Back in 2013, 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. He eventually lost.
Back in 2013, the house was on the market. It was on sale for a mere $65,000,000. After all, it has 13 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms. (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.
So, what did this have to do with Binghamton, a city of about 47,000. in upstate New York?
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.
So what ended up happening?
The house, finally, may well be completed, thanks to a reality TV show.
*But, since I wrote the original blog post in 2012, tragedy struck the Siegel family, as their 18 year old daughter (their oldest), who suffered from anxiety, died in 2015 from an overdose of prescription medication.
The "lifestyles of the rich and famous" have rarely interested me, but, they are only one of millions of families in the United States who have had to struggle with addiction to prescription drugs. Being rich and famous (or infamous) does not spare you. It does, perhaps, enable you to do things many of us can not due, such as setting up a foundation.
So the house is no longer the full story, although you can see some of it in this video with the "queen" herself.
So this tragedy? It could have happened to any one of us.
And that, folks, is reality.