Westport’s Baroness Back In The News

It happened on January 2, 1972. Eight armed men stole $28 million in cash and jewels from vaults at New York’s Hotel Pierre.

But it’s back in the news. Nick “The Cat” Sacco — the last robber alive — is writing a book that’s been optioned for a movie. Yesterday’s New York Post had all the breathless details.

Baroness von Langendorff (Photo/New York Social Diary)

Baroness von Langendorff (Photo/New York Social Diary)

The “06880” connection is that the most valuable item was a $750,000 diamond necklace owned by Baroness von Langendorff. She’s the 2nd wife of Baron Walter von Langendorff, founder of Evyan Perfumes, and former owner of Westport’s Winslow Park and the eponymous Baron’s South property on Compo Road.

The baron’s 1st wife died in 1968.

According to the baron’s 1983 obituary, he “often took a blended formula to his country home in Westport, Conn., to smell it away from the air pollution of the city.”

He died in his suite at the Pierre. That’s where he lived with his 2nd wife, the former Gabriele Lagerwall — she of the $750,000 necklace.

It ended up in the hands of a Detroit mobster — who was an FBI informant. That led to arrests of 2 of the robbers (though not Sacco, who entered the witness protection program).

Turns out, baroness #2 still lives at the Pierre.

The baroness is quite a social presence. (Photo/Daily Mail)

The baroness is quite a social presence. (Photo/Daily Mail)

Another New York Post story, from 2 years ago, told the tale of “dirt-poor Nepalese relatives of late Manhattan fashion legend Shail Upadhya (who) are scraping together their meager belongings — even selling off land — to finance a battle against an evil European baroness who swooped in and made off with the designer’s $5 million fortune, according to their lawsuit.”

(It’s complicated. Click here for details.)

The Post — which describes the baroness as a “buxom red-haired widow” — notes that before marrying the Austrian chemist who created White Shoulders perfume, Gabriele was “admired and pursued by some of the richest, most powerful men in the world, including Averell Harriman.”

Several years ago, New York Social Diary described her this way:

{The baroness] is easily spotted in any crowd, gilded or no because of her tall and tumbling flaming tresses, her satin and/or taffeta evening dresses, and above all, her famous milkmaid complexion — and above above all, her ensembles of astonishing jewels. Which are always in ample supply, generous weight, high lustre, and, in short, unbelievable on sighting.

The baroness is one of those individuals of indeterminate youth and age, to put it politely, whose legend, long having departed reality, provides a rich lore that may be more enticing than the facts (although maybe not). Her presence reflects a New York that is almost entirely a memory, where women were placed on pedestals (albeit, if temporarily) as birds of paradise, living paeans to glamour and luxurious living, to be adored, and above all, worshipped….

The baroness still wears plenty of jewels. (Photo/New York Post)

The baroness still wears plenty of jewels. (Photo/New York Post)

She has resided at the Pierre for many years now, and spends weekends at her estate on the North Shore of Long Island where when she entertains at dinner, the men wear black tie and the women of course wear long dresses and jewels. In the summertime, she leaves these shores for Monte Carlo in July and August.

I guess we won’t be seeing baroness von Langendorff in Westport again soon. We’ll just have to settle for the New York Post.

(For the entire New York Social Diary story, click hereFor more on the baron’s Westport property, click here.)

8 responses to “Westport’s Baroness Back In The News

  1. From what I’ve heard, “Baron Von Langendorff” was a fake title and name invented by a 1930’s Austrian refugee to add a touch of class to his image and perfume brand. Given that most Austrian refugees of the time were fleeing for their lives from Hitler’s Germany, it’s surprising that one would choose to reinvent himself as a German aristocrat; why not a French or Italian one?

  2. Right, Peter. And I though we’d done away with titles (real or imagined) in the United States. — His Lordship Karl Decker, Earl of Monroe

  3. Christa Panny

    The baroness still comes once in awhile to visit the Baron’s mausoleum at Willowbrook Cemetery on Main St. She has her gardener from Long Island come to clean up the grounds within the black iron fence. So if you see him there grooming the shrubs or blowing the leaves, that means he was summoned to prepare for a baroness visit.

    • Wendy Crowther

      Christa–May I ask how you know about this? I’ve done considerable historical research on the Baron and both of his wives. I’m also responsible for requesting that the Westport Historic District Commission designate the Baron’s house in Westport (Golden Shadows) as a Local Historic Landmark. That designation process requires many steps but I’m pleased to say that it is underway.

      I’ve been fascinated by the Baron’s story for many years and remain dedicated to preserving the mansion and the surrounding property (Baron’s South). The mausoleum has always been well-cared for – a fact that had not escaped my attention. As part of my research, I verified with the cemetery manager that an outside caretaker routinely maintained it.

      Based on my knowledge of the 2nd Baroness, she always preferred her L.I. estate to Golden Shadows so she spent little or no time here in Westport. There is much speculation that the 2nd Baroness had more interest in the Baron’s money than she had in him. Her ability to attract wealthy men from whom she inherited fortunes is a pattern she established both before and after her marriage to the Baron. Therefore, I’m surprised and fascinated to hear that Gabrielle might be the one behind the care of the mausoleum and might actually visit occasionally. I’d love to know more.

      Dan Woog can vouch for my Westport-centric historical research and knowledge. He can connect the two of us if you’d be willing to talk further.

  4. Christa Panny

    I offered this tidbit, having spoken to the gardener a couple of different times as I power-walked through the cemetery. A fenced in mausoleum is a curious sight, so I asked him about it. I don’t know whether the baroness spends any time in Westport. I’m under the impression that she just limos in to pay respects, maybe? Or maybe she just threatens to visit so that her gardener makes sure it’s condition is kept up. He said that they have an agreement with the cemetery to maintain the grounds privately. Can’t vouch for the gardener’s accuracy. Happy to chat with you more about this.

  5. I actually took care of this lady and her husband about ten years ago in buffalo. They were very shrewd but took s liking to me. No one in the hotel knew who they were, but were informed that they were “someone”. They ended up having me sit with them at dinner and were very nice to be around. They handed my an envelope before I left for making their stay so nice