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The Last Playboy : the High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa Hardcover – September 20, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even readers who find the idea of a "playboy" somewhat questionable won't be able to put down Levy's biography of Porfirio Rubirosa (1909– 1965). For one thing, there's delicious gossip: the women he courted (Eartha Kitt, Zsa Zsa Gabor), the men he prowled with (Prince Aly Khan, Sinatra, the Kennedys) and the fabulously wealthy women he married (Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke). There's also the story of his infamous penis—Doris Duke described it as "six inches in circumference... much like the last foot of a Louisville Slugger baseball bat with the consistency of a not completely inflated volleyball." Plus, there's sports-car racing, polo ponies and nonstop nightclubbing. But Levy, film critic for the Portland Oregonian, goes beyond the glitz to see Rubirosa as a product of a particular time and place: dictator Trujillo's Dominican Republic. Like many Trujillo intimates, Rubirosa was well paid for his loyalty, not his labor. By the 1960s, when Rubirosa crashed his Ferrari in Paris's Bois de Boulogne, he was an anachronism—at that point, even wealthy men were trying to have careers of some sort. All Rubi knew was how to enjoy himself, so this bubbly bio is a perfect tribute. Photos.
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From Booklist

Porfirio Rubirosa is a name likely to be unfamiliar to anyone born after 1960, but he certainly made a name for himself in the 1950s--as a playboy par excellence--and his life story proves well worth the telling. Written in a breezy style perfectly suitable for conjuring Rubirosa's seductive personality and the steamy atmospheres that he created and in which he flourished, Levy's complete reconstruction of his life starts with his childhood in the Dominican Republic as the son of a military man turned diplomat. Rubirosa married a daughter of Dominican strongman Raphael Trujillo, later married a French actress, and then wed two fabulously wealthy American heiresses. He died (at age 56, in 1965) as he lived--zooming in a fast car; unfortunately, on this occasion, his car crashed, and he died before reaching a hospital. By the author of Rat Pack Confidential (1998), this biography is both an anatomy of shallowness and a compelling piece of social history. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (September 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007170599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007170593
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shawn Levy is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers "Rat Pack Confidential" and "Paul Newman: A Life." He served as film critic of The Oregonian from 1997 to 2012 and is a former senior editor of American Film and a former associate editor of Box Office. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, The Independent, Film Comment, Movieline, and Sight and Sound, among many other publications. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he serves on the board of directors of Operation Pitch Invasion ( To get a peak into his head, visit

Customer Reviews

Levy does a great job of tracking Rubi down.
Loves the View
I recommend this book to anyone who admires celebrities and light subjects for entertaining reading.
Mr. Randall C. F. Croes
I found this to be a fasinating book to read.
Tommy Gopher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you have never heard of Porfirio Rubirosa, that's no surprise. He died in 1965, and wasn't good at much of anything beyond having a good time, but at that he was extraordinarily good. His was a life of inconsequence, and perhaps inconsequential also is the biography _The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa_ (4th Estate) by Shawn Levy. Inconsequential, but also glittering and amusing. The character Rubirosa made for himself was, Levy says, "nightclubber, cuckolder, kept man, gigolo, scene maker, skirt chaser, dandy." He was hardly a careful examiner of his own life, but when he explained why he did poorly as a student, he was exactly right: "The only things that interested me were sports, girls, adventures, celebrities - in short, life." His limited interpretation of what life was all about was similar to his limited principles. "It has always been one of my chief principles: I will risk anything to avoid being bored." He succeeded wonderfully, and this account of his life, written in a perfect breezy and joking style, is an entertainment that few will find boring.

"Rubi", as everyone knew him, was born in 1909 in the Dominican Republic, and served intermittently as a roving official for that country. He married five times before his death in 1965, to actresses and heiresses. How did Rubi manage to ingratiate himself to so many women, and get so much support from them? There are lots of answers. He was darkly handsome when such looks were thought fashionable and seductive (even leading to the famous backlash "Latins are Lousy Lovers" by Helen Lawrenson in _Esquire_ in 1936). He kept himself in good shape; he was a keen polo player. He was intelligent, capable with five languages, fluent in three. He genuinely liked women.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Roberto on September 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I decided to check this book out when I heard that John Malkovich had bought the movie rights. I was not disappointed. Mr. Levy tells a rivoting tale that provides a window into a world of celebrity, fame and debauchery. I didn't know much about Porfirio Rubirosa before I opened the book, but by the end I felt like we were old, barmy friends.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Randall C. F. Croes on December 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a former foreign student in the Dominican Republic where I got to learn the name "Rubirosa", linked to large peppermils in chique restaurants on the Malecon and the pubs of the then (80's) newly renovated Colonial Center. I also heard his name in equestrian circles with acclaim for his introduction of the sport of Polo to the now largest Polo playing country in the Caribbean.

Curiously the new generation in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere know little of him but when an older generation is asked about him, a smile is the first thing to apear on their lips before an anecdote or a recall of one of his memorable deeds (or scandal) is to be told. Most of the time these stories are connected to fast times,headlines and the high life, despite lacking a fortune, commercial enterprise of significance or a scientific mind.
Nevertheless making headlines by his own merits and decisions (marriages) and of those around him.

This book is an improvement over previous biographies made in the 70's and 80's, among others Palbo Clase Hijo's book, that I bought 20 years ago as a present for an uncle who was a contemporary and admirer of Rubi.

This book is great fun to read and brings very well into perspective the details of Dominican political life under Trujillo's dictatorship and the international impact that it brought upon the region and Rubi's pivotal role in the softening of the ugly face of the regime. Reason for his love-hate relationship with the Trujillo family and the political 'intelligentsia' around them, such as Joaquin Balaguer (6-time president).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on April 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Imagine? He fills your room with flowers. He changes his hotel room to be next to yours to "feel you through the walls." Maybe he sends a limo and escort to take you shopping for something special to wear for dinner. He's a great dancer. He's dashing on a horse or in a race car. The impeccable manners match his perfectly tailored clothes.

Why would you think that he represents a Saddam Hussein style manager of a Caribbean nation and its torture chambers? Why would you think he's an accessory to murder? a murderer? a jewel thief? a profiteer from passports sold to Jews desperate to escape Hitler? Now what is it he does with the fleet of fishing boats his 3rd wife gave him? He doesn't think about any of this, so why should you?

Levy does a great job of tracking Rubi down. It was an intercontinental life in 5 languages, but that would be the easy part, since facts (the ones that Rubi doesn't want anyone to know) are like the proverbial jello nailed to a wall.

In his last chapter Levy tries to opine on the meaning of it all and finds very little. What if Rubi had joined the Dominican resistance? (would never cross his mind.) The closest thing he finds to meaning is a Langston Hughes obituary noting Rubi's (possible) race, which no one had noticed before.

Rubi was a man of his time, but not all time. Why?

Where are the Rubis of the world today? Have divorce lawyers and pre-nups driven them out of business? Have the women lost their sense of romance? Rubi with Madonna? Paris Hilton? Oprah? Martha Stewart? They just don't seem so emotionally vulnerable. Maybe the playboys are still here, sub rosa (pun) in blue jeans, the veritable playboy next door.
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