The Fortune Hunters: Dazzling Women and the Men They Married

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9780312246464: The Fortune Hunters: Dazzling Women and the Men They Married
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From Madame de Pompadour, the famed mistress of Louis XV, to Pamela Harriman, who married into the English aristocracy and the American plutocracy, there is a rich history of women who have found glamour and wealth in the arms of a billionaire. But contrary to what you may think, fortune hunting is no idle pursuit. Like diving for treasure, it’s a real job. Some women strive to be CEOs; others prefer to wed them.  You'll meet today's dazzling successes in this book.

 

What kind of woman does it take to make the Midas marriage? Exploring the lives of the great fortune hunters of our day, reporter and former gossip columnist Charlotte Hays answers this tantalizing question. You’ll learn about the South Carolina woman who took a trip around the world with a shadowy shipping magnate, only to meet and marry a philandering marquis. You’ll see what methods these women use to lure their powerful men, including one playful fortune seeker who, at a very high-society soirée, hurled a piece of bread at her intended beau, starting a food fight. You’ll meet the New York socialite who remarried so quickly after a divorce, her ex claimed she was a bigamist.

 

What are their recipes for riches? Can a genuinely nice woman pursue this career? What does love have to do with it?  With original interviews and photos, Hays casts a light on the determination, skill, and---yes, sometimes---ruthlessness that have shaped some of the most successful---and lucrative---unions of our time.

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About the Author:

