MONICA BELLUCCI AS LUCIA SCIARRA: If you don’t leave now, we’ll die together.
DANIEL CRAIG AS JAMES BOND: I could think of worse ways to go.
SCIARRA: Then you’re obviously crazy Mr….
BOND: Bond. James. Bond.
CHRISTOPHER RIVAS: Y’all. I love Bond movies. And Daniel Craig is probably my favorite Bond - he just gets it all right. And in second place, this brings up controversy, but YOLO: Pierce Brosnan.
PIERCE BROSNAN AS JAMES BOND: Was it something I said?
CHRIS: What can I say, I’m a kid from the 90s. He was my Bond.
But something I’ve noticed about the James Bond movies, no matter what era they’re from: If you take out all the action scenes, what’s left?
EVA GREEN AS VESPER LYND: I can’t resist waking you. Everytime I do, you look at me as if you haven’t seen me in years. It makes me feel reborn.
DANIEL CRAIG AS JAMES BOND: If you’d just been born, wouldn’t you be naked?
LYND: You have me there. You can have me anywhere.
CHRIS: A romance! A movie length telenovela...a soap opera. At the end of the day, Bond is a ladies man. A ladies man with an action packed life.
[Theme music enters.]
CHRIS: And what about Rubirosa? Sure everyone knows Rubi was a ladies man–but if Bond really was based on him, then you gotta wonder, did Rubi also have an action packed life?
Today we’re gonna get a glimpse of what Rubi’s day to day life was actually like from someone who was very close to him. And we’ll take a closer look at the similarities between Rubi… and Bond, James Bond.
I’m Rivas…Christopher Rivas. And this is Rubirosa Episode Three. Just a Gigolo?
MUX POST & OUT
TAKI THEODORACOPULOS: I met Porfirio Rubirosa at a very young age.
CHRIS: This is Taki Theodoracopulos. This man is emblematic of the rich & famous people who used to party all across Europe back in the 1950s and 60s.
TAKI: I was around 20 and I was a young tennis player and polo player. And he didn't know how to play tennis, but he was a very accomplished polo player. And he took me under his wing and that's how a great friendship began.
CHRIS: Yes, folks, Taki not only knew Rubi — they were great friends!!
[Nightclub sound effects enter.]
CHRIS: Taki is in his 80s now but he remembers what it was like back in the day at his favorite club in Paris. A spot called Jimmy’s. Rubi and him would be there all the time.
[Nightclub sound effects continue – door opens, music gets louder.]
TAKI: Well, first of all, the great thing about Jimmy’s was it stunk of smoke.
CHRIS: This smokey den was owned by a famous nightclub singer named Régine.
TAKI: You'd walk in dark. She would open the door. You'd come in, on the left was Francoise Sagan always, the writer. You'd go into the main room. The bar was on the right. Good seats on the left. You'd sit there and would dance and sweat and dance and sweat and play till four in the morning and then you'd go home. My suit would stink and it had to be dry cleaned, but aired first because of the smoke.
CHRIS: All kinds of famous folks would spend their evenings at Jimmies, sweating and dancing alongside Taki and Rubi. Actresses like Britgitte Bardot, artists like Salvador Dalí, elite families like the Rothchilds…and even royalty like the Duke of Windsor.
TAKI: Even the Duke of Windsor would go there and sit there and sweat so bad.
CHRIS: Now imagine this. Taki and Rubi out at a joint like Jimmies… It’s hot. Everybody’s drinking. Smoking. Dancing. Drinking some more… The band takes a break (probably to get a drink)... & Rubi gets this gleam in his eye and he half stumbles up onto the stage.
TAKI: He used to get up -- He sang very well -- take the microphone and sing a very popular song at the time called I'm a gigolo everywhere I go, you know?
ACTOR AS RUBI, SINGING:
I'm just a gigolo and everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing
Paid for every dance, selling each romance
Ooh, what they're sayin' (fade under)
CHRIS: It was a hit song of the era, by Louis Prima.
