“It isn't good for a man to be able to do anything he wants to.” Michael Drosnin (author of “Citizen Hughes”), could not have said it any better. Indeed, Howard Hughes jr. once held the world in the palm of his hand. He did get anything and everything he ever wanted. But it took everything from him too and his dreadful,horrific death is living proof thereof. Had he been born of ordinary means with ordinary abilities, he could have lived a normal anonymous life and died a normal, anonymous death. He would have been happier , stress-free, and less problematic. But the world would be without the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, America would have lost in World War II, commercial flight would be a bore and there will be no Jean Harlow, Jane Russell and Hell’s Angels.
For all his faults and shortcomings, Howard was a colorful figure .His mysterious nature only serves to inflame the world’s interest in him. Unfortunately, though he was blessed with a great mind and good looks, his parents also passed on to him their own flawed characteristics.
Yet Howard possessed daring and shrewdness. He was a perfectionist who went over the top ,101 % of the times. He knew the right people to tap in order to get the best results in his business ventures. This ability would serve him well and make him rich. Imagine what it would have been like had he not been sick. A healthy Howard would have produced more money, more quality pictures and own far more businesses than he already did. He would not have lost TWA and the Hughes Tool Company. He also could have had a normal married life, produced children and later have grandchildren too.
But he left us none. Perhaps one Howard Hughes jr.is enough for this world.And this world still couldn’t get enough of Howard Hughes jr., the man who once had everything........the "man who could do anything he wanted to".
It was a most difficult birth for Mrs.Allene Gano Hughes on 24 December, 1905 .Her body was a wreck thereafter. Hence, Howard Robard Hughes jr.would become an only child. It is said that the first 7 years of a child’s life is very crucial for it is upon these years that the foundation of his/her whole being is formed.Sadly, no solid emotional and social foundations were laid for him. Howard’s mother had a germ phobia and she would inspect her son’s body, genitals, mouth, teeth and feet and then wash them so thoroughly, over and over, each and every day. She also wanted a neat and clean child. So Howard was always like that, which was a peculiar way to raise a child who should be running around, playing with other kids, getting dirty, having fun. The closeness between mother and child was so strong, it bordered on the obscene. It didn’t help that Howard’s father, Howard Sr., was an absentee father who was also a philanderer. Very early in life, Howard jr. or Sonny as he was called to distinguish him from his father), learned to be a hypochondriac . By getting, sick, he could summon both parents to his side and they lavished him their undivided attention.
One peculiar incident occurred when Howard was 14. He suddenly couldn’t walk. Doctors were baffled and at first it was thought to be polio.His father, sparing no expense, got the best physicians to look after his son and cure him. But, it was not polio and even the experts couldn’t find a single symptom to justify his inability to walk. Later, though, and gradually, he walked again. But the incident remains a mystery to this day.
The unnatural closeness of Howard with his mom left no room for friends or playmates. He could claim only one real childhood friend, Dudley C. Sharp, child of Howard Sr.’s partner, Walter Benona Sharp. While growing up to adolescence, he was shy and awkward and did not have much social skills. Thanks to his mother, whose germ phobia and suffocating love isolated him from others. In 1922 at age 17, his mother became pregnant but it was a tubular pregnancy and had to be removed. She did not survive the operation and died. It was the first major emotional trauma in Howard’s life. Curiously though, he recovered from it rather quickly and seemed to be thriving without his beloved mother. But fate was unkind and took his father away from him 2 years after ,in January, 1924 from a heart attack. Howard was just 18, very young and at that point hadn’t a single clue how to manage his own life. Until then, he merely followed orders, his parents telling him what to do. This was the second major emotional trauma in his life and for awhile it appeared that he was a young man without direction.
At this juncture,let’s pause to analyze Howard’s emotional and social state. Certainly he started on shaky grounds. He didn’t have the emotional equipment others of the same age have. He was not taught to socialize, to play, to not be afraid to fall or hurt himself. He was surrounded by an emotional wall and he wallowed in its confines. Though there is no manual on how to raise kids ,we, as parents just try to do our best, teaching them right from wrong, reprimanding them when they do wrong and praising them when they’re good. But picture a boy, socially and emotionally hampered by his small family of 3, now at age 18 left on his own devices- it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
It wouldn’t be long before Howard shocks his relatives by showing his independent side , asking the court to declare him an adult at age 19 (and was successful in his bid to do so) and buying them all out from his father’s tool company. His actions went into the extreme this time and now, he wants to be in control…gone were his parents who had absolute control of his life..From now on, Howard Robards Hughes jr.will be his own man and he must have total control….of everything. But, did he really ?
Howard Hughes jr.was a beautiful child. He was handsome and charming .He had a smile that could disarm and melt. As he grew older, he became slender, tall (almost 6'4"), with dark hair and brown eyes. He was painfully shy and partially deaf, but he was still very attractive. This was one of his blessings. The next is a very photographic and prolific mind, especially in the fields of mathematics and engineering (particularly in the aviation industry). Although he didn’t excel in some subjects and he was just a fair student, he had a creative mind and was good in numbers. It took a whole lot to slowly but surely destroy that mind. But before that happened, he was able to do good and great things as an aviator, a businessman and film producer.
