Before he died of bone cancer six years ago, Armand Hammer planned a belated bar mitzvah at the age of 92, a salute not just to his Jewish heritage and a couple of charities, but to himself.

Unfortunately, he died the day before the gala event. The bar mitzvah went on as planned, however -- but his friends got a shock at the funeral two days later. As jaws dropped around the room, a born-again pastor stood up and announced that on his deathbed Hammer had renounced his newly embraced Jewish heritage. Not only that, he'd "accepted Jesus Christ as his savior."

"Good old Armand, covering all the bases," chuckled an Occidental Petroleum executive within earshot of Bill McSweeney, longtime Washington lobbyist for the company, which Hammer bought with his wife's money at age 59 and transformed into the 16th largest industrial corporation in the country.

"Believe me, Armand Hammer never believed in anything but himself," said Hilary Gibson, Hammer's former mistress, art consultant and confidante of 18 years.

A remarkable book, "Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer" by Edward Jay Epstein, has recently focused attention on this fascinating and duplicitous character. Since the book's publication, new information shows that the fortune built by the late oil millionaire and philanthropist, once dedicated to the arts, cancer research and world peace, is now being used to support the evangelical Christian causes of Hammer's grandson Michael, who controls the estate.

Instead of the New York City Opera, the Elie Wiesel Foundation, Ford's Theatre and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hammer's money is now going to Jews for Jesus, Italy for Christ, Don Dennis Ministries, Marty Goetz Ministries, Mike Barber Ministries and to the evangelistic foundation set up by Michael's father-in-law, a former Tulsa banker turned lay preacher.

In addition, Hammer left a lot less money than the billions people assumed he had -- but it is being fought over nonetheless. More than 100 claims and lawsuits have been filed against the estate by charities he'd allegedly promised money to, as well as former mistresses, children and grandchildren, according to Epstein's book. His closest heirs are not speaking to each other, and the Los Angeles museum he spent his last year and $100 million of Occidental's money to build now for all practical purposes belongs to UCLA.

While Hammer raised and donated millions for cancer research -- and gave millions more to art and educational institutions -- money had value only as a way to gain influence and respectability for himself and his family, as the book and other sources recount. "It was never the money with him," Gibson said recently. "All he really ever wanted was the adulation."

And during his lifetime he got it. But as Epstein's book and further investigation have revealed, Hammer's hold on immortality -- as he planned it -- is now threatened. Christian Charity

The man who announced Hammer's deathbed conversion at his funeral was Douglas L. Mobley, father of Michael Hammer's wife, Dru Ann Mobley. As sole executor, Michael Hammer, 42, has become the pivotal figure in Armand Hammer's legacy.

Hammer left behind a complicated family history. Born in Russia, he married three times. He had one son, Julian, whose life was troubled with mental illness, substance abuse and even charges of first-degree manslaughter (subsequently dropped). He died in March. Hammer had a daughter out of wedlock with one of his four acknowledged mistresses and supported her. Julian had two children, Michael and Casey. Michael was groomed by his grandfather to inherit control of the estate and to work at Occidental.

Michael was a blue-eyed, perpetually tan vice president at Occidental Petroleum when he met Dru Ann, a personal fitness instructor from Tulsa, on an airplane in 1985. Five months later they were wed before 950 people in a Methodist church in her home town, "the buckle on the Bible Belt," Michael calls it. The champagne was alcohol-free.

Since the marriage, Mobley and his daughter have had a powerful influence on Michael, though Michael calls it something else: "I wouldn't say I was influenced. But Dru sure opened my eyes," Michael said in a phone interview from the Cayman Islands, where he and Dru and their two young sons have moved to a seaside condo with seven unlisted phone numbers (according to directory assistance). Hammer is said by relatives to be building a large house, but he would not confirm this, saying it was "personal." He would say, however, that before he married and "accepted Jesus," his life was "a mess."

