We’ve spent the past few weeks on respectable citizens of the British Empire so this week I had an important question to ask myself. That question was, “Do I want to read a juicy story about sex, or do I want to read a juicy story about murder?” I decided I wanted to read both. Meet Vicki Morgan!
A “beautiful bad girl” according to Gordon Basichis, she was Alfred S. Bloomingdale’s mistress. To understand how big a deal that was, you probably need to know who Alfred Bloomingdale was.
No, he did not found New York’s department store Bloomingdale’s.
His grandfather did.
You know the saying that “the first generation makes it, the second generation saves it, and the third generation loses it?” Or, to amplify according to the poet-philosopher Jack Donaghy, “The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things, the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas, the third generation . . . snowboards and takes improv classes.”
That was to be the fate of Alfred S. Bloomingdale.
But then something wonderful and amazing happened. Alfred realized that, while out on the town, he did not like carrying the large sums of cash often required for him to dine in style. So he started a system called “dine and sign” where you could present a card to a restaurant, they would keep it on file, and you would pay later. He went on to become a co-founder of Diner’s Club, the first universally accepted credit card.
The dude invented the credit card. (The improv classes really paid off.)
With this success, he and his second wife Betsy became close friends with Ronald and Nancy Reagan; when Reagan became President, Alfred served in his inner circle of advisers. Meanwhile, Betsy became one of Hollywood’s most famous hostesses.
The Wall Street Journal notes:
In Paris in the summer of 1996, Betsy Bloomingdale left the Valentino haute couture show without placing an order and strolled back to her hotel along the Avenue Montaigne. On a whim, she stepped into a boutique whose window displayed a Valentino ready-to-wear gown. “I thought, ‘I like that and that. And I can buy three of those for the price of one haute couture gown,’ ” recalled Mrs. Bloomingdale. “That’s when I started wearing ready-to-wear.”
That story is intended to show that Betsy Bloomingdale was down to earth. Really, not joking.
So, with all the money to buy Paris fashions for his wife, Alfred probably didn’t balk at handing an usher he met at Grauman’s Chinese Theater $6,000 to go on a date with him. That is how this middle aged man became acquainted with the teen-aged Vicki in 1968. He apparently gave her a check saying it was “a gift for a lovely girl who brightened his day” and she gave him her phone number.
I would make a joke about how he could get three lovely girls for the price of one Betsy, but that would not be fair, because women aren’t objects, and also, he could likely get 23 for the price of one Betsy. So that joke would be incorrect because of both morals and economics.
It’s probably worth noting that Vicki was already married at the time. She was the very young bride of 49 year old Earle Lamm, who leased her a Mercedes 280-SL, gave her a credit card for her shopping sprees and also . . . expected her to attend orgies. According to The History of Mistresses, the definitive text on everyone who has ever had sex:
“Other than her youth and abundant beauty, she had few accomplishments. Her principal domestic skill was shopping for interior decorations, and she could not cook or even assemble ingredients for meals. Earle, a bisexual, had wanted a trophy wife open to sexual experimentation and group sex. As he saw it, Vicki was almost perfect.”
I think this gives the misleading impression that if you cannot cook, you had better be great at orgies but, well, so be it.
I guess she went the orgy route because she hated making toast. Lots of people had to take desperate measures before there was reliable take-out.
Immediately after their first date, Alfred Bloomingdale had her join an S&M session with two other women. He beat those women with belts while Vicki, tied up, watched. Afterwards he told her she was going to become his mistress. Vicki – maker of shitty toast – replied that she was already married, so it would not be possible. Bloomingdale countered that she’d have a better deal with him, explaining, “You can get whatever you need, whenever you need it. I’m that rich.”
Vicki divorced her husband.
She recounted later that, when she told Earle she was leaving him, he shouted that she was just another pretty girl to Bloomingdale. Vicki proudly replied, “Earle, I’m not pretty, I’m beautiful.”
Bloomingdale presented her with an $18,000 a month allowance, a new Mercedes and a tutor so that she could appear appropriately educated to attend social occasions with him. For those gifts, he expected her to attend S&M orgies where she whipped groveling prostitutes who addressed her as Mistress. She was also supposed to book the prostitutes and sleep with Bloomingdale’s business associates. Vicki hated the latter. However, when she demurred, Alfred told her, “It’s part of the job.”
Vicki, in the way I imagine every woman in this situation would, started downing a ton of Valium. And shopping. She shopped and took Valium, which I guess is what I, another woman who is not so good at cooking, would do in a nightmare world where my only two options were to be an excellent cook or engage in increasingly elaborate sexual pursuits.
People magazine claimed:
She once spent $100,000 remodeling a house she was only renting. A close friend remembers Vicki as a spendthrift who traveled first-class, shopped at Neiman-Marcus, and lavished presents on her friends and family. And some of her lucre, apparently, went for recreational drugs, including cocaine.
I guess the cocaine was because you need a lot of energy to decorate a place you are merely renting.
So, it was completely awesome being Bloomingdale’s mistress if you were the kind of person who liked S&M orgies. Sadly Vicki did not, so for her, life was completely terrible. Though it was apparently all fun and sex games for some members of Reagan’s cabinet who supposedly participated in the affairs.
