was twenty-one Antony Baekeland's parents separated and he lived with
his doting mother, Barbara Baekeland, an ex-film star, in a penthouse
flat in London. He had homosexual tendencies and was known to experiment
On 17th November 1972 he stabbed his over-indulgent mother to
death. When police arrived they found Antony ordering a Chinese meal.
Old Bailey trial, which began on 6th June 1973, witnesses told of the
possibility of an incestuous relationship between Antony and his mother.
It was suggested that Barbara had been trying to 'cure' her son of his
His defence, one of diminished responsibility, was
successfully argued and he was found guilty of the lesser charge of
manslaughter. He was sent to Broadmoor.
discharged from Broadmoor in July 1980 and went to live with his
grandmother in New York. He had only been there a week before he
attacked the elderly woman, because she nagged him. He was locked up on
Riker's Island and committed suicide there on 21st March 1981.
Barbara Daly Baekeland was a
wealthy socialite who was murdered by her son, Antony Baekeland on
November 17, 1972. She was the wife of Brooks Baekeland, grandson of Leo
Baekeland, founder of Bakelite plastic.
murdered at her London home. Antony stabbed her with a kitchen knife and
she died almost instantly. When the police arrived, they found Antony,
who was 25 years old at the time, ordering Chinese food over the phone.
He later confessed and was charged with murder.
Before meeting Brooks Baekeland, Barbara was a model
and would-be Hollywood starlet; she had a screen test in Hollywood with
the actor Dana Andrews.
During their marriage, she was known for her unstable personality, rude
outbursts and bouts of severe depression. She led a decadent lifestyle
of drinking and risqué sexual encounters. In time, her husband Brooks
left her for a younger woman, Sylvie (who some said had been his son's
girlfriend first), which was followed by divorce This led to severe
depression and a suicide attempt (her friend Gloria Jones, wife of James
Jones, saved her).
Relationship with son
Baekeland had an enmeshed, co-dependent and allegedly incestuous
relationship with her homosexual son, Antony. Baekeland attempted to "fix"
her son by having prostitutes take him to bed; after this failed,
Baekeland was alleged to have convinced or coerced her son into sexual
intercourse. Though Antony displayed signs of schizophrenia with
paranoid tendencies, his father refused to allow him to be treated by
psychiatrists, whom he believed were "professionally amoral".
Her son's erratic behavior caused concern among family friends, and over
the years, the two had several threatening arguments involving knives.
After the murder, Antony was institutionalized at Broadmoor Hospital
until, after much urging by a group of his friends, he was released in
July 21, 1980.
He relocated to New York City to live with his grandmother, stabbing but
not killing her less than a week later. He was sent to Rikers Island and
was suffocated with a plastic bag on March 20, 1981; it is not known if
his death was a suicide or murder.
The Baekeland murder was made into the film Savage Grace in 2007,
starring Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Eddie Redmayne and Elena
Anaya, based on the book of the same name.
After the film appeared, Barbara Baekeland's former
lover, Sam Green, wrote an article pointing out elements in the film
possibly misleading for those trying to read back to the reality
inspiring it. Referring in particular to the scene of Barbara, her son
Antony, and Sam in bed together making love, he wrote, "it is true that
almost 40 years ago I did have an affair with Barbara, but I certainly
never slept with her son...Nor am I bisexual." He went on to give his
opinion that "she started telling people she had had an incestuous
relationship with her son as a way of 'curing' him of homosexuality...But
I don't believe she had sex with Tony. I think she simply enjoyed
How a society beauty was finally murdered by the gay
son she had seduced
By David Leafe - DailyMail.co.uk
30th June 2008
It's a jaw-dropping
tale - the society beauty who seduced her son to 'cure' him of
homosexuality and paid with her life.
As the story of Barbara Baekeland
becomes a Hollywood film - Savage Grace, released next month - a
riveting book tells the truth about her 1972 murder. Here, we conclude
our exclusive adaptation ...
That terrible day dawned hazy and
cloudy in London, but by 3pm the sun shone with unaccustomed benevolence
The leaves in Cadogan Square had turned and were
All her life, Barbara Baekeland had been partial to
autumnal colours: the rust-coloured skirts and bronze shoes she favoured
suited her flaming red hair and fair skin.
Even now, aged 50, her beauty was bewitching - she
could pass for a woman 20 years younger. It was this flamboyant glamour
that had ensnared her husband, Brooks Baekeland, wealthy grandson of the
man who invented Bakelite, the world's first plastic.
But Brooks had left her for a younger woman four
years previously, so today she was socialising alone.
At 1pm, she leaned down to stroke her Siamese cat Mr
Wuss before leaving her penthouse flat for lunch with Missie Harnden, a
Russian princess who lived nearby in the exclusive residential streets
They gossiped excitedly about the cocktail party
Barbara had held the previous night, and sat down to filet mignon
wrapped in bacon, green beans and a tossed salad, accompanied by a
Spanish red wine.
At 3.30pm, Barbara got up to leave, thanking her
friend for the "marvellous lunch" and mentioning that her son Tony was
cooking dinner for her that evening.
At 7pm, Missie answered the phone. It was Chelsea
police station inquiring as to the time of Barbara's arrival and
departure that afternoon.
They would not say why, but a few seconds later she
was asked: "How well did you know the deceased?"
She was too shocked to answer and handed the phone to
her son. It was he who learned the shocking truth: Barbara Baekeland had
It was a crime that made headlines on both sides of
the Atlantic. A member of one of the U.S.'s richest and most powerful
dynasties had been murdered in the heart of one of London's most
And more sensational still - the killer was her own
It was no secret that Tony Baekeland had been
This tall, thin and seemingly gentle 26-year-old had
taken to threatening his mother with knives, attempting to choke her and
trying to push her in front of cars.
His psychiatrist and close family friends had warned
Barbara that he intended to kill her. But she had ignored those warnings
to the end.
The night before her death, at that last cocktail
party, Missie had noticed Tony staring into space in what she later
described as a "strange, bright-eyed way".
She had intended to mention something about this
during their lunch, but as usual Barbara had talked endlessly about Tony
- how wonderful he was, how much he loved London, how everything in
their lives was rosy and happy - and Missie couldn't bring herself to
It was a decision she regretted the instant she heard
what had happened to her friend after they said their goodbyes.
