Brooke Astor Story Continues — Juror In Marshall Trial Alleges Threat From Fellow Juror; Astor's Country Estate Unsold At $10.5 M

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21:  Anthony Marshall (C),...
Anthony Marshall, Astor's son. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The trial of Anthony Marshall, only son of philanthropist Brooke Astor, who died in August 2007, is under question after a juror on the case has said she was frightened into her decision.

The 19-week trial, which produced 18,000 pages of documents and pulled into the courtroom such social luminaries as Annette de la Renta, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger, left Marshall, age 85, convicted of defrauding his mother and sentenced in December 2009 to up to three years in prison.

Meryl Gordon, a colleague of mine, covered the drama for Vanity Fair; she is the author of an Astor biography.

Wrote The New York Times:

That evil pours forth in “Mrs. Astor Regrets,” Meryl Gordon’s painstakingly detailed narrative of the events leading to the indictment of Anthony Marshall. Gordon seems to have left no diary unread, no servant unsolicited, no socialite unturned. Her stamina is remarkable. Within the first few pages, she quotes Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters, both Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Louis Auchincloss, Philippe de Montebello, Vartan Gregorian and Annette de la Renta. If the tabloids are your morning cup of tea, this is your book. Gordon takes us into a world of refined sensibilities: “We had a rule that on walks you could not talk about any subject, only people,” Henry Kissinger says, describing the fun of Christmas holidays at the de la Rentas’ luxurious home in the Dominican Republic. “You could not say a good word about anybody. Brooke lived up to it.”

Astor’s country estate, a 10-bedroom stone mansion built in 1927, remains on the market, priced at $10.5 million, but not an easy property to show in a down market as all her belongings have been removed for sale at auction.

The 64-acre property is considered one of the best parcels left in Westchester county, 25 miles north of Manhattan. It is not, by far, the most expensive on our local market these days — with competing properties priced at $$20,000,000 or more.

That's Why They Call It Conde Nasty — New Hotline Helps Colleagues Drop A Dime On Each Other

US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour (2ndL) a...
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, in green.Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

That’s my kind of corporation! Rat out your colleagues, courtesy of an in-house hotline. Reports the New York Post:

Insiders got a memo yesterday from Chief Financial Officer John Bellando, revealing that the company set up the hotline to stop the “release of proprietary information, accounting/audit irregularities, falsification of company records, theft of goods/services/cash,” and even “unauthorized discounts/payoffs.”

This could put a damper on some of the perks inside S.I. Newhouse Jr.‘s empire.

Last fall a hacker broke into Condé’s system and stole early copies of GQ, Vogue and other magazines, which were posted online.

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Yesterday’s move seemed to put the brakes on CEO Charles Townsend‘s happiness campaign. Trying to boost morale after 2009’s turmoil and layoffs, he recently did a coast-to-coast tour to give a corporate pep talk and encourage staffers to “get their mojo back.”

Conde Nast, named for the man who founded the publishing empire in 1909 by acquiring Vogue, is legendary in Manhattan publishing circles for its elite worldview. The 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada”, starring Meryl Streep, is said to be based on Anna Wintour, long-time Vogue editor.

I interviewed at Conde Nast a few times, but never got hired there. It’s a great place to have on your resume, but maybe — now — not such a cosy place to crank out copy.

My Con Man Wasn't Madoff — But Just As Ruthless And Deceptive

Jail cell in the Brecksville Police Department...
Where he belonged, but didn't end up...Image via Wikipedia

I left the first Madoff auction feeling shaken. The day was long and tiring, with packs of aggressive reporters everywhere competing for this major story. But that’s not why I felt a little ill.

Thinking all day about a man who deceived so many out of so much resonated because, ten years ago, I also became the victim of a con man. Dozens of other women in many states across the country have also become his fiscal and psychic feeding grounds, but I never knew them personally, only heard about them or read of them — later — in press accounts of our stories. Alone, we nurse(d) our wounds.

He was less skilled and sophisticated than Madoff, but no less vicious. He, too, had his moments of fame — appearing on “American Journal”, a television tabloid show, and on the front pages of Chicago newspapers; he had bilked many locals by posing as a physician, with a fake business card trumpeting his imaginary but clearly impressive credentials. Anyone who knew anything about medicine would have known at once he was a fraud. But he looked and sounded like someone successful and accomplished, and that was enough to persuade women to agree to marry him after a few dates, even to get a local car dealer to send over a sports car “on approval.”

The world is divided into two: those who have never become a victim of crime, and those of us who have.

That my local police and district attorney laughed at me and dismissed my case only cemented my isolation. A sociopath doesn’t always sound like the brutal thug s/he is. He may dress well, sport the reassuringly upscale trappings of wealth, (paid for by his victims),  and speak intelligently and persuasively to people with great power and wealth. Only after his carefully-laid trap has shattered your leg bone do you truly, viscerally understand what it feels like to be the victim of a predator for whom victim selection is normal behavior. Business as usual.

Con men succeed in their goals by winning our confidence. They behave with confidence, radiating energy, certainty, success. They are deeply, powerfully seductive in this respect.

We met when I answered his personals ad in a local weekly paper. “Honesty and integrity paramount,” his ad said. Indeed. Our four months together became a deeply disorienting, eventually frightening maze of  his relentless and complex deceptions and increasingly bizarre behavior.

At first, of course, he was charming, good-looking, funny and fun. He was, in fact, very good company. Until he wasn’t. Continue reading “My Con Man Wasn't Madoff — But Just As Ruthless And Deceptive”