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Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Meryl Gordon

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207756,585 (3.5)13
Member:maggie1944
Title:Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach
Authors:Meryl Gordon
Info:Houghton Mifflin Co (2008), Edition: None, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle books
Rating:****
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Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was an absolutely absorbing account of the last days of an iconic New Yorker, the last Mrs. Astor. Brooke Astor's life was an extraordinary one. The heartbreaking circumstances surrounding her final years is tragic.

The book is completely engrossing. It's hard to put it down. The details are shocking. To read of a woman who was used to so much and was later reduced to so little (not monetarily speaking) is sad.

This is a must read for any lover of New York high society. ( )
  briandrewz | Apr 19, 2016 |
Clare Boothe Luce noted "Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable." Her quote certainly can be applied to the life of Mrs. Brooke Astor.

Her first marriage, at the young age of 19, to wealthy Dryden Kusher netted a son and a many beatings by this alcoholic man with a violent temper. When he left Brooke for another women, soon thereafter she married wealthy Charles Marshall. She was 50 when he died. Six months later, she received a proposal by wealthy Vincent Astor. When he died five years later, she was rumored to have inherited $60 million. With shrewd investments, at one point in time Brook gave away $195 million from the Astor Foundation.

From that day forward, the regal, manipulative dame owned luxurious homes with her primary residence in a Park Avenue mansion in Upper East Side of New York. Well known for her philanthropic deeds, to name a few of her benefactors, she donated millions to the New York Library and the Metropolitan Art Museum. To give millions at a mere signature of a check, entitled her to be powerful and exceedingly popular.
Known for her over the top dinner parties, if you were invited, you were socially connected and had to know how to handle yourself among the upper echelon.

Never professing to like children, her only son soon learned that he was not loved. Waiting in the wings for mommy dearest to die took a much longer time than he imagined. Dying in 2007 at the ripe age of 105, son Anthony, 89, was promptly served with a law suit instigated by one of Anthony's twin sons who claimed his grandmother spent the end of her life in squalor while his grandfather swindled millions.

At the heart of the charges was the fact that sonny boy forced mamma to sign three codicils to her will, each one entitling him to ever increasing assets. The third signature was deemed fictitious by a stellar hand writing expert.

A favorite painting, Up The Avenue From 34th Street, by Clide Hassan which hung in her regal library, until it was sold by her son for 10 million, netting him a 2.5 commission. Originally promised to the Metropolitan Art Museum, Anthony convinced his mother that her millions were dwindling and this had to be sold in order to support her life style.

Knowing she suffered from Alzheimer's did not stop Anthony from brazenly pilfering millions upon millions. In court proceedings, Brooke's signature on the codicils became a pivotal focus. Years before, Anthony told others of Brooke's diminished capacity. How then, could she be of the right frame of mind to sign away millions willingly?

After a lengthy trial with a parade of rich and famous testifying, poor little rich boy Anthony was sent to prison. Walking in the court room with a Brooks Brothers well tailored suit, he walked out with hand cuffs and standard jail house garb.

While there were way too many pages of names and events that bogged down the main story, this is worth reading. ( )
  Whisper1 | Jan 8, 2014 |
There's nothing like a book about a good scandal & this one has it all - money, a dysfunctional family, a matriarch beloved by the city she lives in but perhaps not as altruistic as her public persona portrays, and a son who is tired of waiting in the wings for his inheritance. The fight over the care of Brooke Astor in the last years of her life and the disposition of her estate is the stuff of soap opera. But it's all true.

Meryl Gordon had extraordinary access to the principle players in this drama and she tells this tale with flair and remarkable fairness. Since this book was published Mrs. Astor's son has been convicted of looting her estate and has been sentenced to one to three years in prison. Given his state of health, he may very well end his life behind bars. One has to feel a little sorry for him. The same, however, cannot be said of his third wife, Charlene. ( )
1 vote etxgardener | Jan 14, 2010 |
The fate of Brooke Astor, the endearing philanthropist with the storied name, has generated worlldwide headlines since her grandson Philip sued his father in 2006 alleging mistreatment of Brooke. And shortly after her death in 2007, Anthony Marshal, Mrs. Astor's only child, was indicted on charges of looting her estate. ( )
  marient | Jun 22, 2009 |
if you like long Vanity Fair articles ( )
  aletheia21 | Jun 9, 2009 |
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To Walter, Now more than ever.

