"PALM BEACH BABYLON: Sins, Scams and Scandals" by Murray & Bill Hoffmann Weiss

"PALM BEACH BABYLON: Sins, Scams and Scandals"

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A century's worth of crimes, sex scandals, and other foibles of the idle rich, rewarmed by two New York Post reporters who covered the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. Henry Flagler created Palm Beach in the 1890's by erecting a luxury hotel and building a railroad to import wealthy northerners. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies arrived; fancy parties (including drag balls) became the town obsession; and the ocean-front community grew famous as a destination of choice for the nation's rich. Scandal--from the dalliances of Isadora Duncan to the Smith rape trial--followed. Weiss and Hoffman chronicle every whisper of controversy about the famous names--the Kennedys, John Lennon, the Trumps, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, Roxanne Pulitzer. And there's lots of unpleasantness about less famous residents as well: the bored wife who cruised local high schools for sex partners; the drunken heirs; the married couples whose spats turned violent. The government of Palm Beach also doesn't escape scrutiny: For years, domestic workers were required to carry identification cards. The focus throughout is on salacious dirt: a chapter on JFK is justified by the fact that he spent time in Palm Beach, but the authors take the opportunity to reprint nearly every rumor about his sexual escapades. Weiss and Hoffmann have chosen to go for exhaustive detail rather than originality or unimpeachable sources (books like C. David Heymann's A Woman Named Jackie are cited). An overdose of unabashed sensationalism, then, that will ultimately turn off all but the moat avidly celebrity-hungry ambulance-chasers.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1992
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol