Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life Of Huguette Clark And The Spending Of A Great American Fortune

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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life Of Huguette Clark And The Spending Of A Great American Fortune

by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell

Random House Publishing Group | April 22, 2014 | Trade Paperback

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life Of Huguette Clark And The Spending Of A Great American Fortune is rated 5 out of 5 by 2.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Janet Maslin, The New York Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

When Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
 
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
 
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
 
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
 
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.

Praise for Empty Mansions
 
“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.”The New York Times
 
“An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.”—The Daily Beast
 
“Fascinating . . . [a] haunting true-life tale.”People
 
“One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
 
“Thrilling . . . deliciously scandalous.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 512 pages, 7.96 × 5.18 × 1.15 in

Published: April 22, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345534530

ISBN - 13: 9780345534538

Found in: Artists, Architects and Photographers

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Opinion as Someone with Asperger's I have Asperger's and this is my take Huguette Clark. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this book which is a biography of two people, father and daughter, while also being a history of the Gilded Age and a brief overview of the 20th century. I had heard of Ms Clark when she was in the news and concern was raised about whether she may be a case of elder-abuse by those in charge of her financial and medical care, since she was a reclusive centenarian. I then forgot about her until I read a few reviews of this book. Reading those couple of thought-provoking reviews it crossed my mind as to whether Huguette might have been Aspergian; did she have Asperger's. I thought of this because I myself have Asperger's, am a loner and for a certain period of my life was house-bound by choice. My reading interests (naturally?) involve recluses and mental health and historically I'm well-read in the Victorian age and early 20th century. Thus, could not pass up this book. Starting off historically we are given the story of W.A. Clark's life, born 1839, a copper baron and once possibly the richest man in America. The history follows his life, then his second wife, 40 years his junior and their two children, progressing on with his youngest daughter Huguette who lived until the ripe old age of 104 and died in 2011. It absolutely amazes me that the two people, father and daughter, only two generations of a family cover the time period from the 8th President of the US of A, Van Duren to the 44th President, Obama. Hugette herself barely escaped two world disasters, the sinking of the Titanic and the attacks on the World Trade Center. Fascinating! I don't feel Huguette had a sad life at all. Of course, she suffered sad events such as the death of her elder sister at only 17 years of age and perhaps Huguette's life may have been different if this very close sisterly bond had been able to continue into her adulthood. Yes, she had empty mansions and several apartments but many of them were inherited and one especially was dear to her because of it's meaning to her mother. She had many obsessive hobbies and was a very talented painter. Her hobbies included doll houses, normal sized-dolls, miniature house replicas, expert knowledge of Japanese cultural history and cartoons. Painting was more of a profession, though she didn't sell her work; she did consider herself an artist. Huguette may have inherited astronomical amounts of wealth, by today's standards, but this was obtained for her and the family by her father during the Gilded Age, a time when money practically grew on trees for the rich and their extravagance matched that ideology. Huguette herself, like and even more so than her father was passionate about charities and donated millions during her lifetime to the arts, artists, animals, Israel and Girl Scouting. She also was a tremendously giving person and gave away millions to those she called friend. She was a loner, a person who preferred solitude to company but it wasn't until her 50s when her mother died that she truly become reclusive and even then she continued to have occasional visits from a handful of the closest friends. Because of the traits I've mentioned so far, I do come away from this believing that Huguette may very well have been Aspergian. The facts as presented in the book tell that all doctors who examined her diagnosed her free of any mental illness, she was always a lucid person, combine this with the intelligence, talent, "eccentricities" intense hobbies and self-induced reclusiveness, while at the same time being a content person I certainly can identify with her and feel quite confident she may well have been on the Autistic Spectrum, namely Asperger's. Choosing to live in a hospital setting once she no longer had anyone to look after her, she had outlived all her doctors, makes perfect sense to me. The only parts of the book that didn't interest me were the detailed descriptions of the insides and contents of the mansions and apartments. I did find truly absorbing though the life, thoughts and doings of Huguette, a person who on one hand held onto many, many objects (including empty mansions) for sentimental reasons while at the same time handing out cheques for hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to friends and acquaintances with families and children who needed the money when she herself had no personal use for it except for feeding her hobbies and obsessions; the latter being a typical way of life for aspies. Absolutely loved this book! And am glad Huguette had the money to be able to fulfill herself, during an age when she was not understood, and also able to spread that money to the charities and people she felt could use it and needed it more than she.
Date published: 2014-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read! I loved this book! It is captivating, a true story that reads like fiction. A must have!
Date published: 2014-04-25

