10 CRAZY FACTS ABOUT HOWARD HUGHES YOU NEVER KNEW

Published on: December 23, 2004

Nearly three decades after the death of Howard Hughes, the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Aviator," has ignited renewed interest in the eccentric billionaire.

Here, from Pat H. Broeske, coauthor with Peter Harry Brown of the book, "Howard Hughes: The Untold Story," are 10 fascinating facts about the wacky recluse:

1. Determined to learn about flying, the billionaire anonymously applied for and got a job as a baggage handler with American Airlines for $115 per month.

2. In preparation for a 1938 flight, Hughes had thousands of Ping-Pong balls stuffed in a compartment of his plane because he believed it would keep it afloat in water.

During a stop, someone opened the hatch and an avalanche of balls poured out.

3. Bette Davis' husband found out Hughes was having an affair with her and had a private eye make a tape recording of their tryst. Hughes paid $75,000 in hush money.

4. Hughes was obsessed with breasts. He designed a special halfcup bra for Jane Russell during the filming of "The Outlaw" to give the busty starlet a "braless" look. And he instructed drivers to slow to 2 m.p.h. while driving his girlfriends over speed bumps, for fear the sudden jarring could damage the women?s breasts.

5. When dining out, Howard always ordered: steak, potatoes and peas. But he carried a special utensil, which resembled a tiny rake, to remove the littlest peas.

6. Wife Jean Peters decided she couldn't keep a stray cat she took in, so Hughes sent it to an expensive feline hotel where it had a room with a TV. He also had someone write the cat a monthly letter.

7. After learning that he contracted venereal disease from a girlfriend, he ordered all his clothes and bed linens burned in a bonfire at his Los Angeles estate.

8. Hughes and girlfriend Terry Moore liked to exchange alligator mating calls. He played the deep-voiced male, Terry made the female's soft hoot and clicking sound.

9. He became so afraid of germs he wouldn?t let anyone touch the knobs of his TV. Later, he became convinced that the tube emitted germ-filled rays.

10. During his stays at the Desert Inn in Vegas, he made the chef cut each piece of chocolate cake he ordered into an exact square, which he checked with a ruler. If they weren?t square, he sent them back.