Bill Dedman

  • Aired:  09/10/13
  •  | Views: 25,611

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bill Dedman explains how he stumbled onto the story of eccentric heiress Huguette Clark. (6:24)

[APPLAUSE]>> Jon: WE'RE BACK WITH

MY GUEST TONIGHT, APULITZER WINNING PRIZE REPORTER,

HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED EMPTYMANSIONS: THE MYSTERIOUS LIFE OF

HUGUETTE CLARK AND THE SPENDINGOF A GREAT AMERICAN FORTUNE.

BILL DEDMAN.

[APPLAUSE]>> Jon: THIS IS ONE OF

THOSE INCREDIBLE STORIESTHAT IS RIGHT UNDERNEATH

SORT OF LITERALLY THE NOSEOF NEW YORKERS, BUT NOBODY

HAS ANY IDEA ABOUT THIS.

HOW DID YOU FIND HUGUETTECLARK AND THIS STORY.

>> I WAS SHOPPING FOR AHOUSE FOR MY FAMILY, AND I

GOT A LITTLE OUT OF OURPRICE RANGE.

HER HOUSE IN CONNECTICUTWAS FOR SALE FOR

$24 MILLION, MARKED DOWNFROM $35 MILLION.

I WAS LOOKING UP WHO OWNEDWHICH HOUSES AT THE TOP OF

THE CHARTS.

AND I DIDN'T KNOW HERNAME. HUGUETTE CLARK, THAT MEANT

NOTHING TO ME.

SO I WAS LOOKING UP THEADDRESS ON THE TOWN

WEBSITE. I'M A PUBLIC RECORDSGUY

AND I WAS READING THEZONING RECORDS -- I KNOW

YOU DO THAT ALL OF THETIME.

>> Jon: OH, ALL THETIME.

I READ THEM TO MY CHILDRENBEFORE BED.

>> THAT WOULD WORK.

AND HER ATTORNEY HAD TOLDTHE TOWN, THIS HOUSE HAS

NOT BEEN LIVED IN SINCETHIS OWNER BOUGHT IT IN

1951.

SO I GO OVER TO SEE THECARETAKER, AND HE ASKED

ME, DO YOU THINK MAYBE SHEHAS BEEN DEAD ALL THESE

YEARS?

SO IT TURNED OUT SHE HAD ANICER HOUSE IN CALIFORNIA,

ABOUT $85 MILLION TO$100 MILLION OVER THE PACIFIC

IN SANTA BARBARA.

AND SHE HADN'T BEEN THERESINCE 1951.

SO SHE HAD THREEAPARTMENTS ON FIFTH

AVENUE.

SO I TALKED TO BORIS, THEDOOR MAN, BORIS THE DOOR

MAN, AND HE SAID, NO, IT'SBEEN 22 YEARS AND I

HAVEN'T SEEN HER.

SO WE HAD TO FIND HER.

>> Jon: AND WHERE WASSHE?

>> SHE LIVED IN A HOSPITALIN NEW YORK.

HERE SHE WAS THE DAUGHTEROF A U.S. SENATOR WHO WAS

BORN -- HE WAS 22 WHEN THECIVIL WAR BEGAN, AND HIS

DAUGHTER WAS ALIVE DURINGTHE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION,

LIVING IN A HOSPITAL FOR7,400 NIGHTS.

SHE LIVED FOR MORE THAN 20YEARS IN BETH ISRAEL

HOSPITAL IN NEW YORK CITY.

PERFECTLY HEALTHY.

SHE HAD SOME FACIALCANCER.

SHE HAD GONE IN AND SHEFELT BETTER, AND THEY

CHARGED HER ABOUT $400,000A YEAR TO LIVE THERE.

>> Jon: SO A NORMALRENT?

>> EXACTLY.

SO SHE STAYED.

>> Jon: WHAT ISINCREDIBLE TO ME IS THIS

WOMAN IS SORT OF -- WAS ALIVING EMBODIMENT OF THIS

ERA OF AMERICAN DOMINANCE.

DO YOU KNOW A MAN CALLEDHORSE --

>> DUSTIN HOFFMAN?

>> Jon: YES.

IT WAS AN INCREDIBLESTORY.

SHE WAS GOING TO TAKE TOGO TO EUROPE ON THE RETURN

TRIP OF THE TITANIC.

>> MY CO-AUTHOR IS HERCOUSIN, AND HE HAD SPOKEN

TO HER ON THE PHONE. HE WAS ALITTLE BETTER A REPORTER THAN I

HE LOOKED HER UP IN THEPHONE DIRECTORY.

THIS HAD NOT OCCURRED TOME.

BUT HE SPOKE TO HER OFFAND ON THE PHONE FOR NINE

YEARS.

AND SHE DESCRIBED HOW NO,WE COULDN'T GO ON THE

TITANIC.

