Armie Hammer — the tall, suave and handsome actor who is an heir to the Occidental Petroleum fortune — had it all, until he didn’t. Rocketed to stardom in high-profile roles in films including Call Me By Your Name, over the past year his marriage collapsed amid rumors of infidelity and drug use.
And his personal reputation was torpedoed in recent months by girlfriends’ allegations of his taste for non-consensual kink, specifically relating to a fetish for cannibalism. Two weeks ago, tabloids reported the one-time Hollywood golden boy moved out of the Los Angeles home he once shared with his wife “in the dead of night.”
All of which may be shocking to those who, to borrow a film title from George Cukor, were born yesterday. But longtime Avenue readers will know that scandal runs deep in the Hammer family.
Armie’s great-grandfather, the legendary businessman and art collector Armand Hammer, was born in New York City and made his first fortune in the drug business. More money followed, notably from his stewardship of Occidental Petroleum. But scandal followed him wherever he went, and along the way he was accused of bribery and trafficking in forged Fabergé eggs. The FBI kept a file on him, worried that he was too chummy with the Soviets. His extramarital affairs were the stuff of legend (forcing one mistress to change her name and wear a disguise, to throw his wife off the trail) and he was known for carting around “a briefcase full of cash” to lubricate business deals
Armand’s only son, Julian, was a loose cannon who once killed a man over a gambling debt, but got off by claiming self defense. Armand skipped over Julian and left his business — and much of his fortune — to his grandson, Michael, Armie’s father.
Armand died in 1990. But the Hammer clan were back in the tabloids for a New York art world scandal in the early 2000s.
The family owned Knoedler Gallery, which was accused of selling a forged Jackson Pollock. It turned out not to be just one: a tide of lawsuits would ultimately allege the gallery traded in a string of forgeries.
It was not proven the Hammer family themselves had anything to do with the con (former gallery director Ann Freedman was the one named in the Pollock debacle), but during one of the trials it was said that Michael used the holdings group that owned the gallery as his “personal piggy bank.”
Even so, not all of the Hammers have been living the high life.
Casey Hammer, Armie’s aunt, only has $100 in her savings account according to Vanity Fair‘s excellent story on the family — but seems happy to have gotten “away from the Hammer genetic trail.”
She told the magazine: “If you would have told me in my 20s that I would end up financially challenged, single, and working at Home Depot, I would have bet you a million dollars that wouldn’t have happened.”