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Born in 1906 Huguette Clark grew up in her family's 121 room Beaux Arts mansion in New York and was one of the leading celebrities of her day Her father William Andrews Clark was a copper magnate the second richest man in America and not above bribing his way into the Senate Huguette attended the coronation of King George V And at twenty two with a personal fortune of 50 million to her name she married a Princeton man and childhood friend William MacDonald Gower Two years later the couple divorced After a series of failed romances Huguette began to withdraw from society first living with her mother in a kind of Grey Gardens isolation then as a modern day Miss Havisham spending her days in a vast apartment overlooking Central Park eating crackers and watching The Flintstones with only servants for company All her money and all her real estate could not protect her in her later life from being manipulated by shady hangers on and hospitals that were only too happy to admit and bill a healthy woman But what happened to Huguette that turned a vivacious young socialite into a recluse? And what was her life like inside that gilded copper cage?


10 thoughts on “The Phantom of Fifth Avenue

  1. says:

    Jar Pick #1 I first heard about Huguette Clark few years ago on NPR They were talking to or about the author of the fantastic book Empty Mansions The story seemed stranger the fiction A 100 year old heiress who was worth at least 300 million and who had mansions all over the country had spent the last 20 years living in a hospital room at Beth Israel Hospital by choice I read Empty Mansions and loved it but I still wanted to know Empty Mansions was mostly about the mansions art work and money It didn't really dig into the life of Huguette Clark So I was extremely excited when on a casual stroll through Joseph Beth Books I came across this book The Phantom of Fifth Avenue not only covers the life and scandalous death of Ms Clark but it tells the story of how her father Senator William Andrews Clark became one the richest men in the world While the names Rockefeller Morgan and Astor are legendary today in the 1920's the Clark name was just as famous The book was so good but it also made me extremely sad Huguette Clark is the definition of Money Can't Buy You Happiness As the late great philosopher Christopher Wallace once said Mo Money Mo Problems Huguette grow up knowing that people would only want her for her money and 9x out of 10 that was exactly what happened I wish Huguette had underwent a psychological evaluation because I would love to know why she was the way she was She got married and seemed to love him but never consummated the married because sex is unlady like She seemed to be obsessed with death but also terrified of living She seemed to me like someone who may have been on the autism spectrum She was highly intelligent and was a great artist but she also seemed to the people around her to be extremely childlike Huguette's life was a weird but sad life I don't think anyone except her mother ever loved her To everyone else she was just No wonder she chose to simply lock herself away from the world but even then she was surrounded by greedy lowlifes Meryl Gordon wrote a spectatular book about the downside of extreme wealth


  2. says:

    This book is about Huguette Clark1906 2011 Why in 1991 did she leave her three mansions move into a hospital and never return home again? More than twenty years living in a hospitalby her own freewill Yes hospital care was needed initially but not later Why had she become a recluse? Huguette was the last living child of the patriarch William Andrews Clark 1839 1925 robber baron senator and the second wealthiest American at the beginning of the 20th Century surpassed in wealth only by John D Rockefeller She loved her father and absolutely adored her mother but there were few others that did Here is how Mark Twain depicts her father He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary with a ball and chain on his legs To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's timeBesides trying to understand Huguette’s behavior the book’s central theme is the contestation of her wills I chose this book over Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman; both deal with exactly the same topic I chose Gordon’s book after speaking with readers who have read both All agreed that Meryl Gordon’s gives a deeper portrait of Huguette Clark I was interested in understanding what was going on in her head than getting details of all that she owned and who got what after her death I would have been bored by even extensive information of her possessions There were plenty here The world of the most wealthy is not something that particularly attracts me This influences my rating even if it is not a criticism of the book itself The book details her parents’ lives and then Huguette’s entire life not merely her many years of residence at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan as well as the complicated legal dispute concerning her wills and the subseuent division of her estate I was puzzled to hear of a woman who chose of her own accord to make her permanent residence a room in a hospital This is what drew me to the book Who would choose such a life? Actually given the facts her choice wasn’t all that illogical to me view spoilerIn the beginning the hospital offered her security Her money allowed her to keep herself amused painting music photography and collecting both dolls and miniature Japanese castles It allowed her to seclude herself from the outside world which she could never trust She paid for exactly what she wanted She paid for “friendship” with her nurse That the hospital benefited financially clearly shaped events That the hospital never gave her proper psychological care or advice is in my view abominable Legal settlement rather than a jury trial was chosen to both save additional legal costs which were already monstrous and seemed the best way of satisfying the disparate claims Who knew what a jury might conclude? It was impossible to know hide spoiler


