Quick, class: What’s the “most wealthy, glamorous, opulent, decadent, self-indulgent, sinful spot on earth”? In which American city can you put your dead husband’s body on ice for 40 days — literally — because you “want to party at Mar-a-Lago” and a funeral would only spoil the fun? On what “3.75-square-
“It’s Palm Beach, darling,” says a resident of that preposterous pile of egotism, money, social pretension and silicone boobs. “That’s what it is. You move into a big house, you drive an expensive car and everybody accepts what you’re saying without asking, ‘Isn’t this a little bit strange?’”
“Grotesque” might be a better word to describe the denizens of the world’s most pompous resort. Not even the Grimaldis’ Monaco can rival Florida’s gilded swamp for sheer parading and enslavement to appearances. The comparison is relative, of course: Monaco is still a police state, but Palm Beachers are no longer allowed to fingerprint the servants. “It was a nice feature of living in a town like Palm Beach,” says the city’s mayor, the son of a Romanov grand duke.
Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post investigative reporter and the bestselling author of “Inside the White House” and “Inside the CIA,” now kneels to billionaires, dowagers, bimbos, “escorts” and lounge lizards in “The Season: Inside Palm Beach and America’s Richest Society.” Kneels to them and gives them “a Lewinsky,” as the saying goes. Despite its hype as “a powerful, seamless, juicy narrative that no novelist could dream up,” Kessler’s chronicle of so many leather-skinned paranoids on South Ocean Drive is the work of an overpaid lapdog. Someone should tell him the truth: No novelist would want to dream it up. A book about the private lives of alligators would be more interesting and make the same point in less time.
Granted, Kessler had some problems gaining access to “the beautiful people” in “plastic-surgery central,” as one of his four main sources, “the night manager of Ta-Bos, Palm Beach’s trendiest and most successful restaurant and bar,” describes the moral vacuum he calls home. As a Jew, Kessler was automatically under suspicion in a famous nest of WASPs. As a reporter, he labored under the restrictions that apply to any journalist who has to suck up to his subject — that is, he got his information in exchange for allegiance to the status quo. “Palm Beachers pretend to be above it all,” Kessler writes, “but I found they thrive on the latest gossip, making for lively dinner-party conversation or late-night prattle over scrambled eggs and truffles.” You can learn more about the place just by stepping over into West Palm Beach, where the workers and wannabes live.
Like all celebrity exposis, “The Season” promises vastly more than it delivers. Can anyone really care that Roxanne Pulitzer regards her drug-drenched, threesome-riddled existence as “more normal” than the lives of most people she knows? Are you surprised to discover that money rules everything in Palm Beach and that “Roman orgies” abound? That “most Palm Beach women go bare-legged,” eschewing pantyhose “even with formal ball gowns”? That William Kennedy Smith was acquitted on rape charges? That Barton Gubelmann, the purportedly reluctant “queen” of Palm Beach’s Old Guard society, thinks “every single man around here is a gigolo”? That most of the gigolos and escorts are gay? Can you believe it?
In Kessler’s nest of mummies, vipers, babes and moneybags, only one person emerges as a hero: Donald Trump, who bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985 and stunned the Old Guard by turning it into a country club that accepts anyone as a member — Jews, blacks, you name it — anyone, of course, who happens to have buckets of cash. Kessler seems to approve of this move, but it’s as close as he comes to a democratic impulse. All 336 pages of “The Season” are tainted by his wide-eyed wonder at the glamour of it all. The fun comes in watching the Trumpster rile a crowd that ought to be first in line for the tumbrels, should such a glorious moment ever return.
More Related Stories
- Beer and loathing at the Preakness Stakes
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11