To zero people’s surprise, the Harkness family was utterly dysfunctional. Upon the album’s release, much of the Internet was thrown into a “Who Is Rebekah West Harkness?” madness. Please submit feedback to email@example.com. The most famous “Pack” story from around this time is when, during one particularly boring and respectable soiree, the group decided to spike a punch bowl with laxatives. William, 15 years her senior, saw Rebekah as a “naughty child” in need of a spanking. By Heran Mamo. A patron of dance and medicine. A philanthropist. Though her children Edith and Terry rushed to her bedside along with her “lover” Bobby Scevers, the scene was anything but heart-warming. Find the perfect Rebekah Harkness Pictures stock photos and editorial news pictures from Getty Images. What followed was a dada version of … She applied herself with a rigid, frightening discipline that would become her trademark later in life. She loved to pour Dom Perignon into her pool and let guests swim around in the bubbly. Surprise, surprise, this phase didn’t last long. (No such record could be found, but the famous Surrealist artist did design the $250,000 jewel-studded urn that held her ashes. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. (Allegedly, it was a cat if it matters.). In 2020, Swift then penned the song “the last great american dynasty,” which tells Harkness’s twisted story for the world. Harkness’ other daughter, Edith, died of suicide after many attempts. At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Suddenly, Rebekah was a rich widow—one of the wealthiest women in America, in fact. So what did she do? In the 1960s, Harkness took Bobby Scevers, a dancer who was 25 years her junior, as her lover. (Harkness reportedly cleaned her pool with Dom Pérignon.) Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982)American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. Rebekah’s parents might not have cared a whit about loving their daughter, but they sure as heck cared about what she looked like. The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. Rebekah Harkness in 1966, Taylor Swift in 2020. Not really. In a matter of years, her life would go from classy to just plain messy. Why? Near the end of her life, one friend noted that she “walked like Frankenstein.”. Though Harkness took those nasty testosterone injections to strengthen her body for dance, the “medicine” actually had the opposite effect. But most people don’t know the most chilling part. The Swift connection is that the superstar bought Holiday House for a reported $17 million in 2013. My mom never told me how her best friend died. BOX 191606
Rebekah Harkness inherited the vast Standard Oil fortune after her husband William Harkness died in 1953; the couple purchased the seaside mansion in 1947 as newlyweds and named it ‘Holiday House’ After her husband’s death, she remodeled the home to have 8 kitchens and 21 bathrooms so she could avoid seeing her children when she entertained guests like Salvador Dalí (who later … Not only did her ballet collapse, her whole family did as well. A philanthropist. A 1955 article from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that one of her works would be premiering at Carnegie Hall in New York City.) Harkness started acting out early in her adolescence, and her antics would put any other mean girl to shame. Doctors told Harkness that she had one ailment that no amount of money could cure: She was dying of stomach cancer. It was shaping up to be a white-picket fence brood—until, that is, Rebekah proved herself to be an utterly horrific mother. As we’ll see, Rebekah’s “love” only devolved from there. Harkness only left death in her wake wherever she went. Children: Allen Pierce Anne Terry Pierce Edith Harkness: Parent(s) Allen Tarwater Rebekah Cook West: Rebekah West Harkness (April 17, 1915 – June 17, 1982) also known as Betty Harkness, was an American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. In addition to her dancing career, Harkness also fancied herself something of a composer, and would often perform her original songs to “polite reception” at famed places like Carnegie Hall in New York. Their marriage produced one child: Edith Harkness and their marriage lasted harmoniously for 7 years when William Hale Harkness died 1 October 1954 leaving his entire fortune, that included a major share of Standard Oil, to Rebekah to do with as she pleased. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. Rebekah Harkness was practically destined to become a spoiled little rich girl. 1944). Madame de Pompadour didn't just share King Louis XV's bed, she also shared his power. Her wealthy neighbors had other ideas, and scornfully forced her to remove the unsightly object. Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunny / Her saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis / Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money / And the town said / “How did a middle-class divorcée do it?” / The wedding was charming, if a little gauche / There’s only so far new money goes / They picked out a home and called it “Holiday House” / Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud / The doctor had told him to settle down / It must have been her fault his heart gave out, And they said / There goes the last great American dynasty / Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been / There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen / She had a marvelous time ruining everything. If Harkness’s lovers are anything to go by, she was a wildcat in the bedroom. (Photos: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images, Beth Garrabrant) As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. She was also a composer. Her ego, however, overrode common sense and proportion. Now she has one more posthumous title: muse. Yet this came with great tragedy: The baby, named Angel, was severely brain-damaged. When publicizing her ballet, Harkness became notorious for refusing to showcase any of her talented dancers in the promotional photographs. In 1961, Harkness gave love another shot, marrying the prominent celebrity doctor Benjamin Harrison Kean. Reviewers agreed he was one of the company’s only shining lights. By 1956, she had even snagged a photo spread in Vogue, appearing in a neat, black Mainbocher dress with a white satin apron at her back. The Harknesses were married for a brief period—just seven years. And that wasn’t the only ill-advised thing she did…. Aw, how sweet. The train wreck was now chugging along, and it wouldn’t stop until Harkness took her last breath. Without any real studio space, her dancers often practiced on her front lawn. She loves Octavia Butler, Rocky IV, and the TV show Museum Secrets. Jack Mitchell / Getty Images. Dancy Mason is the Editor-in-Chief at Factinate. The others, they just know how to bite.” Wow, I’m getting the sense that these two really liked dirty talk. But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." Swift bought Harkness’s Rhode Island “Holiday House” in 2013 and used the near-palatial estate to throw her own lavish parties, notably her “Taymerica” July 4th bashes. For a time, Rebekah Harkness appeared to be enamored of the passive child, called Angel. When Harkness was 24 years old, she decided it was high time to marry, and she chose Dickson W. Pierce, an upper-class photographer, as her first husband. Not just going to performances, but sponsoring entire ballet companies, buying up real estate for them and sending them on world tours. See, Rebekah thought that notoriously reclusive writer J.D. She stole a neighbor’s dog and dyed it key lime green. A New York Times article described Harkness's unusual upbringing. When describing what inspired her eighth album, which she wrote in quarantine, Swift writes: "I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known, or those I wish I hadn't. Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis. He was in prison. 314-918-3000. She had a newfound freedom to do whatever she wanted with the piles of money in her bank account. Rebekah divorced Pierce in 1946 after an excruciating seven-year marriage, and it wasn’t long before she set her sights on William Hale Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Socialite circles are infamously tight-lipped about their marriages, but there’s almost no doubt that Rebekah’s union with Pierce was a dismal affair—and one day, she made a disturbing confession. She was 67.) Click to copy. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness. She was notorious along the eastern seaboard for her tacky, campy, “new money” sensibilities, and her Harkness Theater was the epitome of her gaudy aesthetic. Instead, she put herself front and center, natch, and the pictures were often just of her doing lift after lift and living out her Dirty Dancing dreams. When she went to the doctor’s office, they found a frightening problem. The best revenge might be living well, but that doesn't mean we can always turn the other cheek. One song that has drawn a lot of attention is The Last Great American Dynasty, which tells the story of socialite Rebekah Harkness, who it turns out used to own Swift's Rhode Island mansion, Holiday House. The Harknesses shared a HUGE Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion, called … Little Betty had a horrific childhood. Her parents hired a nanny for Harkness specifically because she "had worked in an insane asylum," and then Harkness went to finishing school, where she decided to "do … When he died in 1955, she was set adrift with $54 million. Read More. Salvador Dali put one touching—and classically narcissistic—detail into “The Chalice of Life.” The urn spun on its base so that Harkness could “always be dancing,” even beyond the grave. The end came swift, fast, and brutal for Harkness. She lost card game bets with Salvador Dalí. After that, Rebekah really let it all hang out. Hers is a story as tragic as it is beautiful, which caught the attention of one of our generation’s greatest storytellers and has been forever immortalized as a thing of wonder. People already thought she had betrayed Joffrey, but they now watched in horror as she ran her ballet into the ground. The lovely pair only made it four years before divorcing. 7/27/2020. The Harkness Foundation for Dance still exists. While at her fancy finishing school, Harkness didn’t seem to care that her classmates were people with last names like “Roosevelt.” Instead, she scrawled in her scrapbook that she wanted to “do everything bad.” Well, she certainly achieved her goal…. Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Rebekah was a … Well, Rebekah Harkness was not to be outdone by anyone, and she commissioned her own “Harkness Blue,” which she used to upholster the velvet Louis XIV-style chairs she had placed in her dance studio. Born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri, Harkness was the second daughter of prominent stockbroker Allen Tarwater and … Obviously, Rebekah was completely out touch with reality—so her next move makes sense. Anne married Anthony McBride in 1966 and h… On June 10, 1939, Harkness married Dickson W. Pierce, the son of Thomas M. Pierce and a descendant of Franklin Pierce. Harkness had no problem dropping Joffrey like a hot potato when he wouldn’t support her dismal vanity projects. However, a 1988 biography of Harkness titled Blue Blood, written by former New York Magazine editor and Vanity Fair contributor Craig Unger, reveals a much sadder, tragic story. Like it Share it. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. First, a brief biography: Born Rebekah Semple West in St. Louis in 1915, Harkness was a divorcée whose second marriage was to Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness. “Is there a chic way to go?” One day, Rebekah would find out that question for herself. As her own biographer put it, “The only reason her works were ever played in public was because she subsidized the performances.” Harsh, but true. When she was still just a young girl, the Harknesses noticed that their Betty was putting on weight, so they signed the “pudgy” girl up for dance and figure skating lessons to help her shed those unsightly pounds. She once demanded Castelli to, “Kiss me. This had devastating consequences. Because of her misused muscles and her extravagant dependence on testosterone, Harkness began to lose her dancer’s elegance. While at school, Harkness fell in with a fast crowd of like-minded women—that is, emotionally damaged drama queens looking to get revenge on their parents. All the extra rooms would give the nannies plenty of space to feed and bathe the babies without Rebekah having to know a thing about it. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. The last great American dynasty, indeed. The book is available for purchase on Amazon for $195, but a May 1988 New York Times review by the late journalist Barbara Grizzuti Harrison clues us into the reported inner world of Harkness as published in the book. In the art world, the shade “International Klein Blue” is famous, and was custom-mixed by renowned artist Yves Klein in 1960. Sadly, the socialite’s seemingly bottomless cruelty would soon hit even greater lows. But Rebekah made the most of it…. The reason behind this is pure cruelty. For all her money, Harkness did not have good taste. Although Catherine's successor Queen Anne Boleyn suffered an infamously dark fate, Aragon's own life was somehow even more tragic. Copied to clipboard. While he was under her employ, she would often order him around romantically. One of her conquests, producer Bertrand Castelli, described one rendezvous they had in her office as like “two camels in the desert who suddenly know that the only way to make an oasis is to really talk sense.” This…actually doesn’t make sense, which probably means it was a really wild night. Sheesh, it’s not wonder Rebekah turned out to be a nightmare when she grew up. In 1962 she turned her Rhode Island estate, Holiday House, into a summer dance camp for the entire Joffrey […] There are so many challenges in life; it is very easy to surrender your power of choice to external circumstances, other people, and the world. All rights reserved. Reportedly, the baby Angel innocently pulled a ribbon from Harkness’s perfectly coifed hair. Rebekah Harkness spent much of the Standard Oil fortune she inherited on the ballet. Rebekah’s daughter Edith was clinically depressed and suicidal for much of her life (wonder why), and spent scores of years in and out of mental institutions following near fatal attempts at self-harm. She would also fill her lavish fish tanks with Scotch, even as living goldfish swam in them. November 6, 2020 By . We want our readers to trust us. Yet while there, Harkness gave new meaning to the word “prima donna.” The socialite, fancying herself a dance expert, started writing her own ballets. Unfortunately for Rebekah, the endeavour ended in national embarrassment and disaster. Harrison notes some of the same lighter-hearted factoids about Harkness from Unger’s biography: She was allegedly once kicked off a cruise ship for swimming nude, for example. Oh my God, the question here is: What didn’t she do? Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For example, he liked to vanity-publish nonsensical books that even he admitted were awful. Harkness was jealous to an absolute fault, and even to her own detriment. Her daughter Terry gave birth to a child who died at age 10. And the dysfunction didn’t end there. Source for information on Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982): Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia dictionary. Though the Harkness Ballet was floundering, there was one brilliant choreographer, Larry Rhodes, who received good press. When Rebekah decided to renovate her Rhode Island mansion, she demanded that it have a whopping eight kitchens and 21 baths. The most tragic detail? She hoped that the fourth time would be the charm, but the socialite had no such luck. The pair was horribly mismatched, with Lauersen a whopping 20 years younger than his bride. Rebekah had already had two children with her first husband, Allen and Anne “Terry” Pierce, and she then had one more child with William, a daughter named Edith. All Rights Reserved. Besides despising Rebekah’s children, Scevers also hated her disabled granddaughter Angel. Rebekah Harkness and her Harkness Ballet in 1966. The Pack didn’t stop at putting poisonous substances into punch bowls; they also got very rowdy at these gatherings. Swift later connects herself to Harkness in the final moments of the song: Holiday House sat quietly on that beach / Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits / And then it was bought by me, Who knows, if I never showed up, what could’ve been / There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen / I had a marvelous time ruining everything, I had a marvelous time ruining everything / A marvelous time ruining everything / A marvelous time / I had a marvelous time, Also in the song, Swift mentions some of Harkness’ antics. From the outside, Rebekah and William Harkness’s marriage looked immaculate. An artist (a descriptor she bestowed upon herself). Raised primarily by a series of nannies, Harkness took up dancing and ice skating to lose weight and was highly disciplined in … Ugh. He was not convinced. But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." 1940) and Anne Terry Pierce (b. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. By 1982, the end was near for Harkness, yet tragically her son Allen wasn’t there. When Joffrey refused to perform the schlock, Rebekah’s revenge was brutal. Equipped with a ludicrous amount of self-confidence, she did something supremely stupid. For what it’s worth, Allen called the years he spent in the clinker—and away from his mother—the “happiest of his life.”. And then there were her three children. Born Rebekah Semple West in St. Louis, Missouri, she was the second daughter of three children of a socially prominent stockbroker, Allen Tarwater, and Rebekah Cook (Semple) West. rebekah harkness children. And she was just getting started. Everyone advised her to get her affairs in order, but as we’ll soon see, things didn’t work out so neatly for Rebekah Harkness in the end. Rebekah Harkness married the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Rocky Finds His Heart is Rebekah's first children's book. Just after 1966, Harkness became a grandmother when her daughter Terry gave birth to a little girl. Edith often used her mother’s many, many pills to perform these attempts—and Rebekah was anything but empathetic. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it really was. The 16-track album, Swift’s eighth, features a song titled “The Last Great American Dynasty,” about the late St. Louis–born socialite Rebekah West Harkness, whom Swift paints as an eccentric. Born in 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri, her father Allen Tarwater was a powerful stockbroker, while her mother, also named Rebekah, was a perfectly turned out trophy wife. Ironically nicknamed “The Chalice of Life,” the morbid monument stood right at the intersection between tacky and lavish, just like Rebekah herself. 6 Things to Know About Rebekah Harkness, the Muse Behind Taylor Swift's 'The Last Great American Dynasty' By Heran Mamo. Did Mommy and Daddy notice? In other words, these pieces didn’t exactly do justice to their surroundings. Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? William Hale died of a heart attack in 1954. P.O. Her body had been slowly falling into disrepair—those injections hurt far more than they helped—and she started complaining of a mysterious stomach ailment. Harkness, or rather his money, made Rebekah interesting. Rebekah Harkness married heir to Fortune Standard Oil. Though Harkness didn’t seem to care that he was using her, she probably should have…. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. No matter what she did or who she tried to pay off, the great American heiress had a terrifyingly short time to live. (The music site NME is praising the tune as "a contender for the best Taylor Swift song ever written"; you can watch the official lyric video below.) Their antics soon became legendary. Husbands hiding things from wives, mothers from children, and generation from generation. Wealthy, elegant, and beautiful, Harkness seemed to have it all—from her oil baron husband to her notoriously raucous parties. But behind her perfect façade lies a chilling history. Though Kean consulted with multiple US presidents, he also had big-time mafia ties. Rebekah Harkness died of cancer in 1982 in New York at the age of 67. In 1961, Harkness decided she wanted to become the next great ballet master, so she sponsored actual master Robert Joffrey’s artisanal ballet troupe. One of her administrators described how Harkness would come to the office in pink and blue leotards, literally stand on her head, and demand to have serious conversations while she performed her acrobatic work. Oh, but they had more tricks up their perfectly-tailored sleeves. Although William Harkness came from a well-respected family that was supposed to give Rebekah even more of the status she craved, William himself was…a total fool. Rebekah had always been well-off as a child—as you might guess from the string of nannies who raised her—but marrying William Harkness thrust her into an entirely different tier of high society. Faced with Edith’s grim drive to end her life, Harkness was coldly philosophical. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. Much of their marriage dynamic was about his domineering presence setting her on the straight and narrow. Friends who knew Rebekah and William said that although the oil tycoon was a bit of an idiot, the new Mrs. Harkness was actually “scared of him”—and for good reason. The resulting damages to herself, her companies and her children were heartbreaking. She all but fired him from his own company, then twisted the knife by taking most of his dancers with her to form her new, solo Harkness Ballet. It's no surprise it was left abandoned upon Harkness's death until Swift began hosting the next generation of A-list parties set on the Atlantic Ocean in 2013. This is where Rebekah really started getting a tarnished reputation, and things got so bad that no amount of money could fix her downfall. Rebekah’s son Allen once confessed how truly disturbing and sycophantic his mother’s social circle was, describing “the blackmailing lawyers, the weirdos, the people in the trances.” Harkness also knew how to keep all of her adoring public in competition with each other, with each one of her lackies vying to become the “favorite.” Before her passing, she picked up her most dedicated—and most heartless—fan yet. Still, when you marry for money, you earn every penny…. Tragically, she had recklessly spent much of her fortune at this stage, and her ballet school had all but lost its status. From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways…. While a kinder critic likened it to “a lavish ladies’ powder room,” less-generous experts compared it to a “Staten Island beauty parlor.” Ouch. Her son, Allen Pierce, was convicted of murder. Harkness later admitted that she married the poor schmuck because she “had nothing else to do.” In fact, Rebekah had a much loftier—and extravagant—destiny in mind for herself. The answer is more complicated than Swift’s song reveals. Catherine of Aragon was King Henry VIII’s first wife and longest-lasting Queen of England. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. In 1954, something curious happened to Rebekah Harkness: Her oil tycoon husband passed. As the most commanding mistress in the French court, she bettered the lives of many and became a beloved figure…. Harkness died of cancer in 1982 in New York City. Rebekah had already had two children with her first husband, Allen and Anne “Terry” Pierce, and she then had one more child with William, a daughter named Edith. Let’s just…, The Truth Always Comes Out: Dark Family Secrets Exposed, Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress, These People Got Revenge In The Most Ingenious Ways, Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife, 43 Unbelievable Facts About Lies And Deception, Bizarre Facts About Ancient Civilizations, Other-Worldly Facts About Mars, The Mysterious Red Planet. Her reason was chilling. Harkness definitely wasn’t the most fiscally-responsible business woman, but she does have the distinction of being the strangest girl-boss in history. Pierce was the descendant of Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, and seemed like a good match for the ambitious girl…except really, he was just a starter husband. Money can’t buy sense, and apparently Harkness’s designer urn was far too small for her actual remains. Domineering presence setting her on the straight and narrow are anything to go by she! 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