ACTOR AS RUBI: There will come a day when youth will pass away
What will they say about me?
When the end comes, I know
They were just the gigolos
Life goes on without me (fade under)
TAKI: And of course, he made fun of himself because behind his back, of course, people would say Rubi's a gigolo.
CHRIS: A gigolo, a lover, an escort. A guy who’s paid to keep a lady “company.”
TAKI: I mean, things you see in Hollywood make you cringe today, he did.
CHRIS: And Taki knows, because he was around for some of the cringey behavior.
TAKI: Once we used to have a wonderful lunch with our wives, they'd go shopping and we'd go to Madame Claus, which was a very high class brothel. And she would say, what pigs we are. Well we weren't pigs, it was what men did in those days. You know, in French society, men spend the afternoons chasing women and the women went shopping. So. Um. Rubi and I laughed like hell.
CHRIS: Can you imagine getting up on a weekday and casually hitting a brothel with your buddy by 2 in the afternoon? For Taki and Rubi, this was the high life. And Taki and Rubi were all about it. Taki even writes a column for an English newspaper called, you guessed it, the High Life. Sometimes he even writes about Rubi.
TAKI: He wanted to get up in the morning, take his time, box, then work the ponies have lunch, get laid and go to a nightclub. That's what he wanted to do. If you say this today, they'll say, what a worthless character. Well, we were all worthless back then. And we liked that kind of life. We didn't have the American obsession that you have to go to work in the morning. I mean, that was for other people. It was as simple as that. Now, this is looked upon as the worst thing a man can do, and I sort of agree with it. But don't forget I'm 85, but in those days it was perfectly normal and it doesn't exist anymore. And I really do think that finished with Rubi.
CHRIS: It's no coincidence that Rubi and Taki have BOTH been called - and I quote - “the last playboy.”
Like Taki says, that lifestyle just isn't acceptable anymore.
But back then, it wasn’t just accepted, it was sort of celebrated. And for Taki, there was no better mentor. He copied Rubi’s mannerisms, etiquette, and especially his style.
TAKI: He was incredibly glamorous. And he'd lived very well, dressed very well.
CHRIS: Sammy Davis Jr. - a pretty great fashionista and dresser in his own right, said that next to Rubi, he felt like he’d quote “fallen off the garbage truck.” I guess Sammy wasn’t let in on Rubi’s style secret. Taki was.
TAKI: The secret of what good dressing was: The suit should look very loose and be as tight as possible, which may sound contradictory, but it's a very good trick because it makes you look very good. That suit has to be very loose looking. But tight as hell. Then you're well-dressed.
CHRIS: Loose but tight, sounds very zen. It worked. It worked so well that Ralph Lauren was supposedly inspired by Rubi to create the Polo brand.
By the way, we did try to confirm this with Ralph Lauren, but they never got back to us. Ayo Ralph, call ya boy back.
Anyway, all this style and swagger, the confidence to get up and sing and to be the center of attention in a room full of famous people – it was all part of Rubi’s charm.
TAKI: He was the most charming man I ever met. He could charm anybody. You know, my father was a very big and very tough ship owner and industrialist. My father confronted him once in Morocco and said to him, Mr. Rubirosa, you've ruined my son and he wants to be like you
CHRIS: Taki says his dad was a serious, hard-working shipping magnate who didn't want his son to turn into a party boy like Rubi. But confronting a charmer is easier said than done, Rubi got Taki's dad a couple of drinks and the next thing you know…
TAKI: Rubi in two seconds had my father eating out of his hand. And he said, I've never met anybody with charm like that. He seduced everybody, man and woman, meaning seduce. Not sexually, of course. [clears throat]
CHRIS: Of course. [Chris also clears throat.]
And how much did Rubi love having a good time out at the clubs? Not even a war could stop him. Check this out: It’s 1944, and Rubi is in the city he loves the most, Paris. The city has just been liberated by the Americans, but there are still German soldiers roaming the streets, and members of the French resistance hunting down these stray Nazis. Basically, it is total chaos. but that doesn’t stop Rubi from being Rubi.