  3. says:

    Okay this is my second book on Hugette Clark that I read this month I like this one better if focuses on Hugette and less on her family and her homes And best of all it's written after the lawsuit over the will was settled so you find out who got all the money besides the lawyers who got 40000000 in fees just to get to the settlement She sounds like a fascinating characterI celebrated finiahing the book by going to the Corcoran Art Gallery here in DC where I'm visiting my Mom That's where this book starts and where Hugette's father's art collection was donated in 1926 The Walter Andrew Clark Collection in the Walter Andrew Clark wing is still pretty amazing but the best part is the restored Salon Dore where Hugette and her sister Amadee used to play when it was in Senator Clark's New York MansionI was thinking I was done with Hugette but there's a tell all biography from the 1950's The Clarks of Montana written in 1939 by the manager of Senator Clark's copper mine If I can find a copy of that I'll have to read it as well


  4. says:

    About a year maybe two ago I read Empty Mansions which sparked my interest in Huguette Clark This book is far interesting and better written Huguette was a victim of upbringing When your elderly father point blank tells you that no one will love you for yourself only for your money you know your life will not be pretty She was sheltered and pampered She had no realistic expectations of adulthood including what it means to consummate a marriage which led to an abrupt divorce She was obsessed with dolls her entire life refusing to grow up and was obsessed with her mother to the point that nothing could be changed inside any of her properties after Anna's death As Huguette grew older her isolation intensified She refused to accept visitors and would not meet with contractors and avoided servants She enjoyed speaking on the telephone so she did have contact with the outside world and she continued to graciously fund family and friends' expenditures With all of her uirks she was still a highly intelligent woman She taught herself the skill of animation and was a highly rated artist who showed at the Corcoran She collected Japanese items which triggered an FBI investigation during WWII She invented advanced games of solitaire The tragedy of her life is the advantage taken by her caregivers before she died Once Huguette admitted to the hospital for the treatment of skin cancer she never left She hired private nurses and go fers paying them bonuses and writing high dollar checks as gifts Her lawyer and accountant neglected to pay her taxes Doctors pressured her to donate to the hospital or lend them money never paying it backThankfully her distant relatives intervened after her death Some may have been gold diggers but I think some of them were truly looking out for her best interests I really rate this book a 35 It introduced ground not discussed in Empty Mansions and focused on Huguette's state of mind


  5. says:

