While he was alive, J. Paul Getty’s money intrigued the world. After his death last month at the age of 83, it was disclosed that a dozen women he had loved, was charmed by or did business with would share in his multimillion-dollar estate. Suddenly they became even more fascinating than the fortune.
The largest personal bequest—5,000 shares of Getty oil stock valued at $826,500 and $1,167 a month for life—went to Penelope Ann Kitson, 53, an English interior decorator and mother of three. Recently divorced from her third husband, industrialist Patrick De Laszlo, tall, elegant Penelope Kitson was constantly at Getty’s side during his final weeks. She had designed the interiors of Getty’s fleet of oil tankers and of Sutton Place, the 74-room mansion near London from which he ran his worldwide empire.
She lives in a cottage on the estate, a gift from Getty, and once described their relationship: “We are the closest of friends.” Yet she refused to marry him. “I’m not a very good bet,” she said. De Laszlo says of his ex-wife: “She wasn’t in love with him, but I think he was always in love with her.”
Penelope’s closest rival, in terms of inheritance, is Mary Teissier, 50, a Russian-born French interior decorator and art expert. She was willed 2,500 shares valued at $413,250 plus $750 a month for life. “The last few years,” she says of Getty, “were very close, very sweet and very generous. Don’t try to make a romance out of that. He was as old as my father!”
When Teissier met Getty in Paris in 1958, she was one of the city’s great beauties. Her marriage was disintegrating, and shortly after Getty bought Sutton Place in 1960, she moved into a separate wing for a six-year stay. “She was his first lady,” recalls a frequent guest, “but he had women surrounding him all the time. Mary got bitter about the situation. She loved to ride horseback but complained that Paul refused to provide her with horses.”
Mary Teissier recalled that Getty had a pay phone installed in his English mansion. “It was not because he was a penny pincher,” she said. “Paul’s home had at least 22 telephone lines for business. The pay phone was on the ground floor where tourists sometimes visited. It was a practical thing to do, and there were always coins at the side of the phone for you to dip into when you wanted to use it.”
Stories depicting Getty as stingy offended him deeply. He spent millions on his art collection and philanthropy. On the other hand, his own meals ranged from miserly to lavish—a bowl of mush one day, champagne and caviar the next. “What do they know of my spending habits?” he asked. “I have always been careful with my money and other people’s money.” Then an impish sense of humor would emerge. “They call me a penny pincher,” he would wink, “and I don’t even know the girl.”
Another woman mentioned in his will is Robina Lund, 39, who became his legal adviser 17 years ago. Getty, who had known Robina since her childhood, bequeathed her $209 per month for life. Their relationship was considered strictly professional. Trained as a concert pianist, Robina switched to law and negotiated the purchase of Sutton Place.
Getty left 1,000 shares worth $165,000 to widowed Lady Ursula d’Abo, 59, a celebrated prewar society beauty he had known 22 years. She shared his interest in gardening and served as a sometime hostess at Getty’s parties where guests ranged from French esthetes to Oklahoma wildcatters.
Rosabella Burch, 42, a Nicaraguan widow who was one of Getty’s companions for the last 15 years of his life, received $82,625 in stock. They shared a love of animals and television shows like Upstairs, Downstairs and Kojak. “I never talked business with him,” she says. “I was brought up to do sewing and embroidery, and that’s all I can do.”
Oddly enough, only one of Getty’s five ex-wives was mentioned in his will: Louise Lynch Getty of Santa Monica, once a professional singer, who received $55,000 per year for life.
He bestowed lesser amounts on an astonishing variety of women about whom little is known: Countess Marianne von Alvensleben, 54, of Düsseldorf, West Germany; Karin Mannhardt (another German); Hildegard Kuhn, 69, of West Berlin; Gloria Bigelow of Los Angeles; Mary Maginnis of Malibu and Belene Clifford of West Covina.
A visitor to Sutton Place, noting all the lovely women around the place, once dared to ask about Paul Getty’s sex life. A friend replied: “He takes business reports to bed and sleeps with three telephones.”