Palm Beach

Llewellyn King: The sad age, health and realty obsessions of the narcissistic mega rich

Take a moment, if you would, to pity the derided billionaire class. I have been watching them with keen interest on television. And based on my viewing, I can tell you that life at the top is miserable, boring and fraught.

One program features private islands, where the unimaginably rich get away from it all. But part of what the unimaginably rich get away from is the unimaginable loneliness of being stuck in unimaginable isolation. When the hideaway-from-it-all has been furnished in unimaginable opulence, the favored one is off to another home in so-close-to-it-all New York, London, Palm Beach or Aspen. Anywhere you can while away the day with a Bloomberg Terminal.

Why, you ask, do those who want to get away from it all and protect their privacy favor their New York residences over their other five homes? Call it Greta Garbo Syndrome. “I want to be left alone,” she said. Had she not heard of Nebraska?

From this you can deduce that those who are rich beyond counting, but count anyway, do not want to be left alone at all. They long for control — and you do not control much staring at your Impressionist masterpieces on your private island in the Bahamas.

Apparently, the super ridiculously rich yearn to entertain. One television program on buying mega-yachts reveals all. The purchasers are prepared to plunk down around $70 million for what they seem to think is a floating hotel suite. They do not want to know about the yacht’s seaworthiness, crew requirement, propulsion, fuel consumption and range. No, they want to know how much closet space there is in the master stateroom (For what on a boat? Presumably, haute couture gowns and bespoke suits, and handmade deck shoes.)

And they want to know much deck space there is to entertain. Maybe they’re not planning to leave the dock in Ft. Lauderdale, Martha’s Vineyard, or wherever. A mega yacht is not for ocean voyaging. The captain will take the watery penthouse to Monaco or Bali. You will go in the private jet.

Friends, it appears, are a particular problem for those beyond the dreams of avarice. Ever since Lady Astor and her famous dining room that seated 400, it will not do to have fewer than 400 friends. But they have to be the right friends: people famous in the arts or the very top of the media, like Charlie Rose. I hear he is on every list. Ordinary people will not do. If you are rich enough, people will always want to be your friend. Ask Donald Trump.

One billionaire babe told me, “I only lunch with,” and she named another billionaire babe, “Everyone else just wants money.” How perceptive from someone who inherited a great fortune. We assume she is not parting with any of it — especially to some lunch supplicant.

No, the places where the ungodly rich load up on friends is at charity balls. “Darling, we’ve just snapped up a charming little place in the Hamptons. You must copter out.” Translation: Don’t you dare show your face, but tell everyone else about our 16-bedroom, 20-bathroom, beachfront monument to vulgarity.

If you have it all, you want to keep it always. You are obsessed with age. Age means health must come first. Those who have not in their luxurious boredom fallen prey to drugs and booze are in the thralls of life-extension through diet and exercise.

Once in a café on the main street in Aspen, I watched a famous and indecently rich and thin matron inquire of the server, “Are your muffins sweetened with apple juice or sugar?”

“Apple juice, ma’am,” the young man responded.

“I will take one,” she said.

When she left the café, I asked how the young man knew about the muffin’s sweetener.

“I don’t,” he said. “But I know what she wants to hear.”

Trickery is another burden on the ultra rich.

Llewellyn King is a  Rhode Island- and Washington, D.C.-based publisher, columnist and executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS (and a friend of New England Diary's overseer). This column first ran on InsideSources.



Trump movie: A fun slide down America's decline

We got so much reaction to the press release sent us by the producer of Trump: What's the Deal? that we're republishing it here. Links to the trailer and the movie are below. You can see the whole movie for free. The trailer is very funny-- and of course fast-paced. Listening to the utterly unique voice of Peter Foges, the narrator, is quite an experience.

The movie is an often hilarious and often enraging look at  crony capitalism, runaway narcissism and materialism, much of it within a time capsule of '80s kitsch.

American civic life has been heading  ever deeper into the sewer, but it's sometimes a fun ride.



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Trump: What’s the Deal? is an investigative documentary that was completed in 1991 --- but has never been seen by the national audience it was made for.  Trump took great pains to suppress the film, threatening networks, distributors, and the filmmakers.

Producer Libby Handros says: “Now that Trump is running for president, it’s time for the American people to meet the real Donald and learn how he does business. The old Trump and the new Trump? They're the same Trump.”

“While much has been written on Donald, few know how he built his business,” she explains. “This documentary, which we made at great personal cost over three years, is filled with vivid and dramatic commentary by Trump insiders and prominent outside observers, who expose how he operated as he rose to national prominence.”


Trump has claimed to be a self-made billionaire. That’s the first myth this documentary punctures. Trump used his father's money and government connections in addition to taxpayer largesse to begin his empire.

“Donald is neither self-made nor anything like a true small-government conservative,” Handros says. “His father made huge profits off Federal Housing Authority loans, and with the help of his father’s friends in government, Donald used the same techniques to build what fortune he actually has.”


“We also launched one of the first investigations into Trump’s finances to reveal that he did not have nearly as much money as he says he did—a pattern of deception and aggrandizement that continues to this day,” Handros says. “Of all the damaging things we uncovered about Trump, that’s definitely the one that upsets him the most and led to him going after our film so hard.”


  • Trump’s mob-connected contractor used illegal immigrant labor, provided with no safety equipment, to demolish the building that stood in the way of Trump’s first signature building: Trump Tower.
  • Trump hired a company that specialized in psychological attacks and blackmail to move tenants out of a building he wanted demolished.
  • Trump was a major factor in the implosion of the United States Football League, and made a failed bid to “buy” Mike Tyson.
  • Trump was in bed with the Mafia to buy the land for his first casino, Trump Plaza; he had ongoing associations with known mob figures and drug dealers in Atlantic City.
  • Trump’s compulsion, then and now, to verbally abuse his wife and other family members as well as his colleagues and employees.
  • Trump bad-mouthed three top executives of his Atlantic City casinos after their death in a company helicopter crash, blaming them for the near collapse of his empire.
  • Trump’s manipulation and lying to the press… and their complicity in making him the force he is today.
  • Trump’s long battle to move the airport farther away from his mansion in Palm Beach.

And much, much more…

The film was a production of The Deadline Company and produced by Al Levin, an award-winning documentary film producer, (now deceased) and Libby Handros. When the film’s executive producer Ned Schnurman passed away, Handros inherited the piece.

Trump: What’s the Deal? was recently called “an unforgettable investigation into the mating of commerce, corruption and celebrity in America's latest Gilded Age. It explodes the Trump mythology and his presidential campaign with it.’’

To watch the trailer:

To watch the film: