July 14, 2010

The Rich are Different, and Not So Content

Somebody talk to me.

Who in the world fed us the lie that "poor" and "content" are mutually exclusive conditions in which to be and experience? Because we sure know the opposites are totally (possibly) compatible: the states of being rich and miserable, simultaneously. Need I start listing all the examples?

Yes indeedy, the rich are different, but how happy can you be when you are suing your own parents, divorcing your uber-rich man (or sugar-mama as the case may be), squabbling with the mama of your own offspring, fighting against your own employer, banker--even hiring a new lawyer to sue your former lawyer.

Read about it in Mrs. Astor Regrets--the 18-count criminal indictment of her son for, among others, looting her estate and mistreating her  in terms of physical care and comfort in her declining years.

Or for some really sad stories of a very moneyed family: In 1989, I read heiress Sallie Bingham's autobiography Passion and Prejudice: a Family Memoir, (since republished in 2000) which was as juicy as any summer-beach novel read could possibly get: twas a lurid tale of incest, suicide, fortune-hunting men, cheated women, other beyond-weird behavior, and even a murder. Her three brothers, all scions of the dynasty that published The Louisville Courier-Journaland and The Louisville Times, met untimely deaths, the short versions of which were mentioned in the New York Times obit of her last brother to pass.

I remember the shock of reading about two of her young brothers' deaths: one at age 22, was electrocuted when he was setting up lighting or sounds or such for a party on the family estate. Another was killed at 34 after he stashed a surfboard in his convertible behind the driver's seat, then accidentally hit a parked vehicle, causing the board to instantly break his neck.

Scandal shrouded the origin of the family wealth. Robert Bingham married 49-year-old widow Mary Lily Kenan Flagler (richest woman in America, the 1910s). She died of unspecified maladies and heart failure and depression eight months after the wedding, leaving $5 million cash to the new groom, with which he bought the newspapers. According to Sallie Bingham, Mary Lily had given her new sister-in-law a pearl necklace that turned out to be a worthless fake. But that was only the beginning...

Ah, the oddities of the super-rich.

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