“Howard Hughes raised me,” says actress Terry Moore. “I’m a pilot; he taught me to fly. And he taught me secretiveness—never to put anything in writing.” The lesson in secrecy seems to have been imperfectly learned. No sooner had the reclusive billionaire gone to his grave than the erstwhile starlet began spilling the beans. Claiming, as she had before his death, that she and Hughes were married at sea by the captain of a chartered yacht in 1949, Moore eulogized Hughes as “one of the great lovers of our time,” and hinted, mystifyingly, that there “may have been” children of their union.
Though she remained studiously vague about most details of her relationship with Hughes, Moore has promised to tell all in a forthcoming autobiography. Among the discrepancies that the book may resolve: Moore’s claim, despite her stormy marriage to football star Glenn Davis in 1951, that she continued to see Hughes for about seven years. “My family and the studio urged me to marry Davis,” she insists. “I didn’t want to.” Wasn’t that bigamy? “All my life,” she replies, “I was scared something would come out about it.” There was no divorce from Hughes: he simply “tore up the ship’s log” recording the marriage, Terry says, and they later parted.
Now 47, the tawny-haired Moore maintains that Hughes was driven into seclusion by poor health and deafness. “When he walked into a room he felt uncomfortable because he couldn’t hear people talking to him,” she told one interviewer recently. “When people looked at him and turned to their companions, he thought they were saying things about him.”
Although Hughes tended to disregard his appearance, she says, he was never filthy. “He didn’t always wear a clean shirt,” she concedes, “but he bathed frequently.” Hughes shaved every three days, although he would neglect his toenails and fingernails. Even then, Moore says, he followed a restless nocturnal routine. “Most of the time we would have dinner out. Then we would go to Goldwyn Studios and watch movies all night.”
Born Helen Koford, Moore was a 15-year-old actress still attending Glendale (Calif.) High School when she caught Hughes’s eye. “Later he arranged an ‘accidental’ meeting in the dining room of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel,” she recalls. “He came over and sat down and stared at me.” Early in their affair, Moore says, Hughes told her, “You’re exactly where Marilyn Monroe was one year ago. All you have to do is walk down the aisle with me. I’ve got millions.” Though inconstant, Moore says, Hughes was remarkably amorous. “Howard was the most romantic man I ever knew,” she says. “He didn’t sleep much, but I don’t know when he had time for business!” Ultimately, she says, it was Hughes’s “need for other women” that drove them apart. “He was honest in business, but dishonest with women. His motto was, ‘It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.’ He could lie better than anyone.”
Thrice married publicly—to Davis, insurance broker Eugene C. McGrath and financier Stuart Cramer III—and three times divorced, Terry, a Mormon, is the mother of two teenage sons living in California. She supports herself with parts in stock productions and films—”I have never taken alimony,” she declares. Moore plans to use the money from her book to buy a houseboat and settle in Fort Lauderdale. She does admit to feeling a bit dated. “Any man who might interest me,” she laughs, “has to know about Tyrone Power, Doak Walker and the Korean war!” But, she has said, “Howard is the only man I ever really loved, and he’s a hard act to follow.”