Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas, London 1959

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas at a party at

Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas at a party at “The Dorchester”, London 1959 (Photo: Desmond O’Neill)

Aristotle Onassis (Aristotelis Onasis; 1906 – 1975) was a Greek shipping magnate and businessman. Onassis amassed the world’s largest privately owned shipping fleet and was one of the world’s richest and most famous men. He was known for his business success, his great wealth and also his personal life.
Onassis was born in Smyrna and fled the city with his family to Greece in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922. Onassis moved to Argentina in 1923 and he got a job as a telephone engineer. Poor but clever, he eavesdropped on business calls and used the information to set up deals of his own. Onassis was soon making loads of money and buying beautiful clothes. His ability to reinvent himself as an “important businessman” during the day, yet continuing to work the phone lines in coveralls at night, was an early indication of his shrewd social and business skills.
Onassis’ first big idea came in the mid-1920s, when he overheard a phone call about a new “talkie” that would have its main character smoke a cigarette. Onassis got the idea to start his own brand of cigarettes. He chose a famous opera singer as the perfect model. To get her to smoke his brand in public, he showed up at her dressing room with a giant bouquet of flowers. Amazingly, Onassis seduced her. She, of course, smoked his brand of cigarettes.

Aristoteles Onassis in1932

Aristoteles Onassis in 1932

By the age of 25, his tobacco business made him a millionaire. Building on his wealth, he realized that the shipping magnates who hauled the tobacco made more than the cigarette manufacturer. This realization came to him at the height of the Great Depression. Just when everyone was getting out of the shipping business, Onassis was able to buy six ships for less than half of what they would normally be worth.
At the outbreak of World War II, Onassis leased his cargo ships to the Allies. His wealth grew enormously, and so did his social standing. He began dating a string of famous women. Within a few years, he met the daughter of the richest shipping magnate in the world, Athina Livanos, a woman almost half his age. They married and had two children.
Moving to Monaco, Onassis rivaled Prince Rainer III for economic control of the country through his ownership of SBM and in the mid 1950s sought to secure an oil shipping arrangement with Saudi Arabia and engaged in whaling expeditions.

“If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning” – Aristotle Onassis

In 1957 Onassis met Maria Callas during a party in Venice promoted by Elsa Maxwell. They embarked on an affair despite the fact they were both married. After this first encounter, Onassis commented to Spyros Skouras: “There [was] just a natural curiosity; after all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world.” The affair received much publicity in the popular press, and in November 1959, Callas left her husband. The relationship ended in 1968, when Onassis left Callas in favor of Jacqueline Kennedy. The two married on Onassis’ privately owned island. However, the Onassis family’s private secretary, Kiki, writes in her memoir that even while Aristotle was with Jackie, he frequently met up with Maria in Paris, where they resumed what had now become a clandestine affair.
In 1973, Onassis’s 24 year old son, Alexander, died in a terrible plane crash. He was greatly affected by the death and two years later, on March 15, 1975, Aristotle Onassis died. It was said that Maria Callas, his true love, never recovered from his death. She died two and a half years later.
Wikipedia: Aristotle Onassis Aristotle OnassisWikipedia: Maria Callas
More to read:
HEC: The Life of Aristotle Onassis – The Man, the Myth, the Legend

“Αν δεν υπήρχαν οι γυναίκες, όλα τα λεφτά του κόσμου δεν θα είχαν καμία απολύτως σημασία” Αριστοτέλης Ωνάσης

Στα Ελληνικά:
Σαν Σήμερα: Βιογραφία Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση

For more, see my other postS:
Part One – Maria Callas on the beach, 1956
PART THREE – piero tosi & Maria Callas, Milano 1955

2 thoughts on “Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas, London 1959

  1. Pingback: Piero Tosi & Maria Callas, Milano 1955 | Colorem

  2. Pingback: Elvira de Hidalgo, New York, ca. 1910 | Colorem

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