To my parents, Adventurous, passionate, supportive
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Prologue: When God created tabloids, that Tuesday after Thanksgiving was surely the kind of day he had in mind.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618893733, Hardcover)

Product Description
A riveting look behind the gates of the house of Astor as a famous family falls apart in public

The fate of Brooke Astor, the endearing philanthropist with the storied name, has generated worldwide headlines since her grandson Philip sued his father in 2006, alleging mistreatment of Brooke. And shortly after her death in 2007, Anthony Marshall, Mrs. Astor s only child, was indicted on charges of looting her estate. Rarely has there been a story with such an appealing heroine, conjuring up a world so nearly forgotten: a realm of lavish wealth and secrets of the sort that have engaged Americans from the era of Edith Wharton to the more recent days of Truman Capote and Vanity Fair. New York journalist Meryl Gordon has interviewed not only the elite of Brooke Astor s social circle, but also the large staff who cosseted and cared for Mrs. Astor during her declining years. The result is the behind-the-headlines story of the Astor empire s unraveling, filled with never-before-reported scenes. This powerful, poignant saga takes the reader inside the gilded gates of an American dynasty to tell of three generations worth of longing and missed opportunities. Even in this territory of privilege, no riches can put things right once they ve been torn asunder. Here is an American epic of the bonds of money, morality, and social position. Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Meryl Gordon

"Mrs. Astor Regrets--The Trial"

During the summer of 2006, as I began researching Mrs. Astor Regrets, I thought that I was in the midst of a deeply textured family saga about society, money, and betrayal. What I could not have imagined was that just three years later I would have a regular seat on a wooden bench in a shabby New York courtroom as Tony Marshall--Brooke Astor's 85-year-old patrician son--stood trial on charges of looting his mother's $185 million estate while she was still alive. What started in 2006 as a bitter but quaintly old-fashioned family fight over the care and custody of the 104-year-old grande dame of New York society had become an eighteen-count criminal indictment charging Tony Marshall with grand larceny and his trusts-and-estates lawyer, Francis Morrissey, Jr., with conspiracy and forgery.

Mrs. Astor Regrets ends with Tony Marshall's indictment. But rather than becoming outdated by events surrounding the trial, the book is more timely than ever. The father-versus-son theme, which was at the heart of the struggle over Brooke Astor's care, was acted out in court when twin sons Philip and Alec Marshall both testified against their father as prosecution witnesses. Afterward, I saw Tony Marshall and his wife, Charlene Marshall, weeping in the corridor in response to this wrenching Oedipal moment.

Ever since I heard the prosecution's opening argument in late April, I have been seized by a sense of déjà vu. The entire outline of the case has followed the trajectory of Mrs. Astor Regrets. I began my story with a richly detailed account of Brooke Astor's one hundredth birthday party in 2002--given by David Rockefeller at his country estate--because artistically it set up the contrast between the society icon’s glittering life and the sad isolation that would soon follow. The prosecution used the birthday party as a framework for their own narrative, quizzing witnesses like Barbara Walters, Annette de la Renta, Nancy Kissinger, and Viscount Astor (all quoted in Mrs. Astor Regrets) about the same party and showing the jury a video of the festivities on a huge courtroom screen.

The prosecutors and the defense lawyers have told me that Mrs. Astor Regrets was required reading as they prepared for the trial. In the corridor outside the courtroom, newspaper reporters (and even a police detective) have asked me to autograph their copies of the book. About the only group left out of the loop are the twelve jurors and four alternates sitting in judgment of Tony Marshall and Francis Morrissey. They are forbidden from reading it because the judge has not allowed into evidence many of the details from the guardianship lawsuit over Mrs. Astor's care that Philip Marshall (joined by David Rockefeller, Annette de la Renta, and Henry Kissinger) filed against his father in 2006.

As a fan of mystery novels, I get an eerie feeling spending four days a week right in the middle of one. I will say that authors must have a better sense of dramatic pacing than courtroom lawyers. The Astor trial is not expected to go to the jury until early August. I have lived with this story for three years, and there remains only one important question for which I have no answer: Will the jury find Tony Marshall and Francis Morrissey, Jr. guilty as charged?

What I do know is that Brooke Astor was so devoted to the rituals of society that she still dressed for dinner, with matching evening bag and dress, at the age of 104. Part of the code that governed Mrs. Astor's life was a sense of personal privacy even when she was a renowned philanthropist to New York's leading charities. To have all this being argued in open court--in a way that has torn her family asunder--is something that Mrs. Astor would indeed regret. --Meryl Gordon

(Photo © Nina Subin)



(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:08 -0400)

The fate of Brooke Astor, the endearing philanthropist with the storied name, has generated worldwide headlines since her grandson Philip sued his father in 2006, alleging mistreatment of Brooke. And shortly after her death in 2007, Anthony Marshall, Mrs. Astor's only child, was indicted on charges of looting her estate. Rarely has there been a story with such an appealing heroine, conjuring up a world so nearly forgotten: a realm of lavish wealth and secrets of the sort that have engaged Americans from the era of Edith Wharton to the more recent days of Truman Capote and Vanity Fair. New York journalist Meryl Gordon has interviewed not only the elite of Brooke Astor's social circle but also the large staff who cared for Mrs. Astor during her declining years. The result is the story of the Astor empire's unraveling.--From publisher description.… (more)

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