THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD by Stephanie Mansfield


The Extravagant Life and Fast Times of Doris Duke
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 In the latest addition to the poor-little-rich-girl bookshelf, tobacco heiress and Imelda Marcos-pal Doris Duke is portrayed by Washington Post reporter Mansfield as tightfisted, eccentric, and aimless. Duke was 12 when, in 1925, her father died and she inherited his vast fortune. An awkward teenager, she wore hand-me-downs from her mother and was said never to carry money. Her first husband, Jimmy Cromwell, was a charming fortune hunter with political ambitions; on their round-the-world honeymoon, his first check bounced, and from then on the pair lived on Duke's money. A stop in Hawaii led Duke to build a house there (she also had estates in Newport and New Jersey). When she and Cromwell split, WW II was on and Doris joined the United Seaman's Service and went abroad to serve in Cairo; before long, she had joined the OSS in Italy. She married legendary lover Porfiro Rubirosa and, after their divorce, hung out with jazz musicians and surrounded herself with psychics and faith healers. Duke shopped constantly (for instance, buying whole temples in Thailand and having them shipped back to the States) while astonishing her servants with her cheapness. Chandi Heffner, a Hare Krishna devotee, moved in with her in the mid-80's; Duke adopted this young woman, reputed to be her lover, only to evict her unapologetically opportunist ``daughter'' sometime after the pair became close to Marcos, then living in Hawaii. So Duke apparently sought fulfillment, bought lovers, and achieved little. Mansfield has amassed voluminous research, and there's a voyeuristic charge to following the spoiled whims of this notoriously reclusive heiress; and yet a seemingly petty, controlling woman without humor or flare makes for an unexciting biography.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1992
ISBN: 0-399-13672-X
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992


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