of the theatre itself is fascinating. Great informative hilarious post 🙂

    • Ricardo Montalban has a theatre named after him? I didn’t know that

      • Yep. Quite a character.

  10. For a bare breasted photo that’s kind of disappointing. I see guys in the gym every day with more of a rack.

  11. Poor Christina; her breasts were an afterthought, a mere suggestion of femininity. A waste of celluloid, in that case.

    • wow – you guys are hard on small breasts. I thought hers were rather lovely

  12. Paradise Island looks very… colourful…

  13. Nurse Myra,

    I have a BRILLIANT idea. Reading your post (and this is one of my faves), I noticed how easily this particular piece of writing would lend itself to a . . . .

    CHILDREN’S BOOK!!!

    Right? I know you see it too. You could go the cautionary tale route, or just a book about educating children on the legend of a hero, H.H. All the same pictures would be included, but we’d add in some color and maybe one hidden dinasaur since kids love those.

    What do you think?

    • I may have to leave out the words on the sampler…. wouldn’t want to encourage children to embroider smart remarks to their mothers. And maybe the wedding photo should be cut too. It gives false hope to girls who are destined to be spinsters. Otherwise I think it’s good to go!

  14. Wow, food that’s been knitted. Knitted food. I wonder if it would be edible if you knitted it out of, uh… something edible. I guess it would! And then you could eat it. I wonder if anyone would buy it though. They should serve it in restaurants. Think how surprised the customers would be to get burgers that were knitted. This could be the next answer to bread! If we knitted buns out of some kind of protein complex, we could lower carb intake.

    This is worth researching.

  15. I can’t work out what’s happening to the young lady who’s showing her knickers off [and with the crooked seams] ….. the link doesn’t help much either. You’re a goddess of the world young Nursey …… any ideas?

  16. I’ve never received a squalor warning. Were they in favour of it or against it?

  17. OMG LOOK AT THE CANNOLI

    (Sorry, but that thing is just adorable and I forgot what your post was about completely)

    • I like the sardines. You can take them in and out of the bed

  18. One wonders what would have happened if desirables had streamed through the door? How different life could have been.

  19. I couldn’t get past what the rich are buying do to the lovely naked pics! hot mama

  20. Naked tennis could be dangerous.

  21. Naked tennis should be against the law for dirty old men and women…wait I can handle old women just not old men

  22. Many wealthy folks end their lives in similar circumstances. I’m thinking in particular of Big and Little Edith Bouvier Beale.

    • I loved that film Grey Gardens

  23. I’m not certain what that woman in the field is tied to, but I know I gotta get me one of them. A tied up woman, that is.

  24. Some day I will be rich, or a manifesto writing hermit

  25. Good Nurse…are you aware of the fact that there is a naked lady on this post?

    Just wanted to make sure.

  26. That is a terrible end. Other than that I like this guy. He lived most of his life on his own terms.

  27. Even his name sounded filthy rich.

    There needs to be more ‘foundations for the arts’ scattered throughout the world. We’re both writers NM, we need a damn wealthy sponsor!

    • I third that idea. Where are the private investors to fun the arts these days and how can I meet up with them?

      Also, Hartford was quite the guy. A great post.

  28. one can always tell when people have too much money. they squander it on the silliest things, like $6 starbucks coffee. i should have bought the stock instead…

  29. I struggled for years about whether to charge guests $1.50 or $2 for the use of my tennis courts. Then one day I realized I don’t have tennis courts. It was a sad day, indeed.

  30. How random! The dinner tray and food is my favourite one – it must have taken hours!

    • Ah – a spammer who takes the time and trouble to write a real comment…. I like your beginners strap on Amy – very chic!


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