    Everyone except Wanda and Chris are terrible people No one cared about Huguette they only cared about the money Very engaging story well written Full review to come 4 StarsBasically this book shows you that everything you think is probably true about people that you wish was not actually true is trueIs that a sentence?At least it makes sense in my head People are selfish and manipulative and will do whatever they can to cash in on an inheritance that does not belong to them all under the guise of 'caring for a family member' What bullshitHaving first read Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman I feel like both are well written and engaging I don't really recommend one over the other and think that if you are interested in the strange life and sad death of Huguette Clark you should read bothThis book doesn't just cover the end of Huguette's life when she voluntarily chose to leave her number of homes and live in Beth Israel Hospital Instead the author traces Huguette's life from the start her life in Paris growing up in Butte Montana the family's home in Santa Barbara at Bellosguardo and the main residence on Fifth Avenue that stood for only eleven years before being torn down after her father's death By all accounts Huguette was an active social albeit shy young lady who enjoyed the life that her robber baron of a father provided with his copper fortuneSo what changed?First Huguette's beloved older sister Andree died of meningitis at 17 when Huguette was only 13 I feel like this was really the point that changed Huguette and her mother Then her father passed away in 1925 but not before imparting this gem on his youngest daughter No one will love you for who you are They will love you for your money It seems like a harsh lesson to have dropped on such a 16 year old but he was not wrong As Huguette neared the end of her life family members from her father's first marriage seemed to come out of the woodwork to get their hands on her inheritance despite the fact that they had all already received their shares of the family fortune Not that anyone else in Huguette's life was any better Her nurse doctors the hospital her lawyer and accountant all of these people just wanted her money and it was painfully obvious that the only two people in her life who were not gold diggers were her goddaughter Wanda and her assistant Chris I get the fact that there was concern about elder abuse that Huguette might be a hostage of some kind and being coerced into giving her money to those around her However her money grubbing family members had no footing on which to claim they were looking out for her best interestsThere are so many aspects of Huguette's life that are intriguing and tragic and heartbreaking The whole 'eviction' notice from her father in his will was awful So basically Clark spent a ton of money to build this house that everyone said was ugly I thought it was beautiful and wish all these old mansions still existed as a testament to this bygone timeThe public be damned William Clark was happy with his new home page 82 I'd agree with the sentimentHuguette and her family lived in the house for only eleven years and then it was demolished to make way for apartment buildings Huguette and her mother moved into an apartment and slowly but surely withdrew from their once active social lives They stopped visiting Bellosguardo in the 1950s but continued to maintain the home at a cost of 1 million per year Were they just so dependent on one another or was it so that Huguette was terrified of losing the last person she loved and cared about and so they kind of wrapped themselves in this cocoon and never went anywhere or saw anyone because they were so afraid of losing one another? I don't know And now after Huguette passing in 2011 we will never have the answers to any of the uestions we might have about what made Huguette behave the way she did make the choices that she did and ultimately end her days in a hospital as a healthy individual who could have gone homeIn the early 1990s it was discovered that Huguette had skin cancer and she was taken to the hospital from which she would never leave This is another issue that will never really be resolved why would she refuse to go home once she was cancer free and healthy again? The author contends that while change was difficult for Huguette once she discovered this new world she could live in and have limited contact with other people on her own terms she did not want to return to her homeThe problem became that everyone she came in contact with after her arrival and subseuent stay in the hospital they are wanted her money It is absolutely disgusting how these people behaved Huguette's close friend Suzanna helped to hire a full time private nurse named Hadassah who for many years worked 12 hours a day seven days a week to be with Huguette at the hospital So apparently because Hadassah agreed to Huguette's outrageous terms she felt entitled to every penny she could get out of her employer? Whether that was the intent or not that is exactly how she comes across especially with the issue of this check for 5 million that she felt she was owed because Huguette has promised it THEN she and her husband had the nerve to be pissed that they did not have the money when they wanted it It's all just so grossIf you are in any doubt about how yucky these people were in grubbing for Huguette's money here are a few gems from the bookWhat Hadassah learned was that if she simply mentioned her problems to Huguette her wealthy and healthy patient would reach for her checkbook page 245The secret of Hadassah's salesmanship was that she never had to directly ask for anything All she had to do was discuss her concerns over the high cost of private school and the college for her three children; Huguette began paying not only the tuition bills but the cost of after school activities page 245The hospital staffers were no better from the CEO to her doctors they all wanted money for the hospital They were constantly coming up with ways to mention to Huguette that the hospital was in need of donations; one doctor even used his own mother to spend time with Huguette in order to try and get money that way All of these people were taking advantage of her kindness and had not done anything to deserve the thousands and thousands of dollars she gave to them At first they were keen to send her home but when they realized how much money she was worth it is pretty clear they wanted her to stay to keep the money coming inThe nurse was not alone in seeing dollar signs above Huguette's hospital bed; the administrators and doctors running Beth Israel Hospital wanted their share too page 264 Except wait they were not entitled to her money just because Again so disgustingSo many of Huguette's actions I simply do not understand Perhaps it is because she had so much money her entire life to do whatever she wanted with that 1 million meant nothing to her? For example she never took any legal action when she was wronged Was it really that terrible to have her name in the papers that she would rather just let the money go than claim was belonged to? At one point Even when she was wronged she refused to sue Citibank had informed the heiress several years earlier that than % million worth of jewelry including her mother's wedding ring and a magnificent bracelet adorned with sapphires and diamonds had been pilfered from a custodial account at a bank branch page 259 How does this happen? I don't understand THEN on top of that the remaining pieces that had not been stolen had been put into a new safety deposit box which was 'inadvertantly' listed as abandoned and the rest of the contents sold at auction These were family pieces that Huguette had thought were safe and twice she was robbed But again she did not choose to sue Instead she accepted a monetary settlement for far less than the pieces had been worth It's just so sad that all these terrible things kept happening to Huguette and she continued to just grin and bear itSo in the end the book paints a pretty grim picture of a woman who was completely surrounded by vultures Even so she continued to spend her time as she wished creating grand art projects that occupied her time up until the very end Perhaps she did not mind people constantly asking for money? Perhaps it really meant nothing to her When her attorneys continually tried to get her to sign a new will her previous one left her inheritance to her mother she was reminded time and again that without a new will the descendents of her half siblings would get her money And still she refused to entertain the idea of a new will It doesn't make it right that they all came after her money anyway but stillAnyway Huguette Clark is a fascinating figure The people around her will infuriate you with their greed I would like to think that she was mentally competent to be signing these checks and that all the money really did mean nothing to her Above all I hope she was happy with her choices Highly recommended


