A couple of days before his father took his own life, the subject of suicide prevention was much on Damian Hurley’s mind.
The 18-year-old son of actress, model and businesswoman Elizabeth Hurley came together with others last weekend to remember a close friend who killed herself at her family’s West London home a year ago.
Last Saturday, an 18km socially-distanced walk was held in memory of Katya Tsukanova, a 17-year-old violinist and Russian banker’s daughter, to raise money for a mental health and suicide prevention charity.
But days after supporting the fundraiser via his social media pages came the devastating news that Damian’s own father, 55-year-old American tycoon and film producer Steve Bing, had died after falling from the balcony his 27th-floor apartment in Los Angeles.
Damien, the 18-year-old son of actress, model and businesswoman Elizabeth Hurley (pictured together in 2018) came together with others last weekend to remember a close friend who killed herself at her family’s West London home a year ago.
‘It’s a double tragedy for Damian,’ one of his circle told me this week. ‘Just as he was remembering his friend Katya and promoting mental health charities, his own father takes his own life. It’s so, so sad for him but he is surrounded by people who love him and care about him.’
Katya Tsukanova, a 17-year-old violinist and Russian banker’s daughter, died last year
Posting on Instagram, Damian, a professional model, also reflected on what he described as ‘a very strange and confusing time’. Certainly, it must be very difficult navigating your way through the death of a father you’d had very little connection with in life.
But what makes the situation even more poignant is that, as the Mail can reveal, for the past year, Steve Bing had been mourning a tragic loss of his own — that of his 28-year-old girlfriend, actress Allexanne Mitchum, great-granddaughter of legendary Hollywood actor Robert Mitchum. He killed himself days before the first anniversary of her death on July 3.
The cause of Allexanne’s death is not known, but she was Bing’s ‘true love’, according to a Facebook post from his friend Judith Coghlan Lewis, wife of singer Jerry Lee Lewis.
Photos show a proud, relaxed-looking Bing with his arm protectively around petite brunette Allexanne, both of them beaming. Allexanne’s aunt Carrie Mitchum also posted a tribute to the pair this week with the words ‘Together again. Rest easy angels.’
Alongside a photo of the smart-looking couple, she commented that Allexanne was about the only person who could persuade Bing, an inveterate T-shirt wearer, to put on a suit.
After decades of playboy high-jinks, it seems Bing may have finally found a woman he could settle down with, only for that relationship to be brought to a tragically premature end.
While Bing’s large U.S. circle grieve for their friend, for Damian, his dad’s untimely death on Monday is made more complicated by the fact that right from the start of his life — almost from the moment his famous mother announced that she was pregnant in 2001 — the relationship between father and son has been mired in controversy.
Liz paid tribute with this throwback snap to her millionaire ex Mr Bing, 55 – the absent father of her son Damian – after he jumped to his death from the 27th floor of his apartment block
Bing, who inherited a $600 million property empire at the age of 18, initially refused to accept that he was Damian’s father.
But in recent times it appears that there was a sea-change in his attitude towards his only son. Two years ago, he joined forces with 55-year-old Hurley to stop his own father cutting Damian out of a vast family trust fund, and in April this year he telephoned Hurley on Damian’s 18th birthday.
In a statement this week, Hurley said that ‘although there were some tough times, the memories of a sweet, kind man are what matter. We became close again in the last year and last spoke on our son’s 18th. This is devastating news.’
Bing’s girlfriend Allexanne Mitchum (pictured) died last year
This softening towards his son, and the potential for the relationship that might have opened up between them, undoubtedly adds another layer of sadness to Bing’s suicide on Monday night.
But if Damian Hurley’s relationship with his father has been a complex one, the constant presence in his life has undoubtedly been his mother who, right from the start, fought like a lioness for her longed-for child.
Elizabeth Hurley was 36 when she fell pregnant — purportedly while staying with Bing at Elton John and David Furnish’s villa in the South of France in the summer of 2001.
Up until that point, their 18-month romance had been somewhat on and off. At its height, Bing lavished Hurley with a gold Rolex watch and a sapphire and diamond ring while she was staying at the luxury suite he kept at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.
