"Baron" Joseph de Bicske Dobronyi, 88, globetrotting bon vivant had movie-star girlfriends: Welch, Gabor, Gardner, Bardot, Reynolds, Ekberg

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Hoodoo

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Jun 6, 2010, 10:10:13 PM6/6/10
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Playboy ``Baron'' lived larger than life

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
The Miami Herald
Sun, Jun. 06, 2010
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/06/1665816/grove-eccentric-baron-sepy-joseph.html

[slideshow and video on webpage]

The party's over: Sepy is dead.

Sepy was ``Baron'' Joseph de Bicske Dobronyi, the globetrotting Coconut
Grove bon vivant who claimed Hungarian nobility and movie-star
girlfriends, -- and hosted epic bacchanals at his one-of-a-kind bachelor
pad.

Any recounting of his history must carry a disclaimer: The only person
who could separate fact from fiction in his colorful life died of liver
cancer just after midnight May 29 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami
Beach.

Not even his sons, Joseph, of Larchmont, N.Y., and Ferenc, of San
Francisco, can confidently deconstruct the mystique.

``He was a great believer in the more you tell the lie, the more it's
true,'' said Ferenc, a musician and producer.

He said he was born April 20, 1922, which made him 88 -- an age that
friends doubt, given that World War II refugees without papers often
reinvented themselves.

A charter member of the Society of Loquacious Verbosities -- a
jokesters' fraternity -- he was among Coconut Grove's most identifiable
eccentrics, in snakeskin vests and boots, Hungarian accent intact.

He was one of the last living links to the Grove's untamed
swingers-and-hippies past, which AIDS and commercialization ended in the
1990s.

Except at Sepy's.

An unrepentant playboy who led comely conquests to a Viking-ship bed, he
was Miami's Hugh Hefner, ascots, silk smoking jackets and all.

``I am always fantastic,'' he once declared to The Miami Herald.

He boasted of romantic liaisons with Raquel Welch, Eva Gabor, Ava
Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, Debbie Reynolds and Anita Ekberg -- whose
actor husband, Anthony Steel, punched him out publicly in 1957, after
Sepy, with his nude sculpture of Eckberg, showed up in Playboy magazine.

Dobronyi also claimed combat-veteran status with the tiny Royal
Hungarian Air Force during World War II, complete with scary flaming
parachute mishap; a death-defying post-war escape from the communists,
and five wives.

Radiating Continental charm, ``he'd meet a rich, married woman on a ski
slope and convince her to leave her husband and marry him,'' said lawyer
Thorn McDaniel, who rents a cottage on Dobronyi's 2-acre estate.

Dobronyi was photographed atop Mount Kilimanjaro -- and with myriad
celebrities, including Joan Crawford, George Hamilton, Carmen Miranda,
Frank Sinatra, Bjorn Borg, and Barry Goldwater, who once attended a
Republican Party fundraiser at Dobronyi's home.

``You never knew when you walked into the place whether you'd meet a
porn star or the president of a foreign country,'' said plastic surgeon
Brad Herman, once a tenant.

Oozing a type of Euro-suave that certain young women found irresistible,
Sepy enjoyed their attentions even as he acquired a pacemaker, fought
diabetes and grew frail.

Old age ``didn't stop him at all,'' said friend Mel Stier, a Miami
real-estate investor who, like other friends, thinks Dobronyi was in his
90s. ``There was an ongoing party at Sepy's every Saturday.''

Sometimes he'd don exotic tribal robes or Hungarian folk costumes to
entertain at his home -- compared, variously, to a charging bull, a ski
slope, and a wave -- where wild beasts' heads lined the walls.

Whether Sepy the big-game hunter dispatched them personally or Sepy the
raconteur made it up didn't matter in his champagne-fueled orbit; the
stories were part of the show.

Among the most beguiled spectators: female Miami Herald ``society''
columnists of the 1960s and '70s, who wrote incessantly of his African
safaris, New Guinea tribal-war wounds, Swedish marriages, and Mexican
divorces.

When Dobronyi became a U.S. citizen on Dec. 21, 1963, the Herald called
him a ``refugee sculptor, once a flamboyant member of the international
jet-set [who] off and on has claimed citizenship in Hungary, Sweden and
Cuba.''

He was also, legitimately, a fine-jewelry maker, photographer, and
importer of Asian and South Pacific artifacts.

Always hustling, he sold them from the house.

``His lifestyle was like Tupperware parties,'' said McDaniel. ``He'd
call friends to come over, and he had a lot of exotic sculptures. It was
as much buying this legendary character as the carvings.''

