Monday, November 24, 2014

More catch up Part 2 Mrs Astor Regrets

"Mrs Astor Regrets" The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach, by  author Meryl Gordon is fantastic.  What a great find for only 99 cents at the Goodwill Store.  I read this months ago and relished it, perhaps because recently Brooke Astor made the news again while her  89 year old son, anthony M Marshall, was  discharged from  his prison sentence  for abusing Mrs. Astor financially and otherwise by denying her  certain comforts. .  It is a tale of woe evidencing that the very rich are also plagued by greed and all sorts of family trials...In 2000 Brooke Astor, wealthy philanthropist, glamorous socialite, widow of Vincent Astor was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  Somehow  with the best care money could buy she was able to continue on. She lived to be 105 and died in 2007.  

 Because I grew up back east and was familiar with old money families from tales I was intrigued by her life and this book covers all of that, the Oscar de la Renta's, the Rockefellers, Louis Auchincloss, the Kissingers, all the rich and famous and then some weave in and out of the memoir.  Brooke was more than a strong character; she was  demanding,  an old biddy, someone who insisted being in control well beyond when she could be, and yet very  generous financially to her pet to causes.  Her  best friend was the far  younger, Annette de la Renta,  who would try to rescue and defend the  aged matriarch from the grip of the evil son, Tony Marshall Brooke's child from her first marriage to Dryden Kuser who  became an alcoholic and whom she would divorce in 1930 in Reno.  Her second marriage to  Charles Marshall, from whom her son took his name, was successful and is commented on by Nancy Reagan as the love of Brooke's life but he died suddenly at only 50.  Six months later in November 1952 Brooke married Vincent Astor, son of the John Jacob Astors who perished  on the Titanic. Vincent who was moody and possessive but rich beyond statement died  5 1/2 years after they married, leaving her the famous surname and a trust fund of more than $60 million.  Luxury became hers for life.  She took that storied name and  rebranded the Astor image to respect and glamour; she renovated the Astor Foundation and made it worthy of great pride.  Meantime her son, Tony cowered always overshadowed by the strong dominant personality of his mother.  He was enabled by her and dependent, achieving little in life on his own.  At one point Brooke admits that she  ruined him by indulging him and allowing him to not be accountable, bailing him out financially and not allowing him to grow up.  I am surprised this has not become a bigger best seller because it is a sweeping saga of  big time money and could challenge trite soap operas that dominate television like  the Dallas series.  .

 The book references to how she maintained the image of elegance, always made up and dressed to the  9's of perfection to which she said particularly on charitable visits and events, "People expect to see Mrs. Astor and I shall not disappoint them."  She was easily bored with people and rotated friends in and out of her circle often on whim.  Still she was victim to the greed of her son, peculiar in itself as he was her only child and heir.  Speculation is that  perhaps his  wife urged him on out of her own greed, but  he  had to agree.  Brooke's tale is enriched and yet heartbreaking to  learn that at the end, this wealthy woman was so restricted.  It's paperback only 285 pages.  An excellent investigative report and memoir by the author, Meryl Gordon. 

On Page 229,  "Discipline" a poem written by Brooke paints an overview of her tragic life,
 I am old and I have had
more than my share of good and bad.
I've had love and sorrow, seen sudden death,
and been left alone and of love bereft.
I thought I would never love again
and I thought my life was grief and pain.
The edge between life and death was thin,
but then I discovered discipline.
I learned to smile when I felt sad,
I learned to take the good and the bad.
I learned  to care a great deal more
for the world about me than before.
I began to forget the "Me" and "I"
and jpoined in life as it rolled by:
This may not mean sheer ecstasy
but it is better by far than "I" and "Me"

Back cover
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I give this 5 *****  Pick it up if you want to read about the lives of the truly rich and famous, a saga