Returning to her flat in Cadogan Square, Barbara had
found Tony at home with Mr Wuss and their Spanish maid, who was ironing
in the dining room.
According to Tony's subsequent confession, one of his
mother's friends had phoned while she was out and he had invited her
around that evening. Barbara apparently did not want to see this friend
and so an argument had started, during which the maid became so
frightened by Tony's demeanour that she ran from the flat.
"I think my mind was slightly wacky and I was very
much under my mother's powerful influence," he said later. "I felt as
though she were controlling my mind."
His recollections were confused, but he remembered
hitting Barbara and her running into the kitchen.
Following her, he picked up a knife from the kitchen
table and stabbed her with it. She fell to the floor and he called an
"It took hours to come and by the time it did my
mother was dead,"he said.
"It was horrible - I held her hand and she would not
look at me or speak to me. Then she died."
The paramedics alerted the police, who arrived to
find Barbara lying on her back in the kitchen, with a single stab wound
near her heart.
The knife had severed a main artery. As for Tony, he
was on the phone in his bedroom, ordering a Chinese takeaway.
He appeared completely unconcerned. Mr Wuss, the cat,
was hiding in terror under the bed.
As Tony was taken to Chelsea police station, he
maintained that Barbara had been stabbed by her mother Nini Daly, who
was in her 80s and thousands of miles away at her home in New York.
He also remarked to the detective who arrested him
that "it all started when I was three or five and I fell off my pogo
When friends visited him in Brixton prison, he asked:
"How is my mother? Is she well?"
Later, feeling "clearer in the nog" and accepting
that his mother was dead, Tony spoke of feeling that "a great weight has
been lifted from my shoulders".
One friend suggested that he had killed Barbara after
she threw out of the window the collar of a long-dead pet Pekingese,
which he had kept as a memento since childhood.
Rather more germane, perhaps, was the fact he was
schizophrenic and that he and his mother had been pursuing an incestuous
affair - a relationship that had started three years earlier, when
Barbara set out to "cure" his homosexuality, and continued, it appears,
right up to her death.
The following summer, in June 1973, Tony appeared at
the Old Bailey, defended by John Mortimer, later to be celebrated as
creator of the fictional barrister Rumpole.
He described Tony as "very gentle, calm and nice" and
attempted to get him sent back to the U.S., his home country, for
Instead he was found guilty of manslaughter with
diminished responsibility and sent to Broadmoor for an indefinite period.
Tony seemed happy there, working in the handicrafts
shop, having clandestine relationships with other male inmates and
welcoming visitors including the actress Patricia Neal, taken along by
one of the Baekelands' friends who was painting her portrait at the
Another of those who came to see him was his
grandmother, Nini Daly.
"She still seems less disturbed by her daughter's
death than by the fact that her dear little Tony is in trouble," said a
note in his file.
"She seems just as mad as the rest of the family."
Nini's refusal to believe that Tony could do anything
wrong would eventually rebound on her in horrific fashion - but she was
not alone in her belief that her grandson was being unfairly detained.
He might still be in Broadmoor today had it not been
for a misguided group of supporters who believed that his capacity for
violence had been exhausted when he killed his mother.
A campaign for his release was led by the honourable
Hugo Money-Coutts, whose family controlled London's exclusive Coutts
Bank, and whose mother-in-law was one of the Baekeland's oldest friends.
Coutts's influence ensured that Tony's case was
discussed at the highest levels, with telegrams shuttling between the
American Embassy in London and Cyrus Vance, the U.S. Secretary of State
in Washington. Eventually, in July 1980, Tony was discharged on
condition that he was repatriated.
Tony's father Brooks opposed this move. He had a new
son, born shortly after Tony was sent to Broadmoor, and, on learning of
the arrival of his half brother, Tony had used his time in the
handicrafts workshop to fashion a series of toys for him so grotesque
and macabre that Brooks had to throw them away as soon as they arrived.
Brooks had also received abusive letters from Tony,
some threatening to murder his new wife Sylvie.
Brooks dismissed the idea that his son had been
suffering diminished responsibility, maintaining that he was inherently
While this refusal to recognise that Tony had a
mental illness was hardly helpful, Brooks was right to be concerned
given the disastrously inadequate provisions made for his son's release.
There had been reassuring talk of his being
accompanied on the flight back to New York by two trained medical
escorts, but this requirement somehow got lost in the confused
discussions between the authorities in Britain and the U.S.
No one seemed willing to take overall responsibility
for what happened to him.
His companion in the end was his paternal
grandmother's friend Cecelia Brebner, whose daughter happened to live
She had agreed to give Tony a parcel from his
grandmother during one of her visits and, having met him only once, was
somewhat surprised when one of his friends asked if she would accompany
him back to the U.S.
Unsure of what she might be taking on, she asked for
advice from a somewhat unlikely source.
"I was staying at the time with Lady Mary Clayton at
Kensington Palace, and she said: 'Celia, I don't think it's the right
thing to do, but we'll ask Prince George of Denmark.'
"He thought it was a very altruistic thing to do, so
I embarked upon it."
So it was that on the advice of a minor member of the
European aristocracy, she agreed to take temporary charge of a man who
had knifed his mother to death, and whose medication had been steadily
reduced over the previous six months until finally he was taking nothing
Tony's consultant at Broadmoor, Dr Philip Gogarty-who
later described his release as a faux pas -said he had discharged him
only on condition that Tony would live in some kind of half-way house on
his arrival in the U.S, so that he could properly reintegrate into
No such arrangement had been made and since Tony's
father refused to take any responsibility for his son, even though he
was also in the U.S. at the time, there was only one option.
Tony would live in a tiny apartment on New York's
Upper East Side with his ever forgiving grandmother, even though she was
recovering from a broken hip and needed round-theclock care herself.
At the time, New York was experiencing an extreme
heatwave, but Tony spent most of the next few days in his grandmother's
cramped and sweltering flat, playing morbid music and mumbling satanic
masses in front of a shrine to his dead mother, created by placing
candles and photos of her on top of a chest of drawers with her ashes as
At 9am on Sunday, July 27, only six days after Tony's
release from Broadmoor, Nini Daly's nurse Lena Richards arrived at the
apartment to begin her day's shift.
