Ken Richards is the often ignored piece of the puzzle, when Kyle or Kim Richards share family memories on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. House of Hilton by Jerry Oppenheimer details the truth about the marriage and the home life, that shaped the Richards sisters.
When Ken Richards and the pregnant Kathleen Dugan (Big Kathy) wed, all three of Ken Richards children from a previous marriage viewed their new stepmother as a gold digger. Then in September of 1964, Big Kathy gave birth to the couple’s first child together, Kim Richards. Ken wished to legally adopt Big Kathy’s daughter (Kathy Hilton) from a previous relationship, but Big Kathy refused the gesture because “she wanted complete control of her,” according to Ken’s third wife, Sylvia. He did, however, raise Big Kathy’s first daughter, as his own. The couple rented a beautiful home, on Long Island’s north shore, where Diane Richards (Ken’s daughter), who had moved in with the couple, finished high school. Big Kathy wasn’t happy, and insisted on a more prestigious address, a Jaguar, and other material trimmings, an opulent lifestyle her obvious goal.
The book describes Diane’s love for baby Kim. “Having her around brought me happiness,” Diane says, “She was just so sweet, I thought she hung the moon.”
Little Kathy (Kathy Hilton), Kyle and Kim Richards
In spite of Ken’s efforts to indulge Big Kathy’s hunger for luxury, all was not peaceful in the Richards’ home. Diane claims that there were “assaults” on her father, and recalls an unforgettable memory. One late evening after returning home, a loud argument between the couple broke out, which Oppenheimer notes had become commonplace in the Richards’ home. Five-year-old Kathy (Kathy Hilton), and baby Kimmy were both awakened and frightened, and Diane, who was 18 at the time, rushed downstairs.
“They were really fighting, and the next thing I knew it escalated, and one of them had opened the basement door and Kathleen literally tried to push my dad down the basement stairs. He was holding on for his life, and I was in the middle of it, because I was trying to defend my father. I was scared to death that he was going to be killed right there. I was trying to get her off him.”
“When that incident happened, my father kept saying over and over, ‘She’s crazy, she’s absolutely crazy!’ And I think he realized at that point that he was in over his head.”
The Richards family moved to California, just as Kim was beginning to rake in the bucks, at only four-months old. The marriage remained stormy, and Oppenheimer writes of several episodes recounted by Diane. She recalls when she was once targeted by Big Kathy, after Diane allowed their loving Irish maid/nanny, Marie, to set her up on a date.
“You don’t associate with the hired help!’ And she grabbed me by the hair and started to pull me across the room, and my father had to pull her off of me,” According to the book.
Another disturbing incident proved to be pivotal for both Diane and Marie. Oppenheimer writes Diane’s account.
“Big Kathy just got angry at me one day, so she put a little screw in the cheeseburger she made for me. She always told me I had pretty teeth and I guess she wanted me to break them. I bit down on it. Fortunately, I didn’t hurt my teeth.”
Marie quit her job after the incident, and both she and Diane left the home for good. Diane describes her father as being “pulled down further and further,” and recalls wondering if he believed that there may be no escape.
Kyle was conceived on a getaway that was designed to revive the tattered marriage. Big Kathy filled the next several years with hawking her daughters, and existing as a raging stage mother. She eventually became “out of control,” as well as a heavy drinker. Big Kathy began to sleep around, and was discovered by her husband with a man in their bed, shortly before Ken suffered his first heart attack.
Sylvia Richards tells of how Big Kathy later told her that one of her affairs resulted in a pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage. Sylvia also asserts that Kim and Kyle told her stories about having strange men in their home.
“One night, she had some black man in her bed, and Kim and Kyle went in and Kyle had a fit, and ran him off. They didn’t tell their father this stuff was happening because they were too embarrassed.”
Ken’s career began to tank, as Kim’s career was soaring. Big Kathy began to bad-mouth her husband to her friends, calling him “no good,” and “worthless.” After six rough years, Kathy wanted Ken gone, but wouldn’t give him a divorce, because Ken insisted on 50/50 custody of his daughters. Big Kathy wanted full control of the girls, because of the income they were hauling in, so she refused for a long nine years. Ken eventually moved out, and began living with his 3rd wife Sylvia, as the divorce and custody battle dragged on.
Kyle and Kim became close to Sylvia during their weekend visits with their father. Big Kathy finally submitted to the divorce, when Ken’s very life was on the line, as he laid in critical condition in the hospital, facing open-heart surgery. Ken had given Sylvia power of attorney so his assets would be protected, if he didn’t survive the operation. Basically, Ken’s lawyer threatened to sue Big Kathy for everything she had, if she did not sign the divorce papers before the surgery. The book states,
“…if Ken didn’t survive, he would sue her on my behalf and take everything for myself and the children,” Sylvia Richards recounts. “I don’t think Kathleen [Big Kathy], who was in the hospital room, thought Ken was going to live, so she literally tore out of the hospital room and signed the divorce papers after nine years.”
Oppenheimer connects the dots, as Kyle Richards continues to share her fond memories of her beloved mother. In reality, there are probably far more that she would rather forget.
Becca is a Senior Editor for All About The Tea. She’s a coastal girl who loves the outdoors, and writing about the sneaky and silly side of reality TV. Her bio is short, but her snark is endless. She loves writing for the sharpest posters in the world.