“House of Hammer,” a three-part docuseries that premiered Friday on Discovery Plus, begins with Armie Hammer’s storyline and then climbs five generations of his family tree. For decades, it says, the men of the mega-wealthy Hammer dynasty have done no good – living lawless and greedy and harming others. Here are the series’ most shocking revelations about each.
Armie reportedly has a history of abusing women while portraying it as kinky sex or fetish play. Courtney Vucekovich, a Dallas business owner and a former girlfriend of Armie, claims onscreen that he tied her up with ropes with only her vague consent, ignoring the general BDSM rule that requires consistent, reaffirmed mutual consent. The documentary also shows footage of another woman, “Effie”, claiming in a video that Armie violently raped her for over four hours on one occasion. Paige Lorenze, a model and influencer, claims that Armie wanted to find a doctor who could remove her ribs so he could eat them. She also claims that Armie branded her with a hot iron and licked the wound as it bled. All three women also describe controlling, supervisory behavior that sometimes scared them.
Damiana Chi, a professional dominatrix and BDSM educator, appears in the documentary and is shown some footage of Armie’s former girlfriends describing his behavior. Someone who gets aroused by “someone else’s fear, when that person is uncomfortable with it, is not a kink who does BDSM,” Chi says after watching. “That person is an abuser.”
Los Angeles Police Department investigated Effie’s 2021 rape allegation for nine months before turning it over to prosecutors. No criminal charges have been filed at this time.
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Armie’s great-great-grandfather, Julius, was a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States who was a founding member of the American Communist Party. He named his son Armand, born in 1898, after the symbol of the Communist Party in Russia (“arm and hammer”).
Over the years, the Soviet Union is said to have used Julius and his family to funnel money to New York to fund communist groups — and to steal American trade secrets and technology. Joseph Finder of the Harvard Russian Research Center explains in the docuseries that the CIA concluded that Armand Hammer was also involved; Armand was used to gather information for the KGB and was therefore considered an agent of the Soviet Union. Thanks to Julius, Armand was “a money launderer and courier of funds funneled into Soviet espionage in the US,” Finder says. “It was secret, it was illegal, it was dangerous.”
“Behind every great fortune is a great crime. Behind the Hammer fortune was a great number of great crimes,” said Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote a biography of Armand and whose conclusions and thoughts are referenced throughout the series.
Armand, Armie’s great-grandfather, went on to become a mega-wealthy oil tycoon — and according to the docuseries, he was known for being abusive to his wives and mistresses, involved in corruption schemes, and disturbingly ruthless with his business interests. Armand used the money from his third wife (Frances Barrett Tolman) to invest in Occidental Petroleum, an oil company, and make it a huge success. During his divorce from his second wife, Angela Carey Zevely, she claimed that Armand willfully and maliciously “destroyed her will” and threatened to “beat her brains out” while brandishing a metal pipe. “My husband is a master of psychological warfare,” she wrote.
During his marriage to Frances, Armand had a mistress named Martha Kaufman. When Frances discovered the affair and told her husband to get rid of Kaufman, Armand ordered Kaufman to change her name to Hilary Gibson and dye her hair platinum blonde. Armand kept Kaufman, now known as Gibson, as an employee, and according to Epstein, “what he demanded was control over her whole life and identity.” Gibson always had to be available at short notice, Epstein says, carrying two pagers so Armand could reach her. A tracking device was installed in her car and a tap was placed on her phone; Armand also checked her vacation schedule and she reportedly had to agree to his sexual demands even if she didn’t like them.
Armand’s fortune also earned him political connections and influence. Neil Lyndon, Armand’s former political and media adviser, claims in the series that Armand has often made illegal contributions to political campaigns; Armand even pleaded guilty to a felony after the money used to pay the burglars in the Watergate scandal was traced back to him.
Armand was in charge of Occidental Petroleum when an oil rig in the North Sea exploded in July 1988, killing 167 people. Armand, in fact, took the blame publicly, Lyndon says, but showed little interest in the victims or the aftermath privately, celebrating the successful handling of the incident with champagne and caviar.
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Armie’s grandfather Julian also abused women and was known for being violent, his ex-fiancée and daughter claim in the docuseries. He often sauntered around in luxurious pajamas, earning the nickname “the Hugh Hefner of Pacific Palisades,” and reportedly helped his father, Armand, with wiretapping phones at times. In his own time, the documentary says, he liked to host cocaine-fueled orgies at home, sometimes with his young daughter Casey nearby. He also abused his wife, Glenna Sue, while Casey and her brother Michael were at home. Casey claims her mother would take the kids to a motel until Julian cooled down. “Women were disposable in the Hammer family,” Casey says.
Julian was left almost entirely out of Armand’s will; Instead, Armand left most of his estate to Julian’s son Michael. Casey, Armie Hammer’s aunt, wrote the 2015 book Surviving My Birthright about the apparent genetic toxicity of the males in five generations of her family.
Michael, Armie’s father, is seen as the main custodian and defender of the Hammer family’s legacy. As a young man he worked for Occidental Petroleum, and after Armand died in 1990, Casey tells the documentary makers that Michael entered Armand’s house before his body was even taken to remove the expensive items and heirlooms from several cars. At Armand’s funeral, Michael’s father-in-law declared that Armand became a Christian on his deathbed, despite the funeral being facilitated by Jewish rabbis; Michael and his then-wife Dru (Armie’s mother) donated much of the $40 million they inherited from Armand to Christian groups, including Jews for Jesus and Italy for Christ.
The docuseries also claims that Michael owns a 7-foot-tall “sex throne” with a hole in the seat and a cage underneath. According to a 2021 Vanity Fair story about the Hammer family, Michael has been photographed sitting inside and holding a blonde woman’s head; his lawyer referred to “unsolicited jokes” in response to that and other questions from the magazine.
“Michael Hammer, Armie’s father,” says a TikToker, in a clip in the documentary, “looks like he passed on some of his tendencies to his son.”