All That Glitters


The perils of being too rich

While growing up in Swiss boarding schools and throughout his life, René Silvin has learned first-hand that all that glitters is not gold. Several of his peers came from extremely wealthy families whose money did not lead to happiness.

EA85E90F-AE18-47A6-8A55-3F340EA6E60DFor example, René’s family was intertwined with the Woodwards. Heir to a banking fortune, William (Billy) Woodward Jr. married the infamous Ann Crowell, a Manhattan showgirl. In what Life magazine called “the shooting of the century” Ann fatally shot Billy in 1955. She, as well as both their sons, eventually commited suicide. The widowed Ann had an on-again, off-again relationship with René’s father. The story is the subject of Dominick Dunne’s book and mini-series, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.

D8A61784-4D7A-4255-B26C-E6EEE28E2F48In the early 70s René met and befriended Christina Onassis, daughter of the shipping magnate Aristotle and Athena Livanos Onassis. Christina was heir to two huge shipping fortunes. Her mother Tina died under mysterious circumstances in 1974. “The Golden Greek,” as Onassis was known, was then married to Jackie Kennedy. Ari died in 1975, a broken man after the tragic death of his only son, Alexander, a classmate of René’s. René was closely involved with the family during Onassis’ last illness and death at a hospital René was running in Paris.EA3B9110-C523-4B75-84D6-691DB06544E8

Known as the “poor little rich girl” Barbara Hutton was heir to the Woolworth fortune. She married and divorced 7 men, never finding  happiness.  Her only son, Lance Reventlow, died tragically at age 36. By the time of her death in 1979, she was alone and nearly penniless. René visited her shortly before her death, and was one of the last people to spend any meaningful time with her.

E8772A5D-BE83-4E72-A890-68B8F7BAAB8ARene´ will also talk about Leona Helmsley, “the queen of mean.” She married real estate magnet, Harry Helmsley in 1972, after her real estate license was revoked. Helmsley was both a friend and competitor of Donald  Trump’s.  In 1973 Leona was stabbed in their Palm Beach Towers condominium. The most commonly accepted theory is that Harry stabbed Leona, while they both tried to blame the crime on a housekeeper.  Leona led a tumultuous life, including 19 months in prison, convicted on tax evasion charges. Leona died lonely and secluded in Greenwich, Connecticut at the age of 86.  She left $12 million to her dog, Trouble.  

814CD862-F243-4F1D-BDD4-D6DB9D70DC0CTragedy surrounded Sunny von Bülow, the only child of utilities magnate George Crawford, who left his infant daughter $75 million in 1935. After her husband, Claus von Bülow, allegedly tried to kill her with an insulin overdose, she spent 28 comatose years in a nursing home before dying in 2008 at age 76.

634712E3-95A9-45E0-B2AB-90A5072F59A5Few people know details of New York socialite and wealthy pharmaceutical executive Gigi Jordan. René’s late partner was Ms. Jordan’s Chief Operating Officer prior to selling the company to Quest Diagnostics. In 2014, Gigi killed her autistic 8-year old son. Her attempted suicide having failed, she claimed her son’s death was a mercy killing. Ms. Jordan is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.

René, the ultimate raconteur, will describe these tragic stories in his inimitable fashion, using dozens of glamour shots and newsreel clips while proving the adage all that glitters is definitely not gold.