  6. says:

    Huguette Clark is probably one of the least known of the great American heiresses for the simple reason that she totally dropped out of sight in early middle age and became a recluse It was not until it was discovered that she was living in a NYC hospital and had been for many years that the story of her life came to lightHer father who was known as the Copper King made his fortune in mining and Huguette was a product of his second marriage to a young woman who was young enough to be his grandchild His children from his first marriage became estranged from Huguette and her mother after their father's death Huguette had been told repeatedly by her father that she would never find real love because men would only want her for her money and it basically ruined her life She trusted very few people and began to withdraw from society Soon she would see no one and many of her former friends and relatives had no idea where she was or even if she was aliveIt is a sad tale of what excessive amounts of money can do to some individuals and the ostentatious spending of Huguette was on a grand scale Of course when she died at 104 years of age and her will became public the vultures gathered and the legal battle was joinedI would have given this interesting book a higher rating except that the author spent too time describing the furnishings jewelry art work and homes that Huguette owned Otherwise it is a good read


  7. says:

    Meet Heguette Clark daughter of the mega rich copper baron senator Clark heiress to his ridiculous fortune NY socialite turned eccentric recluseimage error


  8. says:

    When Huguette Clark passed away in 2011 I read a couple of online articles about the controversy over her extensive fortune and her will I found the story intriguing therefore I was excited to read this book which covers her story in detail The author was very meticulous in her research culling through family diaries letters and court documents That Huguette was basically a horder helped the author by allowing her access to an abundance of correspondence from all time periods of her life upon which to base the bookThe book got a little long I could've handled a concise version of the history of Huguette's father a copper magnatesenator and also a shorter version of the trial about the will However the parts about Huguette's life as a young middle aged and old woman were intensely interestingI think the author did a nice job trying to be fair to all involved Each character had both their positive ualities and faults presented and the reader is left to make final judgments


  9. says:

    Initially fascinated by the potential of this biography a wealthy heiress ends up a recluse living in a standard hospital room for over 20 years at the end of her long and ultimately uneventful lifeSound good right? All I can say is that the story is as boring as Huguette Clark's life ended up Repeat BORING Maybe it's the material the author had to work with but her writing style her use of uninteresting uotes and letters her detail with minutia ie the constant naming of all the travel companions and entourage ugh I ended up with little insight and just flipping through the pages wondering when it would pick up It never did Again not sure if there just wasn't enough there in the source material or if in the hands of a engaging author Huguette's life would have ultimately come alive but as it is if you need a book to put you to SLEEP then go for it otherwise keep looking


  10. says:

    Huguette Clark was the youngest child of robber baron William Andrews Clark who made his millions off Montana copper mines He was at one point the second richest man in America How did his daughter end up living the last twenty years of her life in a stark hospital room refusing to see her living relatives children grandchildren and great grandchildren of her much older half siblings giving away millions to her day nurse? Was she just an eccentric old lady who shunned the money grubbing descendents of the people who had once shunned her mother who was about 50 years younger than her father or was she manipulated by crooked lawyers doctors and nurses? Ms Gordon seeks to piece together the story by interviewing everyone involved and reading through all the letters and documents Huguette left behind It's an interesting tale but lacks a bit of heart as Huguette was very private and much of the information is secondhand This term was used too many times Robber baron Robber baron Robber baron