She had been asked to lend her key to Tony while he
was staying there, so she had to wait for him to let her in, but there
was no reply when she rang the bell.
Eventually, Tony came to the door wearing only a pair
"Lena, quick, get the ambulance,' he shouted. 'I've
just stabbed my grandmother."
Richards ran to a nearby phone box and called the
police. As they entered the apartment, they heard Nini Daly shrieking
with terror and saw Tony rushing out of her bedroom towards them.
"She won't die, the knife won't go in! And she keeps
screaming! I can't understand it," he shouted as they grabbed him.
The police found his grandmother lying against the
wall in a corner of her bedroom with blood soaking through her satin
She had been stabbed eight times and had multiple
other injuries including a fractured collar bone and ribs.
While they waited for an ambulance to arrive, Tony
was taken to the local police station.
He later explained that he wanted to have sex with
his grandmother-just as he had with his mother.
This, at least, was the underlying cause of his
frustration, but the trigger for the attack was that she had tried to
stop him making a phone call to England.
He had thrown the phone at her head and it knocked
her to the floor.
Realising that he had injured her, he apparently
decided it would be kindest to put her out of her misery, so he began
attacking her with a kitchen knife, but she wouldn't die.
"I hate it when this happens," he told the police.
Miraculously, every blow had struck bone and his grandmother survived.
Tony was charged with attempted murder and sent to
Rikers Island, New York's main prison.
By then he had come into his trust fund and the other
prisoners quickly began preying on him for money.
Within a few months he had given away almost £20,000-some
of it as protection money and some as gifts to those with whom he began
having relationships, including, it was said, one of the male guards and
an inmate who had raped and decapitated a young boy.
Just as he had in Broadmoor, Tony appeared to find a
perverted kind of peace on Rikers Island, but his time there was about
to come to an abrupt end.
On March 20, 1981, he was taken to court for a
preliminary hearing and learned that his trial would not take place for
another month because his medical records had still not arrived from
He hoped to be granted bail until then, but his
application was refused.
Little more than half an hour after returning to his
cell at 3.30pm that day, he was found dead in his bed, suffocated by a
carrier bag placed over his head.
Brooks Baekeland believed his son had been murdered,
perhaps because he had threatened to reveal his relationship with the
guard or refused to hand over money to one of the more dangerous and
Others were convinced it was suicide, but whether
Tony was killed or brought about his death himself, one thing was
What ended his life was a bag made of plastic-the
material behind the fortune which had made the Baekelands one of the
U.S.'s most envied families, but also one of its most tragic.
Savage Grace: A True Story
Of Incest And Murder Among The Wealthy Elite by Natalie Robins and
Stephen M. L. Aronson is published by Pocket Books on July 7 at £7.99. °
Natalie Robins and Stephen M. L. Aronson 2008.
I wasn't to blame for
heiress murder, says art expert depicted on screen in 'incest threesome'
By Sam Green - DailyMail.co.uk
12th July 2008
There's a scene in the controversial new movie Savage
Grace that the audience finds especially uncomfortable. The beautiful
and exciting socialite Barbara Baekeland, played by Julianne Moore, is
in bed with her handsome young lover, the art curator Sam Green, and
another good-looking young man: Tony, her own son.
The three kiss and caress each other passionately.
They make love and, as they writhe ecstatically, the viewers squirm
unhappily. It is a shocking depiction of incest. I was more disturbed
than most. I am Sam Green.
Barbara was subsequently murdered in London by Tony -
a crime that made headlines all over the world in 1972
It is true that almost 40 years ago I did have an
affair with Barbara, but I certainly never slept with her son, and nor
did she, to the best of my knowledge. Nor am I bisexual.
The movie producers have changed my sexual
orientation but couldn't be bothered to change my name. I'm taking legal
advice because the film has damaged me and distorted a life that
certainly needs no exaggeration.
By the time I met Barbara, who was married to the
heir of the Bakelite plastics fortune, in the late Sixties, I was
already well known in my own right.
I had become a close friend of Hollywood legend Greta
Garbo and I had launched Andy Warhol's career. Later, I became so close
to John Lennon that in his will I was named guardian of his son Sean.
I was born in a small town in Connecticut in 1941. My
parents were university professors, so while my friends went to baseball
games with their dads, mine would take me to see houses of architectural
interest. He instilled in me a lifelong love of art and architecture.
After studying at art school, I moved to New York and
sought whatever work I could get in galleries. In 1962, the year after
my arrival, I was managing the well respected Green Gallery when an
unprepossessing man came in one day and introduced himself.
'Hi, I'm Andy. Andy Warhol. I'm an artist.' I shook
his extended hand. 'Sam Green.' 'Really? OK. Hi, Sam. I wonder if I
could interest you in seeing my work.'
Later, after we had become firm friends, Andy
confided that he had assumed by my surname that I was the gallery
owner's son, so he'd made a point of cultivating me.
At that time he had been working as an illustrator
and was not yet famous as an artist. He was a few years older than me
but we started to hang out together and got on really well. He was very
funny, with amazingly original ideas.
When I was 24, I put on an exhibition of established
artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein, but included some of Andy's stuff. He
and I were ambitious and determined to insinuate ourselves into the
elevated social circles that the art world attracts.
We spent one summer persuading wealthy socialites to
let us film naked models in their bathrooms. Attractive young women -
and men - fell over themselves to show how liberated they were by
stripping for us, and the well-to-do were happy to have naked young
people cavorting in their homes. This was the Sixties: such behaviour
wasn't really considered so bizarre then.
By this time I was regularly appearing in magazines
and gossip columns, and I became director of the Institute of
Contemporary Art in Philadelphia where, in 1965, I arranged a
retrospective of Andy's work. It was that event that launched him to
international stardom and I remained part of his inner circle until the
day he died.
One of my favourite photographs shows Andy kneeling
with one of his acolytes, Bridget Berlin, leaning over him topless. I
appear wearing a suit, photographing them. The picture was actually
taken by Cecil Beaton.
Cecil later championed me socially and in his
celebrated diaries, published in 1972, I get as many mentions as the
Queen Mother. It was Cecil who introduced me to Baroness Cecile de
Rothschild, who in turn introduced me to one of Hollywood's most
reclusive legends, Greta Garbo.
Cecile acted as Garbo's protector in Europe. I often
stayed with Cecile at her huge house in the South of France but usually
I was asked to leave a day or two before Garbo arrived. Eventually, I
was asked to stay.
Cecile went to pick her up at the airport while I got
more and more nervous at the prospect of meeting one of the world's most
famous women. Then the butler told me we would meet in the living room
for drinks. There was no sign of Garbo yet but Cecile asked me to make
her a drink.
While I was at the bar, I heard a door open behind
me. I assumed it was the butler. When I turned around there was Garbo,
about six inches away from me. My jaw dropped and I stood there
Garbo smiled. 'Mr Green, I've been so looking forward
to meeting you,' she said, in that throaty voice of hers. 'I'm sure
we're going to have the most wonderful time together.'
She knew everybody became tongue-tied when they met
her for the first time, and it amused her.
When I later introduced her to people they would all
lose their composure in a similiar way. Garbo was in her early 60s but
still a beauty. Men, and not a few women, were smitten with her.
We instantly became friends and the two women and I
had some marvellous times on yacht trips around Greece and Corsica.
Garbo called me Mr Green and I called her Miss G or
G, but never Greta because she hated that name.
Despite her reclusive image, she seemed to be
comfortable in her skin. When she swam off yachts, she would just peel
off her clothes and dive in naked, oblivious to, or possibly very aware
of, the watching crew.
I helped her with all sorts of things. For example,
she couldn't write her own cheques because people would never cash them:
her signature was far more valuable than the amounts the cheques were
for. The result was that she was forever having her phone or her
electricity cut off because the recipient of her cheque had simply
decided to keep it.
Garbo was obsessive about keeping fit and we took
long walks together. If we saw somebody approaching with that 'Oh my God,
is that who I think it is?' look on their face, she would say: 'Uh-oh,
we've got a customer.' We'd then slip into a well rehearsed routine
where she would sidestep the approaching fan while I blocked the way as
she made her escape. When we met up again she would imitate the walk of
She loathed being recognised so she rarely went to
restaurants and she hated being approached for autographs because she
felt it was demeaning for another person to think she was better than
I was her closest confidant for 20 years but she was
not the only ravishing beauty in my life. I met Barbara Baekeland in
1969 during a private yacht cruise around the Greek Islands.
Barbara was a globetrotting socialite, separated from
her husband Brooks, a man with matinee-idol looks and heir to the
Bakelite plastics fortune. Her schizophrenic son, Tony, fancied himself
as an artist.
Barbara was stunning to look at and had glorious red
hair - and a wild spirit. She rapidly showed interest in me and I was
extremely flattered: I was 29 and she was 47. We would go for long swims
and one day we found ourselves on a deserted beach where the inevitable
She later took me to her castle in Majorca where I
met Tony, then 23. She had spoken of him as a sort of messiah, the
greatest child there ever was, but I found him very disappointing.
He was a poor little rich kid who couldn't decide if
he wanted to be a poet or a musician or simply sit on the beach smoking
pot all day. I didn't like him at all.
Although there was no hint of sexual tension between
them, Barbara and Tony's relationship was bizarre. Tony was very
insulting to his mother and she seemed to do her best to provoke him.
One night at dinner, Tony suddenly got up, walked
around the table and yanked Barbara backwards off her chair by her hair,
dragging her towards the door. She remained entirely passive.
I leapt up but she signalled to me not to intervene.
I was totally unnerved and retreated to my room. Later in the evening,
both behaved as if nothing had happened.
I arranged to send myself a telegram saying I was
urgently needed elsewhere and made my escape.
My sexual relationship with Barbara had lasted for no
more than four weeks. As far as I was concerned it was a fling, a
But Barbara placed much more significance on our
relationship. I think it is fair to say she was in love with me. I ended
up keeping in touch with her although her behaviour became more and more
difficult. At one point she went around telling everyone she was
pregnant by me.
She bombarded me with letters and calls. She once
walked barefoot across Central Park in the snow wearing a lynx coat with
nothing underneath to call at my apartment - uninvited. She spent the
night on my doorstep more than once when I wouldn't let her in. These
days I think you would call her a stalker.
Then she started telling people she had had an
incestuous relationship with her son as a way of 'curing' him of
homosexuality. One of her friends said: 'Sons and lovers - nobody knows
the difference any more.'
But I don't believe she had sex with Tony. I think
she simply enjoyed shocking people.
Barbara and Tony were staying in a penthouse in
Cadogan Square, London - a flat I had found her - when he stabbed her
with a kitchen knife and severed an artery.
When the police arrived she was lying dead on the
kitchen floor and he was on the phone ordering a Chinese takeaway.
I found out about her death when I got a call from
Interpol telling me I was the executor of her estate and asking what my
instructions were for her body.
I can't say I was shocked to hear of the murder,
given what I had seen of her relationship with her son, but I was
surprised to learn I was her executor. It revealed her dependency on me,
how she thought I was financially capable and, saddest of all, how few
close friends she had.
At Tony's Old Bailey trial he was defended by Rumpole
creator John Mortimer. Tony spent eight years in Broadmoor after being
found guilty of manslaughter through diminished responsibility.
When he was released after pressure from do-gooders,
he returned to New York without any supervision. Almost the first thing
he did was call me. He spoke to my secretary, who asked who he was.
He said: 'I'm the guy who killed his mother.'
I told my secretary to say I wasn't there. He went
back to his grandmother's apartment and stabbed her eight times -
miraculously, she survived.
It was in 1981, while he was in Rikers Island prison
awaiting trial, that he committed suicide by suffocating himself with a
plastic bag. He was 35. I have to admit I felt nothing but relief when I
heard the news.
Of course I had moved on with my life by then, and
once again the art world had brought me into contact with high-profile
I had met Yoko Ono before I met John Lennon. She
shared an apartment with a Japanese artist I admired called Yayoi Kusama.
Yoko fancied herself an artist and whenever I went to
see Yayoi, Yoko would say: 'Sam, you have to see my new work. It is so
fantastic.' After about the sixth time I said to her, quite bluntly: 'Yoko,
I'm not interested.'