"Everybody has a void, and reaches for different things to fill that void. Drinking. Drugs. I went through a lot of experiences," Michael says. "When I accepted Christ, the {bad experiences} didn't just stop, but they started dwindling. When you're complete, it's just such a peaceful feeling. I just couldn't find it {anywhere else} -- and believe me, I looked!"

The Armand Hammer Foundation that Michael took control of had already gotten millions from Occidental Petroleum management, and, according to the book, the company had promised $18 million more in a "golden casket" death benefit arrangement with Armand Hammer. (The company had also just written off more than $2 billion in Armand Hammer's extravagances and money-losing business deals, as Epstein's book details.) Although Hammer had only 1 percent of Occidental stock, Epstein writes, "he ran the company as if it were his personal fiefdom."

Michael himself left Occidental a year after Hammer died, with a severance bonus of $1.5 million and an announcement that he would henceforth work full time tending his grandfather's estate, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. This was a job for which he'd been groomed at his grandfather's side and at Columbia Business School. He relocated his family and the foundation to Dallas.

Since then, tracking down Michael and the foundation has been difficult. Though 1995 tax forms indicate that the foundation is headquartered in Dallas, it's not easy to find it there; until this month the listed phone number rang at an unrelated law firm.

In December 1993, the Tulsa World reported that the foundation had purchased a building in Tulsa and was about to move there, in part to be near Dru Mobley's family. Michael Hammer told the reporter: "We moved {the foundation} to Dallas about two years ago from Los Angeles. We were looking for a more wholesome family environment, with strong Christian values, and we found that in Dallas. Now we are just continuing that move."

Meanwhile, Michael and Dru changed their minds about Tulsa and moved instead to Grand Cayman. "It's a wholesome place to raise children, and I just couldn't find that in the States," Michael explained on the telephone. "It's also a Christian island, which is very important to us."

It is also an offshore tax and banking haven. The Caymans, a British crown colony, have financial secrecy laws comparable to those of Switzerland. Hammer says he lives both there and in the United States. "My grandfather was a very public person. I'm a very private person. But we can still accomplish the same goals: helping people," he said. He is certainly helping the Doug Mobley Evangelistic Association (recently renamed the Douglas L. Mobley Foundation), run by Dru Hammer's father. The group summarizes its charitable activities for the IRS as follows: "Held public meetings in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with thousands of individuals. Hundreds of these individuals accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior."

In addition to making grants in his capacity as president of the Armand Hammer Foundation, Michael has also become the largest single donor to Mobley's tax-exempt foundation, according to Mobley Foundation tax returns. On the 1995 tax returns, the Mobley Foundation reports that Michael gave $45,000, nearly twice the $24,000 given by Mobley himself. Michael's gift accounted for close to half of the Mobley Foundation's total assets of $109,012 that year.

"If anything should happen to Michael," says his now-estranged mother, Sue Kane, "the Mobley family would take over Armand Hammer's fortune."

Armand Hammer's will said that if Michael dies, Dru (assuming they are still married) would take over management of the estate, including the Armand Hammer Foundation, of which she is already secretary and chief financial officer. Until 1995, her brother-in-law Jim "Bubba" Evans was the foundation's only other officer. According to tax returns, he has been replaced by three others, two of whom are close friends of Doug Mobley and regular contributors to his foundation. For their input, the Hammer Foundation will pay them each $2,000 on an "as needed" basis.

Also working with Michael in the Caymans is his old college buddy Scott Deitrick, who is now vice president of the Armand Hammer Foundation, as well as vice president of Michael's newly minted Hammer International Foundation, purposes and assets as yet unannounced.

In 1992, returning to Minneapolis-St. Paul from London, Deitrick -- then the administrator of the Armand Hammer Foundation -- was arrested and charged under a federal currency law requiring people entering the country to report any cash they are carrying in excess of $10,000. Local newspapers reported that in fact, he was carrying $60,000 in $100 bills, most of it stashed in his cowboy boots. Michael sent $250,000 in cash for bail. A few weeks later, Michael Hammer resigned as corporate secretary and vice president of Occidental. Seven months after his arrest, a jury acquitted Deitrick of the money-smuggling charges.

According to Twin Cities news stories at that time, Deitrick's passport recorded nearly a dozen recent trips abroad lasting less than 36 hours. And since Armand Hammer was believed to have stashed millions in cash in lockboxes and secret bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere, questions were raised by Michael's father, Julian, and sister, Casey -- who were to have shared in Hammer's "personal effects" -- about the nature of Deitrick's trips. Casey has since filed suit against her brother, claiming her fair share of what she believes to be undisclosed assets.

According to one of Casey Hammer's lawyers, Michael Hammer has not yet been served with the legal papers. He did not respond to a request for a second interview. Shrinking Fortune

Managing Hammer's money isn't the job his obituaries suggested. Instead of the "billions" assumed and reported in death notices, there was an estimated $40 million left, according to Epstein's book. As sole executor, Michael is responsible for the estate's principal charitable arm, the Armand Hammer Foundation, with its dwindling assets of $6.85 million, according to its 1995 tax filing, and the Armand Hammer Living Trust. The contents of the living trust are not open to public scrutiny, but Michael confirms that "one of the family trusts" owns 75 percent of the shares in Knoedler-Modarco SA, the American-Swiss parent company of both M. Knoedler & Co. and Hammer Galleries, two well-known New York art galleries, along with a related print publishing business.

More than a hundred claims and lawsuits were filed against the estate and the foundation following Hammer's death, sapping assets with seven-figure annual legal fees, according to tax filings. Countless charities uncharitably got in line to collect what Hammer had promised them. The National Symphony Orchestra wanted (and got) the balance on $250,000 it was promised for playing "Happy Birthday" at Hammer's 90th birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center; the Danielle Mitterrand Fund wanted (and is getting) $300,000 in exchange for the French first lady's presence at the opening of the Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center, which turned out to be Hammer's last public appearance.

Most costly have been suits brought by family members, mistresses and an illegitimate daughter who, after years of promises, were summarily cut out of Hammer's will during his final months. According to Epstein, Hammer changed his will a dozen times in his last-minute scramble to hide aspects of his life from discovery during the $440 million lawsuit filed by Joan Weiss, heir to his late wife Frances' estate. Weiss, asserting that Hammer had deceived his wife to gain sole ownership of their art collection, was claiming as community property half the art collection for which Hammer had built his most grandiose monument, the Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center, adjacent to the Occidental building in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. Weiss's suit was dismissed and she is appealing that decision.

Since his death, half of Hammer's collection has been taken off view and placed in escrow in the event that the Weiss lawsuit prevails. Hammer's precious Leonardo Codex -- which he'd vaingloriously renamed the "Codex Hammer" and for which he built a special Romanesque chapel-like space in the museum -- was sold at auction to Microsoft's Bill Gates for $30 million, also to raise money now escrowed against the Weiss suit.

Michael has also dismantled other parts of Hammer's legacy. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hammer's name has been removed from the prominent Hall of Arms and Armor on the main floor, for which Hammer had already paid $800,000 of a $1.8 million pledge. The Met's Ashton Hawkins explains: "Michael approached to ask if we'd agree to forgive the remaining debt in exchange for removing the name, and we did." But the Met also asked for -- and got from Michael -- an additional $200,000. "We ended up with $1 million and got the gallery back," said Hawkins, barely able to contain his glee.

The Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center, unfinished at the time of Hammer's death, has been turned over to the nearby UCLA art department under a 99-year management agreement, or "merger," as Michael calls it. Hammer's name is still carved in three-foot-tall letters on the outside of the marble building, but for all practical purposes the museum is now part of the UCLA art department.

"Let's face it," says Hammer's former mistress Gibson, "Armand gave Michael carte blanche, so he can do what he damn well pleases. But I think Hammer would be livid at the way the money is being spent on all these Christian projects, instead of using it to find a cure for cancer, which was his passion. Or carrying out his wishes by paying off his pledge to the Met. He was so proud of that gallery. Having his name taken off is like driving a stake through his heart."

