A first balcony review of the career of the impresario -- generally easy-going and unrushed. The author does mention and include a few anecdotes about the major Ziegfeld stars and proteges, productions, and staffs but he resists the temptation to crowd too much impedimenta together at one time. Instead Higham concentrates on the upward, then zigzag course of the abrasive, exploitative, cruel, daring, shrewd, brilliant genius of American showmanship. He touches briefly on Ziegfeld's Chicago childhood (""austere family discipline"" and material luxury) and that Chicago Exposition bridge to fame via the promotion of Sandow the Strong Man who, in nothing but silken shorts, lifted pianos. But the Ziegfeld mystique shimmered into being with the ""discovery"" of sexy, provoking Anna Held, whose affair with Ziegfeld ended, it is claimed here, when he forced her to have an abortion. After that come the Names -- the gifts, girls, girls, the musicians, the comedians -- then the miraculous sets and stagings, extravagant promotions and the scandals. There are also accounts of Ziegfeld's later love affairs and orgies, his marriage to Billie Burke (the poor Good Witch ""spent nights crying or screaming at friends"" after rumors of the most recent sexual excesses). Higham diagnoses his subject's negative drives as an abnormal fear of death, sickness and impotence, and offers some startling evidence. A showboat of Ziegfeldania with plenty of dirt on the paddlewheel.