Then in 1974, she and John came to New York as a
couple. A few days after they arrived, I got a call from Andy Warhol. 'Sam,
you've got to help me,' he said. 'John and Yoko are insisting I
introduce them to everybody in New York.'
So Andy and I put together a party for them. John and
Yoko sat in the corner, not saying much to anyone. Every night after
that they wanted Andy to arrange something for them. After about five
days of this he called and said: 'I just can't do it any more. They are
so boring.' So I took up the cause and gradually we became good friends.
They regularly invited me over to their apartment in the Dakota building,
and I had them over to my place, just four blocks away.
I also accompanied them to Japan and Egypt, where I
assembled a collection of ancient Egyptian art for them, including a
sarcophagus containing the remains of a princess whom Yoko decided she
had been in a previous life.
It was when John made his will in November 1979 -
just over a year before he was murdered - that he named me as Sean's
guardian if he and Yoko died together. I discovered this only after his
death. It was a total shock.
I spent much of my career helping artists with theirs,
and travelling around the world as an adviser to collectors. On the back
of this, I was able to buy a 16th Century mansion in Cartagena, Spain,
as well as my own place in New York.
These days, I devote much of my time to the Landmarks
Foundation, of which I am founder and director. Its task is to restore
and protect sacred sites around the world. One of my proudest
achievements was saving Easter Island when the airlines tried to turn it
into a jet-refuelling station 40 years ago.
The work I do now is not a reaction against a life
spent mixing with the rich, it is a continuation of it. I put all the
contacts I have made in my career to good use as I raise Foundation
funds from the wealthy and the well connected.
I had put the Barbara and Tony Baekeland episode
behind me - until I saw Savage Grace. Of course, film-makers always
embellish the truth, but that is very different from pure invention.
In the film you hear Tony Baekeland, played by Eddie
Redmayne, talking about me: 'He's a homosexual walker who spends his
time tending to the needs of very rich women.'
Although I never married, this is untrue and a slur.
I think this element of the film may have come from an unpublished piece
of fiction written by Barbara in which the heroine seduces her own son,
then her son's male friend and then discovers her son and the friend
I read Barbara's manuscript in 1970 and wrote to her:
'I cannot think why anyone would be interested in the self-indulgent
ramblings of a mad international wastrel.'
To watch the Sam Green in the movie, played by
British actor Hugh Dancy, passionately kiss Tony turned my stomach.
There is also an implication that I am somehow
responsible for Barbara's murder because Tony becomes confused and
unbalanced after the three-in-a-bed incest scene. It is an outrageous
I will concede that I am brilliantly portrayed by
Hugh Dancy. He is stunningly well dressed, and looks exactly as I did.
It is as if he raided my wardrobe from those days. He even talks likes
me. But that only serves to make the whole experience more profoundly
unsettling. I admit I may have led a life that is worthy of a movie. But
not this one.
• As told to Janet
Fatal Seduction: How a society millionairess
seduced her own son to 'cure' him of being gay... and paid with her life
By David Leafe - MailonSunday.co.uk
27th June 2008
She did not see her assailant until it was too late.
Pushing open the front door of the house in Kensington Square, the
upmarket London enclave where she was staying with a friend, Barbara
Baekeland was about to take off her coat when the maniac jumped out and
tried to grab her.
Terrified, the 50-year-old society hostess twisted
free and ran outside, back down the steps.
But she was too slow - and, as she stumbled towards
the pavement, it was her hair that proved her downfall.
Bonfire red, in contrast to her milkwhite skin, it
had for years ensured that she always turned heads - in Hollywood,
where she was once screen-tested as an actress, at society soirees in
America and Europe, where she consorted with film stars and aristocrats,
or in London, where she had recently acquired a luxurious penthouse flat
Now her attacker was using her most distinctive
feature to try to kill her. Grabbing a fistful of her hair so that it
tore and ripped at her scalp, he began dragging her into the road to
throw her under a passing car.
She tried to resist by clinging to the gate - so he
began slamming it backwards and forwards on her fingers. Harder and
harder, he smashed the metal against her hand, breaking her thumb in
Then, when she thought she could hold on no more, he
suddenly changed his mind about how to finish her off.
Letting go of the gate, he ran back into the house
and reappeared with a carving knife, shouting that any woman who was
near was going to 'get it'.
Barbara Baekeland's life might have ended there and
then, had her friend Sue Guinness not arrived home that very moment.
Leaving his victim lying dazed on the pavement, with
a clump of hair missing from her head, the attacker fled back into the
house and out through a rear door, disappearing into the exclusive
residential streets beyond.
But it did not take long to track him down - for
Barbara knew his identity only too well.
The maniac who had almost killed her on that
terrifying day in 1972 was her 26-year-old son, Tony.
Although the police arrested him for attempted murder,
she refused to press charges and Tony was admitted to the Priory, the
private psychiatric hospital in South London, only to be released soon
Their dynasty was doomed by madness and debauchery
Within a few months, he would strike again - and
this time there would be no reprieve.
Barbara would die at the hands of her own child in a
savage murder at their Chelsea home that sent shockwaves through high
society in both Britain and America.
The death of Barbara Baekeland left only one question:
not who had killed her, but why?
That riddle is at the heart of Savage Grace, a
Hollywood movie about the murder, starring Julianne Moore, which is
released next month and is based on the book of the same name by Natalie
Robins and Steven Aronson.
Interviewing many of those closest to the family,
Robins and Aronson paint a compelling portrait of a glittering dynasty
doomed by madness, debauchery, drug abuse and black magic.
Most disturbing of all, they reveal how Tony
Baekeland's act of matricide was preceded by another crime equally
bewildering and shocking - Barbara Baekeland's sexual seduction of her
If ever a story illustrated that money cannot buy
happiness, then it is the saga of the Baekeland family.
Their fortune was made in America at the turn of the
20th century when Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, invented Bakelite,
the world's first plastic, which was used in everything from radios and
records to artificial limbs and atomic bombs.
His grandson Brooks Baekeland - Barbara's future
husband - was an arrogant and aloof young man, with movie star looks.
