Famous Debutantes

CHRISTOPHER: Well, did you tell her about Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke, Gloria Vanderbilt?
LORELAI: Yes, and she’s perfectly willing to marry Cary Grant, get offed by her crazy butler, and start designing blue jeans as soon as the ball ends.

Barbara Hutton, previously discussed. She was first dubbed the “Poor Little Rich Girl” at her lavish debutante ball in 1930. She married seven times. Her third marriage was to Hollywood actor Cary Grant in 1942; although he genuinely seemed to care for Hutton, they divorced in 1945. Grant did not seek or receive money from her in the divorce settlement. He was probably her best husband.

Doris Duke (1912-1993), billionaire tobacco heiress and socialite, dubbed the “Richest Girl in the World”. She was presented as a debutante in 1930, at a ball at the family home in Newport, Rhode Island. She was widely travelled, with an interest in the arts and horticulture. She was the first non-Hawaiian woman to take up the sport of surfing. A keen philanthropist, she donated money to AIDS research, medicine, and child welfare, including supporting the education of black students in the South. Duke died from a stroke, but rumours persist that she was murdered by her Irish butler, Bernard Lafferty (1945-1996). No charges were ever laid, and Lafferty died in his sleep only three years later. He wasn’t “crazy” so much as an alcoholic.

Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019), heiress, socialite, artist, actress, and fashion designer. During the 1930s she was the focus of a scandalous child custody case between her mother and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Whitney, which Gertrude won after Gloria’s mother was declared an unfit parent. Gloria made her debut in 1940. Vanderbilt studied both acting and art, managing to have successful careers in both, as well as becoming an author. A model at 15, she ventured into the fashion industry in the 1970s, and in 1976 launched a line of blue jeans which were an immediate success.

(The picture is Gloria Vanderbilt as a sixteen-year-old debutante).

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