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Tobacco heiress Doris Duke was the only child of American tobacco baron, James Duke. When she was born, the press called her the "million dollar baby."
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Eventually, their marriage began to unravel. When Cromwell was appointed Minister to Canada, Duke retreated to Hawaii, and to the freedom and anonymity she had enjoyed there.
Now living apart from Cromwell (the couple eventually divorced in 1943), Duke’s behavior and indiscreet affairs scandalized society. When at 27, she became pregnant, it was speculated that any number of men could have been the father. The child, a girl named Arden, was born prematurely in July of 1940,
and died within 24 hours. Told by doctors that she was never to have children again, the devastated Duke consulted psychics to contact her dead daughter.
In 1945, Duke became a foreign correspondent for the International News Service, where she reported from various cities in war-torn Europe. After World War II, she continued her short-lived writing career in Paris, where she worked for Harper’s Bazaar. While there, she met and married Dominican playboy, Porfirio Rubirosa, whose legendary reputation for his sexual prowess entranced Duke. Because her wealth was so vast, the U.S. government drew up Duke’s prenuptial agreement. When they presented Rubirosa with the document, he fainted upon the realization of her net worth. Their union lasted only a year, and Duke never married again.
Duke used her money to travel the world, communing with the likes of Indian mystics and African witch doctors. She employed a permanent staff of over 200 to look after her and manage her five homes — a 2000-acre farm in New Jersey, a Park Avenue penthouse, a hillside mansion in Beverly Hills, a palace in Hawaii, and a summer home on Newport, Rhode Island. Although her lifestyle was unconventional, her attitude toward her father’s fortune was not. During her lifetime, Duke was to increase her father’s fortune fourfold.
In spite of her astute sense of business, Duke’s real passion was for the arts. Her eclectic taste ranged from collecting priceless Oriental treasures in Shangri-La to housing a complete Thai village in her New Jersey home. She also took an interest in belly dancing, and spent her weekends singing in a black gospel choir.
In her golden years, Duke surrounded herself with a menagerie of characters. In 1985, she met Chandi Heffner, a 32-year-old Hari Krishna devotee. Duke came to believe that Heffner was the reincarnation of her daughter, Arden, who had died over 40 years ago. She bought Heffner a million-dollar ranch in Hawaii, and legally adopted her in 1988. Around the same time, Heffner unwittingly introduced Bernard Lafferty into the Duke household. The poor Irishman became Duke’s butler, and soon developed a fixation on his employer. Heffner’s boyfriend, James Burns, assumed the role of Duke’s bodyguard.
During the winter of 1990, Duke became mysteriously ill at her home in Hawaii. When she later took a fall and was knocked unconscious, Lafferty saw an opportunity to muddy the waters by promoting the idea that Chandi and Burns were conspiring against Duke.
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