This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!
Last weekend Kevin and I went to see the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” which is the story of David and Jackie Siegel. David, a self-made billionaire in his 70’s is married to Jackie, a former model who is much younger than he is. She would most probably be described as a “trophy-wife” as it is his third marriage.
Versailles is a house that they were building in Orlando, Florida that is modeled on the palace in France. It was to be a 90,000 square foot monstrosity (in my opinion), which would feature 30 bathrooms, ten kitchens and even such accouterments as an ice rink and a stage for their kids to perform on. Oh, by the way, they have 8 of them, kids that is.
David made his money in time-shares and the bubble burst in the middle of filming. While the couple was once on top you see their downfall in vivid detail. It is one of the most fundamentally disturbing films I’ve seen.
It is upsetting on virtually every level:
On a business level it’s upsetting how unregulated the real estate industry was so that everything could be leveraged on everything else. Essentially, the entire empire was a house of cards. Once the bubble burst on real estate, the business model began to crumble. David blamed the entire thing on the “cheap borrowing” and easy money. There was absolutely no personal accountability, a situation I feel that is all too common in the United States.
On a parenting level it’s unbelievable to see such disconnect on how to properly raise kids. When the fortunes were falling Jackie said, “Now the kids will have to go to college to learn how to make a living” when you would think that with that level of money education would be paramount. It was almost like education was now a punishment where before they were being raised to being dilettantes or something.
Jackie was also taped saying that “she never would have had all these kids if she had known she wouldn’t have had nannies to help” which is a level of irresponsibility that to me, is unheard of.
As their fortune dwindles, gone are the 5 nannies, the housekeepers, the private jets and you see just what happens when people have no culpability or accountability. Dogs who roam the house and were never trained, pee and poop everywhere. Children actually step in it without bothering to even clean it up. Pets start dying because there is nobody to take care of them. Without the numerous servants to organize the household, it is chaotic.
The complete disconnect from reality is mesmerizing in the way that people have to watch a train wreck; you almost can’t help yourself.
The first time that the kids flew on a commercial jet they wondered why there were other people around? When they landed and went to rent a car Jackie asked, “where the driver was?” I was both appalled and in awe that sheer ignorance like this could exist.
Is it true that people can live in such a manufactured life that they have no sense of reality? When things started going downhill why did the family not sit down and talk about what to do? This film showed everything wrong with America in my opinion. People make money and spend, spend, spend like there’s no tomorrow. People buy things just to accumulate. Jackie had hundreds of pairs of clothes.
They had exotic pets like a tiger and white peacocks. They had a python, lizards and 4 dogs. No excess was too much. When the building project ground to a halt, the film showed a building full of incredibly tacky, yet incredibly expensive, decorations that had been collected for the house. It was simply shocking. Not only because it was in such poor taste (Nouveau Riche doesn’t even begin to describe it) but also because it was so over the top in excess.
But possibly the most disturbing thing about the film was the way the Siegel’s made their money. They simply showed people who could ill-afford it what it would be like to life a rich life-style. They then convinced them that if they could just buy into that dream for as little as a few thousand dollars that they would be helping their family and their life and their future.
The film then showed these couples, referred to as “mooches”, coming out of the sales meeting looking shell shocked as they most probably were. After all, they attended the time-share pitch just to get free tickets to a show and walked out heavily in debt to the “great American Dream.”
It was like watching a con on innocent victims and was deeply upsetting. I know this post is incredibly discombobulated and disjointed. Kevin and I spent hours last night discussing the movie and yet, I have a difficult time putting my thoughts into words.
Was this a great movie? No
Was this a disturbing movie? Yes
Do I think everyone should see this movie? Absolutely
Why? Because it makes you examine yourself, the people around you, Americans and what their goals are as well as the basic reality of an unregulated society and the great “American dream.” The financial system needs to be more regulated and watching this film just really brings it home.
The biggest thing I would say after watching this movie is that if you think something is “too good to be true” than it probably is. More often than not, when you just keep going and going and assume the good times will never end; you end up in quite a mess. If you don’t believe me, just watch this film.