Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pamela - Part Two

In the spring of 1947, Pamela Churchill moved to Paris.  I’m not clear about where she did it or exactly how, but she "became a courtesan".  That's not a word I have cause to use very often, so I looked it up:


a prostitute or paramour, especially one associating with noblemen or men of wealth.
1540–50;  < Middle French courtisane  < Italian cortigiana,  literally, woman of the court, derivative of corte court
OK, I get it now.  Anyhow, she hooked up with men like the Aga Khan (I'm guessing this one, as he held the title about then) and one of the Rothschild sons.  According to Virginia Rounding, author of The Grand Horizontales, (the book is about four other courtesans, not her) Pamela spent twelve years perfecting her art of seduction.  Part of her routine was to spend an evening talking with a man, get him into bed, and the next day to go to Cartier.  There she would purchase a silver cigarette box and have something engraved in the lid as a gift for him.  I’m not clear why or which part of it all was so irresistible but she had a fair success rate, apparently.  By the time she was 30 she had a fortune in gifts from her lovers.

Her son, Winston Churchill, said his was not a particularly maternal mother.  However, from the age of 8 or 9, she had a use for him.  If she had no male escort, he was to put on his navy suit, white silk shirt and tie and provide her an escort.  Must have been some upbringing.

At some point in this period, Pamela linked up with handsome (?) Italian playboy, Gianni Agnelli, heir to the Fiat fortune, with a string of homes between St. Moritz and St. Tropez, the programme said.  She spent five years trying to land him, but in the end he dumped her, in spite of the fact she’d become pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  What could she expect?  After all, she was divorced and he was Catholic.  And these are not nice people.  

In 1953 when celebrations were held for the coronation of the new Queen Elizabeth, Pamela was desperate for an invitation.  No chance, though.  The ambassadors’ wives knew all about her and they were not having it!  Can't blame them, can you?

In 1959, at nearly 40, Pamela took herself off to New York, to a room at the Carlyle Hotel.  Somehow she managed to snag herself the Broadway producer, Leland Hayward, who’d had affairs with the likes of Garbo and Hepburn.  They were married on the 4th of May 1960.  Brooke Hayward, Pamela’s step-daughter, said her father had explained his marriage with the observation that Pamela was the ‘greatest courtesan in the world.’  The narrators say that for the next ten years Pamela did her job as an English trophy wife and made a great life for him.  Whilst taking care of him, however, she also took care of herself.

Apparently self-care Pamela-fashion included fresh flowers, to the tune of $10,000 a year.  In the 1960s.  According to this Inflation Calculator  the present value of that money would be between $59 and $73 thousand dollars.  I'm thinking that's a lot of roses!

Step-daughter Brooke also reported that Pamela had diamonds "in swathes".  A friend,  seeing the collection, remarked that "it was F.S. Fitzgerald stuff" (must read some, sometime) and Pamela tended to wear the lot.  Paints a picture of a walking Piccadilly Circus, I think, but then this is a bitter step-daughter speaking. 

Said step-daughter at one time was married to actor Dennis Hopper, who admired the art the Haywards had on the walls, pieces by Matisse, Picasso and the like.  Upon hearing her son-in-law remark how much he admired a particular piece, Pamela’s response was to tell her husband they really ought to leave that piece to a museum.  So, a strong message not just to the son-in-law but also to the step-daughter. 

Hayward died in 1971 and at the reading of the will, it transpired that there was no money left.  Pamela had burned through it all.  She was ‘ruined’, but within six months, she was married again - to her final husband, Averell Harriman.

The day after Hayward’s funeral she was on the phone to Peter Duchin, son of bandleader Eddy Duchin and - more importantly - godson of her old friend Harriman.  

The TV programme didn't explain that Peter Duchin's mother had died when he was only a few days old and that the Harriman's had raised him.  Nor did they mention that Duchin was eventually also son-in-law to Pamela, being the second husband of Brooke Hayward.  And they say that the upper class in Britain are all related to some degree...  One thing is for sure, reading about the lives of these people doesn't highly recommend fame and fortune in support of happy relationships.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating...I had never known this about Churchhill's mother.

Shelley said...

Terri - not sure which Churchill you mean, but if it's THE Churchill (as in Winston of WWII), this is not his mother, but his one-time daughter-in-law...

Anonymous said...

oh, I was definitely confused!