Poor Doris--to have a biographer who begins his narrative, ""I never loved my godmother, Doris Duke. I doubt if anyone,...


TOO RICH: The Family Secrets of Doris Duke

Poor Doris--to have a biographer who begins his narrative, ""I never loved my godmother, Doris Duke. I doubt if anyone, other than her father, Buck Duke, ever really loved her."" At one time considered the third richest woman in the world, after the queens of England and the Netherlands, Doris Duke counted her assets in billions and her yearly income in millions. She died--some say was helped to die--in October 1993 at the age of 81, leaving her butler, Bernard Lafferty, as executor of her estate. A hard-drinking Irishman who is rumored to have ""arisen for breakfast wearing some of his mistress's most expensive silk and satin flowing robes and nightclothes,"" Lafferty was soon pushed out by family and other interests, who are still squabbling over the will. That wouldn't surprise Duke, who learned to beat away fortune hunters from the time she was 12 years old and inherited her father's tobacco wealth. Coauthored by Duke's cousin/godson and by novelist and journalist Thomas, this book revels in excess; genuine tragedies mingle indiscriminately and repetitiously with nights at Studio 54, and secret generosity with public scandal. Following her father's death, Duke became a much-publicized debutante, the Princess Di of the Depression, and the press was to follow her marriages and affairs with glee over subsequent decades. Her celebrated lovers included Hawaiian swimming star Duke Kahanamoku, Errol Flynn, Gen. George Patton, and the legendarily endowed (measurements are provided) Porfirio Rubirosa, her second husband. A deliberately terminated advanced pregnancy led her to fantasize about the daughter, Arden, that might have been and ultimately to adopt a woman, Chandi Heffner, whom Duke believed to be the reincarnation of Arden. Eventually ousted from Duke's life, Heffner later sued for a share of the estate. Coarse and clich‚d biography of another poor little rich girl, whose passions were orchids, animals, jazz, and sex, not necessarily in that order.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996


Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995