I remember when I first stumbled across the initial reporting from NBC News’ investigative reporter Bill Dedman. He revealed a fascinating insight into an heiress to one of Montana’s most legendary, and reviled, families: the Clark family and the Copper Kings of Butte.
What happened to all of this wealth? Well, now Dedman has written a book based on his reporting. The book, “Empty Mansions,” will be out soon. In the meantime, The Daily Show, The New York Times, and NBC’s Today show will all be featuring the book.
Coming up on Tuesday, ahead of his Daily Show appearance, we’ll chat with Dedman on our statewide radio talk show Voices of Montana.
Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times review of “Empty Mansions:”
Mr. Dedman had stumbled onto an amazing story of profligate wealth, one so wild that “American aspiration” doesn’t begin to describe its excesses. Ms. Clark was not dead at all, but she did not live in any of her immense dwellings, which included an estate atop a mesa in Santa Barbara, Calif., and three apartments, totaling more than 40 rooms, in a grand Fifth Avenue building. At 103, and in need of not much more medication than vitamin pills, she had long ago sequestered herself in a hospital room and had not been to any of her homes in more than 20 years. “Empty Mansions” is the self-explanatory title of the Huguette Clark story.
This book credits Paul Clark Newell Jr., a cousin to Ms. Clark, as its co-author. Unlike many other Clark family members, he knew Huguette, who died in 2011 at 104, well enough to receive occasional phone calls from her, though she was too wily to give him her number. She was polite, lucid and even chatty, all of which undermine the idea that she was a crazy recluse living in miserable isolation. Far from it: her favorite late-18th-century French fable described the benefits of living unobtrusively as a cricket, rather than glamorously as a butterfly. She seems simply to have preferred to live quietly in tightly controlled surroundings, after spending her childhood and young adulthood as a jewel-bedecked heiress to a vast copper fortune.
The authors invoke “To Kill a Mockingbird”: they call her “a modern-day ‘Boo’ Radley, shut up inside by choice, safe from a world that can hurt.”
FULL EMAIL FROM BILL DEDMAN (USED WITH PERMISSION)
Here’s a link to the review in today’s New York Times by Janet Maslin. She calls “Empty Mansions” “an amazing story of profligate wealth, one so wild that ‘American aspiration’ doesn’t begin to describe its excesses.” “an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.”
a. “Empty Mansions” will be published on Tuesday, Sept. 10, in hardcover, electronic book, and audiobook. You’ll hear a surprising voice on the audiobook.
c. I’ll be on the Daily Show on Comedy Central on Tuesday night, Sept. 10.
d. The Today Show plans a segment during the same week.
e. The book is touted in the September issues of Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, and DuJour.
f. The jury trial to determine who wins Huguette Clark’s $300 million fortune is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 17, at 2 p.m., in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan. Settlement talks seem to be going poorly, and the attorneys say they’re preparing for trial.
— Sept. 19, Litchfield, Connecticut, public library
— Sept. 23, the Half King reading series, 505 W. 23rd St., New York.
— Sept. 28, Ventfort Hall, the Gilded Age museum, Lenox, Massachusetts
— Oct. 2, Westport, Connecticut, public library
— Oct. 6, Santa Barbara, California, Historical Museum
— Oct. 7, Santa Barbara, California, Historical Museum
— Oct. 11, Montana Festival of the Book, Missoula
— Oct. 12, Butte, Montana, two events
— Oct. 15, New Canaan, Connecticut, public library
TBD in November, Las Vegas, Nevada State Museum
TBD in November, Los Angeles, Clark Library, UCLA