TAKI: And Rubi chose to go to a nightclub at the time. As he was driving off from a nightclub, a German said to him to stop, and he didn't stop, he was drunk. So the guy shot and the bullet went through the boot of the car, the trunk, and got embedded in his kidneys.
CHRIS: Later reports found it was NOT a German soldier, but a vigilante French civilian. In either case, Rubi was partying in a warzone and got capped.
ACTOR AS RUBI: I felt as if I’d been stabbed with a red-hot fire poker...The pain in my back was becoming worse. I opened my collar as my face and palms began to sweat profusely and I became nauseous.
CHRIS: Rubi was with his second wife at the time, a French actress named Danielle Darrieux. Rubi told her, “I’m fine.” Which like, of course he was fine. Rubi’s a macho man. But at the hospital they removed three bullets from Rubi’s body and he suffered a life threatening infection.
TAKI: But I love the idea that he went to a nightclub, but there was fighting in the streets.
CHRIS: Talk about YOLO …. Classic Rubi. He loved to flirt with danger.
CHRIS: He said “It has always been one of my chief principles, I will risk everything to avoid being bored.” Here’s a light list of his hobbies: He flew planes. He searched for underwater buried treasure.
[Horse galloping sound effects.]
TAKI: He was a polo player, of course,
CHRIS: You know, polo… fast horses. Wooden sticks. One of the most dangerous games out there.
[Boxing sound effects.]
TAKI: a very good boxer we used to box every day
CHRIS: Listen y’all, I play basketball on Tuesdays as a hobby. But I guess Rubi loved hobbies that were a little more intense. ;)
[Sound effects of cars zooming by.]
TAKI: He was a racing driver. He raced Formula One with Fangio -- not successful, but he was a very good sports car driver.
CHRIS: Rubi raced cars for Ferrari. He raced Le Mans twice. And one of his races was actually recorded — along with a short interview. The whole thing got pressed to a record. You can find it on Youtube — it’s called Sounds of Sebring 1956.
INTERVIEWER: Mr Rubirosa could you tell us about the car you’re driving today?
RUBI: Well I’m driving a 2 liter Ferrari, and I think the car is in good shape. We had a little accident the day before yesterday. The car hit a gasoline drum. But we repair it [sic] and everything is all right.
CHRIS: Just as a quick aside, I gotta tell you that in all my years of Rubi obsession, I’d never heard his voice until my producers unearthed this recording. He doesn’t sound anything like how I imagined he would sound. He sounds more… European, I guess. Less Dominicano.
RUBI: Well I think the course is very good condition, it’s harder than last year because they put some gasoline drums on the curb over there, and it makes it harder…
CHRIS: The race starts…
[Shot sound effect.]
CHRIS: The cars take off…
[Sound of cars zooming by.]
CHRIS: And after an hour of zooming around in a circle… Rubi finishes in 10th place. I guess you can’t win them all.
The bills for all these high-octane, dangerous pastimes, the Ferraris and airplanes and polo horses, they added up. Not to mention the travel. Rubi is jet-setting and globe trotting at a time when it cost a lot of money to travel —a lot!—but Rubi would fly halfway around the world for a date. Homeboy famously flew from Paris to Las Vegas for one night with a lover.
Rubi wasn’t an aristocrat with land that stretched back generations. Or the son of a shipping magnate like Taki. Or a prince, or a world-famous actor like some of the other folks he’d see at clubs like Jimmy’s.
So where did Rubi get the constant funding he needed to maintain his lifestyle?
There were three big sources of money for Rubi throughout his life. The first, and maybe the most consistent, was the money he got as a diplomat for the DR. His official salary of $600 a month is about $7K in today’s money. Not too shabby. But unofficially, Rubi had his hand in the very deep pockets of General Trujillo.
MARTY: If you knew you could spend everything in your bank account today because somebody is going to replenish it tomorrow, why wouldn't you?
CHRIS: This is Marty Wall. And he ain’t wrong - why wouldn’t I?
Plus Rubi had a lot of time to spend that money – his day job didn’t require much from him.
MARTY: I don't think he was negotiating trade deals. I don't think he was doing anything that was a stately function. You know? He just played….he didn't seem to have any function other than to be a mouthpiece for the president of the country.
CHRIS: Or, like Trujillo himself put it: "He is good at his job, because women like him and he is a wonderful liar."
But in order to get a steady paycheck from the Dominican Republic, Rubi had to stay on Trujillo’s good side. As you can imagine, with a monster dictator like that, it wasn’t always easy. Rubi was fired by Trujillo on multiple occasions - sometimes just for getting bad press in the tabloids. Oh yeah, there was also that time that he divorced Trujillo’s daughter Flor.
CHRIS: Do you think Rubi always knew when he was fired by Trujillo that Trujillo would be back?
MARTY: Yeah, yeah, I think so, I think here's very little written about his life during the layoffs, let's just call them the layoffs. But you can imagine somebody who, you know, his monthly budget was like five or ten grand a month. And the only way that he could get that was to have the influence of an ambassador and access to Trujillo's checkbook.
CHRIS: Rubi somehow always found his way back into the good graces of Trujillo. But when those layoffs did happen he needed alternate funding sources and he needed them quick.
And that’s where Rubi’s second source of money comes in. Let’s call these…odd jobs.
Here’s an example: In 1939, Rubi is in Germany, he has just divorced Flor de Oro. He is in need of some serious income and he took note of all the Jews desperately fleeing Europe. Here’s Isabella Wall:
ISABELLA: The Dominican government, mainly Trujillo, had given an allowance for Jewish people to get out of Germany and giving them land for them to settle in the Dominican Republic.
CHRIS: Rubi sees a financial opportunity here. He begins selling visas and passports to Jewish people seeking an escape, charging as much as $5,000 per person.
ISABELLA: You gotta make a living, you gotta go get some money, you just got to figure out where to get it. And then you go, Get it. That's as simple as that, and he saw an opportunity where he can get some money and he got it.
CHRIS: There’s one version of this story that makes Rubi look like a Dominican Schindler’s list. Helping the Jewish people after being struck by their plight. But…then there’s the other version, where Rubi is making a quick buck off the fear and pain of a persecuted people.
CHRIS: Why do you think he did this? Was it to help? Was it for money? Is it – can it be for both?
MARTY: Well, we hope it was for both.
CHRIS: We hope but… Rubi spent money faster than he could make it… but we hope.
CHRIS: Rubi’s last, and maybe biggest source of money was… well…
MUX: UP on Gigolo Song
CHRIS: Being a gigolo! Rubi allegedly told his pal Frank Sinatra – yes, ol’ blue eyes and Rubi, they were cool like that – he told Frank that he didn’t have time for a real job… he said, and I quote: “Women are my full-time job.”
ZSA ZSA: I had the world’s greatest lover, you know...
INTERVIEWER: Who is the man that was the greatest lover?
ZSA ZSA: Well everybody knows it was Porfirio Rubirosa…
CHRIS: This is Zsa Zsa Gabor, a very famous and wealthy actress Rubi dated for years. Zsa Zsa’s the one he flew across the globe to see for one night. Rubi liked all kinds of women, but he really loved ones with big checkbooks. He was linked to some of the biggest, richest stars and socialites of the time. Like…
MARILYN MONROE IN THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH: "Don't you feel the breeze from the subway, isn’t it delicious!"
CHRIS: Marilyn Monroe…
EARTHA KITT AS CATWOMAN: How can Batgirl be the best anything when Catwoman is around? [chuckle]
CHRIS: Eartha Kitt…. Eva Peron, Jayne Mansfield, Veronica Lake, Delores Del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Katherine Dunham and Patricia Kennedy. And that’s not to mention the rumored relationships with Amalia Rodrigues, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner.... And who knows how many others there might be! Not all of these relationships were serious, but the few that were, were very rewarding for Rubi… monetarily speaking.
As we discussed, Rubi’s first wife Flor gave him access to Trujillo’s fortunes. After Flor, he married four more times. Danielle Darrieux, his second wife, was one of the most famous actors in France at the time.
DANIELLE DARRIEUX AS NICOLE DE CORTILLION: You know when a girl gets married, her mother doesn’t say, “I’m happy because Alforns is so handsome.” She says, “I’m happy that Alfons has such a good job with the gas company.”
CHRIS: A couple years into their marriage, a journalist from Harper’s Bazaar came to the hotel they were staying at to interview Danielle. The journalist's name was Doris Duke…and she wasn’t just any journalist y’all. She was the heiress to a tobacco fortune worth 1.5 billion in today’s dollars. That Vanity Fair article I read back in college said that after the interview, Doris sent Rubi a telegram that said, “When you are finished with Danielle, call me, and I will come.” But rumor has it she didn’t stop there. Nope.
ISABELLA: Doris Duke paid his first wife, Danielle Darrieux, right, to leave him so she could be with him.
CHRIS: Legend has it that she paid Danielle one million dollars to break it off with Rubi. Danielle accepted, and Doris became wife number 3.
Rubi and Doris divorced after just a year of marriage.
TAKI: He got not much from Doris Duke, and he got, I think, a plane.
CHRIS: Not much? Well first of all that plane was a legit B-52 bomber Rubi used recreationally – until he crashed it just a year later. And let’s see, he also got to keep his wedding gifts, which included a house in Paris, a stable of polo ponies, clothes, a ton of shoes and a few sports cars. Plus Rubi got alimony – $25,000 a year until he married again – which Rubi being Rubi, didn’t take too long.
NEWSCASTER [Archival]: 45 year old Porfirio Rubirosa, on the right, playboy and diplomat from the Dominican Republic, enters the Hotel Pierre (ph) in New York to marry Barbara Hutton. This is Rubirosa’s fourth marriage and Miss Hutton’s fifth.
CHRIS: Enter wife 4, Barbara Hutton, an heiress to the Woolworth fortune, worth almost a billion dollars in today’s money. Their marriage in 1953 lasted only 75 days -- that’s Kardashian-length, y’all.
According to the New York Times, Rubi netted a small fortune. In today’s money he made out with about $35 million dollars of cash and property. This dude made almost half a mil per day from Barbara. Not too shabby. Also, y’know how Rubi crashed the B-52 bomber he got from Doris Duke? Barbara bought him the same exact plane, except this one was even fancier. Rubi kept using it the rest of his life.
So with all of this – with all the wives, the famous affairs, and with all the places Rubi’s been – from being Trujillo’s right hand man, to being in Hitler’s box at the German Olympics, to being on the streets of liberated Paris, not to mention the high end clubs and social events, Porfirio Rubirosa wasn’t just in the room where it’s happening. He’s always finding his way into the center of that room. Could it all just be by chance?
MARTY: No. So when you kind of look at everybody that he knew and all of the things that he could do, he just sounded more and more like a secret agent. He flew his own airplanes,he had access to America's wealthiest fortunes. If he was solely a playboy and someone not to be taken seriously, why would you put him in all of these locations where you really needed to have the sharpest tack there and somebody skilled in diplomacy and intelligence finding? So it's my belief that he was there doing the business of his country or doing the business of somebody else.
[Swing music fades up.]
CHRIS: Ya see, by getting close to fame, Rubi got close to the big money, and wherever there's a lot of money, there's power...and power brokers. Feels very 007 to me. So, is Rubi JUST a gigolo? Or are we still not seeing the bigger picture?
——— Ad Break ———
[Brief theme music interlude.]
INTERVIEWER: Is Bond based on any particular person or combination of persons?
IAN FLEMING: No, not really.
CHRIS: This is author Ian Fleming, being interviewed about his greatest triumph, the character of James Bond.
IAN FLEMING: He's the sort of mix of fictional, a mixture of commandos and Secret Service agents that I met during the war, but of course, entirely fictionalized.
