The Audrey Hepburn You Never Knew — and Her Cheeky Sense of Humor

A new book about Hepburn, Warrior, excerpted in this week's issue of PEOPLE, reveals a never-before-seen side of the famous actress and humanitarian

As world famous as Audrey Hepburn was, when it came time to researching the star’s later years and her work with UNICEF, author Robert Matzen unearthed many untold stories in his new book Warrior.

Among the revelations: the dangers she faced in some of her UNICEF missions, her fearlessness, her feistiness — and her cheeky sense of humor.

“One of the things that surprised me the most was her off color sense of humor,” Matzen, whose book is excerpted in this week’s PEOPLE, says. “One favorite story came from the photographer John Issac, who accompanied Hepburn on many of her UNICEF missions, which occurred on her trip to Ethiopia, just two weeks after she was named UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador in 1988.

One day en route to Asmara on an airplane, the photographer, sitting in front of Audrey, had dropped the battery pack still attached to his camera. Writes Matzen, “As it dangled, Audrey leaned forward and said in his ear in her best Holly Golightly, ‘Is it all right for me to help you with your … apparatus?’ The way she said it drew snickers. Isaac responded that he would appreciate her help with his apparatus, and she retrieved his dangling battery.”

Audrey Heburn

Hours later, when the star saw Issac again at their hotel, writes Matzen, “She said loudly and with great sincerity, ‘How is your apparatus, John. In working order?”

It was a private side Hepburn’s closest friends fondly remember. “I wanted to show the world the real person and not the princess,” notes Matzen.

As he says, “At three o’clock in the afternoon, if she was being interviewed, she’d have a drink in her hand. And she’d say, ‘Well, it must be six o’clock somewhere.’ She liked her whiskey and her cigarettes.”

“I mean she was a real person,” he adds. “She had some vices and she was fun. She wasn’t a regal serene princess type of character.”

Among the revelations in Matzen’s book:

Hepburn was tough

Addressing the dangers she faced while traveling to war zones, she once said: “The whole thing terrified me and still does — but once you’ve decided, yes I’ll deal with it, then you don’t think about it anymore.”  

She fought for change

“The Third World is a term I don’t like very much,” she was quoted as saying. “Because we’re all one world.”

She was a romantic — and a realist

After she met Dutch actor Rob Wolders at a dinner party at her friend Connie Wald’s house, they fell in love and became inseparable. But they were never interested in marrying. As Hepburn once put it, “Why ruin a good thing?”

And she never took herself too seriously

After she was named Goodwill Ambassador, she told her son Luca Dotti (then a teenager), “We can park anywhere we want! I have diplomatic immunity!”

Audrey Hepburn book

Says Luca, a graphic artist and father of three, “There are many fantastic books about my mother’s dresses and her films, but this book deserves a lot of praise. This book is about her determination. When she took this role with UNIEF, she wrote the script. It was her production. And she gave it everything. This book is the full story.”

UNICEF, now marking its 75th anniversary this year, works in over 190 countries providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more to the world’s most vulnerable children.

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