22/1/1909 - 5/7/1965
Record updated 05-Jul-20
Dominican diplomat, polo player and race car driver, but was best known as an international playboy for his jet setting socialite lifestyle and legendary prowess with women.
Porfirio Rubirosa was born to a middle-class family in San Francisco de Macorís in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic, he was the son of an army general. He grew up in Paris, France after his father was appointed the Chargé d'Affaires at the Dominican consulate in 1920. He returned to the Dominican Republic at the age of seventeen to study law but did not complete his schooling, instead enlisting in his country's military as a lieutenant.
Rubirosa eventually met and married Flor de Oro Trujillo, a daughter of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. He married her in 1932 and although his marriage did not last, his father-in-law appointed him a diplomat to France where as a pilot, a polo player, and a racecar driver, he quickly earned a reputation as an international playboy. His suave manner and rugged good looks came with a male appendage and supposed sexual skills that were the subject of much gossip and speculation. His penis was the subject of rumour and gossip, described variously as "able to balance a table", a "giant pepper mill", and, by Truman Capote, "an 11-inch cafe au lait sinker as thick as a man's wrist." (To this day, large pepper grinders are commonly referred to as "rubirosas")
In 1935, a cousin of Porfirio, Luis de la Fuente Rubirosa, was accused of assassinating the exiled Dominican politician, Sergio Bencosme, in New York. Always considered the work of Trujillo's agents, Porfirio Rubirosa was linked to the murder though he always denied any participation.
In 1936 he bought a dredger in New Orleans with money borrowed from Flor de Oro. Unfortunately the ship was lost en route to Ciudad Trujillo where it was to be used in the construction of a new port. Deeply in debt, his position at that time of First Secretary of the Dominican Legation in Berlin ensured plenty of opportunities to advance his status.
In 1937 Flor de Oro and Rubirosa were divorced however it did not harm his relationship with the dictator. On the contrary, his ties with the Trujillo family were reinforced when Rubirosa became close friends with Ramfis, Rafael's son.
In 1938, Rafael Trujillo named him Dominican ambassador in Argentina, where he presented credentials to president Juan Domingo Perón.
But it was in Europe that his heart lay and in 1939 Trujillo sent him to perform diplomatic functions in France. There he was injured in a mysterious shooting in a street in Paris.
Life in France during World War II was difficult and along with other diplomats, Rubirosa was arrested by the Gestapo and spent six months in prison.
Rubirosa earned considerable notoriety for a string of wealthy and high profile wives. After leaving jail, he met the French actress Danielle Darrieux. His subsequent marriage to Darrieux lasted five years during which time he maintained his playboy lifestyle and his 'friendships' grew on all continents.
Darrieux was followed by the American heiresses, Doris Duke. Doris Duke was the wealthy owner of Duke Tobacco Inc.
Their divorce was followed by an affair with Zsa-Zsa Gabor. She had commented publicly in Los Angeles, California, that she would like to have a affair with Rubirosa to take revenge for the relationship that her husband George Sanders allegedly had with Rubirosa's ex-wife, Doris Duke and in the winter of 1952, Trujillo arrived at New York and stayed at the Plaza Hotel, where Zsa-Zsa was also residing. Rubirosa laid siege to Zsa-Zsa, having red roses delivered to her room until it was practically full. He moved into the room next door and a few days later the world knew of the new romance between the Dominican playboy and the beautiful blue eyed young actress. The world also soon knew of their fights when Zsa-Zsa appeared with a black eye. Zsa-Zsa said: "Rubi loves me. Rubirosa in Spanish means red rose, for me it means black eye. A man only hits a woman if he loves her deeply".
His diplomatic tasks were always mixed with scandals. In 1953 the heir to Reynolds Tobacco, Richard Reynolds, accused his wife of adultery and the English golfer Robert Sweeny obtained a divorce with the same accusations.
The scandals reached such heights that Trujillo suspended him from diplomatic functions. But Rubirosa sights were already set on another rich heiress, Barbara Hutton, granddaughter of the founder of the North American chain of Woolworth stores.
On the honeymoon, Rubirosa flew to Phoenix in his private airplane to meet up with Zsa-Zsa Gabor again. The plane was bought for $200,000 dollars, part paid for with some of the $250,000 dollars which Hutton had deposited in his personal account.
On February 20th they divorced. Rubirosa justified the break up by saying that Hutton spent the day on bed and scorned his "active life". Their marriage lasted just 53 days, but in the divorce settlement she had to pay him a reported $3.5 million dollars.
His latest romance with Zsa-Zsa lasted until 1955 and it was about then that Rubirosa was implicated in another political murder. This time of professor Vasco Jesus de Galíndez on March 12th, 1956. The crime was once again linked to Trujillo and once again . The Dominican diplomat Rubirosa denied any knowledge.
His last marriage was to another French actress, 19-year-old Odile Rodin. But before, during, and after his marriages he kept up his string of relationships with other glamorous high-profile women such as American actress Kim Novak.
A Ferrari enthusiast, he competed in a number of major races including the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 hours of Le Mans.
In 1960 the Trujillo regime of Trujillo was condemned by the Organization of the American States. Rubirosa, a staunch supported of the regime that gave him fame and money, tried to arrange an meeting between John F. Kennedy's father and the Dominican dictator. That meeting was blocked by congress.
Rubirosa stayed faithful to the Trujillista regime until Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was assassinated on May 30th, 1961.
He was dismissed from his position of Inspector of Embassies in 1962 by the State Council.
After he lost his diplomatic immunity he was questioned by the New York district attorney about the disappearance of Sergio Bencosme in 1935 and Jesus Galíndez, professor of Columbia University, in 1956.
From Rome to Rio de Janeiro to Nassau, Bahamas to New York City and Hollywood, Rubirosa enjoyed the good life until at the age of 56 when he was killed after crashing his Ferrari sports car into a tree on the Avenue de la Reine Marguerite in the Parisian suburb of the Bois de Boulogne.