CHRIS: Okay, so Ian Fleming says Bond is an “amalgamation” of different people. Fleming was part of British Intelligence during WWII, so there is no doubt he met some interesting spy types. But…does that mean Bond is based only on British dudes Fleming met and worked with? Or is it possible that Fleming was also inspired by a specific Brown guy? Our brown guy.
DANIEL: I'm a car aficionado. I love cars. And I was reading a car magazine on the way to New York for some business.
CHRIS: Meet Daniel Voelker, a lawyer in the Chicago area.
DANIEL: And there was one sentence in an article about race car drivers, amateur race car drivers, semiprofessional drivers who had actually died while they were driving their personal vehicles. And I stumbled across Porfirio Rubirosa.
CHRIS: Like me, Daniel had never heard of Rubi before this chance encounter with a magazine article. And like me, Daniel zeroed in on one particular thing:
DANIEL: There was one sentence that said that some people believe he's the muse for James Bond. And that kind of shocked me because I'd never heard that before. And I remember seeing that sentence and going, I wonder if there's any truth to this. So I started doing some research. And the more I read, the more documents I looked at, the more I believe that that one sentence in that one article was absolutely correct.
CHRIS: Daniel got obsessed right away. I get it! He spent six months digging into everything he could find about Rubirosa. He ended up writing an article about why he thought the fictional character of Bond was based on a real life Dominican guy.
DANIEL: So in the course of writing the article, I also did an infogram,
CHRIS: I'm looking at it right now. It's great.
DANIEL: And my son actually helped me kind of put the dynamics together on it. But it really was helpful to show through those concentric circles and the overlap in the circles how it really makes a lot of sense.
CHRIS: Daniel’s infogram is titled “Will the Real James Bond Please Stand Up.” And at the center of it all is basically a big Venn diagram that shows the links between Ian Fleming and Porfirio Rubirosa.
DANIEL: All these people that he knew and rubbed shoulders with, were all close to Ian Fleming or someone who was very close to Ian Fleming, they must have been must have known each other, been acquainted with each other, and certainly been familiar with each other.
CHRIS: Daniel’s graphic was republished, reposted and reshared in publications large and small across the internet. His argument rests on a few key points. For instance, Ian Fleming had to have known about Rubirosa. The timing just makes sense: Fleming’s first Bond novel came out in 1953. This is the height of Rubi’s heyday — right before he married Barbara Hutton (wife numero cuatro).
Plus, Rubi and Fleming, they are both big players in the Caribbean.
DANIEL: Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica on his estate called Goldeneye, and Jamaica is just a few hundred miles from the Dominican Republic where Porfirio spent a lot of his time and was in residence quite a bit.
CHRIS: Throughout the 1950s and 60s, flights and ships were readily accessible between Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Flights and ships that many of Fleming's buddies would catch back and forth.
DANIEL: Ian Fleming was close with Errol Flynn and Noel Coward, who both lived in the North Shore of Jamaica. Errol Flynn and Rubirosa were known to have made trips together to Havana. Rubirosa dated some of the same women, married some of the same women that those gentlemen knew and frolicked with. You know, Rubirosa ran in the same circles as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, the Kennedys, that it's very likely that they were aware of each other and some of Rubirosa’s antics in the Caribbean.
CHRIS: We haven't found anything that definitively proves Rubi and Ian Fleming met. But even still, Daniel thinks it would have been nearly impossible for Fleming not to have at least HEARD about Rubi.
DANIEL: Rubirosa was a kind of a favorite of the Caribbean journalists at the time and was pretty notorious in his womanizing and his potential connection to the underworld so to speak.
CHRIS: It wasn’t just the Caribbean press talking about Rubi. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, he was a favorite subject of gossip columns all around the world. He was Bieber before Bieber. Time Magazine regularly updated readers of Rubi’s whereabouts. And Rubi was BFFs with a famous gossip columnist who wrote under the name Cholly Knickerbocker. So he was always just a phone call away from coverage.
DANIEL: So there were just a lot of connections.
