World War Two

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Kirk Kerkorian Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

KIRK KERKORIAN ALWAYS SEEMED COMFORTABLE WITH RISK. As an aviation pioneer he risked his life flying factory-fresh bombers over the treacherous polar route from Canada to Scotland for the Royal Air Force during World War Two. As a businessman he relished the big deal. His enormous successes mask the fact that he also lost billions of dollars.

Win or lose, Kirk maintained the same poker face. He once called life “a big craps game.” He loved all manner of gambles…and the bigger the wager the better. On Wall Street or in a casino, Kirk never felt more alive than when he was betting it all on a roll of the dice.

Aviator Kerkorian in the 1940s
Aviator Kerkorian in the 1940s.

KIRK’S EARLY LIFE OFFERED NO HINT OF A FUTURE AMONG BILLIONAIRES. He was a child when he and his Armenian immigrant parents were evicted from the family’s debt-laden farm near a place called Weedpatch in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Running out on landlords would become a familiar pattern during lean years deep into the Great Depression. Kirk was often the new kid in school, fending off bullies bare fisted and learning English on the streets of Los Angeles. His formal education ended with the eighth grade in a school for problem kids.

kirk kerkorian 1930s teen
kirk kerkorian 1930s teen

KIRK’S FIRST BIG DREAM WAS TO COMPETE FOR A BOXING CROWN. He won a string of amateur fights in Southern California, a regional welterweight championship and a prized nickname: “Rifle Right” Kerkorian. He traded his gloves for wings when he discovered flying. He shoveled manure on the dairy farm of aviatrix Pancho Barnes in trade for flight lessons. But throughout his life, Kirk remained an avid boxing fan, promoter and a friend of fighters.

Welterweight "Rifle Right" Kerkorian
Welterweight “Rifle Right” Kerkorian
Still Rifle Right Kerkorian
Still Rifle Right Kerkorian
Kerkorian flanked by
Kerkorian flanked by “Iron Mike” Tyson (right) and Ron Falahi, Kirk’s fitness adviser and personal assistant for 30+ years.
kirk kerkorian cary grant ray anthony
Kirk Kerkorian with friends Cary Grant and band leader Ray Anthony
kirk kerkorian 1950s
kirk kerkorian 1950s
kirk-kerkorian-andre-agassi
Kirk with tennis great and namesake Andre Kirk Agassi
kirk kerkorian sister rose pechuls
Kirk and his sister Rose Pechuls, photo courtesy of Gene Kilroy
Kirk with Lisa Bonder, the former women’s tennis star, who faked a DNA test to convince the billionaire he had fathered her child. Photo from Los Angeles Superior Court case files.
Kirk in his private jet with companion Una Davis, his future wife and widow.
Kirk Kerkorian’s New York Times Obituary