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Hughes to Hepburn letters to be auctioned

Collection of telegrams expected to sell for at least $40,000
/ Source: The Associated Press

Between flying and designing planes, producing movies and being a billionaire, Howard Hughes always seemed to make time for the ladies.

Details from one of his most high-profile affairs are now up for auction in the form of 22 telegrams he sent to Katherine Hepburn during their brief romance in the late 1930s.

The selection includes a telegram Hughes sent Hepburn on Jan. 19, 1937 — the day he set a new air record, flying from Burbank, Calif., to Newark, N.J., in seven hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds.

The flight was over, and Hughes apparently was running behind schedule to meet Hepburn at Chicago's Ambassador Hotel before she performed in a play.

"Supposed to arrive six something in the afternoon," the Western Union telegram reads. "Probably not in time to see you before the theater so will try to contain myself until eleven thirty, love Dan."

Dan was short for Dynamite, one of several nicknames the two shared, said Michael Riley of Dallas-based Heritage Slater Americana, a subsidiary of Heritage Galleries, which is holding the auction.

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In another letter, Hughes laments that he was unable to send Hepburn flowers from the Bahamas. The reason? No florists.

"Please consider this one large luscious hand picked personally selected magnolia with extra special smell thrown in," Hughes wrote in a telegram dated March 12, 1937.

Riley said the owner of the documents, which also include two 1939 handwritten draft telegrams by Hepburn, isn't being identified.

To avoid unwanted attention, most of the telegrams Hughes wrote were sent to Hepburn's assistant, Emily Perkins.

The auction, which has a minimum reserve of $30,000, begins Wednesday evening and ends Thursday.

Other Hughes items on the auction block include a brown hat he often wore with the initials "HRH." A copy of the hat frequently donned the head of Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Hughes in last year's film "The Aviator."

The real deal is expected to fetch at least $40,000, Riley said.

"He had so much money, he had so much power," Riley said. "He truly was a legendary aviator. He did incredible things in terms of flying. He led the kind of life a lot of people would like to live."

In his later years, Hughes was known for his seclusion, long hair and fingernails. He was said to be terrified of germs and to remain locked away in a hotel room surrounded by tissue boxes. He died April 5, 1976 on a plane from Acapulco, Mexico, to his native Houston.