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The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa Paperback – 1 Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007171064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007171064
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.7 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,791,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Praise for READY, STEADY, GO

• ‘Definitive … a remarkable book. Levy succeeds in pinning down a volatile movement, constantly reinventing itself.’ George Melly, Guardian

• ‘A strikingly accurate portrait of an astonishing few years when the world suddenly went from grey to technicolor.’ Ray Connolly, Daily Mail

• ‘A compelling tale.’
Independent on Sunday


• ‘Scotch-on-the-rocks cool’ Loaded

• ‘A compulsive account of five men with America in their pockets – and the money, power and sense to bleed every last moment of fun out of it. An immense book.’ FHM

About the Author

Shawn Levy is the author of King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, the bestselling Rat Pack Confidential and Read, Steady, Go!. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, Movieline, Film Comment, and Pulse! He is a former senior editor of American Film

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sourmashontherocks on 13 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How does one sum up Porfirio Rubirosa ? Diplomat, Lover, Chancer, soldier, sportsman and playboy. He was certainly all of these and so much more. Mr Levy does a pretty good job of giving us the details of his life, but for me this biography is a fairly straight forward retelling of the events of his life without ever really putting us into the soul of the man himself. He was without question a "play boy's playboy" and arguably the most opportunistic of them all. Having married the two most wealthy women in the world at that time (Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton) He managed to secure enough wealth to keep him living like a King.

We don't really gain much insight into Rubi's (His friends nickname for him) thoughts and feelings and it is also not clearly defined exactly what evil deeds he got up to whilst working for Rafael Trujillo. The FBI wanted to talk to him over at least two murders where he was suspected as the man who pulled the trigger for the Dominican Republic.

Rubi is portrayed most of the time as the man who had it all and enjoyed it. He died at the wheel of his Ferrari in Paris whilst full of champagne. At that time in his Mid fifties, he was probably at the end of the Playboy era and so capped a romantic, if tragic, conclusion to his story with his young wife "Odile" apparently grief stricken at his grave side.

A Competent biography but one lacking in real revelations and also, lacking in the exploration of his darker side and less likeable qualities. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".
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By Frank Aris on 3 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating life!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. L. L. Jimenez-montas on 11 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everything the other didn't do, this one does and it's got better prose. It has been a little researched and it is not very offensive. That's respect for the subject matter. Ruby wasn't the loveable husband type. But plain jealousy is not journalism.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Holyoak on 8 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
Fascinating insight into the high living decadence of the rich and famous in the 50's. If you think that this decade was the most stylish you will not be dissapointed with this book. Shawn Levy seems to have cornered the market in evoking this age, as this book follows closely on the heels of 'The Rat Pack', his homage to Frank and the gang.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great Reading! In depth look at a colorful and historic life 26 Dec. 2007
By Mr. Randall C. F. Croes - Published on
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).

In this aspect Rubi had historical impact and records do not offer much reliable evidence to give credit to it, but in high stakes of international politics, personal relations, phone calls and small favors to key persons (intermediaries) can change history.

I recommend this book to anyone who admires celebrities and light subjects for entertaining reading. They can make comparisons on the life of celebrities between today and yeasteryear (not much has changed!).

Many a bachelor would like to have, at least for a some time, the kind of life experience that Rubi got out of his relatively short stay on this earth and a hell of a time it was!

The book does justice, historically, to a man that lived life intensively and with great love and loyalty to his friends, a great party companion, which made him an important and long-time confidant, intimate friend and acquaintance of many of those with economic and political power on both sides of the Atlantic and also the Magreb.

These characteristics are not highlighted too much in the book but can be interpreted to through the lines and is part of the things to be learned from the book and the life of Rubirosa.

This is what makes the great difference between Rbirosa and many other born-rich playboys that bought most of their goodies and many a 'friend' with the funds of their pockets.

On the contrary, most socialites and even wives had Rubi's company at their expense!