OUR FATHER SHOWED WHERE WEWOULD BE SLEEPING, BUT IT

SANK.

SO WE WEREN'T ABLE TO GOON THE RETURN TRIP.

>> Jon: LITTLEDISAPPOINTMENTS IN LIFE.

YOU KNOW HOW IT IS.

APPARENTLY SHE WASINCREDIBLY LUCID AND SWEET

AS PIE.

>> SHE WAS.

CUTE AS PIE AND SWEET.

SHE WAS VERY GENEROUS.

SHE SURPRISED SOMEONE WHONEVER MET HER WITH A

$30,000 GIFT.

SHE PAID $200,000 A YEARFOR THE NURSING CARE OF

THE DAUGHTER OF HER NANNYFROM WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

SHE WAS VERY INTO DOLLS.

SHE COLLECTED DOLLS ANDBUILT DOLL HOUSES AND

DESIGNED LITTLE JAPANESECASTLES.

SHE WAS AN ARTIST.

SHE PAINTED.

THE MAN AND WOMAN WHOFIXED HER DOLL HOUSES AND

DID THE CURTAINS FOR THEMWERE PESTERED TO DEATH BY

HER.

SHE WOULD CALL EVERYEVENING AND SAY THE

CEILINGS WERE TOO LOW INTHE DOLL HOUSES AND SHE

TOLD THEM THE LITTLEPEOPLE ARE BANGING THEIR

HEADS.

>> Jon: SURE.

>> BUT I MENTIONED SHE WASLUCID.

SHE WAS VERY GENEROUS TOTHEM.

SHE WOULD GIVE THEM$30,000, $50,000, A LITTLE

GIFT SHE WOULD SAY.

ALL OF THE GRANDCHILDRENOF THE COUPLE WHO MADE HER

DOLL HOUSES WENT TOCOLLEGE ON HER GENEROSITY.

>> Jon: I ALWAYS THOUGHTTHAT DOLL HOUSE

CONSTRUCTION WAS RUN BYTHE MOB.

I DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS ABIG BUSINESS.

ONE OF THE DARK TURNS INTHE BOOK IS THE WAY THAT

THE HOSPITALS THAT SHESTAYED AT TRIED OVERTLY

AND EXPLICITLY AND WITH APAPER TRAIL TO GET MONEY

FROM HER.

>> THEY DESCRIBED HER INTHEIR E-MAILS AS THE

BIGGEST BUCKS CONTRIBUTINGPOTENTIAL WE EVER HAD.

THE HOSPITAL PRESIDENT --THIS HAS PROBABLY BEEN

YOUR EXPERIENCE WHENYOU'VE BEEN IN THE

HOSPITAL -- THE HOSPITALPRESIDENT VISITED HER

FREQUENTLY, AND HIS MOTHERCAME TO VISIT TO WATCH

CARTOONS WITH HER ON TV.

SHE LIKED THE JETSONS ANDFLINTSTONES, WHICH I

UNDERSTAND, BUT THESMURFS, I CAN'T QUITE

CONNECT TO.

>> Jon: NOBODY CAN.

>> BUT THEY WOULD SITTHERE AND TRY TO MAKE A

BOND WITH HER.

ULTIMATELY, THEY WEREGOING TO TEAR DOWN THE

BUILDING, AND THEPRESIDENT OF THE HOSPITAL

CAME TO HER AND SAID IFYOU WILL ONLY GIVE US

$125 MILLION, WE WON'THAVE TO SELL THIS

BUILDING.

SHE COULD HAVE AFFORDEDIT.

SHE HAD STOCK.

SHE COULD HAVE PAID THAT.

AND SHE TOLD THEM, THAT'SA LOT OF MONEY.

AND SHE ASKED FOR A COPYOF THEIR FINANCIAL

STATEMENT.

THEY DIDN'T GET THEIR$125 MILLION.

IN THE WILL -- THEY GOT APAINTING, A MANET PAINTING.

THREE AND A HALF MILLION.

BUT IN THE WILL, THEY MUSTHAVE BEEN DREADFULLY

DISAPPOINTED.

THEY GOT ONLY ONE OF HER300 MILLION.

>> Jon: THE WORST THING INTHE BOOK IS AN

E-MAIL FROM THE GUY WHOSAYS SHE GAVE US MONEY, BUT

IT WAS RELATIVELY MODEST.

LIKE A MILLION.

DISAPPOINTED.

>> DISAPPOINTED.

>> Jon: IT IS ONE OFTHOSE INCREDIBLE STORIES

YOU DIDN'T KNOW EXISTED.

IT FILLED THE VOID.

NICELY FILLED.

"EMPTY MANSIONS," IT IS ONTHE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

IT'S ONLY A MILLIONDOLLARS.

BILL DEDMAN.

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