Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tidbits: House of Delevingne & Eccentric British Playboy John Aspinall

Picked up the latest print edition of Thought I'd mention a little tidbit in the Cara Delingne "It Girl" article: the Delevingne family house in London once belonged to eccentric British playboy John Aspinall. The article briefly mentions how Aspinall used to keep gorillas in the wood-paneled library, which obviously piqued my interest, so I Wiki'd him and the man is beyond interesting.

7 Facts About John Aspinall

#1. A British zoo owner, gambling club host, playboy and socialite, Aspinall used gambling to move from middle-class beginnings to the core of British high-society in the 1960s.

#2. The son of a British Army surgeon, Aspinall attended Oxford but never earned his degree because he feigned illness on the day of his final exams and instead went to the Ascot Racecourse.

#3. He took a keen interest in gambling on thoroughbreds, and began hosting gambling parties. He targeted the rich and prominent and skirted the law: "Illegal gambling houses were defined then in British law as places where gambling had taken place more than three times. Aspinall rented quality flats and houses and never used them more than three times."

#4. His gambling parties with the highest circles of British elites was eventually raided, but he actually won the subsequent court case in a precedent that to this day remains known as Aspinall's Law. Commercial bingo halls were set up because of him.

#5. In 1962 Aspinall founded a private gambling club called the Clermont Club, whose members consisted of 5 dukes, 20 earls, 2 cabinet ministers and 5 marquesses. The Clermont Club was also home of a gambling con known as 'the Big Edge': Aspinall worked with London gangster Billy Hill to swindle his wealthy club members out of millions of pounds. He employed criminals to cheat the players, using card sharks and marking the cards before repackaging them. On his first night alone, he made $280, 000.

#6. Aspinall loved the book Nada the Lily, about a Zulu prince who lived among wild animals. Because of it, in 1956 he and his model wife Jane Hastings built a garden shed in the back of their Eaton Place apartment and kept a money, a 9-week-old tiger and two Himalayan brown bears in it.

#7. With the money he earned from the Clermont Club, he eventually set up an actual zoo where he kept hundreds of exotic species.

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