Howard Robard Hughes was known as one of the richest men in the world in the
70s. A successful movie producer and a fearless flying
ace, he was already a legend by the time he was thirty. At the age of
eighteen, he inherited the Hughes Tool Company from his father and became a
successful billionaire businessman.
In 1942, he designed and built the largest
airplane in the world at that time. It was a cargo plane nicknamed the Spruce
Goose because spruce, a type of fir, was used in its construction. Hughes took
great pleasure in flying and broke a number of aviation records. In 1938, he
flew around the world beating the record time that existed then. There was a
hero's welcome that awaited him when he returned to New York.
became a movie producer and made a name for himself in such movies as 'Hell's
Angels' and 'Sacrifice and the Outlaw'. However, in 1958, when his fame and
fortune reached their peak, Hughes mysteriously went into hiding. From then on,
he saw no one of the outside world and began a lifestyle of a
recluse which shocked the world. His
messages were passed through a 'palace guard' to whom he wrote more often than
he spoke. The drapes in the hotel room he stayed were black and taped shut. When
he moved into the ninth-floor penthouse in Las Vegas, the buttons on the
elevator were redesigned to indicate only eight floors. Hughes often managed to
travel around the world without a passport with the help of his friends and
those who worked for him.
Hughes had curious eating habits. Sometimes for weeks, he would survive on
nothing else but canned soup which he would repeatedly send back tot he kitchen
to be reheated many times. Inevitably, it would take him hours to get through
one can. Occasionally, he would skip his meals completely. There were times he
would develop a craving for banana-nut ice cream with every meal.
Perhaps his greatest and strangest obsession was with germs. Hughes once
wrote to his servants an article on the subject of hygiene. He described in
detail nine steps which had to be followed when opening a can of fruits, thus
preventing germs from contaminating its contents.
Towards the end of his life, anything his subordinates handed to him has to
be wrapped in fifteen or twenty layers of paper towels. The employee himself had
to undergo a thirty-minute cleansing ritual. Hughes put paper towels on the
floor rather than walk on the carpet. Even the sheets on his bed were covered in
paper towels. However, ironically, he lived in unsanitary living conditions. His
bedrooms were never tidied. The bedsheets were rarely changed. He hardly took
care of himself -- in a period of ten years, he saw the barber only three times
and moreover, he hardly cut his toenails and fingernails. He was frequently
found sleeping all day the last few years of his life.
On April 5, 1976, Howard Hughes died of kidney failure. In his prime, he
stood at 6 feet 4 inches and weighed about seventy-five kilograms. However, at
his time of his death, he had shrunk three inches and lost about thirty-five
kilograms. When he died, his wardrobe consisted of an
old bathrobe, a hat and several pairs of pyjamas and shorts. With an
estimated fortune that almost reached US$2 billion, he died as the richest man
in the United States and probably the loneliest.