It's a little known fact, but Hollywood producer, casino owner, aviator, defense contractor, billionaire Texan and American icon Howard Hughes spent his last days in Acapulco, Mexico.
The official story goes that Howard Hughes died on an airplane en route to Houston. However, this seems suspect for two reasons.
First, why would Hughes suddenly and uncharacteristically want to return to his boyhood home?
Secondly, and more importantly, former staff of the Acapulco Princess have recounted publicly that Hughes died at the hotel and witnessed his lifeless body being removed.
It's likely the story of Hughes dying in the air was concocted to add to the majesty of Hughes’ legacy – the aviator and great American dies in the air on his way home to his native Texas.
Before his death, Hughes had been bouncing around the world as his physical and mental condition deteriorated, moving to the Bahamas, Vancouver, and London among other locations before settling in Acapulco, apparently due to the easy access to narcotic prescription drugs, especially codeine. During his autopsy, X-rays showed that numerous hypodermic needles had broken off in his arms.
Former Princess staff recalls that Hughes rented the top two floors, blacked out all of the windows, and made such a mess that the hotel had to renovate the upper floors. But this was no frat party gone wild. Hughes, at the time of his death, was scarcely human refusing to wear clothes and allowing his hair and fingernails grow uncontrolled year after year after year.
Who was Howard Hughes?
It’s hard to imagine a man more intertwined with the fabric of 20th century America than Howard Hughes. Hughes was born in Texas where he declared at an early age that he wanted to be the world's best aviator and movie producer. In 1924, he moved to Hollywood, California and quickly began making films. His1928 film The Racket and his 1931 film, The Front Page, were both nominated for Oscars. Hughes also gained notoriety for Hell's Angels in 1930, Scarface in 1932, and his most famous film, The Outlaw from 1941, starring Jane Russell.
During his Hollywood heyday, Hughes the playboy was seen with Hollywood’s top actresses, among them Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, and Ava Gardner.
Hughes was also famous for feats in the world of aviation. Most memorable was his massive H-4 Hercules, known pejoratively as the "Spruce Goose." After World War II, Hughes transformed his company Hughes Aircraft into one of the U.S.’s biggest defense contractors, pieces of which were eventually obtained by McDonnell Douglas, later Boeing, and Raytheon. (In 1972, Hughes even secretly helped the CIA recover a Soviet submarine which had sunk near Hawaii.)
By the late 1950's, Hughes the playboy had transformed into Hughes the neurotic. He began exhibiting clear symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and became the world's most famous recluse. Hughes was reportedly terrified of germs and was addicted to codeine and other painkillers. It has been claimed that Hughes wore Kleenex boxes as shoes and insisted that paper covered every object he touched. One hypothesis asserts that Hughes had contracted syphilis in his younger years and that much of his bizarre later behavior could be attributed to syphilis-induced insanity.
Hughes famously moved for a prolonged period to Las Vegas's Desert Inn, which he was forced to buy after the management had threatened to evict him. He later went on a shopping spree acquiring Castaways, New Frontier, Landmark, the Sands and the Silver Slipper. Hughes was instrumental in the history of Las Vegas as he was a major catalyst in its transition from a Mafia-ridden organized crime capital to the modern corporate-dominated, family-oriented sin park that it is today.
Hughes died in Acapulco at the age of 70, officially of renal failure, but more likely from a serious case of prolonged wealth, notoriety and power.