By 1963, Dobronyi was married to New York heiress Amy Green Brown, his
second wife. Ferenc was an infant, older brother Joe a toddler.

The couple's nine-year marriage ended in 1969 after a year's separation,
making it Sepy's most enduring union.

Amy Brown was indeed rich and married -- to an IBM executive -- when she
fell for Dobronyi, but it wasn't on a ski slope; it was in Havana.

Asked where his father got the money to underwrite his later lavish
lifestyle, Ferenc said, ``Mostly from my mother,'' who paid alimony and
financed the ``charging bull'' house. She died in 1989.

Located in the Grove's exclusive Ye Little Wood section, in its heyday
the house featured animal-skin rugs, Dobronyi's artwork, world-travel
artifacts, and a dubious yet ubiquitously displayed family crest.

In the driveway: luxury cars like the rare French Facel Vega, a Rolls
Royce Corniche, an Excalibur -- and a Cadillac convertible with a nude
female torso painted on the front passenger-side door.

A 1980 Herald description of his underground wine cellar noted bottles
stored in sections of ceramic pipe, and what he called ``the world's
largest collection of hotel-room keys.''

Womens' under garments adorned some bottles -- ``souvenirs,'' he would
explain.

Dobronyi hosted Hungarian goulash parties where ``they sat around and
told jokes for hours,'' said Richard Booth, whose late father, Richard
``Bootsie'' Booth, was Dobornyi's best friend; a succession of European
lovelies; celebrities like Errol Flynn and Lena Horne; topless-barmaid
Christmas parties, and the cast of Deep Throat.

Certain scenes in the 1972 porn classic were filmed there, as were
scenes from the Tony Rome films, Lenny -- Dustin Hoffman's Lenny Bruce
biopic -- and a nameless 1973 porno that yielded eight film-crew vice
arrests.

They were trespassing, Sepy told police.

Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace apparently returned for interactions of
a more personal nature, so noted in her 1973 autobiography.

As the Herald reported, Lovelace ``extolled his physical properties''
after ``a brief, but somewhat ecstatic encounter with Sepy in his bedroom.''

Sepy was shocked -- shocked! -- at Lovelace's indiscretion, and promised
to provide ``better names for references.''

``I just don't like this low-class way of talking about sex,'' he
groused. ``It destroys the whole illusion; whether it's a secretary or a
duchess, there must be illusion. If I don't get that, there's nothing.''

``had a pretty good sense of what he was doing. He wasn't just a party
guy, but he knew how to get himself in the circles so that opportunity
would become available,'' Ferenc said.

Hence, he drank surprisingly little, eschewed drugs, and stayed in control.

After the war, ``he was very poor, and he figured out how to get out of
that by creating the Sepy character,'' Ferenc said. ``People loved that
character and wanted him around.''

The tradeoff was his family.

``I wanted a normal, traditional life, and I didn't get it,'' said
Joseph Dobronyi, a Wall Street investment manager who was 7 when his
parents split. His father ``was proud of us but showing us off, like,
`This is my American wife and kids and I done (sic) good,' he said.
``But he doted on his [four] grandchildren.''

``He was not father material,'' added Ferenc, lead guitarist for the
band Pollo del Mar. He was very generous with other people and would
make connections for other people, and I know he has lots of friends who
absolutely swear by his good nature.''

He was a faithful friend, said Richard Booth, a Southern Wine & Spirits
executive.

``He was with my father on [Bootsie's] 85th birthday last year in the
hospital, two weeks before he died -- giving him champagne.''

In 1969, Sepy married third wife Anette Nordquist, a statuesque Swedish
blonde. Two years later, the Herald reported that at 8:12 a.m. on July
1, 1971, Dobronyi became the first person in Miami to file for a
no-fault ``dissolution'' under a revised state divorce law effective at
midnight.

In 1977, he wed Playboy Bunny Rita Lino, in Stockholm.

At 19, she was three years older than Joseph -- and 36 years younger
than Sepy. They split within months.

Sepy took the boys skiing in Aspen, Vermont and Chile -- where he kept a
chalet -- and on interesting field trips.

``In 1969, we drove to North Carolina in his Thunderbird,'' son Joe
recalled. ``On the way north, we saw Apollo 11 launch from the
beach...That night, we stayed at a doctor's office,'' not because anyone
got sick, but because Sepy knew the man and it was free.

In later years, Ferenc interviewed his father and thinks he heardsome of
the truth.

