Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Empty Mansions: The Empty Life Of An Heiress


Photo Courtesy of Amazon,  Item Is Available to Purchase on This Page

Empty Mansions: Book Review

How could someone be so fabulously rich and yet have such an empty life? That's the story of Huguette Clark, daughter of Copper King W.A. Clark, in the book "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune". Huguette (pronounced Oo-get in the French manner,) was one of two daughters from Clark's 2nd marriage, to Anna Eugenia LaChapelle. At the time of her death at the age of 104, she owned three palatial mansions in New York, California and Connecticut. They were maintained spotlessly as if she would return any moment, but she lived her last 20 years in a hospital suite, where the privacy she sought was insured.


Is It All About W. A. Clark, Huguette's Father?

I was a little disappointed when I first began the book because it seemed more about W.A. Clark. But reading on, I realized that the family background was necessary to understand the heiress and why she became a recluse. She was closest to two people, her father and her sister. Her sister Andree' was 17 when she passed away from a brief illness. Her father died in 1925 when he was 86 years old. Having lost the only two people she was close to and being naturally shy, this pushed Huguette even further into withdrawal from the world.


Telephone Conversations, Mundane But Revealing.

Telephone conversations between Huguette and her cousin Paul Clark Newell Jr. are included in the book. She always initiates the call, never giving him her phone number. Obviously this means she only wants to talk when she wants to talk. Her conversations are mundane, revealing much about her interests, but very little about her feelings. She was married once, and they were already separated before the official end of the marriage came 9 months later. She took herself and an entourage to Reno, Nevada to get a quickie divorce. Rumors swirled that it was first his fault, and then that it was her fault. It was said that it was an arranged marriage, which neither of them wanted. It was intimated that he was homosexual, or that Huguette was incapable of consumating the marriage. Nobody really knows, but she never married again and took back her maiden name of Clark.

The only photos of Huguette are in her young years.

There were never any photos of her in her later years, only those in her childhood and young adulthood. She was an artist who enjoyed painting in oils. Obviously she must have been talented, because one of her very small paintings sold on eBay for a little over $100 recently. She had a huge doll collection, some of which were worth thousands of dollars. She had doll houses, custom built with the finest materials, sometimes paying as much as $85,000 for one. The details of each house were extremely important to her, and she spent much time making sure the materials were the best money could buy. Huguette never spent much time with her mother, so Anna found surrogate "daughters" of her doctor and other staff, to invite to tea, to chitchat and laugh with. Huguette only showed up at a couple of these tea parties, and didn't stay long at either. She had nothing to give but the emptiness she felt inside. She could be charming and gracious at times, but it was an affected manner that she did not truly feel and couldn't maintain for long periods of time. This rich-beyond-belief heiress, who lived in a fairy tale world, was lonely beyond imagining. She contributed her money generously to various causes and charities, but it was impossible for her to give herself.

 Information Came From First Cousin

This book is a collaboration between Paul Clark Newell Jr., Huguette's first cousin and Pulitzer Prize Winner Bill Dedman, providing two different views; one more personal (Newell) and the other on the amassing and "Spending of a Great American Fortune," by Dedman. Although the author says she was a cheerful, happy person, that impression seems a bit out of kilter with her life. It seems her money made it possible for her to live a life of loneliness, only interacting with others on a whim or necessity. She truly lived in an empty mansion in her mind, though she spent little physical time in any of her homes.

Huguette Clark and Family Trivia

W.A. Clark, Huguette's father, was the owner of and responsible for the original selling of the lots that made up the beginning of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Clark owned a railroad, which he financed from his own pocket without help from others.

The family was booked to sail from New York to France for vacation in April of 1912, but the ship never made it to New York, because it hit an iceberg and sank. It was the ill-fated Titanic.

A large part of her doll collection were the exclusive Hina dolls from Japan. She also had custom made dollhouses, by a master craftsman in Japan. These collections were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can read more about Huguette Clark, Howard Hughes and other people who withdrew from the world at Mystery in the History

Disclosure: This review was written by this author from her own reading of the book Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. The book is available for purchase here and this author receives a commission if the book is bought from this page.