He liked to say that, thanks to his grandfather, he
had 'f*** you' money. 'That means I need not please or seek to please
An intellectual, he claimed to despise the
ostentation and relentless partying of high society - so he could
hardly have made a worse choice of wife than the red-headed beauty
Barbara, according to Brooks, had 'mischief in the
blood'. Her mother Nini had a breakdown a few years before Barbara was
born and her father Frank killed himself in 1932 when she was only ten,
gassing himself in the garage of their home near Boston with exhaust
fumes from the family car.
With her husband dead, Barbara's mother decided to
marry her off to the richest man she could find.
They moved to New York when Barbara was in her late
teens, using her father's life insurance pay-out (he had made his
suicide look like an accident) to set themselves up in the Delmonico,
one of the city's most expensive hotels.
Hailed as one of New York's ten most beautiful girls,
Barbara modelled for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines, and flirted
shamelessly with wealthy admirers.
She was invited to Hollywood for a screen test and,
although it came to nothing, made friends with Cornelia 'Dickie'
Baekeland, another aspiring actress, who decided to set her up with her
younger brother, Brooks, a trainee pilot with the Royal Canadian Air
Brooks's dashing looks and wealth quickly convinced
Barbara he was the man she was after.
For his part, Brooks described Barbara as 'remarkably
beautiful and staggeringly self-assured'.
They started sleeping together and she tricked him
into marriage by claiming she was pregnant.
Besides the non-existent baby, Barbara kept another
secret from Brooks until it was too late for him to escape.
Like her mother and father before her, she had mental
problems - and, shortly before they met, had been a patient of a
celebrated New York psychiatrist called Foster Kennedy.
Whatever Kennedy learned about Barbara during their
sessions had clearly unnerved him, as Brooks would discover.
'Someone told me years later that when Foster Kennedy
heard that I had married Barbara Daly, he said: "God forfend that they
have a child!"'
God apparently ignored Kennedy's concerns for Barbara
followed her phantom pregnancy with a real one.
In August 1946, she gave birth to Tony, bringing into
the world the son who - in 26 years' time - would be responsible for
her own exit from it.
'I'll sleep with the next woman who walks in'
From the start, Barbara's mental fragility was
obvious. One friend recalled Brooks joking during a meal out one night
that, for a million dollars, he would agree to sleep with the next woman
who passed through the restaurant's revolving doors, regardless of her
age or looks.
'Barbara said as they left, "If that's the way you
feel, I'll just go off with the first man who comes along in a car!"
And she dashed into the middle of the street, flagged
down a car with four young men in it, jumped in and took off.
'A couple of hours later she came home, having
evidently got rather cold feet. Barbara was very beautiful in those days
so that was quite a crazy thing to do in New York City. Very crazy and
Fascinated by the spirited madcap in their midst, the
cream of American society began attending the Parisian-style salons
which the Baekelands hosted in the enormous wood-panelled living room in
their house on New York's affluent Upper East Side.
Attracting Salvador Dali, Tennessee Williams and
Dylan Thomas among others, these soirees were renowned for being
At one gathering, the men hid behind a screen, hiding
their faces and upper bodies, and removed their trousers while their
wives were required to guess which bottom half belonged to which husband.
'My house was always buzzing with beautiful, silly,
tipsy people,' said Brooks.
The tension between husband and wife spilled over
into frequent fights, with Barbara's mood swings seemingly exacerbated
by the influence of the heavens.
Friends who accompanied the Baekelands on a skiing
holiday to Switzerland described how she stood out in the snow on the
night of a full moon, keening and wailing like a demented creature.
The performance was repeated on a number of other
occasions. 'It came on very suddenly and she would go round the bend,'
said one astonished member of the party.
Brooks remembered his wife as 'a wild animal, a
flaming beautiful tigress' and described another trip where they ended
up wrestling naked in a hotel bathroom because he would not take her to
her favourite restaurant.
'I held Barbara down with my foot on her chest while
she sank her strong, white teeth as deep as she could into my calf. It
took at least a half hour for the adrenaline to burn out of her veins,'
'Oh, they would fight, they would
fight,' said Peter Gable, a
classmate of Tony's who often visited the Baekelands' house after school.
'I can remember hearing them. The volume!'
The only thing that appeared to unite the Baekelands
was their determination to promote Tony as some sort of child prodigy,
constantly showing off to their friends about everything he had written
or drawn at school.
It's rare to see a father revel in his son's
'They wanted the boy to be a genius,' said artist
Yvonne Thomas. 'That's what struck me. I felt uncomfortable with him
because I felt he felt he had to
One acquaintance remembered the Baekelands ordering
their young son to read aloud from the Marquis de Sade's erotic writings.
Another broke off contact with the couple after
hearing Brooks's evident pride as he described how Tony had pulled the
wings off a fly to see how it would affect its balance.
'That kind of sadistic behaviour is quite common in
children, but one seldom sees a father who thinks it is marvellous,'
said the shocked friend.
When Tony was eight - by which time his mother had
climbed just about every rung of power and influence in New York - his
parents found a new audience for his talents.
Barbara wanted to conquer Europe and the family began
a nomadic existence, renting villa after villa in fashionable resorts
all over the Continent.
In the entrance hall of whichever house they happened
to be staying in, Barbara was careful to leave out a bowl full of
All were artfully displayed so that others could see
that the Duchesse de Croy or the Prince de Lippe had been ticked off her
list of social acquisitions.
When they rented a villa at Cap d'Antibes in the
South of France in 1955, their neighbours were Andre Dubonnet, grandson
of the creator of the famous aperitif, and Freddy Heineken, the Dutch
Greta Garbo popped over for drinks.
Tony, meanwhile, was packed off to play on the beach
with Princess Yasmin, the daughter of Rita Hayworth and the Aga Khan's
son, Prince Aly Khan.
Barbara was at once an intense, possessive,
emotionally needy mother - and an entirely neglectful one.
As the family travelled from one chic destination to
another, in an endless round of idle summers, she and Brooks treated
their son like a favourite toy, to be picked up and put down at whim.
'The Baekelands went out every single day on a yacht
that they chartered from a local fisherman,' said a friend who spent one
holiday with them.
'They just sat and drank masses of wine and jabbered
and gossiped with this duchessa and that principessa and yet another
contessa this-andthat. Tony was left out of everything.'
A lonely and seemingly self-sufficient boy, Tony had
inherited his parents' good looks, including his mother's red hair and
radiant brown eyes.
He charmed those who met him, but some saw
indications of the turmoil to come.
Nike Mylonas Hale met the Baekelands in Italy with
her husband Bob when Tony was about 12.
'We saw him alone on the rocks playing with crabs,
sort of pulling them apart,' she recalled.
'In hindsight it was an awfully creepy little episode
but his parents didn't really pay much attention to Tony.'
Another friend of the couple, Francine du Plessix
Gray, was also worried by Tony's behaviour. She and her husband Cleve
shared an Italian villa with the Baekelands in the summer of 1960 when
Tony was 14.
'Tony had a pronounced stutter and psychiatrists say
that can be an attention-getting device. But the only hint that there
was something deeply wrong came halfway through the holiday.
'Our son Thaddeus had just been born so we had
brought two months' supply of baby food with us and we suddenly noticed
that there were these strange gaps in the rows of pots.
A few days later the peasant girl who was looking
after our son said to us "It is Mr Tony. I have seen him do it. He comes
in at night when the baby is asleep and steals the baby food."
'Maybe he wanted to identify with our baby because
he'd never had any proper parenting from his own parents.'
Other, potentially more disturbing stories began
spreading about Tony. He would later tell psychiatrists that he'd had
his first homosexual encounter at boarding school at the age of eight
- and by 14 he was actively looking for sex with other males.
It was an awfully creepy little episode
One friend who shared a cook with the Baekelands in
New York was told that when his parents were away, he often picked up
older boys on the streets and brought them home.
For Brooks Baekeland, this confirmed what he, but not
Barbara, had suspected for some time.
'Tony's homosexuality was a terrible shock to his
mother, who fought against it with him, ferociously. She simply could
never accept it.'
Nor could Barbara reconcile herself to her husband's
growing yearning for other women.
The Baekelands were now using Paris as their main
base, and in 1963 Brooks fell in love there with an English diplomat's
daughter who was 15 years his junior.
When he asked for a divorce, Barbara took an overdose.
Although she survived, Brooks felt he couldn't leave her in case she did
'Faced with becoming a murderer for the sake of
freedom, I gave up my girl,' he said.
It was a pattern repeated throughout the rest of
their marriage. Author Samuel Taylor recalled having dinner at the
Baekelands' home in New York with the actress Jessica Tandy.
'Barbara said, "Guess where I was at five this
morning!" and we said, "Where?" and she said, "At Bellevue Hospital,"
and she showed us the bandages on her wrists, very gay and charming
Hoping to make Brooks realise that she was still
attractive to other men, and so desire her more, Barbara began an affair
with a Spanish physicist.
This backfired when her husband offered her an annual
allowance if she would divorce him and marry her lover.
Instead, she announced that her relationship with the
Spaniard was over because he couldn't park a car properly and she didn't
like his feet.
Although Brooks continued to have dalliances over the
years, Barbara's suicide threats meant that none amounted to much until
1967 when she inadvertently set in train the events that would finally
destroy their marriage.
That year, Tony spent the summer with his parents in
the Spanish resort of Cadaques where he met Jake Cooper, a handsome
young Australian who was the lover of a woman called Erika Svenssen.
'Jake was like a devil,' said Svenssen. 'He had a
power over people.'
Tall and dark, with a silver earring, and known by
his hangers-on as 'Black Jake', Cooper lived in an abandoned farm with
an entourage of hippies who were into magic mushrooms and other drugs.
He had small bones sewn on to his vest which he
referred to as 'amulets' and it was rumoured that he practised black
Some insisted that he had cast occult spells that had
killed at least three people.
Tony, now 21, became drawn into Cooper's sinister
circle, buying their friendship with gifts of money and quickly falling
in love with the leather-clad Cooper himself.
The Australian's hold over Tony was witnessed by
family friend Barbara Curteis while his mother was away in Switzerland.
'He fed Tony drugs and Tony became his thing, his
creature. He went off to Morocco with Jake and they brought back
belladonna [deadly nightshade, a highly dangerous hallucinogenic drug]
and Tony ate the whole thing himself and disappeared under one's eyes to
a blob of quivering jelly.'
When Curteis phoned Tony's mother to warn her, she
came back to Cadaques to rescue him and take him to Switzerland.
They were stopped at the border because Tony didn't
have his passport and in the ensuing fracas, with Barbara kicking and
spitting at the immigration officials, both she and Tony were arrested
and spent the night in jail.
'She made a remark I'll never forget, it has a sort
of echoing horror for me,' said Barbara Curteis.
'She told me proudly that she'd said to Tony as they
were being led away in handcuffs, "Here you are, darling, at
last - manacled to Mummy!"'
Tony's gay love for Black Jake wasn't the only
budding relationship his mother was to destroy. He had begun seeing a
young French girl called Sylvie, who was also on holiday in Cadaques.
Barbara was thrilled that he had a girlfriend at last
and when he invited Sylvie for dinner to meet his parents, she
immediately began pressing her to become Tony's wife - reminding her
that he would one day be very rich.
In the coming weeks, she went out of her way to
invite Sylvie over whenever possible, but her scheming went terribly
awry. Rather than marrying her son, Sylvie began an affair with her
Barbara did not discover that Sylvie and Brooks were
seeing each other until the following February, at which point she
attempted suicide again, taking an overdose of strong sedatives, washed
down with vodka.
This time Brooks did not come back to her. Perhaps
realising that it was the only way to trump Barbara, Sylvie also took an
overdose, leaving him to choose between the two brittle women.
He eventually decided on Sylvie and told Barbara that
this time he really wanted a divorce. Her next move may well have
confirmed in his mind that he had made the right choice.
'Before they separated, Barbara told Brooks, "You
know, I could get Tony over his homosexuality if I just took him to bed,"'
recalled Elizabeth Archer Baekeland, her sister-in-law.
'Brooks said, "Don't you dare do that, Barbara!"'
Barbara apparently ignored that warning.
The effects on Tony's psyche were catastrophic
She and Tony spent the summer of 1969 in Majorca,
drinking and smoking marijuana in a house loaned to them by the daughter
of an Austrian archduke.
