DANCING WITH THE DEVIL by Christopher Wilson


The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue
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Unremittingly seedy and generally unenlivened biography of Jimmy Donahue, the outrageously decadent Woolworth heir who spent his early youth trailing his richer cousin Barbara Hutton, his later youth in an inexplicable (he was gay) six-year affair with the Duchess of Windsor, and the rest of his life in hot pursuit of young men, drugs, and drink.

Despite his purported brains, beauty, and charm, Donahue was an utter wastrel, whose academic career foundered in a series of upper-echelon boarding schools, each of which was happy to see the back of him. His mother, Jesse, favored him over his brother Wooly and, while clenching her purse strings tightly around his neck, demanded his presence and his attention while she skittered from one huge estate to another on her alpine trek up the social ladder. Her aim, according to the author, was the Social Register, but she never made it. In those days the Windsors, recently removed from Royal status, represented the pinnacle of social achievement, and Jesse Donahue moved heaven and earth to curry their favor, throwing literally millions of dollars in gifts—and her attractive homosexual son—in their path. According to the author, Jimmy (whose other strong female attachment was Ethel Merman) and the Duchess were locked in a wild sexual symbiosis for years. The Duke, who was purportedly a masochist, spent the time sidelined, impotently watching as the affair blossomed and progressed from one nightclub to another in a kind of transatlantic continuum that seemed like a manic suitcase parade. The author claims to have it on good authority (a source three times removed from the Duchess’s gynecologist) that she was endowed with the sexual characteristics of both genders—a claim that might explain Jimmy’s fascination with her, but would seem to be a remote possibility. It is, however, the most interesting tidbit here.

A tediously told story of a bunch of useless, creepy people.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-27204-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2000


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