– More About This Product –

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life Of Huguette Clark And The Spending Of A Great American Fortune

by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 512 pages, 7.96 × 5.18 × 1.15 in

Published: April 22, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345534530

ISBN - 13: 9780345534538

Read from the Book

From day one at Doctors Hospital, Huguette had private nurses twenty-four hours a day. The nurse on the day shift, assigned randomly to Huguette in the spring of 1991, was Hadassah Peri. She would work for her “Madame” for twenty years, becoming, it seems probable, the wealthiest registered nurse in the world.   Doctors Hospital was not the place that a New Yorker with a lifethreatening illness normally would select. It was better known as a fashionable treatment center for the well-to-do, a society hospital, a great place for a face-lift or for drying out. Michael Jackson had been a patient, as had Marilyn Monroe, James Thurber, Clare Boothe Luce, and Eugene O’Neill. The fourteen-story brick structure on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, between Eighty-Seventh and Eighty-Eighth streets by a bend in the East River, gave the impression of being an apartment building or hotel, with a hair salon offering private appointments in patient rooms and a comfortable dining room where patients could order from the wine list if the doctor allowed. When it opened in 1929, it had no wards and no interns, allowed no charity care, and included hotel accommodations for family members of patients. In its early days, it was often used as a long-term residential hotel or spa, and finally in the 1970s it added modern coronary units and intensive care.   Huguette checked in to a room on the eleventh floor with a lovely view down to a city park and Gracie Mansion, the Fe
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From the Publisher

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Janet Maslin, The New York Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

When Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
 
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
 
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
 
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
 
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.

Praise for Empty Mansions
 
“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.”—The New York Times
 
“An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.”—The Daily Beast
 
“Fascinating . . . [a] haunting true-life tale.”—People
 
“One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
 
“Thrilling . . . deliciously scandalous.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author

Bill Dedman introduced the public to heiress Huguette Clark and her empty mansions through his compelling series of narratives for NBC, which became the most popular feature in the history of its news website, topping 110 million page views. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
 
Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a cousin of Huguette Clark, has researched the Clark family history for twenty years, sharing many conversations with Huguette about her life and family. He received a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.

Editorial Reviews

“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.” — The New York Times   “A fascinating investigation into the haunting true-life tale of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark.” — People “An exhaustively researched, well-written account . . . a blood-boiling expose [that] will make you angry and will make you sad.” — The Seattle Times   “An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol .” — The Daily Beast   “A childlike, self-exiled eccentric, [Huguette Clark] is the sort of of subject susceptible to a biography of broad strokes, which makes Empty Mansions, the first full-length account of her life, impressive for its delicacy and depth.” — Town & Country   “One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.” —Jon Stewart, The Daily Show “So well written . . . such a gripping, gripping story.” —Bill Goldstein, NBC 4 New York   “A compelling account of what happened to the Clark family and its fortune . . . a tremendous feat.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch   “A fascinating story.” — Today   “Meticulous and absorbing.” — Bloomberg Businessweek   “Brilliantly researched, tough-minded, and fair . . . a fascinating read.” &mdash
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. Huguette Clark and Paris Hilton: compare and contrast. Using the theme of the burdens of inherited wealth, in which era would it be easier or harder to be a young  heiress, the 1920s or today? Can you imagine being that wealthy and not sharing your opinions and daily ad­ ventures on social media?

2. The authors reject easy explanations for Huguette''s eccentricity and reclusive nature, emphasizing that she was always shy, living a life of imagination and art. As they say in the epilogue:
 
We will never know why Huguette was, as she might say, "pecu­liar." The people in her inner circle say they have no idea. Outsiders speculate. It was being the daughter of an older father! It was her sister''s death! Or her mother''s! The wealth! It was autism or Asperger''s or a childhood trauma! Easy answers fail because the question assumes that personalities have a single determinant. Whatever caused her shyness, her limitations of sociability or coping, her fears--of strangers, of kidnapping, of needles, of another French Revolution-Huguette found a situation that worked for her, a modern-day "Boo" Radley, shut up inside by choice, safe from a world that can hurt.
 
