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. Well, Harkness couldn’t bear to be upstaged, so she unceremoniously fired Rhodes and doomed her own precious ballet company in the process. Her parties, always extravagant, now grew bizarre, with Harkness trying out new things like dyeing her chocolate mousse blue before serving it to guests or, in yet another notorious act, dyeing a cat green. The Harknesses shared a HUGE Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion, called … The resulting damages to herself, her companies and her children were heartbreaking. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. Allen shot and killed a man in a brawl and was charged with second-degree murder, the charge eventually being reduced to manslaughter , with Allen serving a total of eight years. Following the divorce, Harkness gained custody of both children. In 1961, Harkness decided she wanted to become the next great ballet master, so she sponsored actual master Robert Joffrey’s artisanal ballet troupe. 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. Edith often used her mother’s many, many pills to perform these attempts—and Rebekah was anything but empathetic. Rebekah’s parents hired one nanny specifically because the woman had worked in an insane asylum before. Harkness died of cancer in 1982 in New York City. So what did she do? A New York Times article described Harkness's unusual upbringing. Without any real studio space, her dancers often practiced on her front lawn. By 1980, many of Harkness’s old friends had dropped off, and she was left with only her most sycophantic hangers-on. Only his other flaws were far darker than this silly hobby. Besides despising Rebekah’s children, Scevers also hated her disabled granddaughter Angel. 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 contribute@factinate.com. Aw, how sweet. Though the Harkness Ballet was floundering, there was one brilliant choreographer, Larry Rhodes, who received good press. 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. Her son, Allen Pierce, was convicted of murder. From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways…. (Harkness reportedly cleaned her pool with Dom Pérignon.) And then there were her three children. This had devastating consequences. She hoped that the fourth time would be the charm, but the socialite had no such luck. 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. But behind her perfect façade lies a chilling history. All Rights Reserved. The train wreck was now chugging along, and it wouldn’t stop until Harkness took her last breath. Why? 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. Rebekah Harkness married the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." 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. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. The engagement of Miss Edith Hale Harkness to Ken neth Perry McKinnon, a Washington lawyer, has been announced by Mrs. Rebekah Harkness … And that wasn’t the only ill-advised thing she did…. 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. Discover Rebekah Harkness, the extravagant woman who inspired Taylor Swift’s song “the last great american dynasty.”. No matter what she did or who she tried to pay off, the great American heiress had a terrifyingly short time to live. Before she passed, the socialite spent $250,000 to commission a bedazzled urn from none other than Salvador Dali. Before their divorce in 1946, they had two children; Allen Pierce (b. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life. Jack Mitchell / Getty Images. Name variations: Betty Harkness. From the outside, Rebekah and William Harkness’s marriage looked immaculate. Obviously, Rebekah was completely out touch with reality—so her next move makes sense. We’re always looking for your input! 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. Copyright 2020 SLM Media Group. 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. He was not convinced. 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. Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history. With that, Rebekah’s “unconditional” love evaporated. But Rebekah made the most of it…. Now she has one more posthumous title: muse. For a time, Rebekah Harkness appeared to be enamored of the passive child, called Angel. Harkness was surprisingly generous when it suited her, but also unpredictably bizarre. She would also fill her lavish fish tanks with Scotch, even as living goldfish swam in them. Much of their marriage dynamic was about his domineering presence setting her on the straight and narrow. 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 … It was shaping up to be a white-picket fence brood—until, that is, Rebekah proved herself to be an utterly horrific mother. When Rebekah decided to renovate her Rhode Island mansion, she demanded that it have a whopping eight kitchens and 21 baths. Her ego, however, overrode common sense and proportion. He uses his nose to find bones, treats, and fun adventures. 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. In 2020, Swift then penned the song “the last great american dynasty,” which tells Harkness’s twisted story for the world. 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. While he was under her employ, she would often order him around romantically. Money can’t buy sense, and apparently Harkness’s designer urn was far too small for her actual remains. At least once, Harkness and her friends got up on a banquet table and performed a strip tease for the distinguished guests around them. She once demanded Castelli to, “Kiss me. Little Betty had a horrific childhood. Harkness, or rather his money, made Rebekah interesting. Harkness started acting out early in her adolescence, and her antics would put any other mean girl to shame. Yet while there, Harkness gave new meaning to the word “prima donna.” The socialite, fancying herself a dance expert, started writing her own ballets. Though Kean consulted with multiple US presidents, he also had big-time mafia ties. Hey, all publicity is good publicity—and Rebekah’s need to be in the spotlight soon grew to disturbing proportions. An artist (a … Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? She loved to pour Dom Perignon into her pool and let guests swim around in the bubbly. Unfortunately for Rebekah, the endeavour ended in national embarrassment and disaster. 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. 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. Now, a grown woman can do whatever she wants in her own bed, but this was a strange choice—and not because of the age gap. 1940) and Anne Terry Pierce (b. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. While a kinder critic likened it to “a lavish ladies’ powder room,” less-generous experts compared it to a “Staten Island beauty parlor.” Ouch. In 1962 she turned her Rhode Island estate, Holiday House, into a summer dance camp for the entire Joffrey […] In recent years, Harkness has gained new fame—or infamy—because of her connection to Taylor Swift. The Harkness family looked immaculate from the outside…behind closed doors, though, was another story. 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. Although Catherine's successor Queen Anne Boleyn suffered an infamously dark fate, Aragon's own life was somehow even more tragic. Harkness pulled this prank at her own sister’s debutante ball. The New York Times described him as an “embarrassing sort of man,” and his hobbies completely back this up. If Harkness’s lovers are anything to go by, she was a wildcat in the bedroom. 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. Not just going to performances, but sponsoring entire ballet companies, buying up real estate for them and sending them on world tours. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. Instead, she was reared by a series of nannies—and that’s not even the worst part. The St. Louis–born socialite is the subject of the singer-songwriter's "The Last Great American Dynasty.". 