As for the family legacy, the last-minute changes in Hammer's will continue to estrange family members. Michael's father and sister, who inherited only $250,000 each -- though they said they'd been promised millions -- sued the estate and settled with Michael for what is said to be slightly more than $1 million each. But Julian Hammer never spoke to his son again. And Casey and her mother are also now estranged from Michael.

"Michael doesn't care about us anymore," says his mother, Sue Kane. "After Armand died, he gave jobs to everyone in Dru's family, and forgot about us -- including his grandmother, whom he'd promised to help care for." She says she has not seen her grandchildren, nor heard from her son, since Julian's death. Michael Hammer did not respond to a request for additional comments.

Michael didn't get much cash, but he got all the power, a chunk of stock and several lucrative sinecures as executor, trustee and foundation president, which alone paid $145,000 in 1995. He also got a custom-made white Rolls-Royce convertible, the only bequest in Hammer's will that seemed to have any affection attached.

The only thing they all got, in equal shares, were guaranteed spots in the Hammer Family Mausoleum.

Only one person outside the family says she got what she'd been promised after waging a battle royal: the colorful Hilary Gibson -- identified in Epstein's book as the mistress who, at Hammer's request, legally changed her name and wore a wig to hide her identity from his third wife. She, too, was cut off in Hammer's final days, despite 18 years of promises of an income for life from a secret $10 million account in Switzerland. Well versed in Hammer's ways, Gibson got on a plane after his death once she learned she'd been disinherited, flew to Switzerland and visited the lawyer who'd long been in charge of the account. Tricking him into leaving the room, she snitched, copied (and returned) a document, handwritten by Hammer, that proved he'd made secret provisions for her, as well as for another mistress who'd borne him a daughter. Armed with this information, Gibson persuaded the Hammer estate and Occidental -- where she'd been on the payroll -- to settle with her for $4.2 million, according to the book. Hammer would have been proud. Legacy in Washington

Though Hammer's legacy has been diminished since his death, he did do some lasting good with his money, much of it here in Washington. He raised $20 million for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute alone, and a good deal more through Stop Cancer, an organization he helped found in Los Angeles. He also made large contributions to many arts and cultural institutions here, and is fondly remembered at the Corcoran for giving $2 million to renovate what is now the Armand and Frances Hammer Auditorium and to stave off the inevitable admission fees.

The National Gallery of Art ended up with the best art Hammer's money ever bought. "We got the cream of his collection," said former National Gallery director J. Carter Brown, who moved in on Hammer right after his collection of paintings had been mercilessly panned in 1970 after a show at the Smithsonian. Brown cleverly found something to admire -- a Gauguin notebook -- which he wrote to Hammer about, saying the National Gallery would be proud to own it. While everyone else was snickering, Brown offered to help Hammer build a truly great collection of master drawings, the thing the gallery then needed most. "I went to his house in Greenwich Village just before one very important auction," Brown recalled, "and said we'd steer him to the best stuff and tell him what to bid as long as he promised the drawings to us."

It worked. In addition to the great Fragonard and Watteau drawings Hammer bought at that particular auction, the gallery eventually received, upon Hammer's death, 88 great drawings worth millions, most hand-picked by gallery curators. Three are among the gallery's grandest possessions -- drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and a great Raphael drawing for a famous painting in the Louvre. The Armand Hammer Collection of master drawings can now be seen on a rotating basis in a handsome small gallery in the West Building. "It was an ego the size of which we'd never encountered before," Brown said. "But as {National Gallery official} Huntington Cairns used to say, what really matters is, when the smoke clears, who's got the pictures."

The same could be said of his money. CAPTION: Grandson Michael Hammer with Dru Ann Mobley at their 1985 wedding. In 1995 he gave $45,000 to the evangelistic foundation run by her father. CAPTION: Above, Armand Hammer, far right, with his only son, Julian, and grandson Michael, who now controls the Hammer fortune. Below, Hilary Gibson, his former mistress and art consultant.