Palm Beach is a headline always waiting to happen.
One small Southern county, brazen enough to throw off a national election, Palm Beach curtsied from debutante to a diamond-edged dart-board with fate for a bulls-eye.
Palm Beach proper, or improper to those who know her intimately, spread her scandalous, tropical wings into Palm Beach County to let the world know what Palm Beach was all about: a don't f... -with- me- hurricane of money, power, good old boys and nouveau arrivistes, waiting to let out a buck and a roar. A little jail time here, a little polygamy there, no one really cared, as long as you spelled his name right.
Palm Beach made her social debut as the winter home of Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon who set his tracks on Florida. He was unstoppable, and so were his tropical investments.
The Breakers Hotel, a Flagler get-a-way, inspired by a famous Italian Renaissance Palace, with an aura that ghosts were there from the get go, burned to the ground more than once, only to be resurrected again and again into a five-star rated hotel for the rich and famous. Palm Beach didn't elect defeat as an option.
The "season," as first inaugurated by the Flaglers and an elite group of their friends, was a few short weeks in January.
Palm Beach was too much fun, too much dazzle, to remain a well kept secret for long: a pedigreed adolescent well-groomed beauty, waiting to strip down and dirty.
Soon, her season stretched from a few winter weeks into a few wild months, with parties, philanthropy, and one stunner of a scandal after another on her agenda.
Country clubs with boldly unwritten but hardly invisible exclusionary membership and guest rules made it callously clear who needn't apply.
The excluded formed their own club, and welcomed JFK as a member.
Palm Beach was too seductive to remain a trite safe haven chained by the artifice of clubhouse rules.
She attracted it all: Forbes Four Hundreds, international royalty, rockers: John Lennon, Rod Stewart and the Boss; the outspoken in Rush Limbaugh and F. Lee Bailey; social climbers and those who didn't need to climb; heirs and heiresses and a more than the legal limit of wannabes.
When Marjorie Merriweather Post's ornately historical home Mar-a-Lago proved to be way too pricey to be kept up by her foundation, Donald Trump came to the rescue, turning Mar-a-Lago into a private club for members with enough cold, hard cash to get past the gates. The Old Guard was predictably appalled.
In "season" Palm Beach was money incarnated: a constant flow of Rolls Royces, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, yachts and caviar, and deal makers toasting how good life had gotten. Land value skyrocketed, and expanded north into to terrain once designated for sugar and not a whole lot of spice.
Off-season, palm leaves blew into vacated pools, while their owners wetted their summer appetites in Southampton, Monte Carlos or wherever the jet set flew in flocks.