CHRIS: Once you see all these connections between Rubi and Fleming, it’s hard to ignore. It just makes sense. If Bond is an amalgamation of people Fleming knew, it’s almost impossible for me not to see Rubi’s DNA in that mix.
DANIEL: Rubirosa, like Bond, was a notorious glutton for debauchery. He was somebody who liked to womanize and drink and didn't have time to eat. You know, he was driving. He was racing his cars through the streets and staying up late.
CHRIS: In his infographic, Daniel makes a list of what they share. There’s the womanizing:
CATERINA MURINO AS SOLANGE: You like married women, don’t you James?
DANIEL CRAIG AS JAMES BOND: It keeps things simple.
CHRIS: The impeccable fashion.
LOIS CHILES AS HOLLY GOODHEAD: Have you broken something?
ROGER MOORE AS JAMES BOND: Only my tailor’s heart.
CHRIS: The jetsetting.
MOLLY PETERS AS PAT FEARING: What kind of work do you do, anyway?
SEAN CONNERY AS JAMES BOND: Oh, I travel – A sort of licensed troubleshooter.
CHRIS: They both love fast cars.
SERENA GORDON AS CAROLINE: James, is it really necessary to drive quite so fast?
PIERCE BROSNAN AS JAMES BOND: More often than you’d think.
CHRIS: They both love to gamble.
DANIEL CRAIG AS JAMES BOND: In poker you never play your hand. You play the man across from you.
CHRIS: In fact, Bond spends a lot of his time in casinos, and so did Rubi. He was a regular at the casinos of Monte Carlo.
Both men are boxers and fanatical about exercising. And of course, Bond just has the same swagger that we KNOW Rubi had. Swagger like that, I gotta say, seems like it’s inspired by a Brown guy. You know that swagger…. Someone from the islands, with a flavor and a rhythm that is distinct and unique.
Rubi himself was aware of James Bond. In 1964, the first James Bond film is released in theaters: Goldfinger starring Sean Connery as James Bond. A year later, Rubi and his friends tried to make a shot by shot remake of the film for fun. Taki played Oddjob. Rubi’s fifth wife, Odile Rodin, played Pussy Galore… and Rubi? I’ll give you one guess who he played.
SHIRLEY EATON AS JILL MASTERSON: Who are you?!
SEAN CONNERY AS JAMES BOND: Bond, James Bond.
CHRIS: Their remake was a disaster. Rubi was a drunken mess, and the footage has been lost to history. But to me, it shows that Rubi was aware of his fictional doppelganger. Here’s Daniel Voelker again.
DANIEL: When you read about Porfirio and you look back at the things he was doing over the course of his life, you know,racing cars and and hobnobbing with the rich and the wealthy and and in great political circles, he certainly fit the bill of what I thought James Bond really was. When you read the Bond novels, in the early novels Bond was more of a rough, more of a murderous, kind of assassin. VEry cold hearted. Whereas in some of the later books he became much softer, much more complex and had all the attributes of a gentleman. And I think that resembles in my mind the growth in Rubirosa from being a young man in the military to becoming kind of this elite wealthy individual.
CHRIS: Fleming writes in his 1954 Bond book “Live and Let Die,” quote “There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent, There are assignments on which he is required to act the part of a very rich man; occasions when he takes refuge in good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death.”
DANIEL: Rubirosa was a rare algorithm of charm, good looks, ruthlessness and cruelty. And those are all the characteristics of Bond, especially Bond in the early novels.
CHRIS: Ok so there’s one more aspect of James Bond we haven’t talked about yet. That ruthlessness and cruelty that Daniel’s talking about. His license to kill. His double-0 status. Killing makes James Bond mysterious, sexy, complicated. And of course, a hero. Because after all, he’s doing it for Queen and Country, for the good of the people. But James Bond is fictional. It is easy to make him good. It sells. But what does a license to kill look like in real life?