I guess they did not “Just say no.”
Vicki then became pregnant and had an abortion. In a twist on most mistress relationships, Bloomingdale actually wanted her to have the baby. This decision caused a strain in their relationship, as did the fact that Betsy saw the two of them kissing on a street corner. For a short time after these incidents, Alfred tried to terminate their relationship but Vicki barged into his office and threatened him with a paperweight, which turned out to be a surprisingly effective strategy. Alfred gave her a check for $20,000 and apologized.
Shortly thereafter, she began dating Cary Grant behind Alfred’s back.
This is probably the coolest possible thing anyone could ever do, in the realm of “cool immoral infidelity things”. Let’s look at this picture of Cary Grant, okay?
They stayed in Cary Grant’s house and ate TV dinners and watched movies, and Cary Grant did not sleep with her for a very long time maybe because he wanted to get to know her first. It sounds awesome to me, except for the not sleeping with Cary Grant for a long time part, but I bet that was a relief to Vicki.
Then Alfred found out. Vicki and Alfred fought. She ended her affair with Cary Grant after Alfred repossessed her Mercedes. However, she told Alfred she no longer wanted to participate in group sex sessions.
They fought more. He cut off her allowance. She threatened a lawsuit and claimed she’d expose his unorthodox sexual tastes. They reconciled, but I think relationships are never really the same after you’ve threatened someone with a lawsuit and public scandal.
Finally they broke up and Vicki married a young struggling actor named John David Carson in 1976. That marriage was very, very brief. Vicki realized that she really hated being poor. Fortunately, around that time, Vicki was summoned to Morocco by King Hassan II. He claimed he wanted her to model, but really he wanted her for sex.
How was this the most desirable woman on the planet, you might be wondering? I don’t know, but I think she had really good hair, so maybe that?
Her time in Morocco went well enough that the King gave her $25,000 and a maid named Fatima who was supposed to take care of Vicki for life.
When Vicki moved back to California – with her maid presumably in tow – she met a real estate developer named Bob Schulman who wanted to marry her. I think this was a dumb offer and she really should have tried to work things out with Cary Grant, but we all make our own choices.
Alfred Bloomingdale decided that she should not marry Bob Schulman. Vicki agreed to go back to being his mistress for $1 million.
But Vicki was still sad. She knew that she could never have a place in Alfred’s world and spent much of the time taking pills to sleep. I know this seems self indulgent, but it must have been lonely, being left with only Fatima for days. Though she could have made friends. Like a normal person. I’m not sure why she was so easily called on by the King of Morocco and Cary Grant but was not able to find some lady to go to the movies with in the afternoon.
Bad cooking skills, probably. All the other ladies would probably just laugh and laugh at her.
Finally, she called Bob and told him that she made a mistake. They fled to Las Vegas and were married, whereupon, immediately regretful, Vicki met Jawajar Bin Saud, a lesbian Saudi princess whom she then ran away with.
These are real events; I am not making up this story to entertain you.
The two became addicted to heroin, which sounds plausible when you are having a lesbian affair with a Saudi Arabian princess you met in Las Vegas.
Vicki checked into the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai shortly after. When released she went back to Alfred who now had stomach cancer. He found out that he was sick only after taking Vicki to the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
As his disease worsened, Vicki was only able to see him in the disguise of a nurse. Betsy was always around his sick-bed because she was his wife. It’s frankly surprising that she wasn’t at the wedding of Princess Diana, but okay.
I guess she didn’t feel all that great about missing the wedding either, because, after Alfred died in 1982, Betsy cut Vicki off entirely. As often happens to mistresses. But it was fine, since Vicki had been given a million dollars and $18,000 a month checks for years, right?
No. Not right. Vicki had spent it all on . . . dumb stuff.
She sold her Mercedes and, desperate for funds, began work on a tell-all about her time as Alfred’s mistress. She also initiated a lawsuit for palimony, but it was dismissed. She claimed of Betsy, “She buried him like a dog. This woman only thinks of one person . . Betsy, Betsy, Betsy.”
Look, Vicki, Betsy had to bury the body.
Destitute, Vicki had to find a new way to support herself, so she rented a room in her condominium to a young man named Marvin Pancoast whom she had met at the mental health clinic. That was, in retrospect, a very bad decision, even though he was a masochist who offered to act as Vicki’s servant. (I wonder, in this moment, what happened to Fatima?)
Then Marvin killed her. With a baseball bat. In her sleep. Apparently, he reported the incident very calmly to the police officers.
Did he do it because he’d been paid off by someone in the Reagan administration? There was plenty of speculation on that point at the time, as it was claimed that Vicki had videotapes of people in the Reagan administration engaging in orgies. However, the tapes were found to be a hoax, and, when asked why he killed her, Pancoast claimed that he had “just wanted her to go to sleep.”
Considering that Vicki had spent much of her life dosing herself with sleeping pills, I think she probably wanted that, too.
As for Betsy Bloomingdale, she continues to live in style, remaining Nancy Reagan’s best friend. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing this has a lot to do with the fact that she makes a terrific omelet.