The Untold Truth Of The Hammer Family

The Hammer family's unraveling began with jokes about cannibalism. The public's scourging of Armie Hammer mostly focused on his odd sexual fetishes and how it tarnished his Ken doll image. But the accusations grew darker; women alleged that he was abusive and manipulative, per Variety. One woman said he carved his initials into her pelvis and another woman said she felt scared by him, per Vanity Fair. His career began to deteriorate. He was replaced on a Jennifer Lopez-led romantic comedy, forced out of a Paramount Plus series about the making of "The Godfather," (per Variety) and the producers of the already-shot "Death on the Nile" had trouble promoting the film and working around Hammer's scenes, per IndieWire.

But Hammer's transgressions were just the beginning. News of his dysfunctional family have come to light in the months since, leading to the conclusion that Armie learned his misbehavior from somewhere. Heading the exposure of her family's secrets and corruption is Casey Hammer, Armie's estranged aunt, in the upcoming Discovery+ series "House of Hammer," per the Los Angeles Times. Read for more untold truths about the embroiled Hammer family.

Julius Hammer was imprisoned for a botched abortion

The Hammer family's roots in America are traced back to Julius Hammer, an immigrant from Russia who ran a business called Allied Drug in New York, per Vanity Fair. After receiving urgent calls from the wife of a Russian diplomat, Marie Oganesoff, he agreed to perform an abortion, according to the New York Times and the People v. Hammer. After the procedure, Oganesoff's maid recalled seeing her physically weakened and unable to walk on her own. Abortion was illegal at the time and warranted a first-degree manslaughter charge if the abortion wasn't required to save the mother's life. Hammer's team argued that Oganesoff put her own life in danger by trying to induce her own abortion, causing the peritonitus that ultimately killed her. Oganesoff's husband testified to Hammer's indifference, saying that he dismissed her post-abortion illness as nothing more than a flu and discouraged him from getting a second opinion. Hammer was found guilty and was sentenced to three and a half to 12 years in prison, despite reports that Hammer had bribed one of the jurors. He later appealed the ruling but it went nowhere, and he was denied a new trial.

According to journalist Edward Jay Epstein's book, "Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer," the truth might be even more salacious (via Los Angeles Times). Julius' son, Armand, had studied medicine and once reportedly performed a fatal abortion on a woman in 1919, and Julius took the blame.

Armand Hammer had close ties to Vladimir Lenin and the Kremlin

Julius Hammer, who named his son Armand after the arm-and-hammer symbol of the Socialist Labor Party, was a founder of the American Communist Labor Party and one of the major reasons why Armand later rubbed elbows with Vladimir Lenin and Leonid Brezhnev, per The New York Times. Julius helped the Soviet Union procure necessary supplies from the United States in light of embargos. When he was arrested for a fatal abortion, Armand took over and became the first in command. He was the main actor for Soviet concessions, allowing him to mine asbestos in the Soviet Union while he persuaded American companies to invest in the country. He also saved the Soviet's food industries by shipping them beef and phosphoric acid — which was used in agriculture.

His relationship with the Soviet Union dwindled when Joseph Stalin took over, per CS Monitor, despite Lenin's personal appeals to Stalin to trust in Hammer, per The New York Times. But their ties were strengthened again once Leonid Brezhnev was in power, and it was around that time that the Kremlin wanted their guy as the American ambassador to the Soviet Union. Unsurprisingly, the request was denied by the White House.

Armand Hammer probably helped fund the Watergate scandal

In 1972, Armand Hammer donated $54,000 to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, per AP. This is hardly news in the world of politics and money, except that Hammer donated the funds under someone else's name, an action that was made illegal that same year. He delivered the money anonymously through former Montana governor Tim Babcock, who ended up being fined $1,000. Hammer managed to escape a prison sentence because of health reasons but was given probation and a dent in his already questionable reputation. For 13 years, Hammer lobbied the White House to clear his name. Ronald Reagan, whose administration side-eyed Hammer's Soviet connections (per The New York Times), snubbed him.

He was finally pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, per AP. Responses to the action were mixed. For one, the pardon came after Hammer donated more than $100,000 to Bush and the Republican Party, according to Salon. But it also didn't help that Hammer's crime was embedded in one of the most infamous crimes in American politics: Watergate. According to the New York Times, Hammer's unfortunately timed donation came at a fortunate time for the Nixon campaign, and it's safe to assume the money was used towards the DNC break-in.

He had various friends in high places, including the British Royal family

Armand Hammer prided himself on being an advocate for world peace as he tried to establish trade relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, per AP. He earned so much respect from Vladimir Lenin, who personally called him for help when the Soviet economy became sluggish (per CS Monitor) and told Stalin that a 24-year-old Hammer was someone worth supporting (per The New York Times). But the Soviets weren't the only leaders Hammer wasn't afraid of mingling with. In Libya, he sought after Libyan politicians and paid for their children's college tuition. Coincidentally, his oil company Occidental won the country's bid for drilling oil over several other competitors, per CS Monitor. He also once gifted the president of Venezuela a bronze statue of Simon Bolivar, per The New York Times.

