Star leaves fortune to her butler

SCANDAL: Dying wish of actress Ruth Ford sees Nepalese worker inherit €6m

David Usborne

It was the last flourish of an erstwhile grande dame of New York society whose home in the Dakota Building once brimmed with the likes of Tennessee Williams, Capote and Warhol.

Upon her death, the actress Ruth Ford bequeathed the flat and everything in it not to her daughter or even to the Met. She left the lot to her trusty butler.

Whether Ms Ford knew it or not during her fading days we will never know, but by naming the Nepali-American Indra Tamang, her servant of several decades, as the beneficiary of her will, she has caused quite the scandal in Manhattan.

As of now, Mr Tamang (57) who was born in a mud-hut village outside Kathmandu and, after 20 years of trying, won US citizenship last year, is the owner of his former mistress's three-bedroom Dakota apartment and the collection of paintings by the Russian surrealist Pavel Tchelitchew that hangs inside it. He also received a second studio apartment.

But the inheritance has come with a few kinks, not least among them the seven-figure tax bill he will shortly be receiving from Uncle Sam. The impending demand has persuaded him to put the bigger of the two apartments on the market.


With neighbours like Yoko Ono -- the Dakota, of course, was where her husband, John Lennon, was shot to death in 1980 -- and Lauren Bacall, it is a steal at just $4.5m (€3.5m).

There is another reason he is selling, however. The Dakota, like most pre-war residences in Manhattan, is a co-operative building where residents own shares, not bricks.

A co-op building has a co-op board that sets the rules; in the case of the Dakota it is going to be conservative and pernickety. Is it about to allow a former butler to occupy either one of the apartments in the building he has come to control? Heavens, no!

Not that the modestly meaned Mr Tamang is complaining. Indeed, if he is destined to remain in his small family home in Queens with his wife and three daughters, he will have no cause to complain. (And for sure he will have the cash to pay the mortgage.)

"Whenever you have a roof and clothes and food I think one should always be happy," Mr Tamang said.

The estate he received was valued at $8.4m (€6.6m).