Do you accept the authors'' embrace of complexity and uncertainty? Or do you think of Huguette''s reclusivity as springing from a single cause--e.g., failed romances, her sister''s death, a mental illness?

3. What is your reaction to nurse Hadassah Peri and the $31 million in gifts Huguette gave to her family? Do you agree with readers who say her behavior was despicable, that it''s unethical for a caregiver to re­ceive such gifts, that she should have refused the gifts? Or do you agree with readers who say Huguette certainly knew what she was doing, that Hadassah was her patient''s closest caregiver for twenty years, that the gifts were only a small share of Huguette''s net worth?

4. Was Huguette''s life a happy one? What are the ingredients of a happy life? If you find her life to be sad, how do you reconcile that with her apparent lack of sadness?

5. If you had been on the jury deciding the battle over Huguette''s will and her $300 million estate, would you have found that she was in­ competent and defrauded? Would you have given all her money to her Clark relatives? Or would you have followed the will, giving it all to the nurse, the Bellosguardo Foundation for the arts, the attorney Bock, the accountant Kamsler, Dr. Singman, Beth Israel Medical Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, her goddaughter Wanda, and the personal as­sistant Chris? Which of those people, on either side, do you trust?

6. Was W. A. Clark an admirable man? Or was he admirable only early on, when he was like a Horatio Alger character working arduously in dangerous circumstances to build a copper fortune?  In light of the times in which he lived, was W.A. Clark justifiably vilified for his meth­ods in seeking a Senate seat? Was he actually a robber baron? Is he ac­countable for environmental waste today from the copper mines he developed in the 1870s? Or was this simply business as usual in the sor­did world of politics and development on the Western frontier? If Clark had been as generous to public charities as Carnegie or Rockefeller, would he have been absolved by history, as they largely were, of the sins of his business career?

7. Empty Mansions is based on facts, documents, and  testimony. That leaves mysteries in the lives of its characters. Did the uncertainties add or detract from your enjoyment of the story? Would you have pre­ferred that the authors psychoanalyze Huguette, creating dialogue and filling in missing scenes as a screenplay would? Considering the limits of what the authors could learn, what do you most want to know about W.A., about Anna, about Huguette? If you could have had conversa­tions with Huguette, as author Paul Newell did, what would you have asked her?

8. Is there more to the American Dream than financial security? Does it require making a contribution to society? Did W.A.''s American Dream get out of control? Is Huguette an American Dreamer of another type?

9. On Huguette''s death certificate, her occupation was listed as "artist." Beginning with W.A., consider what part creativity and imagi­nation play in this story. Was W.A.''s  imagination the source of his power? What did Huguette inherit from her father in the way of tastes or interests or capabilities? From her mother? Consider the words of the founder of Huguette''s prep school, Clara Spence, who urged her stu­dents:
 
I beg you to cultivate imagination, which means to develop your power of sympathy, and I entreat you to decide thoughtfully what makes a human being great in his time and in his station. The faculty of imagination is often lightly spoken of as of no real importance, often decried as mischievous, as in some ways the antithesis of practical sense, and yet it ranks with reason and con­science as one of the supreme characteristics by which man is dis­tinguished from all other animals...Sympathy, the great bond between human beings, is largely dependent on imagination­ that is, upon the power of realizing the feelings and the circum­stances of others so as to enable us to feel with and for them.
 
Did Huguette follow those words? What role did imagination and sym­pathy play in her life? What role do they play in yours?
 

10. Did you like Huguette? Were there points in the book where you were frustrated by her and/or felt sympathy for her? By the end of the book, did you feel as if you knew her well? Did your view of her change throughout the book?

11. Many characters in Empty Mansions have moral dimensions of both good and bad. Do you believe W.A. was more good than bad? What about attorney Wally Bock? Accountant Irv Kamsler? Nurse Hadassah Peri? Personal assistant Chris Sattler? Dr. Henry Singman? Were there any characters who seemed to be simply good or rotten in their relationships with Huguette? Were you engaged or frustrated by the authors'' insistence on showing the good and bad in characters?

12. If Empty Mansions were made into a movie, what actors would you like to see in the major roles? What movie that you''ve seen should it be most similar to? Would you make it a psychological drama?  An epic family saga of Western bonanza wealth? A Gilded Age study of manners and family relationships? What scenes would be the most deli­cious to write?