- Category : Entertain-Music-Instrumentalist
- Type : GE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Uncertainty 2
American heiress, No. 18 on Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest people in the U.S. in 1993. She had three marriages and divorces with one baby daughter who died shortly after birth in 1940. Blonde, 6' tall, she had the nickname of "DeeDee," and played a cool jazz piano. Though she was given little credit for brains or business savvy, Duke knew where every penny was and did not appreciate her fortune to $1.2 billion without working at it.
At age 25, Duke inherited an estimated $100 million in trusts from her dad, James Buchanan Duke, a coarse but brilliant self-made man who founded the American Tobacco Company and the Duke Power Company. He had endowed Trinity College in North Carolina with millions, reportedly in exchange for them changing their name to Duke University. "Buck" Duke was obsessed with his only child. He built the most expensive house of its day to house her nursery, and he surrounded her with bodyguards. She was tutored at home until she was ten, then she started at the Brearley School. In turn, she wrote him love notes, which he treasured. He also instilled in her his own complete distrust of anyone. She was instructed from childhood that no one would ever love her for anything but her money.
Her mother was 42 when Doris was born, and always preferred her son from a prior marriage to her tall, awkward, studious daughter. When Doris was 14, she sued her mother to keep her from selling her beloved Duke Farms in New Jersey. The suit gave Doris title to the estate which became her primary residence for most of her life. When Doris turned 21, she came into her first $10 million in trust. Two years later, in 1935, she married 16-year-older James Cromwell against her mother's wishes. During their two-year honeymoon, they bought a spectacular piece of property near Diamond Head in Honolulu on which they built a fortress they called Shangri La. Like all her houses, it was guarded by fierce dogs. According to the Mansfield biography, Cromwell asked her on their sexless wedding night what might be his annual income. Before long, he was having extramarital affairs, and she herself had a few flings, with Errol Flynn, a Hawaiian swimming champion and a British Member of Parliament. She became pregnant and bore a premature daughter who lived just 24 hours. Cromwell assumed that it was not his child, which she confirmed, saying that it had been the result of a casual dalliance.
Cromwell asked for $7 million in a settlement but it was five years before she agreed to give him the divorce. She married again in 1947, but this time with a prenuptial agreement. He was the legendary Latin lover Porfirio Rubirosa. She gave him a house in Paris as a wedding gift. They divorced a year later. She continued giving him money and friends say that their sexual relationship never did end. When he died in a car crash in 1965, she took to her bed for two days. She never married again.
From then on, the men in Duke's life were much younger and came from the creative world as she had always had a passion for the creative arts. Her longest relationship was with Joey Castro, a Mexican-born jazz pianist whom she met in 1950 when he was 23 and she, 38. Two years later she bought Falcon's Lair, Vanentino's former home. On the first day of 1964, she ordered Castro out. In 1966, when she shut down the record company she'd started for him, he broke her jaw. She fled to Newport with Eduardo Tirella, a handsome - and gay - young set designer. Their relationship ended in tragedy that October when she ran over him as he was opening the gate of the estate. Police wrote up the report as an accident.
In 1969 she had a romance with Leon Amar, a 30-year-old Moroccan decorator. He quickly became involved in running her houses and business affairs. After six years, she dropped him abruptly.
She met 31-year-old Chandi Heffner in 1984, a Hare Krishna devotee. Concluding that Chandi was a reincarnation of the baby she'd lost, she adopted her on 11/08/1988. By then Heffner was immersed in the running of Duke's houses and business affairs. It was Heffner who had hired the butler, Lafferty in 1987, after he had been fired from a prior post due to a drinking problem. She also hired other servants. The line between master and servant began to blur as she smoked a little grass with Lafferty and on occasion, with Duke herself.
Duke was again in the news in early November 1988 when she put up $5 million to bail her friend Imelda Marcos out of jail and loaned her a private Boeing jet to take her between the New York courtroom and her ailing husband in Hawaii.
After the adoption, Heffner was in control and Duke knew it. A militant vegetarian, she threw a fit if Duke ate fish or chicken and meals became a battlefield. Duke became increasingly depressed, and her appetite dropped. In late 1989 a large number of the staff quit and Heffner fired Duke's longtime personal secretary, replacing her with a Hare Krishna pal. Most vital, Duke dropped her trusted attorney of many years past when he questioned the wisdom of the adoption. Though she would not give any interviews discussing their relationship, it certainly was stormy. They broke up after nine years.
In February 1991, Duke abruptly flew to Honolulu from Los Angeles with Lafferty and had Heffner and James Burns, the bodyguard Heffner had turned into her lover, ordered out of her estate, Shangri La. Heffner was forced to retreat to the 300-acre horse ranch that her foster mother had bought for her in better days. Duke told a friend that she thought that "Chandi is trying to bump me off." She thought she was being poisoned. She was already convinced that everyone was after her money and there were no real friends. Lafferty played on her fears and placed himself as her ally, an enemy of Heffner. Duke saw her lawyers to ask about annulling the adoption, a procedure that is not possible, however, she could disinherit her. "Chandi Heffner was the biggest mistake I ever made," Duke told friends when she cut off her adopted daughter in 1991. The codicil she signed in March named her attorney and the Bank as co-executors. In November she named a different executor, and for the first time, provided an annuity for Lafferty of $98,000 a year.
Duke began to avoid her beloved Hawaii estate, afraid that Heffner would send Hare Krishna fanatics to kill her. On 4/06/1992 at Falcon Lair in Los Angeles, Duke signed a new codicil, naming a half-nephew and Bernard Lafferty as executors of her fortune, with Lafferty to manage her Charitable Foundation. The will provided Lafferty with an executor's fee of $5 million and a lifetime annuity of a half million a year.
The following day she had a face-lift, eyelift and cheek implants done by Dr. Harry Glassman for a half million dollars. Two days after that, she fell and broke her hip. She spent a month in a $1200 a day suite at Cedars-Sinai, sipping champagne served by Lafferty. She was also taking tranquilizers, painkillers and antidepressants. In January 1993 she decided to have elective surgery to replace both her knees. In 4/05/1993, she finalized her will and signed it, cutting off Heffner totally.
On 3/29/1993, Heffner's breach-of-contract lawsuit was filed in New Jersey. Duke's health was failing. She was 5' 11" and weighed 92 lbs. Shortly after her second knee operation in July, Duke had a stroke, almost choking to death, and was rushed into the ICU. For the next two months she was on breathing and feeding tubes. About that time, Lafferty was promoted to her "personal assistant" with a salary hike from $40,000 to $100,000 a year.
Duke came home on 9/20/1993 as an invalid with round-the-clock nurses. From October 7th on, her nursing was aimed at providing comfort during a terminal illness. She was on a Demerol drip with a No-Code-Blue order (no resuscitation). On October 27th, she was put on a morphine drip and Mortuary arrangements were made.
Duke died of pulmonary edema resulting in cardiac arrest 10/28/1993, Beverly Hills, California. She left an estate of $1.2 billion, an accusation by her nurse that she had been given an overdose of morphine, and bitter estate battles. She left her money to charity with her butler, Bernard Lafferty, as executor to face the claims and disputes. Her body was cremated at 4:17 AM, less than 24 hours after her death in spite of wills dating back to 1958 calling for burial at sea, only one of many inexplicable mysteries surrounding her demise.
Her life was mute testimony that yes, one can be too rich and too thin.