Here, in this rambling rundown villa, set high on a
cliff with no phone or electricity, the woman who had beguiled men all
over the world turned her charms on her son and took him to her bed.
Afterwards, she remained convinced that she had done
the right thing, even boasting about it whenever she got a chance.
'Barbara called me and told me that she had slept
with Tony,' said her friend Alan Harrington.
'I said to her I didn't think it was such a bad thing.
I was trying to remove guilt but now that I think of it, there wasn't
'She was very honest about it - she said she had
done it to break him of his homosexual tendencies,' remembered Bernard
Pfriem, a painter who met Barbara on a cruise shortly afterwards. 'She
talked about it as though it were a therapeutic act.'
Therapy? Or the ultimate act of destructive self-indulgence
by a spurned, narcissistic beauty?
Whatever the truth, the effects on Tony's already
damaged psyche were to prove catastrophic.
Later that summer, Brooks came to stay on Majorca
with Sylvie, unaware that his wife and son were there.
When Barbara discovered where they were staying, Tony
began visiting them and his mental turmoil immediately became apparent.
'It was very uncomfortable, very hard,' recalled
Sylvie. 'He left messages for Brooks in our flower pots. I found one -
it said, "Daddy, please Daddy, come back to Mummy, she's so unhappy." He
acted like a little eight-year-old.'
One friend who visited Tony and Barbara at the
archduke's house that summer was startled to see a broken chair in the
flower beds. Barbara told her that Tony had thrown it there in a fit of
Later, the same friend saw a typewriter smashed and
mangled on the steps leading down to the cellar. Once again Barbara
explained that Tony had smashed it up when he was 'upset about something'.
The typewriter was one that Tony had used to write
poetry, which he showed to his friend Alastair Reid.
His poems had started out as gentle, unremarkable
pieces of work but increasingly they were replaced by eerie and
incoherent page-long ramblings.
'Barbara was a great smoother-over,' said Reid. 'But
that summer I suddenly released there was a savage landscape inside Tony.'
Quite how savage would become apparent when Barbara
went back to New York the following year and Tony joined her there soon
During one dinner party, he disappeared to his room
then came out totally undressed.
'He just streaked from one end of the apartment to
the other,' recalled one of the guests.
Tony's behaviour took a more worrying turn when he
enrolled in a New York art school soon afterwards.
Halfway through one lesson, the college registrar
Sylvia Lochan was called to the classroom because Tony wasn't responding
to anybody and seemed to be in a world of his own.
While everyone else was painting a still life of
flowers and fruit, his canvas
depicted disturbing figures with blood dripping down their sides.
'It was obvious to me that he was very troubled, and,
looking back, it's very surprising that he wasn't in some sort of
hospital,' said Lochan.
Dismissing this strange behaviour, Barbara remained
convinced that her son was nothing more than a 'misunderstood genius who
was never meant to work and toil in this sick society'.
She seemed oblivious to the possibility that Tony's
troubles might stem from their increasingly unhealthy relationship.
'I am f***ing my mother,' Tony told one friend during
this time. 'I don't know what to do - I feel desperate.'
Barbara enrolled in a creative writing class and
wrote a vivid account of a mother's sexual relationship with her son.
One night she invited some fellow students back to
her apartment and they found the living room full of photographs she had
taken of Tony.
'What struck me was the way the camera just dwelled
on the beauty of this young man,' recalled one. 'They were not the sort
of pictures a mother would normally take of a son.'
Others who visited the Baekelands' home recalled
seeing portraits painted by Tony, showing his mother decapitated and
with serpents entwined around her neck.
Soon even Barbara was forced to admit that there
might be a serious problem when Tony turned up late one night, clearly
delusional and highly agitated.
Fearing that he might attack her, she arranged for
him to be admitted-to a private psychiatric clinic but, although his
medical records suggest that his prognosis seemed 'poor', he was
discharged after six weeks because Barbara could not afford his
Brooks had cut her allowance and refused to fund
Tony's care himself. Rather than being mentally ill, he said his son was
'a personification of evil' and dismissed psychiatrists as practitioners
Tony soon relapsed - beating Barbara unconscious
with a heavy wooden walking cane one night and then, when her divorce
lawyer tried to go to her aid, knocking him out, too.
Your son is going to kill you, said the
After that episode, he was diagnosed as having
schizophrenia by psychiatrists at the local hospital who recommended
that he should be sent to a private mental institution. But still his
father refused to meet the costs.
Once again Tony was released back into Barbara's care,
only to smash an egg across her face at a dinner party, threaten her
with a knife and then attempt to choke her in front of the alarmed
In the final months of her life, many of which were
spent in London, Tony's violent and unpredictable behaviour became
During one fight he attempted to blind her by
sticking a pen in her eye.
On another occasion, a journalist named Clason Kyle
accompanied Barbara home after dinner one evening.
They were enjoying a nightcap when suddenly Tony
appeared before them, wearing only shorts and brandishing a large
'He ranted about the room, gesturing wildly, then he
vanished as quickly as he had appeared,' recalled Kyle. 'The
understatement of the century would be to say that I was startled.'
By August 1972, Tony was often to be found in
catatonic trances, clutching himself and swaying to and fro. Barbara
arranged for him to see Dr Lindsay Jacobs, a psychiatrist recommended by
Jacobs confirmed that Tony was suffering from
schizophrenia, made worse because Barbara had failed to make sure he
took his prescribed medicines. Jacobs was extremely concerned for her
'Your son is going to kill you,' he warned. 'I think
you're at grave risk.'
'I don't,' replied Barbara. But Jacobs was so worried
that he phoned Chelsea police station.
'I told them I thought something was going to happen
over at 81 Cadogan Square and asked if they could put a guard there but
they said that they were not really allowed to do much until something
Two days before Barbara was murdered, she invited her
friend Sue Guinness around for lunch.
Having already witnessed the incident when Tony
attempted to throw his mother under a car, Guinness was worried to find
him looking as disturbed as ever.
'He had painted his shoes and all his clothes with
gold stars, and he just sat there and rocked backwards and forwards with
his arms crossed across his chest.'
During their lunch - the last time she saw her
friend alive - Guinness urged her to be careful.
But Barbara dismissed her fears. 'He'll never harm
me,' she said.
As we will see on Monday, she could not have been more wrong.