I definitely recommend reading and keeping or as a gift.

Randall Croes
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A page turner of a bio, and an interesting man 31 Dec. 2006
By jose_monkey_org - Published on
Format: Paperback
I just finished The Last Playboy on my winter vacation, I found it to be a fabulous read. The writing is clear and pretty even, although Levy does sometimes dip into gossip-like quips from time to time that aren't useful. The material appears to be well researched and presented clearly, with facts labeled as such, speculation and insights also clearly labeled. I do not know if there are any errors, but I don't think this should be taken as an authoritative bio by any means.

Few people live such thrilling lives, and Levy takes you along for the ride. You can almost sense the author's face as Rubirosa himself changes as he grows older and more depraved at times. There's a sensitivity that is found in some of the best biographies, and insights that are to be expected.

If you're looking for a good, fast read about the fabulous lifestyle of a playboy, this is one you should be reading. Someone should definitely look at making a movie about this guy and his times.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 3 Jan. 2014
By R. Spell - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How do you get interested in a current day unknown, Rubirosa, Playboy of the 40s/50s, namesake of large pepper shakers in Paris? Mine started with a short story from the legendary Robert Evans 2nd biography: The Fat Lady Sings. Always liked his style so if he knew and admired Rubirosa given his ego, there must be something here. Reading a book and using the web to look at old photos peaked my interest that this book satisfied.

This is a well written autobiography with massive info, particularly impressive given most people with knowledge were dead and rumors, not truth, dominated. I wouldn't call it a fast read although it didn't take long, but I would call it incredibly informative about a life and culture that has past with the times. As said at the end of the book, how would a man of impeccable taste and clothing haven enjoyed the hippie movement of the late 60s? He wouldn't. A Playboy's death was the appropriate route: win an important polo tournament, drink till dawn, and leave a young corpse.

Not groundbreaking but an important part of pop culture from the 40s/50s and worth the read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Can't Put it Down Good.... 20 Feb. 2007
By Pierre Ferrand - Published on
Format: Paperback
Shawn Levy could write about a sack of potatos and make it interesting. I knew very little of Rubi but after reading this book I feel like went through a week by week breifing of the events of his life. Some of the details in the book are of astounding accuracy; I wonder how he did it. Bravo Bravo.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Diverting 12 July 2012
By Athanasius - Published on
Format: Paperback
A jumped-up gigolo, Porfirio Rubirosa is a man of limited interest, and of not the slightest historical significance. Some would argue that, rather like Harold Ryan of "Happy Birthday, Wanda June", Rubirosa lived for a living. And there's truth to that. One can't help feeling a twinge of envy for his life of ease and pleasure and plenty. But it was an existence marked by restlessness, ennui, gross and empty materialism, and the insatiable craving for base sensation. And it was just so pointless. But he did indeed live in a genuinely glamorous time -- unlike ours, a time of decadence and degeneracy and depravity, a slob culture, which continues to suffer from the woe and wreck and ruin of the vulgarity-drenched 1960s. As author Shawn Levy correctly observes, "...he had died at just the right time: Nothing would have been more ridiculous than a Rubirosa, all swank and elegant and bubbling with romantic innuendo, in the hippie era of free love and antifashion." Indeed, it's rather incredible (albeit gratifying) to realize that Rubirosa love-interest and ultimate symbol of 1950s chic, Zsa Zsa Gabor, is still with us!

As for the book appears to be reasonably well researched, and the writing and editing are good enough. I have to say, though, that Levy's jejune archness, his compulsive need to wink at the reader, is bizarre and annoying. To mention one of seemingly innumerable examples: "[Rubirosa]...was done up in his wedding day best: black suit, light gray shirt with a subtle black stripe, black-and-white check tie. (Rosanno [sic] Brazzi eat your heart out.)" Are such coy and cute parenthetical asides really necessary? A rhetorical question, to be sure.

All in all, an entertaining, if not particularly absorbing, read.
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