NEW YORK -- A state judge Wednesday annulled the May-December marriage of former Metropolitan Opera chief Sir Rudolf Bing and his wife Lady Carroll Douglass Bing, citing the former impresario's battle with Alzheimer's disease.
'I think it will be quite traumatic for her,' said Harvey Sladkus, an attorney for Douglass, 49, who became Lady Bing when she married Bing, 87, on Jan. 9, 1987.
Douglass, who once aspired to be a helicopter pilot for the Pope, has been hospitalized for the past month at Bellevue Hospital Center's psychiatric division after she was banned from a Bronx nursing home where Bing has been living since July.
The 25-page decision by Justice Carmen Ciparick annulled the controversial marriage and denied Carroll Douglass equitable distribution and maintenance.
'The judge directed that the Sir Rudolf Committee pay hospital bills incurred by Carroll at St. Lukes, which amounted to about $25,000 over five or six weeks,' Sladkus said.
Judge Ciparick said Bing's losing struggle with Alzheimer's disease left him unable to understand his own marriage contract to Douglass.
'This court finds at the time of the marriage ceremony ... Sir Rudolf was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and was seriously mentally impaired,' Ciparick wrote. 'The degenerative nature of the disease rendered Sir Rudolf at the time of his marriage incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of his actions.'
Bing's lawyer, Paul Goldhamer, said he was 'gratified' by the ruling. 'It's clear that it's a victory,' he said. 'Unfortunately Sir Rudolf's estate has been wasted in the process of keeping Carroll Douglass away from him. She's a sick, disturbed woman and it's a very sad thing.'
On Bing's 85th birthday, he and Douglass were married in Arlington, Va. Just two days earlier, a Manhattan court found Bing unable to handle his own affairs and appointed a guardian.
Similarly, Douglass' brother and sister had been appointed her conservators by a Washington court in 1982.
Both said on their marriage certificate they had never wed before. In fact, Bing was married for 54 years to his first wife, who died in 1983. Douglass' two previous husbands were both wealthy, older men - William Rickenbacker, son of the World War I flying ace, and Jack Glenn, a New York filmmaker.
Once married to Bing, she flew off with him to Anguilla, enraging his court-appointed guardians. The couple next surfaced in England.
After the couple returned to New York, Bing's lawyers secured an order barring Douglass from the couple's apartment for several hours each day so that nurses could care for him. The nurses had complained that Douglass' jealous actions prevented them from tending to Bing. She was arrested on several occassions for disobeying the order.
Within two years, Bing's estate had dwindled from $900,000 to $200,000, mostly from the expense of hiring round-the-clock bodyguards to be sure Douglass did not whisk her ailing husband out of New York.