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 … Oh my God, the question here is: What didn’t she do? In the art world, the shade “International Klein Blue” is famous, and was custom-mixed by renowned artist Yves Klein in 1960. 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. 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 filled a pool with Champagne. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness. Her daughter Terry gave birth to a child who died at age 10. Reportedly, the baby Angel innocently pulled a ribbon from Harkness’s perfectly coifed hair. If you hear “oil” and think “Russian Oligarch rich,” you’d be pretty much right. Uh, how sweet? 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.. She had a newfound freedom to do whatever she wanted with the piles of money in her bank account. At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. 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. William Hale died of a heart attack in 1954. St. Louis, MO 63119 Sadly, the socialite’s seemingly bottomless cruelty would soon hit even greater lows. She was 67.) 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. She stole a neighbor’s dog and dyed it key lime green. Harkness definitely wasn’t the most fiscally-responsible business woman, but she does have the distinction of being the strangest girl-boss in history. One of Harkness’s final acts in her role as ballet maestro was also her most embarrassing. In other words, these pieces didn’t exactly do justice to their surroundings. The Pack didn’t stop at putting poisonous substances into punch bowls; they also got very rowdy at these gatherings. Though Harkness didn’t seem to care that he was using her, she probably should have…. The Swift connection is that the superstar bought Holiday House for a reported $17 million in 2013. 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. “Is there a chic way to go?” One day, Rebekah would find out that question for herself. She lost card game bets with Salvador Dalí. William, 15 years her senior, saw Rebekah as a “naughty child” in need of a spanking. Advertisement. Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri, Harkness was the second daughter of prominent stockbroker Allen Tarwater and … When he died in 1955, she was set adrift with $54 million. People reported that Harkness’s lavish marble bathrooms were often splattered with blood, and that her muscles had begun to calcify. Find the perfect Rebekah Harkness Pictures stock photos and editorial news pictures from Getty Images. No clan is left untouched, and even families that seem happy and normal on…. November 6, 2020 By . 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. When publicizing her ballet, Harkness became notorious for refusing to showcase any of her talented dancers in the promotional photographs. Surprise, surprise, this phase didn’t last long. As the most commanding mistress in the French court, she bettered the lives of many and became a beloved figure…. (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 spent much of the Standard Oil fortune she inherited on the ballet. Harkness was jealous to an absolute fault, and even to her own detriment. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. 1944). However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery. William was rolling in money, which made him the perfect candidate for Rebekah’s expensive tastes. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it really was. 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. 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. On June 10, 1939, Harkness married Dickson W. Pierce, the son of Thomas M. Pierce and a descendant of Franklin Pierce. Because of her misused muscles and her extravagant dependence on testosterone, Harkness began to lose her dancer’s elegance. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. She loves Octavia Butler, Rocky IV, and the TV show Museum Secrets. Not only did her ballet collapse, her whole family did as well. Tragically, she had recklessly spent much of her fortune at this stage, and her ballet school had all but lost its status. But most people don’t know the most chilling part. Source for information on Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982): Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia dictionary. What followed was a dada version of … Around this time, Harkness fancied herself a composer. 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. She blew through her fortune “on the boys and the ballet.” (Harkness was an avid patron of the arts and founded her own company, Harkness Ballet. From the outside, Rebekah and William Harkness’s marriage looked immaculate. To zero people’s surprise, the Harkness family was utterly dysfunctional. He was in prison. Rebekah Harkness married heir to Fortune Standard Oil. Select from premium Rebekah Harkness Pictures of the highest quality. As it turned out, this was the beginning of her ignominious end. Equipped with a ludicrous amount of self-confidence, she did something supremely stupid. Harkness had to do everything in style—even when it came to moving on to the next life. The Harknesses were married for a brief period—just seven years. 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. For a time in the 1950s, socialite Rebekah Harkness was true American royalty. Copied to clipboard. Near the end of her life, one friend noted that she “walked like Frankenstein.”. One of Harkness’s signature moves was to use vastly expensive products for everyday, mundane things. There's something about the family structure that encourages secrets. Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982)American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. Just after 1966, Harkness became a grandmother when her daughter Terry gave birth to a little girl. Ironically nicknamed “The Chalice of Life,” the morbid monument stood right at the intersection between tacky and lavish, just like Rebekah herself. The others, they just know how to bite.” Wow, I’m getting the sense that these two really liked dirty talk. Though her children Edith and Terry rushed to her bedside along with her “lover” Bobby Scevers, the scene was anything but heart-warming. 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. A patron of dance and medicine. 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. As we’ll see, Rebekah’s “love” only devolved from there. 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. After that, Rebekah really let it all hang out. 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. Faced with Edith’s grim drive to end her life, Harkness was coldly philosophical. The couple divorced in 1977…but Rebekah’s life was about to take a much darker turn. A philanthropist. For what it’s worth, Allen called the years he spent in the clinker—and away from his mother—the “happiest of his life.”. The last great American dynasty, indeed. The answer is more complicated than Swift’s song reveals. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. She shoved $5 million into building the Harkness Theater, a lavish studio complete with marble staircases and a chandelier, and it was all for nothing: The company collapsed in 1975. An artist (a descriptor she bestowed upon herself). BOX 191606 Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. Thanks for your time! She was also a composer. She supported the arts in general, ballet in particular, and she had the wealth with which to do it. 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. Rebekah was a … By Heran Mamo. Raised primarily by a series of nannies, Harkness took up dancing and ice skating to lose weight and was highly disciplined in … In 1954, something curious happened to Rebekah Harkness: Her oil tycoon husband passed. 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. 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