EXCERPT FROM FBI DOCUMENT: “On April 28, 1935, a man named Sergio Bencosme, who often had expressed his opposition to the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, was shot to death in New York, in an apartment he was sharing with Dr. Angel Morales, a leader of antri-Trujillo exiles in New York. [fades down]
CHRIS: This is from a newspaper article quoted in Rubi's FBI file. The guy who got murdered was named Sergio Bencosme. Back in the DR he’d been a politician and outspoken opponent of Trujillo. So it was no surprise that when Bencosme was shot to death in his apartment, people were pretty sure Trujillo was involved.
At the time, Rubi wasn’t a diplomat yet. He was just a member of Trujullo’s presidential guard. But … get this… just a few days before Bencosme’s murder, Rubi traveled to NYC. He was gone by the time the murder took place. And the guy suspected of committing the murder was Luis de la Fuente Rubirosa. Rubi’s cousin.
EXCERPT FROM FBI DOCUMENT: Among Domincans it is generally thought that Rubirosa came to New York expressly to make the arrangements with his cousins for the assassination. …
ISABELLA: Basically Rubirosa was assigned with making him disappear. He didn't do it himself. He didn't execute it himself. But he certainly hired the person to go do it. That's the connection.
EXCERPT FROM FBI DOCUMENT (CONT’D): The authorities in New York should call now Porfirio Rubirosa for questioning with regard to the assassination of Dr. Sergio Bencosme.”
CHRIS: The FBI eventually made plans to detain and question Rubi. But…in 1936, the year after the murder, Trujillo conveniently appointed him an official diplomat, which gave Rubi the shield of a sweet little thing called diplomatic immunity. The FBI couldn’t touch him.
ISABELLA: They could never prove it, or they could never retain him long enough to interrogate him.
CHRIS: When Trujillo died in 1961, Rubi finally lost his diplomatic status. It was 25 years after the murder, but The Manhattan DA called Rubi in for questioning as soon as they could. They talked to him for 3 hours. At the end, Rubi told reporters, “As far as I’m concerned, the matter is finished.”
ISABELLA: More James Bond stuff to me.
CHRIS: There’s another part of Rubi’s FBI File that gives me even more James Bond vibes.
EXCERPT FROM FBI DOCUMENT: “Porfirio Rubirosa… is a member of the Dominican Military Intelligence Service in a “very special category”.
CHRIS: The Servicio de Inteligencia – it’s kinda like the DR’s version of the CIA. And the FBI didn’t think Rubi was just some paper pusher…
EXCERPT FROM FBI DOCUMENT: Whenever Rubirosa arrives in the Dominican Republic he is given the “red carpet” treatment and in less than two minutes is on his way from the airport to either SIM headquarters or the presidential palace.”
CHRIS: Historically, the S-I-M were known as Trujillo’s henchmen. Like the KGB in Russia or Gestapo in Germany, or y’know the MI6…the S-I-M didn’t just gather information…they took it. They were a secret police force who carried out Trujillo’s orders. They used to patrol the streets in black Volkswagen beetles.
Rubi — what was your role in the S-I-M?
TAKI: He was very feared, Rubi, because he had spread a reputation that he was a killer. He was no more a killer than I am.
CHRIS: If Rubi was a killer… he definitely didn’t tell his boy Taki about it:
TAKI: He was never a spy. And if he had been a spy, he would have told us. Or maybe he was and never told us. But no. But [laughs] I don't know. I don't know. He – I never heard him say that James Bond was based on him. But why not? You can say it now, but I don't think so.
CHRIS: Nevertheless, Taki says this reputation as a killer followed Rubi. And his involvement with the Bencosme murder was mentioned in news coverage for decades after the fact. If Ian Fleming was reading the news, he very well could have known about this case and its star. A real life suave intelligence agent with a good looking suit, mad charm, a penchant for the night life, and a license to kill.
CHRIS: And sure, when you see a story like this on the silver screen, the spy is a hero, the murder is justified, and the country that he serves is always on the right side of history. But in real life...it's not so cut and dry. Rubirosa answered directly to Trujillo, and while he was in charge, the DR was the site of some pretty brutal shit.
FRANCE FRANCOIS: People taught their children to roll their Rs because of the fear that the Dominicans would come again one day.
That's next time.