As yet another troubled member of the family, Allen had gotten into a fight, slain a man, and was eventually sentenced with manslaughter. Watch the video for "The Last Great American Dynasty": Woytus is St. Louis Magazine's deputy editor. Surprise, surprise, this phase didn’t last long. She applied herself with a rigid, frightening discipline that would become her trademark later in life. Though Harkness took those nasty testosterone injections to strengthen her body for dance, the “medicine” actually had the opposite effect. 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. 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. Still, when you marry for money, you earn every penny…. Unfortunately for Rebekah, the endeavour ended in national embarrassment and disaster. Only his other flaws were far darker than this silly hobby. In 1954, something curious happened to Rebekah Harkness: Her oil tycoon husband passed. Dancy Mason is the Editor-in-Chief at Factinate. As she aged, Rebekah started to live off of “champagne and injections,” including testosterone and an assortment of pain medications. 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. 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.) 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. 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. Sadly, the socialite’s seemingly bottomless cruelty would soon hit even greater lows. Before she passed, the socialite spent $250,000 to commission a bedazzled urn from none other than Salvador Dali. 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. In other words, these pieces didn’t exactly do justice to their surroundings. 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 … From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways…. And when the time came to put Harkness into the Chalice of Life, the plot thickened. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. (No such record could be found, but the famous Surrealist artist did design the $250,000 jewel-studded urn that held her ashes. I want to look away, but I just can’t. She had a newfound freedom to do whatever she wanted with the piles of money in her bank account. Rebekah’s parents hired one nanny specifically because the woman had worked in an insane asylum before. Little Betty had a horrific childhood. Yet while there, Harkness gave new meaning to the word “prima donna.” The socialite, fancying herself a dance expert, started writing her own ballets. According to one story, Harkness’s adoration for her grandchild vanished almost overnight. 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 … The train wreck was now chugging along, and it wouldn’t stop until Harkness took her last breath. 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. People already thought she had betrayed Joffrey, but they now watched in horror as she ran her ballet into the ground. Rebekah Harkness in 1966, Taylor Swift in 2020. Factinate is a fact website that is dedicated to finding and sharing fun facts about science, history, animals, films, people, and much more. She was 67.) William Hale died of a heart attack in 1954. But behind her perfect façade lies a chilling history. This had devastating consequences. From the outside, Rebekah and William Harkness’s marriage looked immaculate. In 1961, Harkness gave love another shot, marrying the prominent celebrity doctor Benjamin Harrison Kean. Ironically nicknamed “The Chalice of Life,” the morbid monument stood right at the intersection between tacky and lavish, just like Rebekah herself. Eager to please her emotionally unavailable parents, young Rebekah worked incredibly hard at her dance and ice skating lessons. 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. Her ego, however, overrode common sense and proportion. For a time in the 1950s, socialite Rebekah Harkness was true American royalty. Copyright 2020 SLM Media Group. Catherine of Aragon was King Henry VIII’s first wife and longest-lasting Queen of England. 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. 6 Things to Know About Rebekah Harkness, the Muse Behind Taylor Swift's 'The Last Great American Dynasty' By Heran Mamo. 314-918-3000. In the 1960s, Harkness took Bobby Scevers, a dancer who was 25 years her junior, as her lover. “Is there a chic way to go?” One day, Rebekah would find out that question for herself. For one, her “emotionally frigid” parents wanted absolutely nothing to do with raising her. 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. By 1980, many of Harkness’s old friends had dropped off, and she was left with only her most sycophantic hangers-on. One day, Harkness’s antics were so extreme that they got her kicked off a cruise ship. For what it’s worth, Allen called the years he spent in the clinker—and away from his mother—the “happiest of his life.”. Thanks for your time! Rebekah Harkness spent much of the Standard Oil fortune she inherited on the ballet. She lost card game bets with Salvador Dalí. rebekah harkness children. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness. The lovely pair only made it four years before divorcing. For all her money, Harkness did not have good taste. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. William, 15 years her senior, saw Rebekah as a “naughty child” in need of a spanking. An artist (a … He was not convinced. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." When Joffrey refused to perform the schlock, Rebekah’s revenge was brutal. She would also fill her lavish fish tanks with Scotch, even as living goldfish swam in them. Not only did her ballet collapse, her whole family did as well. An artist (a descriptor she bestowed upon herself). Besides despising Rebekah’s children, Scevers also hated her disabled granddaughter Angel. 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. 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. The reason behind this is pure cruelty. A New York Times article described Harkness's unusual upbringing. Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history. 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. Click to copy. A philanthropist. The best revenge might be living well, but that doesn't mean we can always turn the other cheek. 