At the age of 20, Howard Robard Hughes jr. solely owned a thriving business (Hughes Tool Company built by his father), he was legally an adult even if he wasn’t 21 yet , he married Ella Rice (of the prestigious Rice clan who founded Rice University) and then gone to Hollywood to produce films and set his sights on becoming a pilot.
By the age of 35, he would become a pilot ( setting and breaking world records in aviation), a movie producer , founder of an aircraft company and a playboy.
In all appearances, here was a man who had the whole world (and a whole lot of beautiful women) at his feet. He couldn’t lose. He had millions and millions of dollars. He could be anything and everything he wanted.He was a winner. And everybody loves a winner.
Who would have thought that ,at this point, he was still a child. He was emotionally stunted and never really grew up. He may have looked normal and well. But he was already showing disturbing signs of unstable behavior. His germ phobia was still in check. But he had intimacy problems. None of his relationships would ever last. He was a collector .He had to have them all, yet ended up having no one.To put it bluntly, Howard Hughes jr. never got over his mother. The tie between them forever destroyed his ability to love and commit to one woman and one woman alone.
Then came the plane crashes. He experienced 4 major ones starting in 1928 while filming "Hell's Angels". The most severely life-threatening was the 1946 crash,( when he was 41 years old), that disfigured him and nearly killed him. The first plane crash threw his face and forehead onto the dashboard of the cockpit, affecting the Occipito Frontal Cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for "error detection". But the 1946 crash was the most dangerous. He was in the hospital for 34 days. Nearly 70% of his body was badly burned.He underwent extensive facial reconstruction and several of his ribs and bones were broken.He had to take drugs to medicate his pain. Howard lived 30 more years after this near-fatal crash and it would be inconceivable to think that he didn't suffer great pains for the rest of his life thereafter. Thus, started the long road to mental instability and drug addiction that would make his life a living hell .
Thereafter, his germ phobia was accompanied by obsessive compulsive disorder and codeine addiction. The constricting emotional wall created by his mother from childhood would now be compounded by physical disabilities that would ultimately make him a prisoner of his own self--his colossal asylum guarded by an astounding number of aides who catered to his every whim and caprices. The sad irony was despite the number of people surrounding him and his vast empire, he was a lonely, old neglected man, heavily sedated by drugs, with recurring lucidity one day and then lost in euphoric thoughts the next.
His life was filled with many ironies- though he feared germs, he never bathed, never shampooed his hair, he didn’t cut his nails, never brushed his teeth and he never let anyone clean his room. With all his money, he died of neglect ,dehydration and starvation. And to top it all, there was no need for him to be addicted to codeine.
It is not even widely used as a recreational drug. It would have been easy for him to withdraw from this addiction. But he just couldn’t, because he said all his other pleasures were gone. What bitter loneliness did he suffer? Sadness dogged him all his life. When asked in a friend’s yearbook to list his happy thoughts, he didn't have one.
He was a time bomb waiting to explode but in the end, he didn’t explode…he imploded.
Given the fact that his whole physical,emotional, social and mental make-up were in such a terrible mess, it is amazing how he was able to achieve great feats in aviation, produced and directed films and ran an enormous business empire. It is interesting to note that the man who gave the world the Howard Hughes Medical Institute never received proper psychiatric and physical care in his later years. How could he have done all the good things he’d accomplished, inspite of his irrational phobias, obsessive compulsive behavior and addiction? How did he process his thoughts? What kind of life did he live day by day?
All of his afflictions could have been easily cured had someone just push him to seek help.But who would do that? He alienated himself from all his relatives. He lived among aides and secretaries who treated him as though he was normal, let him have his drugs and condoned his idiosyncracies so that they could help themselves to his millions.
How could anyone in good conscience let him alone like that, without informing the proper authorities? He was never ever alone and yet, he was so alone. By the mid 60s, and until the day he died in 1976, Howard Hughes jr.was no longer capable of rational thinking. He could not have ,by himself, ran his financial empires. But he was tolerated ,his drug addiction even supported and encouraged because it was a way to control him. So the master was now being mastered.
It must have been very lonely, meaningless life with him having such a dazed and confused mind.It must have been such a pitiful way to live. It was like he was existing but the fire in his spirit has long gone.
To take a deeper look into and have a better understanding of the mind of Howard Hughes jr.,Dr.Raymond Fowler performed a psychological autopsy for his death investigation. Go to the link below to see the diagnosis of Dr.Fowler :
Despite his faults, his mistakes,his shortcomings and his frailties, he still left the world several accomplishements- the most enduring one being the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Critics can lambast him but it is not just anybody who can give the world such a great contribution. His days as a fertile aviator with such groundbreaking records and inventions, can not be denied as well. That he produced and directed some good quality films and discovered performing artists are things that can not be overlooked.
It must have been more difficult for him to live day by day, one step at a time. He was not a normal man with normal emotional and social equipments. He was a very sick man whose afflictions were misunderstood and not properly treated. So he created his own asylum and retreated in it. But he was extraordinarily remarkable in his own right and his name still lives on .So he must have done something right after all .