But Hammer's influential friendships extended to Buckingham Palace, specifically Prince Charles. Beginning in the 1970s, Hammer tried to curry favor with the prince by spending more than $40 million on the royal's favorite charities, per the Sydney Morning Herald. Hammer's special treatment reached even Princess Diana as he flew the both of them on his private jet. The bootlicking must have worked; Prince Charles nearly named Hammer godfather to Prince William, per The Guardian. Could you imagine?

The Hammer family built an art-dealing empire

Armand Hammer's art-dealing empire began, as with many things in his life, with the Soviets, per the New York Times. After helping the country with much-needed shipments from a hostile United States, Hammer was given the freedom to take Russian art pieces back home and sell them, making an estimated $11 million. He arranged the Hammer Galleries as a means to organize his art-dealing and then spent $100 million to form the Hammer Museum, per Vanity Fair. He then spread his influence elsewhere. In 1971, he bought the historic New York Knoedler Gallery for $2.5 million (per The Conversation) and had his name attached to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Hall of Arms and Armor, per Vanity Fair.

But Michael Hammer erased much of his father's art legacy once he gained control of the estate. The Hammer Museum was given to the UCLA art department, and Armand's most-prized possession, Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester, which he once renamed after himself, was sold to Bill Gates for $30 million, per The Washington Post. Michael retained control of the Knoedler Gallery, but a scandal eventually dissolved it, per The Conversation

It's probably for the best, though; Armand may have built his empire on fakes. According to journalist Edward Jay Epstein's book, "Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer," when Armand popularized the Fabergé Egg early in his career, he may have stretched the truth of their authenticity, per the Los Angeles Times and PBS.

Occidental Petroleum was responsible for the deadliest oil rig disaster in history

Occidental Petroleum, the oil giant Armand Hammer chaired until his death in 1990, was once responsible for the world's worst offshore oil disasters. The oil platform, Piper Alpha, suffered a leak, leading to an explosion and fire. It occurred after a safety valve on one of Piper Alpha's gas compression pumps was removed, per Britannica. A lack of communication led other workers to use the pump, unaware that it was decommissioned. Its improper handling led to the gas leak. A domino effect ensued; the heat from one explosion put pressure on a nearby gas pipeline, leading to another explosion, per BBC news. It resulted in a mass casualty — of the 226 people working on the platform, 167 people died.

But communications errors didn't leave Occidental off the hook. The company's safety model was criticized when it was found to have placed the gas compression units, the source of the leak, next to an area where people regularly worked, per the Guardian. Despite calls to bring Piper Alpha operators to justice (per the Journal of Commerce), Occidental didn't receive criminal penalties and paid out $100 million to families of victims. Hammer released a statement, saying he was "shocked and grieved." He personally visited Aberdeen, Scotland, the city nearest Piper Alpha, per UPI and Energy Voice.

Julian Hammer killed a man over gambling debts

A scandalous family history wouldn't be complete without murder. This vice comes courtesy of Armand Hammer's least favorite heir, Julian Hammer. The incident occurred in 1955 at Julian's birthday party, per the Whitlock Family Association. The 26-year-old Julian was having an argument with a man named Bruce Whitlock, a military veteran, per the Virginia Chronicle. They had known each other since Julian's college days 10 years prior and had once lived together. It was around this time that one of the two men fell into the other's debt and owed $200. Although it was a meager amount compared to what Julian had access to, the old gambling debt was brought up again during the argument and was suddenly doubled to $400 after a coin toss to decide the debt's fate, per the Whitlock Family Association. It's unclear who owed who, who decided to gamble on the debt with a double-or-nothing coin toss, and whether there was a mutual agreement on the toss, but it resulted in the death of Whitlock.

Julian shot Whitlock with a .45-caliber revolver. He told police it was done in self-defense after Whitlock threatened him with a beer bottle, per the Virginia Chronicle. He cited inappropriate behavior toward his wife as another provocation, per Vanity Fair. Julian was charged and arraigned, but he didn't need to worry long. Daddy Hammer came to the rescue and paid a lawyer $50,000 in cash. The charges were eventually dismissed.

Armand Hammer received 100 lawsuits from family posthumously

The scene at Armand Hammer's will reading was like something out of "Succession" combined with "Knives Out." Many hapless members of the Hammer family trickled into a Los Angeles lawyer's office, thinking that the Hammer patriarch left them billions of dollars, per Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. After all, shortly before his death, he had an estimated net worth of $180 million. But when the will was finally read, all hell broke loose. Armand only left behind $40 million and shortchanged many members of his family, friends, and charities.

The lawsuits flew in, all 100 (and more) of them. They weren't just from spurned family members, including son Julian, who went ballistic and threatened to kill his children, per Vanity Fair. They were also from companies and foundations who never received payments for their services, per the Washington Post. And Armand's mistress, Hilary Gibson, learned she received nothing even after 10 years of fulfilling his strange demands — including wearing disguises and using a tapped phone, per Vanity Fair. But Gibson was crafty and made sure she was going to get her fair share. She traveled all the way to Switzerland to snatch documentation that proved Armand's previous promises to her and used it against the Armand estate in her lawsuit, per the Washington Post.

