Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Empty Mansions

Can you be so rich that you can be crazy and totally get by with it?  The answer is a resounding yes, but you knew that.  A super rich person is eccentric, a middle class person has a disorder and a poor person is homeless and throws cats at you. (Thank you Simpsons--for everything, really).  Empty Mansions is about a recluse named Huguette Clark.  You've never heard of Huguette Clark even though her inheritance is was one of the largest in U.S. history.  What? You ask, why I have I never heard of her?  First, the inheritance happened about 80 years ago and second, she was a recluse! Recluse, I say.

The first third of the book talks about her father, W.A. Clark, who made his fortune the hard way, starting as a gold prospector, entrepreneur, then he owned copper mines and a railway line.  He was friends with the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and all those guys. He was kind of a jerk, in some ways, ok in others. He didn't make his money finding homes for puppies or anything.  W.A., when he was an older dude and insanely rich, got a trophy wife after his first wife died.  Huguette is the youngest daughter.  She turned out crazy.  She was very socially shy (agoraphobic) and was obsessed with dolls and dollhouses (technical term--bat shit crazy).  She had several million dollar properties that she hadn't set foot in, in like, 40 years.  She lived the last 20 years of her life in the hospital. She gave her favorite nurse over 30 million dollars in gifts over those 20 years. Wow.  Anyway, the Clarks were certainly patrons of the arts.  Both visual and musical instruments.  My friend Richard should not read this book.  He is always pining for a patron.  Those days are gone, Richard. Gone.

I think this book was on Amazon's top 50 books of last year.  I say, meh, its nothing special.  I had to skim some of the legal contesting of her will, because that was too much like work, so I don't think this lives up to its hype.  I definitely don't think its any better than Wendy Burden's Dead End of the Gene Pool.  Wendy is a Vanderbilt, but the big money had run out by the time it got to her.  Well, kind of, think Anderson Cooper.  Anyway, her Grandparents, though, sound exactly like the Putterschmidts. Its a more fun read if you're interested in those super rich olden times guys and their progeny. 

Drinks: one way W.A.'s early and very successful entrepreneurial endeavors was to buy eggs in one location and then take them and sell them at a mark-up to a mining town. The author said it was for a popular drink at the time called a Tom and Jerry--I was like I know that drink--my friend Rob makes that every winter!  It's kind of egg-nog like.  And yes, technically its springtime, but there are still some chilly nights.  Tom and Jerry:  1 egg (get good quality eggs--yes, it will be "raw" although if you heat the milk hot enough which apparently kills the bacteria), 1/2 ounce simple syrup, one ounce dark rum, one ounce cognac or brandy, and hot milk with nutmeg for garnish.  Separate the egg yolk from the white and beat them separately. Fold the beaten eggs together and place in an Irish coffee glass (or large mug), add the simple syrup, rum and brandy.  Fill with hot milk and add some grated nutmeg. 

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