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.. Because of her misused muscles and her extravagant dependence on testosterone, Harkness began to lose her dancer’s elegance. While a kinder critic likened it to “a lavish ladies’ powder room,” less-generous experts compared it to a “Staten Island beauty parlor.” Ouch. Sheesh, it’s not wonder Rebekah turned out to be a nightmare when she grew up. Obviously, Rebekah was completely out touch with reality—so her next move makes sense. She stole a neighbor’s dog and dyed it key lime green. The pair was horribly mismatched, with Lauersen a whopping 20 years younger than his bride. Rocky Finds His Heart is Rebekah's first children's book. 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. William was rolling in money, which made him the perfect candidate for Rebekah’s expensive tastes. One of Harkness’s signature moves was to use vastly expensive products for everyday, mundane things. Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. When he died in 1955, she was set adrift with $54 million. Though Harkness didn’t seem to care that he was using her, she probably should have…. 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 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. In the art world, the shade “International Klein Blue” is famous, and was custom-mixed by renowned artist Yves Klein in 1960. There's something about the family structure that encourages secrets. Her son, Allen Pierce, was convicted of murder. 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. We’re always looking for your input! But the book also states Harkness was "brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in an insane asylum." 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. Her daughter Terry gave birth to a child who died at age 10. 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. Edith often used her mother’s many, many pills to perform these attempts—and Rebekah was anything but empathetic. Wealthy, elegant, and beautiful, Harkness seemed to have it all—from her oil baron husband to her notoriously raucous parties. Though her children Edith and Terry rushed to her bedside along with her “lover” Bobby Scevers, the scene was anything but heart-warming. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. Without any real studio space, her dancers often practiced on her front lawn. Faced with Edith’s grim drive to end her life, Harkness was coldly philosophical. Anne married Anthony McBride in 1966 and h… All rights reserved. The Swift connection is that the superstar bought Holiday House for a reported $17 million in 2013. The others, they just know how to bite.” Wow, I’m getting the sense that these two really liked dirty talk. Doctors told Harkness that she had one ailment that no amount of money could cure: She was dying of stomach cancer. Yet like so much of Harkness’s life, what seemed beautiful on the outside was rotting on the inside. A patron of dance and medicine. Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. 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. The Harknesses shared a HUGE Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion, called … The answer is more complicated than Swift’s song reveals. Rebekah Harkness married the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. (Photos: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images, Beth Garrabrant) As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. Rocky, the Beagle, has an amazing nose. Advertisement. So what did she do? P.O. Rebekah's daughter, Ann-Terry Pierce gave birth to a severely disabled child, named Angel who died at the age of ten. 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. Born Rebekah Semple West on April 17, 1915, in St. Following the divorce, Harkness gained custody of both children. 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. Source for information on Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982): Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia dictionary. Rebekah was a … At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. 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. Rebekah Harkness married heir to Fortune Standard Oil. She once demanded Castelli to, “Kiss me. See, Rebekah thought that notoriously reclusive writer J.D. 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. Reportedly, she wanted these updates so that she could see as little of her children as possible. The couple divorced in 1977…but Rebekah’s life was about to take a much darker turn. Harkness, or rather his money, made Rebekah interesting. Find the perfect Rebekah Harkness Pictures stock photos and editorial news pictures from Getty Images. 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. For a time, Rebekah Harkness appeared to be enamored of the passive child, called Angel. The Harkness Foundation for Dance still exists. When Rebekah decided to renovate her Rhode Island mansion, she demanded that it have a whopping eight kitchens and 21 baths. Though Kean consulted with multiple US presidents, he also had big-time mafia ties. Her wealthy neighbors had other ideas, and scornfully forced her to remove the unsightly object. 1944). Jack Mitchell / Getty Images. 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 had ambition and drive. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her son, Allen Pierce, was convicted of murder. Not long after Rebekah’s passing, her daughter Edith finally managed to succeed in her suicide attempts. After that, Rebekah really let it all hang out. Her reason was chilling. 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. The story of Rebekah Harkness is way more complicated than Taylor Swift lets on. 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. She supported the arts in general, ballet in particular, and she had the wealth with which to do it. Before their divorce in 1946, they had two children; Allen Pierce (b. My mom never told me how her best friend died. 7/27/2020. Harkness had to do everything in style—even when it came to moving on to the next life. At least once, Harkness and her friends got up on a banquet table and performed a strip tease for the distinguished guests around them. © Copyright 2020 by Factinate.com. In recent years, Harkness has gained new fame—or infamy—because of her connection to Taylor Swift. 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. 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. 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. A philanthropist. 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