Monday, February 25, 2013

The Queen of Versailles - Binghamton Style

To every city comes its 15 minutes (or more) of fame.  We here in Binghamton, New York may be about to get ours.

Someone I know was sent a DVD by her daughter.  It was a DVD of a documentary movie called "The Queen of Versailles".  It co-starred a woman by the name of Jackie Siegel.  Married to a timeshare billionaire, David Siegel, this documentary started out with the purpose of filming the building of what was intended to be the largest house in the United States - their house - in Florida.  It was to have been modeled after the Palace at Versailles.

Quoting from the Internet Movie Database:

"Rather than going the been-there-done-that route of a rags to riches story, director Lauren Greenfield accidentally (yet exquisitely) delivers a riches to rags tale with the intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel. As the president and CEO of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, David is the epitome of the American dream...While the film's initial purpose was to document the development of their 90,000 sq. ft. home (the third largest in the United States), once the financial crisis of 2008 impacted banks globally, David soon finds his entire empire in jeopardy."


In fact, things went so sour that David Siegel decided to sue the filmmaker.  Last month, he lost. 

If you want, you - yes, you!- can purchase the house.  It is on sale for a mere $65,000,000. - a steal, if you ask me.  After all, it has 13 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms. (But wait!  All full bathrooms have jacuzzis).  Let's not forget the rock grotto with the 3 spas, the indoor roller rink or the "family wing" for the Siegels' eight children.  Recently, construction started again - until recently the house was about 1/3 uncompleted, with the price tag of completion estimated at $30,000,000.

So, what does this have to do with Binghamton, a city of about 47,000. in upstate New York, once famously called by a newspaper "a burnt out industrial town". (Sadly, there is a lot of truth to that.)

Well, Jackie Siegel is a native of Binghamton.  This 47 year old woman grew up in the middle class, still has childhood friends here, and graduated from RIT (the Rochester Institute of Technology), which one of my cousins went to. 

In interviews, people who knew Jackie as a young adult remarked on her beauty.  As far as whether that beauty is only skin deep you, my readers, will have to determine for yourself.

What do I think?  I think Jackie lost track of her roots long ago.  I don't feel for her.  I do feel - a lot - for her children.  I don't think that wealth equals happiness, and I hope her children do find happiness in their adult lives.  Am I jealous of her and her wealth?  Well, I could wish I didn't live in a neighborhood impacted by major flooding in 2011, but, in truth, I would not trade places with her.  Ever.

Did a celebrity come from where you were born or live now?


11 comments:

  1. I can’t believe still that people, even very rich, would need to build such a large house – how totally selfish and self centered.

    You ask if a celebrity was born from where I come from or live now. Well, to tell the truth I bet there are too many celebrities from the city where I grew up since it is the capital of France, Paris. Now – I live on a road, just up from a Civil War Battlefield, it is called Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park – I pass it daily and have for decades. There are trails around it, cannons, etc. I have written several posts on it. A great Civil War battle was fought there where thousands died. My town also has a museum where they house an old locomotive that is called “The General” which was involved in a great chase in 1862. It is right downtown. You can read about it here: http://www.southernmuseum.org/ .

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    1. How interesting - because I blogged about The General - actually, Buster Keaton and the movie - just a couple of weeks ago. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is on my list of Civil War places to visit although I probably won't be able to do it this year. I will be visiting your blog soon!

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  2. Sad huh, how people who succeed so conspicuously forget the things that TRULY MATTER...

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    1. Indeed. If they ever make a movie about me (doubtful), I hope my one regret won't be that I didn't wear enough makeup.

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  3. Too bad it wasn't finished. Then, we could buy it on foreclosure and house a ton of the homeless in one location...

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    1. Sounds like a good use for it, Roy. With all those bathrooms, (I also think there are 10 kitchens) it would be a perfect residence for homeless families.

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  4. This was an awesome post, Alana! Steve Buscemi was a few years behind me at my high school. I didn't know him, but I haven't heard he has turned into a jerk. Kelly Ripa comes from the next town over from where I live now, and she and her family have given back a tremendous amount to the community. Not everyone forgets their roots!!!

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    1. Thank you, Sandi! I'm glad to know your local celebrities haven't forgotten their roots. Too bad a woman from Binghamton did. In a big way.

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  5. That was very interesting. You dig up some good stories.

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  6. I agree with Kathy - you do find some very interesting things to write about. I moved up from Naples, Fla and there was quite a lot of "excess". People would buy two houses next to each other on the beach, just to knock them down and build a "McMansion". THis was before the bubble burst of course. My girlfriend worked for an architect that did nothing smaller than 20,000 sf and they stayed busy. Guest rooms were suites complete with kitchens and baths. What is the point of that? If I have guests I want them gathered in MY kitchen. Wow... oh well...

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  7. I lived in Binghamton for 6 years, and I think she's exactly the type of person that many people from Binghamton would be if they got money. Not all, but definitely a big portion. You could give them all the money in the world, but you can't buy class.

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