But on the same day, Hurley announced she was expecting their child, Bing is said to have jumped on a plane with his friend Mick Jagger for a weekend in Las Vegas. (Bing’s friendship with the Rolling Stones endured.
Carrie Mitchum this week posted a picture on Facebook of Bing and Allexanne with Ronnie Wood and his wife Sally after a Stones concert last year, adding that Bing said ‘he had never brought a woman to meet these friends and they knew how serious it was’.)
His friends later defended him by saying that he and Hurley hadn’t been in an ‘exclusive relationship’.
Bing, meanwhile, publicly announced it was ‘her choice to be a single mother’.
It was actor Hugh Grant, the most famous of Liz Hurley’s ex-boyfriends and still one of her closest friends, who was present at her first ante-natal scan at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital in North-West London and went on to become Damian’s godfather.
Bing’s denied that he was the father of Ms Hurley’s son Damian (pictured left), despite a DNA test proving that he was the father
After his birth at the private Portland Hospital in April 2002, he and his mother went to stay at the Windsor mansion belonging to Elton John — another of Damian’s godparents along with Elton’s husband David Furnish.
While Bing might have initially denied paternity, a DNA test proved otherwise. He is said to have flown to London and provided a swab on the tarmac at Heathrow before re-boarding his plane and returning to the U. S.
When the result was revealed, he was finally forced to accept the truth, although Hurley is said to have initially turned down offers of financial support.
But just a month after Damian’s birth, Bing was caught up in another paternity scandal — this time accused by 84-year-old Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian of being the real father of his four-year-daughter Kira with professional tennis player Lisa Bonder.
Kerkorian claimed to have gained DNA evidence after his private detective rummaged through Bing’s rubbish bins and retrieved a piece of dental floss. While Bing successfully sued for invasion of privacy, a court ruled he was her father.
Ms Hurley said that the pair (pictured at Elton John’s post-Oscar party in 2000) had ‘good and wonderful’ memories together as a couple
This week, 54-year-old Lisa Bonder spoke of the tragedy inflicted on both her daughter Kira, now a university student at UCLA — and on Hurley’s son by the sudden death of Steve Bing.
‘It is never easy for a child to lose a parent in such a tragic manner,’ she said on Wednesday. ‘I spoke to Elizabeth last night and we are going to address this tragedy for Steve’s two children and try to protect them in any way possible.
‘We will do everything in our power and make sure they are supported. It’s a tough time for them. Liz and I are as one on that.’
Intriguingly, it appears that Bing had grown closer to his illegitimate daughter in recent years.
‘I had a lot of contact with Steve and Kira did too,’ Lisa added. ‘We have been growing much closer over the past two years. I think we all grow up and mature and take responsibility for our own lives and our own decisions and let bygones be bygones.
Liz Hurley posted a tribute to Bing on Instagram as news of his suicide spread, saying she was ‘saddened beyond belief’ while describing him as ‘a sweet, kind man’
‘Steve was a good person, a kind person, a good man. He was misunderstood in many ways. And we decided to come together for the sake of our daughter. I have gratitude for the time that we had with Steve. There were many pivotal moments for our daughter.’ It’s not known whether the same could be said for Damian.
But it’s certainly the case that in 2019 he and Hurley joined forces to ensure that Damian — and his older half-sister — could not be cut out of a family trust.
Bing’s own father — Dr Peter Bing — was trying to ensure that his son’s two illegitimate children could never benefit from the family trust he set up 40 years ago to protect the fortune created in the 1920s by his own father, New York real estate developer Leo Bing.
In 1980, Dr Bing had established six trusts for the benefit of his future grandchildren and, because they were yet to be born, identified them as ‘first-born grandchild’, ‘second-born grandchild’ — all the way to the ‘sixth-born grandchild’.
His daughter Mary went on to have two children born in wedlock but Dr Bing claimed that because his son’s children were illegitimate and hadn’t been raised by him, they were excluded from inheriting any of the trusts.
‘I do not consider them my grandchildren,’ he declared in legal documents presented at court.
In January this year, however, a Californian judge backed Bing and Hurley, declaring that Dr Bing’s argument was ‘unreasonable’ and ‘unfounded’.
