I found out yesterday morning when I picked up USA Today. It was all there in a sordid from page story. Margaret de Larrain, granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller and heiress to his industrial fortune, died 16 months ago at the age of 89.
I would like to say that this woman--this dear, kind-hearted woman--who meant so much to so many people, can now rest in peace. But such is not the case. Instead greedy slimeballs have slandered her memory in public with the single-minded and cynical aim of carving up her possessions for themselves.
Meg, it seemed, married a man named Raymundo de Larrain in 1977. She was 80 years old, he was 47--it was what you might call a summer/dead-of-winter romance. He was a Chilean ballet director; she a toothless, crippled hag worth millions. But he loved her, he said. So when she ripped up her will and wrote out a new one leaving everything to him, he did not think to protest.
Still, the circus of sleaze didn't unfurl its tend until Meg made her fatal mistake--she died. When her children, Bessie and John, found out that they didn't even get the placque that used to hang over the kitchen sink with the Lord's Prayer on it, all hell broke loose. Special crack teams of Rockefeller lawyers, trained in jungle survival techniques by G. Gordon Liddy and in rhetoric by Jesse Jackson, sprang out of camouflaged foxholes to launch a frontal attack on the U.S. judiciary system. The objective: $50 million in diamonds, stock, and Third World countries.
Choice assignment for a lawyer, to work for millionaires in search of grubbing further millions from dead old ladies. Almost as good as working for a percentage of a multibillion takeover bid or antitrust suit. Lawyers come out of the woodwork when vast sums of unused capital are up for grabs.
DELARRAIN, on the other hand, was forced to scrape together a couple of hundred thousand dollars for a rent-an-attorney to protect his fiscal turf, not to mention his reputation. When the enemy slinged accusations that he had married a woman old enough to be his dead ancestor, de Larrain was defensive. He really had warm feelings for the old gal, he protested. And even if he didn't he certainly had put in the time.
Although many will accuse de Larrain of cynical manipulation, I have to come out on his side. It's easy to knock another man's work, to criticize his motivations and lack of real feelings. It's harder to see things from his point of view.
I know because I've been there. Though the tangle of coincidence may seem incredible, the truth of the matter is that I myself once went out with the late Mrs. Margeret de Larrain.
I was a young man at the time, still in the grip of youthful immaturity, living from day to day in the sunshine of youth. I was kicking around Manhattan one day, a little depressed because J. Paul Getty's widow had just written me a Dear John letter, which was especially annoying because my name, of course, is really Rutger.
At any rate I was following a trail of dollar bills that led up Fifth Avenue when I came across a bag lady pushing a shopping cart full of greenbacks. The "do not walk" signal was flashing at the intersection, but one of the rotating wheels on the bottom of the cart had gotten stuck and the poor old girl was pushing it around in circles in the middle of the street. Gallantly I offered her assistance, staring down psychotic foreign-born cabdrivers until we reached the safety of the curb.
IT WAS the beginning of a passionate romance. There were problems, of course; I was 20, she was well past 70. Conflicts arose. There were times when I wanted to go to a ball game, and she wanted to sit at home and drool on the cat. Times when I wanted to go out dancing, to drink from the cup of life, and she wanted to sit at home and drool on the cat.
Our love life also had its problems. It wasn't always easy for me But I loved her. And even if I didn't, I sure put in the time.
It came to an end as suddenly and as temptestuously as it had begun. We were sitting in the Woolworth's cafeteria, a place where we ate often in order to save money for "our" future--when a dark-haired Latino walked though the door clutching a rose between his teeth.
"Madam," he said, rolling his r's even though there were none in the word, "I will love you forever. !Ay yi yi yi yi!"
I recognized him at once. It was Raymundo, the same scam artist who had stolen Getty's widow from me. I seethed inwardly, but knew there was no use in trying to stop him. No man knew how to please a senile old bag better than Raymundo. I was outclassed.
Now, I'm not bitter. I wish Raymundo all the best in his pursuit of his hard-earned winnings. And I hope Meg has finally found the place of final peace that I used to hope she would. For Rutger Fury, the quest 'for heiress' millions is a thing of the past, a dim memory in the tableau of life.
Although I do hear that Groucho Marx's widow is currently unattached...
Rutger Fury, the former national political correspondent for the National Enquirer and press secretary for the "Committee to "Elect Oliver North," is a close personal friend of Jeffrey J. Wise.
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