BLUE BLOOD by Craig Unger


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Yet another account of the bleak lot of the super-rich--in this case, the decades-long public tantrum of dance patron Rebekah Harkness. Born in 1915 in St. Louis, Betty West was unremarkable--wealthy enough, pretty enough, wild in a charmless post-adolescent way. Her fortunes soared at age 30, though, when she met and married Standard Oil heir Bill Harkness. Bill not only brought bulging moneybags, he was also a loving father to the kids (two of hers, one of theirs). But he died young. Betty upgraded her name to Rebekah, started pursuing people in the arts, and tried to write ""semi-classical"" music. She also began giving money to dance, and took rising-star Robert Joffrey and his entire company under her wing. The Joffrey got raves, but trouble threatened when Rebakah wanted more control. Eventually she and Joffrey broke bitterly. The dance world stayed loyal to Joffrey, but only Rebekah had the money to offer his dancers jobs. As the new Harkness Ballet staggered under a string of artistic directors, Rebekah indulged in spoiled-heiress shenanigans--dyeing a cat green, filling a fishtank with Scotch to perk up the fish, etc. One daughter tried suicide, and her son was jailed for second-degree murder. Her last days were spent drinking, taking drugs and vitamins, and writing and rewriting her will. Journalist Unger has clearly done his legwork--the account is larded with the opinions and voices of a cast of hundreds. But while there is drama to her story--Harkness' mega-millions could buy her almost anyone, but not the musical talent she craved--Unger concentrates on the eccentric incidents, the fawning sycophants, and the pathetic excess. A small feast for those who like their gossip doused in vinegar.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow