When John Gilbert Getty was found “unresponsive” in a $1,200 suite on Nov. 20 at the luxe Hotel Emma, a chic refurbished brewery in downtown San Antonio, details about his death — in the words of a veteran investigator — were “buttoned down” very fast.
“That’s how they do it,” Los Angeles investigator John Nazarian, who worked for years for billionaire heiress Doris Duke, told The Post. “They get in there and they clean it up and they make sure nobody talks.”
Neither hotel personnel nor the San Antonio police would comment to The Post. Even reporters at the local newspaper and TV station just rewrote the original scoop from TMZ that John Gilbert Getty, the handsome grandson of oil baron J. Paul Getty and an heir to his $5 billion fortune, had died at age 52 — two months after the passing of his mother and five years after the harrowing death of his older brother Andrew, a methamphetamine addict.
John Gilbert Getty’s daughter, Ivy, told The Post that her father had fallen in love with San Antonio and was there preparing to move into a new home when he died.
Described as a talented musician and a lover of high-end Los Angeles real estate, John Gilbert Getty, who grew up bouncing between the US and the UK, was one of four sons of the San Francisco investor and philanthropist Gordon Getty — the last remaining son of J. Paul Getty. Gordon is a fixture of San Francisco society and helped fund the political rise of Gov. Gavin Newsom as well as vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.
He holds such sway in San Francisco that when news hit in 1999 that he had a second, secret, family in Los Angeles — a mistress and three young daughters — people barely blinked an eye and he stayed married to his wife, Ann, until her death.
With the cause of his death still not publicly known, it’s been up to John Gilbert Getty’s only child, 26-year-old Ivy, and her cousins, to shed light on his life — and to insist that the newest generation of the family is making its mark free of the notorious and tragedy-ridden Getty past.
“My father was awesome — coolest man to ever land on this planet and I will forever be the proudest daughter,” Ivy wrote on Instagram. “Love you so much, Dad … Life is cruel sometimes.”
J. Paul Getty has more than 40 descendants but the younger generation, his great-grandchildren, includes budding stars such as socialite, model and artist Ivy, who has 23,000 Instagram followers. Successful fashion designer August Getty, 26, dresses icons ranging from Cher and Hailey Baldwin to Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. Isabel Getty, 25, the jet-setting musician daughter of Christopher Getty and Pia Miller, is the singer of the band Jean Marlow. And Nats (Natalia) Getty, 27, founded her own streetwear clothing line, Strike Oil, and is an LBGTQ activist married to Gigi Gorgeous, a transgender woman with a huge YouTube following.
Ivy told The Post that “growing up with a family in the public eye, I noticed that some people tended to focus on our tragedies. But tragedy is not unique to the Getty family. It strikes us all at some point. Although I’m grieving for my father right now, I am filled with gratitude for everything he taught me. My glass is half full. I think our generation has been given a special opportunity to do good in the world, and we intend to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Though the lives of the younger generation look glam and glossy on social media, family insiders say they face an uphill battle when it comes to the dark past of the Getty family.
J. Paul Getty was once the richest person on earth. Born in 1892, he died in 1976, leaving a dysfunctional family plagued by drug overdoses, a kidnapping, illicit affairs and scandals. He was by many accounts a cold, stingy man who was married and divorced five times and had five sons by four different wives. His youngest son, Timothy, died of a brain tumor at 12 — but J. Paul could not be bothered to attend the funeral. His eldest son, George, stabbed himself to death with a barbecue fork while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Another son, John Paul Getty Jr. (born Eugene), became a heroin addict whose second wife, Talitha, died of a drug overdose in Rome.
In 1973, John Paul Jr.’s son, 16-year-old John Paul III, was kidnapped by Italian mobsters who cut off part of his ear and mailed it to his grandfather in a quest for a $2.2 million ransom — which J. Paul initially refused.
Though he was eventually freed, John Paul Getty III never got over the trauma and became a drug addict. In 1981, he suffered a stroke brought on by alcohol and drugs and was left blind, unable to speak and confined to a wheelchair until his death in 2011 at age 54. The kidnapping was chronicled in the 2017 film “All the Money in the World” and the 2018 FX series “Trust.”
His only child is actor Balthazar Getty, 45, the father of four who is one of the more successful Getty progeny — along with John Paul Getty III’s brother Mark, 60, who co-founded the photographic agency Getty Images.
“We’re talking old-school money — so you have old-school demons and ghosts passed down from generation to generation,” a family friend told The Post. “The kids didn’t earn it. A lot of the them have been very tempted by drugs. I’ve been holding out hope for the youngest ones since there’s distance between them and the old man [J. Paul]. But John’s death didn’t help.”
Even Ivy, who remembers her father so fondly, has not had the easiest life, according to a prominent socialite in San Francisco who knew her paternal grandparents well.
“John Gilbert Getty was a dysfunctional parent to the point where Ann took over and decided Ivy was going to live with her and Gordon,” the insider said. “It was kind of like a modern version of the poor little rich girl. Ivy’s mother was not really around too much.”
To make things more complicated, Gordon’s secret double life with his Los Angeles mistress put a strain on all his heirs. Getty publicly acknowledged his three daughters — Nicolette, Kendalle and Alexandra — from that union in 1999 after they went to court to be officially recognized as Gettys.
“Two days ago, for the second time in my life, one of my brothers died,” Kendalle, 31, wrote on Instagram after John Gilbert’s death last week. “John, we were never close but I find myself affected by this loss anyway. You were hard on me. I guess you felt that was your duty. It’s been scary being the bastard daughter of our father and his mistress in a family that’s so notorious. I hid my truth, but never because I hated you guys. I’m sorry. I promise to take care of your daughter from here on out.”
Kendalle and her sisters are Ivy’s aunts and from comments on their respective Instagrams, appear to be close.
John Gilbert’s untimely death was just the latest in a long line of so-called Getty “tragedies.” His brother Andrew, 47, died in 2015 of gastrointestinal bleeding reportedly brought on by a meth habit. He spent almost 15 years working on a horror movie, “The Evil Within,” that was released after his death. The protagonist in the movie brutally kills everyone he loves. A family friend said the film was based on “powerful, sick, twisted dreams” Andrew had as a boy.
Among the up-and-coming generation, many point to Nats as one of the more inspirational members of the family. Last year she married Gigi Gorgeous, who began her YouTube career as a self-described “gawky Canadian teen named Gregory” giving makeup tutorials, and says their love has saved her life.
Recently, Nats posted frightening photos from her past when, she said, she weighed 80 pounds because of anorexia and had suffered multiple drug overdoses, a diabetic coma from malnutrition, a medical detox and broken bones.
“I have come to realize that I never realized how ill I truly was,” Nats wrote. “I look back … and I see a soulless version of myself. It has taken me years to recover and it is still a daily struggle. I refuse to let my demons bring me back to that place of darkness. I work constantly to live in light and love.”