Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Howard Hughes: Boy Wonder and Recluse

Howard Hughes, boy wonder in his young years, was known in the early 1930s to be obsessive-compulsive. One of his favorite foods was green peas, but he was obsessed with their size and used a special fork to sort them by size. This was only one of his more interesting compulsions in his young years.

The Early Years 

Hughes became wealthy because he was brilliant and inventive. After inheriting his father's tool company when he was just a kid, he took it to extraordinary heights, becoming an industrial multi-millionaire. He was charming, outgoing, dazzling to the ladies of Hollywood and always seen with top female stars. Hughes made his mark in the film industry with a controversial movie called "The Outlaw," with Jane Russell. Of course, he  produced and directed the film at RKO Pictures, which he owned. 

Even then, he had odd habits that would today be considered to be signposts of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.) In the 1930s-40s, no one had ever heard of such a thing. He was just considered eccentric by those who knew him.

Near Fatal Airplane Crash

His mental problems worsened after a near fatal airplane crash on July 7, 1946 as he was piloting an experimental U.S. Army Air Force reconnaissance aircraft known as XF-11. He suffered a crushed collar bone, multiple cracked ribs, crushed chest with left lung collapsed. The collapse shifted his heart to the right side of his chest which caused even more pain. He also incurred numerous third-degree burns. It took him months to recover, and during this time he was given codeine as a painkiller, which set him on the road to a long term self-medicating habit. Did this contribute to his later reclusive behavior?


He Bought His First Hotel and More

In Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1966, Hughes rented the top two floors of the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino. He rented it for ten days, but overstayed and continued to pay the rental. Hughes did not gamble, and the operators of the Desert Inn wanted the space for the high rollers coming into town during December, and they asked him to vacate the property. This irked Hughes, and so instead, he bought the hotel and casino. Thereafter he stayed as long as he pleased. He eventually bought The Sands Hotel and Casino, The Frontier Hotel and Casino, and The Landmark Hotel and Casino, among other holdings. The umbrella  name for his holdings was Summa Corporation.

Increasing Isolation From The Public 

Hughes became more and more isolated from the public. He stopped going to Hollywood parties, stopped dating stars. He would sit alone in his screening room and run the same movie for hours on end. Ice Station Zebra, a cold war/espionage film starring Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown was a favorite and he was known to have watched it at least 150 times. He would only pick up objects with a tissue, believing that this protected him from germs. He would sit naked in his bedroom with a pink napkin placed over his genitals. Toward the end of his life, no one was admitted to the room except for a few trusted people.

 Beginning of the End 

In  November, 1970, the Las Vegas SUN newspaper reported that he was "carried out of the Desert Inn on a stretcher, driven to Nellis Air Force Base in an unmarked van and flown by private jet to Resorts International’s Brittania Beach hotel in the Bahamas."

He Never Returned to Las Vegas 

After leaving the D.I. Penthouse, a bitter struggle began over his corporations and holdings. His manager and personal physician were abruptly fired and there was a general shakeup in executives. All his directives were given by a "spokesman," as he never spoke publicly.

Hughes Dies In A Mysterious Manner

Hughes reportedly died on April 5, 1976 on a flight from Mexico to Houston, Texas. At the time of his death, his 6'4" body weighed only 90 pounds. His hair, beard, fingernails and toenails were long and unkempt. There were five broken off hypdermic needles in the flesh of his arms. Kidney failure was noted as the cause of death and his other organs, including his brain, were said to appear perfectly healthy.

Battle For Control and Deception

Soon after his death, the battle for control of his corporations and estate began.

Another report from the Las Vegas Sun carried this piece of news:  "In the years that followed Hughes’ death, numerous documents turned up purporting to be the billionaire’s will. However, judges ruled none was legitimate. One of the more intriguing wills was submitted by Utah gasoline station operator Melvin Dummar, who claimed to have once given Hughes a car ride."
The will was found to have no merit  in court.
Hughes estate was eventually divided between his closest relative, the son of a maternal aunt, Houston Lawyer Will Lummis and 22 other relatives. Summa Corporation was renamed the Howard Hughes Corporation in 1994. 

This story really has no ending, because even today,  the Hughes name carries a powerful amount of clout, especially in Las Vegas, where the holdings still exceed almost every other corporation in town. Howard Robard Hughes was super intelligent, blessed with good looks and great wealth. But in the end, sadly, he wanted nothing to do with the world and its inhabitants. Perhaps there were reasons we know nothing about. In any case, he no longer has to suffer.

Read more about reclusive people at Empty Life Mysteries
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