"THE COVETOUS man is always in want," said the ancient Roman poet, Horace.
•A GREAT big book plopped down on my desk last week. It's titled The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty. The author is J. Randy Taraborrelli. Randy has written up almost every famous person and family that has ever existed. Many of these books have been bestsellers. He is so prolific, I am always reminded of a sausage factory; he just keeps grinding them out.
Some have been very good (his Diana Ross bio.) Others (Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe) less so. But all of them achieve a top spot on the bestseller list, at least briefly, and many have been made into TV movies. His formula for success can't be faulted.
I don't know the fate of The Hiltons. I found it a difficult read. Hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, the focus of the book, just didn't seem terribly interesting, at least not after 400 pages. And Taraborrelli's style varies; when he is interested in his subjects, his work is fine. When he's not, the reader can lose interest.
However, The Hiltons is considerably enlivened by an unrelentingly savage portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor, who married Conrad Hilton in 1942, divorced him not long after, and then gave birth to a daughter, Francescsa, quite a while past their parting. She claimed the child was the issue of one rare night of passion between a former husband and wife.
Hilton himself always doubted Francesca's paternity, but was kind to her, referred to her as his daughter, and because of her, was obliged to maintain a relationship with Zsa Zsa, whom he clearly disliked. (He was an odd man in some ways, and quite religious, but Zsa Zsa would have tested the patience of a saint.) He left Francesca $100,000 in his will, a very large sum at the time. (Most of his money went to charity.) She contested the will, lost and in losing forfeited the $100,000, too.
I don't think the author intended to paint Gabor in such a light, but in tale after tale, interview after interview by those who knew her when, a portrait emerges of a shallow, often mean, cash-fixated person. It's entertaining, in a grisly way.
The big laughs come when author Taraborrelli refers to Gabor as "a woman of distinction." Even more hilarious: "Television now provided her with great exposure, since the impressive movie career she had carved out in the 1950s did not continue through the new decade."
Zsa Zsa had small colorful roles in Moulin Rouge and the musical Lili. Her greatest contribution to cinema was Queen of Outer Space. In that one she plays -- get ready -- a scientist on the planet Venus. Her big line is, "I hate her, I hate that qveen!"
In comparison, the tales of Conrad's life sans Zsa Zsa and those of his children, Nicky, Barron and Eric, don't catch fire. Well, there are some juicy tidbits of Nicky and Elizabeth Taylor, during their brief ill-fated marriage. Taylor, a teenager, comes off impossibly spoiled and absolutely desperate for sex (still a virgin) and equally desperate to get away from her parents at all costs. Nicky hated the furor that always surrounded her -- "I didn't marry a girl, I married an institution!" He became abusive.
But Elizabeth didn't hold a grudge. Many years after their divorce, she agreed to have their marriage annulled, so Nicky could remarry in the Catholic faith. He died before all that could be set in place.
But as for Gabor, she is pretty well summed up with this remark: "Understanding a woman like Zsa Zsa is like baking a cake from scratch. It's very messy!"
And might I add, not terribly appetizing.
P.S. Paris Hilton, is given some space toward the end of the book, but Randy is merciful and her pages are brief. Well, Miss Hilton's "celebrity" has been supplanted by the Kardashians and other reality TV stars. The paparazzi no longer sing, "I love Paris!"
•AFTER TOURING the world triumphantly for the past two years, you'd think Michael Buble might want (and need!) a rest. But in for a pound in for a penny, and Michael has added 13 U.S. shows to end his global domination.
The first concerts kick off July 7 and 8 at The Garden in NYC. He'll also hit, among other spots: Connecticut...Michigan...Tulsa...Oklahoma City and
that Texas oasis of civilization, Austin.
Also, a deluxe version of Buble's To Be Loved CD will be released at the end of this month.
•Here's a little item of real estate at least where New York is concerned. There is a fierce battle going on between foreign buyers and the 1 percent that meet with them and the people below them who get the fall-out.
My buying-selling friends say: "We have never seen anything like this -- the current frantic
buying by the Chinese and still a few other foreigners with money to burn. They are loaded down with so much cash that you just know they want to get rid of it, so as to have something else in the way of reality when the boom busts. They are begging people to take
their cash and give them something tangible in real estate in exchange...One realtor friend says there is actually very little for sale. . It is certainly a seller's market. And now is the moment to cash in if you own anything to offer.
I hope these buying Chinese don't know something we don't know.