Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis
The son of a Greek merchant in the Turkish port of Smyrna, Onassis made a fortune importing tobacco to Argentina, then a second fortune in the New York shipping business. Callas was the daughter of Greek immigrants in Manhattan, and was a married, world-renowned soprano when they met in 1957 at a party given by Elsa Maxwell, the lesbian gossip columnist. Two years later, in the Mediterranean, Onassis seduced Callas on the yacht Christina, despite being married at the time to Tina Livanos (who, like Callas's husband, was on the yacht). The lovers divorced their spouses and embarked on a tempestuous affair that lasted until Onassis's death. Their rows were legendary - sometimes they would end in physical damage. The ship-owner was chronically unfaithful to the diva, most publicly with Jacqueline Kennedy. Yet, according to their joint biographer, Nicholas Gage, Onassis called Callas two days before marrying Kennedy in 1968, begging her "Save me!" - and only weeks after the wedding he was in Paris, banging on Maria's door and begging to be let in. By all accounts the couple grew closer as their talents and fortunes declined. When Onassis was dying, he took his last gift from Maria, a red Hermès blanket, to the hospital with him. He died alone, though. "I am the widow now," Callas announced, hoping Jackie O would hear. She died, heartbroken, two years later.