Charlotte Hays has been a gossip columnist for the New York Daily News, The New York Observer, and The Washington Times. She is coauthor of Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral and Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One Prospecting for Gold: What Kind of Woman Does It Take? After the feminist shenanigans of recent decades, it is not politically correct to speak of great fortune hunters unless you're referring to those who dive into the ocean to hunt for sunken treasure. Yet many of the most dynamic women of our day launched themselves the old-fashioned way, through a dazzling marriage. Even Hillary Rodham Clinton, the standard-bearer of feminist values, began her march to fame and fortune with a trek to the altar and went on to solidify her stature by standing by her man, a character-building duty the fortune hunter is not infrequently called upon to perform. Fortune hunting, like diving for treasure, is a real job. Some women strive to be CEOs; others prefer to wed them. Is one endeavor really morally superior to the other? I once knew the daughter of a prominent feminist, a nice woman, struggling to make it in an intellectual profession. I always felt she'd have been happier as, say, a real-estate agent who spent her time off shopping and accessorizing. Why are some jobs more "authentic" than others? Fortune hunters are not dopes who sit by the pool all day reading Harlequin romances. They are talented women who make a conscious decision to pursue a particular career path. Of course, it is not always possible to know a woman's inner thoughts and real motivations, though her life story allows for reasoned speculation. Indeed, the best way to assess the job requirements is to look at the lives of women who've succeeded. Though the ladies in this book are all different, you will pick up certain common themes that run through their lives. Fortune hunting has been a valid occupation for women throughout the ages. It probably started when the first Neanderthal fortune hunter made goo-goo eyes at the fellow with the largest collection of pelts. The roster of worthies includes the Byzantine striptease artist, famed for the lewdness of her dancing, who became the Empress Theodora, helpmeet to Justinian; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who wasn't endowed with the wealth to support the grand life to which she was accustomed; and plus-size model Anna Nicole Smith, who zeroed in on her Adonis when he had one foot in the grave and then battled his children in court over the estate. The issue of how to marry super rich is something we don't talk about in polite company. Still, mothers from time immemorial have told their daughters that it's just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one. As a single former gossip columnist, I might seem an odd cicerone for travel in these realms of gold. But I have devoted much of my professional life to observing the rich and what it takes to succeed in this highly competitive arena. The requirements may not be what you expect at all. Beauty is the first thing that leaps to mind as a requirement. Beauty helps, no doubt about it. But it is not a sine qua non for fortune hunting. Several women in this book are drop-dead gorgeous; others work hard to make themselves attractive. All take pains to maximize nature's gifts, whether extravagant or modest, with diet, exercise, and designer couture. If necessary, there is also the magic of a good plastic surgeon. The aspirant who happens to be blessed with natural beauty recognizes the value of her asset. But she knows that she cannot afford to be passive with it. She is well aware that even great beauty can be squandered. We've all heard about ravishing women who've ended their days in trailer parks. What makes one stunning woman waste her advantage on a poor man while a less beautiful one comes within a constitutional crisis of becoming queen of England? Marrying super rich is more a matter of talent and enterprise than beauty. "You'll never make it on your face, so you'd better be interesting," New York socialite Nan Kempner recalled her father, the millionaire California Ford dealer Albert Schlesinger, admonishing her. Instead of sulking because she wasn't a natural knockout, Kempner made sure she was fascinating. She cultivated a self-deprecating wit (she was amusingly frank about her plastic surgery and love of shopping), joie de vivre, love of couture--and a svelte figure that was often compared to a celery stalk. Intelligence, she showed, always counts more than awe-inspiring looks. None of the women in this book are bimbos (though some do a good imitation). Smart and versatile, they are a special breed distinguished by a specific set of qualities. All, to some degree, embody these traits. Just what are they? A fortune hunter is a woman who doesn't wait for her ship to come in--she swims out to meet it. More than anything, she is an activist who believes that she is in control of her destiny. Cinderella she is not. (Left to her own devices, Cinderella would have been stuck in a dead-end housekeeping job.) Nor is the fortune hunter a Sleeping Beauty. Nobody is more wide-awake than the fortune hunter. She may dream of a bright future, but she doesn't simply build castles in the air. She must be tough enough to withstand rough patches and bad publicity because the rich--and the would-be rich--are prone to messy scandals. (This is particularly true if Mr. Rich happens to be married to another woman at the outset of their courtship.) Her resilience is such that some have called into question the depth of her feelings. She is not somebody who, as the Victorian author of doggerel put it, "looks before and after, and pines for what is not." One woman in this book was so unstoppable that she managed to marry a richer man so quickly after a nasty divorce--as in the next day--that the discarded mate publicly accused her of bigamy. Did she die of shame? Did she cower in her room? She sailed along serenely, head held high, on the arm of her new billionaire. A fortune hunter is a chameleon who is able to pick up the hues of her surroundings. Her vivid imagination enables her to reinvent herself as circumstances unfold. When one door closes, she opens another. A Chicago-bred Pan Am attendant in this book transformed herself into a New York sophisticate who claimed to have grown up in a thatched cottage in England. Some have enough diversity on their résumés for a dozen ordinary women. Arianna Huffington is a virtuosa of variety whose curriculum vitae includes brainy Oxford undergraduate, highbrow critic's ingenue, bestselling author, cult aficionado, gal about town, multimillionaire's wife, divorcée, right-wing hostess, and left-wing pundit. Acting, closely allied to reinvention, is another basic skill. A fortune hunter is always a consummate actress, though smart enough never to upstage her mate. Princess Diana forgot this rule, and Prince Charles was not pleased by the realization that the crowds had not come to see him. Acting can be designing a whole new persona or telling little white lies. When Georgette Paulsin wanted to meet Robert Muir, the Los Angeles real-estate baron who became her first husband, she pretended to be a reporter from Time magazine. In contrast, there is also the woman who is so lovely that she seems to have simply slipped into a Midas marriage without premeditation--New York's reigning socialite, the designer Tory Burch, did this. Twice. When on the prowl, all women try to be in the right place. The quintessential fortune hunter takes this to the next level and is always in the right place at the right time. She familiarizes herself with the terrain. Her research is often as simple as asking a friend about a man or checking the obituary pages to keep abreast of what rich widowers have recently come on the market, a tactic employed by small-town hunters reading the Town Tatler as well as big-game hunters studying the New York Times obits. Every serious fortune hunter must confront the question of venue. She must ask: Where shall I ply my trade? Sheilah Graham addresses this question in her classic How to Marry Super Rich: or Love, Money, and the Morning After. "What," Graham asks, "does a woman--or a man--have that others do not, to close the deal? You can sleep with a man for twenty years and you are lucky to get bus fare. If you dig in a coal mine, you are likely to come up with coal. If you go to Coney Island, you get a Nathan's hot dog. You have to go where the rich are." Outside of certain places the fortune hunter would never dream of setting foot--Appalachia comes to mind--millionaires are widely dispersed. You can find them even in Arkansas and Mississippi. However many eligible men there may be in many parts of the country, they tend to congregate in certain centers of wealth. New York--in Graham's day and ours--is a particularly happy hunting ground. Not only do the richest of the rich live there, New York is not a closed society. You can be a chorus girl one minute and Mrs. Donald Trump the next (and an ex-Mrs. Trump the next). Texas, of course, is a superlative breeding ground of multimillionaires, as is Palm Beach (if your taste runs to the more mature rich). The important thing, whether you are on the Riviera or in a small town in Arkansas, is to get out and see and be seen--by rich men. Melania Knauss was--unusually for a supermodel--given to spending quiet evenings at home. If she hadn't been talked into attending a party at New York's Kit Kat Club (where Donald Trump was another guest), she might still be the singular Miss Knauss rather than the third Mrs. Trump. It is not without significance that in a New York magazine piece on how to be an "It" girl, Nan Kempner advised aspirants to entertain "constantly." "I've always liked being noticed, and I work hard at it," Kempner admitted. A fortune hunter can turn the wrong place into the right place. New Orleans, even before Katrina, was not a town known for its profusion of the very rich. Yet one woman in this book got her start while working as a maître d' in a New Orleans res...

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