Lively, intelligently rendered account of a largely forgotten 1920s tabloid scandal.
In gilded, pre-Depression New York City, real-estate tycoon and man about town Edward “Daddy” Browning courted and married “Peaches” Heenan, a 15-year-old aspiring flapper less than one-third his age. Debut author Greenburg zestfully recounts the sordid story of conspicuous consumption, outlandish antics for the benefit of a voracious press corps and—hardly ten months after the marriage—a divorce trial that challenged prevailing standards of decency. Neither wife nor husband emerges unscathed in his telling, and certainly not the yellow journalists who lapped up the scandal and dished it out to a titillated public in real time. Most of the book revolves around Daddy, a man whose eye for real estate helped shape the New York City skyline. His desperate need for publicity, however, bordered on the pathological, and his interest in young women cast even his charitable acts under a cloud of suspicion. Newly concerned with the social well-being of children, authorities attempted to thwart his 1926 marriage to Peaches and to take away the daughter adopted during a previous marriage. Peaches was no innocent victim. She gained Daddy’s sympathy with self-inflicted scars and walked off with his money the moment she was able. Greenburg’s blow-by-blow narrative, set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties’ changing sexual mores, makes for riveting reading, especially since the author enriches it by ably recounting the parallel story of the rise of tabloid journalism.
In a world continually shocked—and feigning disgust—by the doings of Britney and Paris, Peaches & Daddy provides a strange but certain comfort.