As yet another troubled member of the family, Allen had gotten into a fight, slain a man, and was eventually sentenced with manslaughter. Harkness had no problem dropping Joffrey like a hot potato when he wouldn’t support her dismal vanity projects. Rebekah Harkness spent much of the Standard Oil fortune she inherited on the ballet. As it turned out, this was the beginning of her ignominious end. Scevers and Harkness brought out the worst in each other. Born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri, Harkness was the second daughter of prominent stockbroker Allen Tarwater and … The Harkness family looked immaculate from the outside…behind closed doors, though, was another story. Rebekah Harkness died of cancer in 1982 in New York at the age of 67. Doctors told Harkness that she had one ailment that no amount of money could cure: She was dying of stomach cancer. Advertisement. 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. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness. Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982)American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. BOX 191606 And she was just getting started. Please submit feedback to contribute@factinate.com. 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. 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 … Jesse Tyler Ferguson and married couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively expressed interest in starring in a movie based on Taylor Swift's new track The Last Great American Dynasty.. Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history. One of Harkness’s signature moves was to use vastly expensive products for everyday, mundane things. And then there were her three children. Rebekah's daughter, Ann-Terry Pierce gave birth to a severely disabled child, named Angel who died at the age of ten. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. He was in prison. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it really was. (Getty) But Rebekah's story is intricately more complex that the one set out in Swift's lyrics. 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. In 1962 she turned her Rhode Island estate, Holiday House, into a summer dance camp for the entire Joffrey […] We want our readers to trust us. 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. When Harkness planned to put Angel’s nursery over top of his room, Scevers snapped, “Let the little creature die!” Unfortunately, he was one of the few people still by Harkness’s side when the end came. She supported the arts in general, ballet in particular, and she had the wealth with which to do it. 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. Thanks for your time! The engagement of Miss Edith Hale Harkness to Ken neth Perry McKinnon, a Washington lawyer, has been announced by Mrs. Rebekah Harkness … Instead, she was reared by a series of nannies—and that’s not even the worst part. Read More. Almost as soon as William Harkness kicked the bucket, Rebekah turned into one of the most tasteless, gaudy eccentrics the Western hemisphere had ever seen. Jack Mitchell / Getty Images. 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. 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. Now she has one more posthumous title: muse. 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. Extravagant Facts About Barbara Hutton, “The Poor Little Rich Girl”, These Cruel Teachers Are The Stuff Of Student Nightmares, Bone-Chilling Moments We'll Never Be Able To Explain, Bloody Facts About Ivan the Terrible, The Mad Tsar Of Russia, Plot Twist: These Surprise Endings Made Our Jaws Hit The Floor, More People Need To Know About Nell Gwyn, England’s X-Rated Cinderella, The Jaw-Dropping Life of Josephine Baker, The Black Pearl Of Paris, Absolute Legends: The Wildest Pranks Ever Pulled, Lawyers Reveal Their Most Jaw-Dropping Court Cases, Overheard Once, Forgotten Never: These Hurtful Comments Are Completely Brutal, I’m Done: These People Quit Their Bad Jobs And Toxic Relationships In Epic Ways. 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. 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. Following the divorce, Harkness gained custody of both children. A New York Times the article describes Harkness’s unusual upbringing. Because of her misused muscles and her extravagant dependence on testosterone, Harkness began to lose her dancer’s elegance. 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. Select from premium Rebekah Harkness Pictures of the highest quality. She loved to pour Dom Perignon into her pool and let guests swim around in the bubbly. Sheesh, it’s not wonder Rebekah turned out to be a nightmare when she grew up. Hey, all publicity is good publicity—and Rebekah’s need to be in the spotlight soon grew to disturbing proportions. The others, they just know how to bite.” Wow, I’m getting the sense that these two really liked dirty talk. Tragically, she had recklessly spent much of her fortune at this stage, and her ballet school had all but lost its status. Equipped with a ludicrous amount of self-confidence, she did something supremely stupid. Ironically nicknamed “The Chalice of Life,” the morbid monument stood right at the intersection between tacky and lavish, just like Rebekah herself. Though Harkness didn’t seem to care that he was using her, she probably should have…. 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. This week, Taylor Swift showed the world what she’s been working on during quarantine: a new album, Folklore, which the singer-songwriter released late Thursday evening. The train wreck was now chugging along, and it wouldn’t stop until Harkness took her last breath. Nonetheless, Harkness actually doted on the babe, and for a time it seemed like she was going to be a better granny than she was a mommy. See, Rebekah thought that notoriously reclusive writer J.D. “How should she do it?” She wondered. Upon the album’s release, much of the Internet was thrown into a “Who Is Rebekah West Harkness?” madness. Rebekah Harkness and her Harkness Ballet in 1966. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. One day, Harkness’s antics were so extreme that they got her kicked off a cruise ship. My mom never told me how her best friend died. She once demanded Castelli to, “Kiss me. As the most commanding mistress in the French court, she bettered the lives of many and became a beloved figure…. Harkness pulled this prank at her own sister’s debutante ball. The story of Rebekah Harkness is way more complicated than Taylor Swift lets on. This is vastly different from Harkness's own design that included eight kitchens and 21 bathrooms, which rather effectively prevented her from having to run into her three children while they were in the house. At least once, Harkness and her friends got up on a banquet table and performed a strip tease for the distinguished guests around them. P.O. Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? And that wasn’t the only ill-advised thing she did…. Copyright 2020 SLM Media Group. Anne married Anthony McBride in 1966 and h… Catherine of Aragon was King Henry VIII’s first wife and longest-lasting Queen of England. Yet while there, Harkness gave new meaning to the word “prima donna.” The socialite, fancying herself a dance expert, started writing her own ballets. The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. The Harkness Foundation for Dance still exists. Rebekah Harkness in 1966, Taylor Swift in 2020. When he died in 1955, she was set adrift with $54 million. 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. She would pay for dancers’ nose jobs at the drop of a hat, and buy office desks for her administrators that cost months’ worth of New York rent, a generosity that often made her middle-class secretaries supremely uncomfortable—not that Harkness noticed. 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. Unfortunately for Rebekah, the endeavour ended in national embarrassment and disaster. According to one story, Harkness’s adoration for her grandchild vanished almost overnight. 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. 7/27/2020. 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. For what it’s worth, Allen called the years he spent in the clinker—and away from his mother—the “happiest of his life.”. Reportedly, the baby Angel innocently pulled a ribbon from Harkness’s perfectly coifed hair. After that, Rebekah really let it all hang out. 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. Edith often used her mother’s many, many pills to perform these attempts—and Rebekah was anything but empathetic. In 1961, Harkness gave love another shot, marrying the prominent celebrity doctor Benjamin Harrison Kean. 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. She filled a pool with Champagne. Watch the video for "The Last Great American Dynasty": Woytus is St. Louis Magazine's deputy editor. Rebekah Harkness in 1966. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. Why? Rebekah’s parents hired one nanny specifically because the woman had worked in an insane asylum before. 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. 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. She hoped that the fourth time would be the charm, but the socialite had no such luck. Did Mommy and Daddy notice? As Rebekah’s friend said, “Just a leg is in there, or maybe half of her head, and an arm.” So instead of giving her mother a dignified end, Rebekah’s daughter Terry had to carry the rest of her ashes home, bound up loosely in a humble supermarket bag. Apparently, Harkness liked to reward her boy-toys, because she soon made Castelli the artistic director of her ballet company. Rebekah married William Hale Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Click to copy. An artist (a descriptor she bestowed upon herself). But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." People already thought she had betrayed Joffrey, but they now watched in horror as she ran her ballet into the ground. Not only did her ballet collapse, her whole family did as well. Though the Harkness Ballet was floundering, there was one brilliant choreographer, Larry Rhodes, who received good press. For one, her “emotionally frigid” parents wanted absolutely nothing to do with raising her. 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. Husbands hiding things from wives, mothers from children, and generation from generation. 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. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. She loves Octavia Butler, Rocky IV, and the TV show Museum Secrets. According to Scevers, ”It was complete chaos…everybody running around signing wills and trying on different wigs.” And when Rebekah actually passed on June 17, 1982, things only got weirder from there. “Is there a chic way to go?” One day, Rebekah would find out that question for herself. Though her children Edith and Terry rushed to her bedside along with her “lover” Bobby Scevers, the scene was anything but heart-warming. If you hear “oil” and think “Russian Oligarch rich,” you’d be pretty much right. St. Louis, MO 63119 And the dysfunction didn’t end there. Salinger had the perfect stories for her music, so one day she disguised herself as a cleaning lady, knocked on his door, then tried to convince him to let her use his fiction. Not just going to performances, but sponsoring entire ballet companies, buying up real estate for them and sending them on world tours. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. Madame de Pompadour didn't just share King Louis XV's bed, she also shared his power. A patron of dance and medicine. Faced with Edith’s grim drive to end her life, Harkness was coldly philosophical. The Swift connection is that the superstar bought Holiday House for a reported $17 million in 2013. At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Harkness only left death in her wake wherever she went. While a kinder critic likened it to “a lavish ladies’ powder room,” less-generous experts compared it to a “Staten Island beauty parlor.” Ouch. Although Catherine's successor Queen Anne Boleyn suffered an infamously dark fate, Aragon's own life was somehow even more tragic. Taylor Swift’s, new song titled ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is about Rebekah Harkness, the scandal-ridden socialite who once owned the Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion Swift purchased in 2013 Taking a break from her deeply intimate, autobiographical anthems, Taylor Swift’s eight album,’Folklore’ is a collection of songs written ‘from the perspective of people I’ve … Aw, how sweet. But most people don’t know the most chilling part. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery. In 1954, something curious happened to Rebekah Harkness: Her oil tycoon husband passed. All Rights Reserved. Reportedly, she wanted these updates so that she could see as little of her children as possible. But behind her perfect façade lies a chilling history. 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. Rebekah was a … 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. As we’ll see, Rebekah’s “love” only devolved from there. In other words, these pieces didn’t exactly do justice to their surroundings. 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. Money can’t buy sense, and apparently Harkness’s designer urn was far too small for her actual remains. 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. Source for information on Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982): Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia dictionary. 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. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. 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. We’re always looking for your input! When Joffrey refused to perform the schlock, Rebekah’s revenge was brutal. Before she passed, the socialite spent $250,000 to commission a bedazzled urn from none other than Salvador Dali. Though Kean consulted with multiple US presidents, he also had big-time mafia ties. It was shaping up to be a white-picket fence brood—until, that is, Rebekah proved herself to be an utterly horrific mother. Born Rebekah Semple West on April 17, 1915, in St. 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. 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. Not long after Rebekah’s passing, her daughter Edith finally managed to succeed in her suicide attempts. A New York Times article described Harkness's unusual upbringing. Oh my God, the question here is: What didn’t she do? (Photos: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images, Beth Garrabrant) As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. No matter what she did or who she tried to pay off, the great American heiress had a terrifyingly short time to live. (No such record could be found, but the famous Surrealist artist did design the $250,000 jewel-studded urn that held her ashes. Rebekah Harkness was practically destined to become a spoiled little rich girl. He was not convinced. He uses his nose to find bones, treats, and fun adventures. 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. A philanthropist. Well, Harkness couldn’t bear to be upstaged, so she unceremoniously fired Rhodes and doomed her own precious ballet company in the process. When she went to the doctor’s office, they found a frightening problem. She applied herself with a rigid, frightening discipline that would become her trademark later in life. She would also fill her lavish fish tanks with Scotch, even as living goldfish swam in them. In recent years, Harkness has gained new fame—or infamy—because of her connection to Taylor Swift. (Allegedly, it was a cat if it matters.). They dubbed themselves the “Bitch Pack” and, after graduating in 1932, set about trying to wreak havoc on the socialite scene, one gala at a time. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. As she aged, Rebekah started to live off of “champagne and injections,” including testosterone and an assortment of pain medications. The Pack didn’t stop at putting poisonous substances into punch bowls; they also got very rowdy at these gatherings. Styling herself as the life of the party, Harkness did things like throw plates at the ship’s Filipino orchestra, swim in her birthday suit in full view of other passengers, and send out strings of obscenities so loudly that the ocean liner eventually had no choice but to send the beautiful, foul-mouthed socialite off the boat. Without any real studio space, her dancers often practiced on her front lawn. Harkness was surprisingly generous when it suited her, but also unpredictably bizarre. Nevertheless, Harkness Ballet I and II read like a "Who's-Who" in the ballet world. When she was still desperately clinging to her ballet dreams, Harkness decided to install an enormous, blue plastic Geodesic dome right smack dab in the middle of her front lawn as a formal practice space for her failing dancers. Obviously, Rebekah was completely out touch with reality—so her next move makes sense. 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.) (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.) She was 67.) Surprise, surprise, this phase didn’t last long. This had devastating consequences. 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 St. Louis–born socialite is the subject of the singer-songwriter's "The Last Great American Dynasty.". Untouched, and scornfully forced her to remove the unsightly object Thomas M. and..., Edith, died of cancer in 1982 in New York Times obituary structure that Secrets! 'S first children 's book let guests swim around in the promotional photographs insane asylum before on. 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