Joseph de Bicske Dobronyi was born in the Hungarian town of Bicske,
where the family had once been landholders, entitling his father to call
himself ``Baron,'' Ferenc said.

``My wife and I went there with him in 1990 and saw the remnants of his
childhood home, a castle on a hilltop that was down to the foundations.''

Sepy grew up there as the only child of a young widow.

``He was drafted into the air force because he flew gliders,'' Ferenc said.

In a video posted on YouTube by Las Vegas photographer Richard Anderson,
a longtime friend, Sepy describes bailing from a fighter plane with his
scarf aflame, causing not only scars on his throat but a hole in his
parachute.

He explains how after the war, he and friends got Soviet border guards
wasted on schnapps, and fled to Austria.

From there, he ``walked'' to Denmark, then made his way to the
40,000-acre Swedish estate of a cousin who married royalty and lived in
a castle.

He studied jewelry making in Stockholm before heading to Cuba -- where
he met Ernest Hemingway on New Year's Eve 1946.

``He got a job working for the film commissioner of Cuba,'' Ferenc said.
``He read scripts and picked up movie stars from the airport. They'd all
want to know what the local Cuban action was, so he got to know Havana.
He also travelled to Miami a lot and worked with travel agents.''

Old tourist literature credits Dobronyi with founding The Cuban Art
Center in 1951 ``as a cooperative attempt to provide a broader audience
for the artists of Havana and the island and to stimulate the sale of
their works.''

Peter Moruzzi's Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical
Playground, describes how Sepy helped shape the famous hangout, La
Bodeguita del Medio.

It took ``a raffish Hungarian expatriate named Sepy Dobronyi to convince
owner [Angel] Martinez to convert his store into a tavern in 1951,''
Moruzzi writes.

Retired Herald editor Fred Sherman met Dobronyi there, and they became
fast friends.

``He was quite politically aware,'' Sherman said, so when Fidel Castro
took power, Sepy packed up his Oldsmobile convertible and hopped the Key
West ferry out of Havana.

In Miami, Sepy became ``one of the first to import Balinese art,''
Ferenc said. ``When I was with him in Bali in '87, people bowed down to
him. . . He'd been there about 25 times, and at the hotel he had the
presidential suite. He was a real king there.''

In 1980, thieves helped themselves to some of Sepy's collection,
including 120-pound ivory elephant tusks, two Nepalese temple lion
statues, six Tibetan yak-wool rugs, and brass-plated nude sculptures of
Bardot and Welch.

He offered an unusual reward: a round-the-world trip with ``guaranteed
fun at every stop.''

No one, apparently, collected.

Without fanfare, Sepy married his fifth wife on Oct. 5, 1999, a few days
before her 28th birthday. They divoced three years later.

Today, she is Eszter Anderson of Las Vegas, married to Richard Anderson,
who'd been shooting layouts at the Ye Little Wood house for years.

Years later, Brad Herman, who occupied a cottage on the estate while
going through a divorce, was in Havana on a medical mission.

Having heard all the stories, he went for a drink at La Bodeguita.

An elderly bartender took him to a back room, where faded pictures of
Sepy with celebrities covered the walls.

``He was not a bull-----er,'' said Herman. ``He didn't have to be.''

Friends plan to gather at noon on Sunday to celebrate Sepy Dobronyi's
life. For details and tributes, visit Facebook.com/SepyDobronyi. To
watch video interviews, visit Youtube.


--
Trout Mask Replica

KFJC.org, WFMU.org, WMSE.org, or WUSB.org;
because the pigoenholed programming of music channels
on Sirius Satellite, and its internet radio player, suck

Hyfler/Rosner

unread,
Jun 7, 2010, 12:54:07 AM6/7/10
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"Hoodoo" <ver...@objectmail.com> wrote in message
news:4C0C5505...@objectmail.com...

> Playboy ``Baron'' lived larger than life
>
> BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
> The Miami Herald
> Sun, Jun. 06, 2010
> http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/06/1665816/grove-eccentric-baron-sepy-joseph.html
>
> [slideshow and video on webpage]
>
> The party's over: Sepy is dead.


Great obit.


Charlene

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Jun 7, 2010, 4:17:44 AM6/7/10
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On Jun 6, 11:54 pm, "Hyfler/Rosner" <rel...@rcn.com> wrote:
> "Hoodoo" <ver...@objectmail.com> wrote in message
>
> > The party's over: Sepy is dead.
>
> Great obit.

Best line:

"Sepy was shocked -- shocked! -- at Lovelace's indiscretion, and
promised
to provide ``better names for references.'' "

wd46

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