Michael Hammer was involved in one of New York's biggest art scandals

Armand Hammer had been running the historic New York Knoedler Gallery since 1971, and when he died in 1990, Michael Hammer took over, per The Conversation. But after one client, hedge fund manager Pierre Lagrange, found that he couldn't resell his Jackson Pollock painting at an auction house, he sued the gallery. The gallery closed consequently in 2011. Lagrange wasn't the only victim of fraudulent artwork; 30 such fake paintings, all Abstract Expressionist pieces, were sold by the gallery between 1994 and 2009, per the New York Times and Artnet News. That added up to an estimated $63 million in damage.

In 2015, Hammer settled three lawsuits involving fake Mark Rothko paintings sold more than a decade earlier, per ARTNews. It's easy to assume that Hammer himself was duped; the fakes came from a fraudulent art dealer, Glafira Rosales, who was using artwork made by a Chinese immigrant living in Queens, per The Conversation. But the gallery and its director, Ann Freedman, continued to do business with the Rosales even after her claims on the paintings' histories proved to be untrustworthy. And Hammer didn't help his own case by personally profiting off of the gallery's parent company, 8-31 Holdings, making him liable to charges of fraud. At one point, he used $2 million of the company's finances to purchase seven luxury cars, per Artnet News.

Sexual profligacy runs in the men's side of the family

It's not enough to say that the Hammer men aren't the type of men you'd want your daughters to marry. Some of the actions Armand, Julian, Michael, and Armie have committed border on being abusive — or are just plain abusive. Armand Hammer was a serial philanderer and had several mistresses and illegitimate children who came out of the woodwork to claim inheritances, per the Washington Post. Armand made promises he didn't keep, and they were left without a penny. One of his mistresses, Hilary Gibson, had to change her identity for him and was forced to perform sexual acts she found degrading, per Vanity Fair. His son, Julian Hammer, was accused by his own daughter of sexually abusing her. In her book, "Surviving My Birthright," Casey Hammer also alleges that he mistreated various members of the family.

And then there was Armie Hammer. In early 2021, the Instagram account "House of Effie" began posting private screenshots of his messages that depicted him fantasizing about cannibalism, mutilation, enslavement of his sex partners. He also posted salacious content to his private Instagram account with footage of scantily-clad women, per Variety. Most alarming was an allegation of rape made by a former lover, resulting in a LAPD investigation, per Variety, although TMZ reported that it was unlikely that Armie would get charged. Armie's ex-wife now compares him to Ted Bundy, per Vanity Fair.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Armie Hammer has been cut off from his family

Armie Hammer's fall from grace has been like nothing we've seen before. Once a venerable actor who starred in the Academy Award-winning film "The Social Network" and delivered lines alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in "J. Edgar," he now reportedly works as a timeshares salesman, per Variety. Yes, that's right — Armie Hammer is now working paycheck-to-paycheck. An unnamed source told Variety that he has been short on cash and once managed an apartment complex before selling timeshares. Quotes from his lawyer, Andrew Brettler, aren't more reassuring. When asked if his client was working a regular job, Brettler said he didn't know and chastised the media for making fun of his financial state, per People.

Hammer currently lives in the Cayman Islands, where his family owns a luxury villa. But that obviously doesn't mean he's getting any help from them, per People. By all accounts, he's been cut off by the Hammers and is expected to fend for himself. Growing up, he felt the pressures of his family name and was expected to uphold a certain image, per Vanity Fair. So when private messages of his were posted online, publicizing his cannibalistic fantasies and other strange sexual fetishes — along with a rape allegation, per Variety — leading to his release from WME, he was all but excommunicated.

The Hammer family whistleblower has been left destitute

Casey is the daughter of Julian Hammer, Armand's first-born son. Julian never measured up to his father's expectations, so Armand ignored him in favor of Julian's own son, Michael, per Vanity Fair. So this wasn't the best branch of the family tree for Casey to be born on. It also means she didn't get the same financial love that Michael's immediate family received. She thought she would receive millions of dollars in inheritance upon Armand's death due to personal reassurances from the man himself, per the Washington Post and Vanity Fair. But when the moment came, Casey saw only $250,000 while her father was equally snubbed. She sued her brother, Michael, who now controlled the estate, and settled for an estimated $1.4 million.

While her grandfather's mistress received nearly four times her settlement in another lawsuit, Casey works as a kitchen designer in a Home Depot, per Vanity Fair. She was able to stretch out the $1.4 million over the course of 18 years and now struggles for money. But lately she has come out in public to speak about her dysfunctional family and its various transgressions. In her 2015 book "Surviving My Birthright," she accused her father of sexually assaulting her. And in 2021, she signed a deal with a production company to shed light on her family's drama and abuse for the upcoming documentary multi-episode series "House of Hammer," per Deadline and the Los Angeles Times.