Vanity Fair’s 12-page investigation into the life and times of Rupert Murdoch, 82, and his third wife Wendi Deng, 45, is finally out. It’s a rip-roaring read, with allegations veering from schoolgirl crushes to adultery to bullying behaviour towards staff and what Americans call ”elder abuse.” Never mind unbelievable bad taste. It’s a good old-fashioned hatchet job of the kind Murdoch usually rewards his own reporters richly for. He’s probably not so delighted when the subject is him and his upwardly mobile Chinese bride of 14 years, but hey ho, live by the sword, die by the sword.
I wonder what he thinks of his ex-wife now. They married in 1999 and divorced in November and thanks to a prudent pre-nuptial agreement, the settlement probably cost him less than the US$1.7 billion (HK13.2 billion) he forked out to Anna, his second wife of many decades and mother of Elisabeth, Lachlan and James. He and Deng have two much younger daughters. The Murdoch family fortune is reportedly about US$14 billion.
Vanity Fair somehow dug out what purports to be a “memo to self” by Deng. In gushing girly prose and broken English, she sounds like a fixated teenager, infatuated with, believe it or not, a certain “Tony,” being former British prime minister Tony Blair.
Mills and Boon
“Whatever why I’m so so missing Tony,” moons the note, allegedly penned by Deng in fractured English. How anyone could be attracted to Blair is indeed beyond belief. “Because he is so so charming and his clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really really good legs Butt … And he is slim tall and good skin. Pierce blue eyes which I love. Love his eyes. Also I love his power on the stage … and what else and what else and what else…”
And what else indeed.
My memories of Blair’s “power on stage” are a bit different. He’s known in the business as a "sweater" and I never knew what that meant until I had the misfortune to stand underneath him in the orchestra pit at London’s BAFTA theatre with the other journalists, while he made a speech on stage above us.
After a few minutes it started: drip drip, and melted orange panstick makeup started to rain down on us. We were packed in too tightly to escape. By the end, I was liberally splattered with orange Labour party leader perspiration. Not nice. I only hope he stayed cool and calm for Deng.
She likes a bit of power, does our Wendi, and her next object was Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, according to Vanity Fair, with whom she was spotted last summer:
In the same missive to herself, Deng allegedly wrote something very Anglo-Saxon about what Eric did to Lisa, presumably meaning Eric Schmidt and Lisa Shields, vice president of media affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations, whom Schmidt allegedly dated. Deng’s self-delusion knows no bounds: “Lisa will never have my style, grace ... I achieved my purpose of Eric saw me looking so gorgeous and so fantastic and so young, so cool, so chic, so stylish, so funny and he cannot have me. I’m not ever feel sad ... about losing Eric ... Plus he is really really ugly. Unattractive ... and fat. Not stylish at all try to wear hip clothes .... I’m so so soo soooo happy I’m not with him.” I’m inclined to believe this because you couldn’t make it up. Looks like Eric had a narrow escape.
Vanity Fair credits unnamed sources for all this wonderful stuff but it must be stressed that there is no hard evidence to show that Blair and Deng actually had an affair.
The Vanity Fair piece is packed with entertaining details nevertheless. "She got careless," according to a source to the glossy.
Vanity Fair cites sources who charge that Murdoch took exception to his wife's fixation on Blair, godfather to Murdoch and Deng's daughter Grace, aged 12.
Blair denies all this, but the magazine says he would show up at the Murdoch Carmel ranch in California, and pad in St. James Place in London at odd times, when Murdoch was away. Deng apparently described these as “girls weekends,” but then Blair would show up. It’s well known that Blair’s nickname when a young barrister in London chambers was “Miranda” but to describe him as a girl is quite funny for someone as humour-free as Deng.
One toe-curling passage describes Blair and Deng feeding each other, to the embarrassment of Murdoch staff.
How much of this is true? Everyone declined to comment to Vanity Fair, which ran a joint statement from Murdoch and Deng saying, "Given the complicated dynamics of our family, we made the decision early on in this process not to engage in public allegations or respond to negative claims."
Perhaps ironically, for the first time in his life, Murdoch comes out of this as an almost sympathetic character, as victim, even. In the full article, available via the Vanity Fair iOS app, we read of a “pattern” of Deng’s “verbal abuse” against her staff that included her 82-year-old husband and allegedly, even became physical: The location was apparently the Murdoch’s New York Fifth Avenue home. Deng reportedly got angry with Murdoch and gave him a shove, knocking him over onto the living room piano. He fell awkwardly onto the floor and could not get up, it seems. Not surprisingly, he was after all nearly 80. Murdoch, according to Vanity Fair, only confided this incident later, to a News Corps employee.
The followed another (also alleged) outburst at News Corp.’s London headquarters, where staff reportedly observed Deng screaming at her husband, “F**k you, Rupert! You’re stupid! What are you going to do when I’m gone?”
If this is true, maybe we should not be surprised. After all, Gawker reported in 2012, that the Murdochs’ ex-nanny, Ying-Shu Hsu, described a war-zone-like atmosphere chez Deng. She claimed her boss was apt to run off at the mouth at everyone: kids included. Hsu told Gawker that Deng “curse[d] Rupert all the time. A lot of F-words. She’s always yelling, crying.”
Lady Macbeth anyone? I’m surprised Deng never considered a movie career. It probably didn’t pay enough. But now she’s got the fame and the money, so maybe that’s next.