Liz Hurley and her son Damian are pictured in 2018 at the opening of the Dinosaurs in the Wild attraction in Greenwich, London
While the exact value of the trusts is unknown, both Damian and Kira are each said to be in line to inherit several million pounds even though, according to documents, at the time of the legal action last year, Bing and Damian had never met.
What then of Steve Bing’s own personal fortune? It is too soon to know if he has also favoured his son in any will but, during his lifetime, he is believed to have paid £100,000 a year into his own trust fund for Damian.
As for the rest of his fortune, Bing certainly squandered a lot on a decadent lifestyle. In his youth, he enjoyed nights out at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion and showered $100 bills on Las Vegas strippers.
For several years, he flew around the States on his privately-owned Boeing jet. In his 20s, he spent nine years living at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, clocking up a final bill which ran into millions.
As well as investing huge swathes of cash in the film industry — he invested $80 million in the 2004 Tom Hanks film, The Polar Express — he gave away further millions to liberal causes, including $49 million to an alternative fuels initiative.
Former tennis player Lisa Bonder (left) with Steve Bing and their daughter Kira Kerkorian. Bing’s father says that Steve only met Kira after she became an adult
There have been reports that his money had run out but, despite some unsuccessful business deals, all the evidence points to him still being a very wealthy man.
He was also, according to friends who spoke to the Mail, a prolific drug taker. Added to that were his mental health problems. Bing, a close singer friend told the Mail this week, had told her he was suffering from bipolar disorder.
‘If you’ve got a mental illness and you add drugs to it, that’s a Molotov cocktail,’ she said. ‘A lot of people knew he was broken,’ she added, saying that not everyone was surprised by his suicide — although shocked by the horrifying way he chose to end his life.
‘I think Steve was searching for something and he was searching in the wrong direction,’ she said, referring to his drug use. ‘He was trying to fill a hole in his life. In a way he was self-medicating, but drugs don’t solve problems.’
Lockdown, she said, may well have exacerbated his anguish.
‘I don’t think Steve wanted to face himself that much. I think he was tormented and hadn’t found a way or a person that could lead him out of it.’
Some youngsters might have struggled to cope without a father in their life but, thanks to Hurley’s dedication as a mother, an army of godfathers and the support of her close-knit family, it is clear that Damian has had the most loving, and financially comfortable, of upbringings.
Liz Hurley posted these pictures of herself and her ex Steve Bing after his death at the age of 55 – a year after they joined forces to preserve their son Damian’s inheritance rights
Over the past 30 years, Hurley has accrued a healthy fortune of her own. She became the face of Estée Lauder in 1995 — and is still a spokesperson for the brand. She ran a film company, Simian Films with Hugh Grant, and, while her acting career never hit the heights, starred in films such as Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery.
From 2015 to 2018, she appeared in 40 episodes of the U.S. comedy The Royals in which Damian also appeared.
She promotes her own swimwear range by showing off her designs on her own age-defying body. Home is a stunning £6 million Georgian estate in Herefordshire where she now lives with Damian. Her mother Angela and sister Kate live in cottages on the estate.
Damian enjoyed a private education, first at Wetherby Prep in West London — where Princes William and Harry were once pupils — then Summer Fields in Oxford and finally Wellington College in Berkshire.
Now 6 ft 1 in, and having inherited his mother’s stunning looks, he is signed to his mother’s modelling agency, and became an overnight sensation last July when his face was plastered across billboards for the launch of make-up artist Pat McGrath’s new foundation line.
Reflecting at the beginning of 2020 on the previous 12 months, he posted a cluster of photographs on Instagram, including one of his modelling debut and one of his dear friend Katya who he is believed to have met via the West London private school social circuit.
‘The past year has been a strange mix of events — both unbelievably incredible and indescribably challenging,’ he wrote.
‘Whilst I’ve accomplished so much that I’m proud of, my friends and I have all also been through things that I sincerely hope we’ll never have to experience again.’
His father’s death is yet another bitter blow but, locked down with his family in the wilds of Herefordshire, he is undoubtedly in the right place to deal with his loss.
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Additional reporting: Barbara McMahon