Serge Obolensky

Prince Sergei Platonovich Obolensky Neledinsky-Meletzky (November 3, 1890 – September 29, 1978), known as Serge Obolensky, was a Russian-American aristocrat, U.S. Army paratrooper, socialite and publicist. He served as vice chairman of the board of directors of the Hilton Hotels Corporation.[1]

Obolensky's parents were Prince Platon Sergeyevich Obolensky-Neledinsky-Meletzky (1850–1913)[2] and Maria Konstantinovna Naryshkina (1861–1929).[3] He had a younger brother, Vladimir (1896–1968),[4] who died unmarried and childless.

He was an enthusiastic polo player and played for his University Team 1914 in Oxford.[5]

Obolensky was a soldier in two World Wars and in the Russian Civil War and fled his native country after battling Bolsheviks as a guerrilla fighter. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. paratroopers and a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA, and made his first five jumps in 1943 at the age of 53.[6]

After his second marriage, he settled in the U.S., working with his new brother-in-law, the real estate entrepreneur Vincent Astor.[6] He also started a business, Parfums Chevalier Garde, with fellow emigre, Aleksandre Tarsaidze (1901–1978). Tarsaidze was president until 1940 when they were cut off from their French suppliers during World War II.[7] When Obolensky was president of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, Tarsaidze became his assistant. Tarsaidze later wrote a novel about the parents of Obolensky's first wife, Alexander II and Catherine Dolgorukov.[7]

In 1949, he started his own public relations firm in New York City, Serge Obolensky Associates, Inc.,[6] handling accounts like Piper-Heidsieck champagne. "Serge", a friend once remarked, "could be successful selling umbrellas in the middle of the Sahara".

In 1958, Obolensky was made vice chairman of the board of Hilton Hotels Corporation.[6] In the same year, he released his autobiography, One Man In His Time. The Memoirs of Serge Obolensky.[8][9] He maintained a substantial art collection.

On October 6, 1916, he married Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (1878–1959) at Yalta. Catherine was the youngest daughter of Russian Emperor Alexander II (1818–1881) and his second, morganatic wife, Princess Catherine Dolgorukova (1847–1922), and was the widow of Prince Alexander Vladimirovich Baryatinsky (1870–1910), with whom she had two children.[10] They divorced in 1924 without any issue.

On July 24, 1924, he married Ava Alice Muriel Astor (1902–1956) in London, Middlesex. Ava was the daughter of John Jacob Astor IV (1864–1912) and his first wife Ava Lowle Willing (1868–1958).[11] Before divorcing in 1932,[12] Obolensky had two children with Ava:

On June 3, 1971, he married for the third and final time to Marilyn Fraser-Wall (1929–2007) of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, with whom he did not have children.[11][19]

Obolensky died in 1978,[20] and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, Michigan.[1]

The "Serge Obolensky Room", at the back of the 1st floor at the in Manhattan, memorializes his services as a soldier. Portraits and memorabilia festoon the walls.