Sunday, August 24, 2008
Somebody smart is going to make a movie out of the bizarre story of "Clark Rockefeller". Teaser:
By the early 1990’s, Mr. Crowe had become Mr. Rockefeller and was spending time in Manhattan, joining a Fifth Avenue church and rubbing elbows at the Metropolitan Club.
“He lived as Clark Rockefeller and he presented that and his whole persona was that,” said Robert Beau Leonard, a lawyer who met Mr. Rockefeller at church. He even gained admission to the exclusive Lotos Club, whose 2003 yearbook lists Clark Rockefeller on the same page as Laurance S. Rockefeller, a grandson of John D. Rockefeller.
It was as Clark Rockefeller, apparent member of America’s aristocracy, that in 1993 he met Sandra Boss, a graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School and seven years his junior. Connecting with Ms. Boss, who eventually became a partner at McKinsey, where salaries can reach seven figures, seemed to enable Mr. Rockefeller to play out his upper-crust fantasies.
Ms. Stone, the Upper East Side art dealer, recalled meeting him when they were walking their dogs in Central Park and he instantly recognized that her husky, Leyster, was named after a little-known Dutch Master, Judith Leyster. She was impressed.
He told her he advised small countries on financial problems. Ms. Stone and her husband, Mr. Steigrad, were soon dining and socializing with the couple. “He came to a lot of our parties,” Ms. Stone said. “He met a lot of people we knew. He was a nice, intelligent, charming sort of eccentric individual. He just seemed real.”
Mr. Rockefeller volunteered to create a Web site for the Steigrad gallery. When the couple offered to pay, he said, “ ‘Well the only thing I really need is two tuxedo shirts,’ ” said Ms. Stone, so they sent him to their tailor. “I know he was very difficult about the order. He drove the poor guy nuts.”
Most mysterious was the impressive collection of paintings in his East 56th Street apartment. Mr. Hrones, Mr. Rockefeller’s lawyer, said the paintings were not originals, just very convincing “derivatives.” But Ms. Stone and Mr. Steigrad, who saw them, say that does not make sense.
“I don’t care how fake he is, but the paintings, the art — that was right,” Mr. Steigrad said. “If he’s not a Rockefeller, where the hell did he get the paintings?”
Mr. Rockefeller even contributed an essay to ARTnews, published under Ms. Boss’s name, about the hazards of owning dogs in an apartment with a Rothko and a Clyfford Still. “Whenever we speak to our restorer,” Mr. Rockefeller wrote, “he asks which paintings need drool removal.”
Even weirder, the guy is a German who came to the United States and learned the culture so well he was able to perpetuate serial frauds that required a detailed grasp of American social structure. A strange and evil genius.
I met Steven Rockefeller on a municipal golf course in Stamford, Connecticut. We had a good time and he invited me to his annual golf tournament held on the kind of funky golf course on the Rockefeller Estate in Armonk. Funky, but it's kind of different when you set up on the tee and see $10 million worth of statuary adorning it. I remember the first foursome I played with. A senior vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, a head hunter who had recently negotiated the hiring of the head of a major airline, a counter salesman at Ace Auto Parts and me, an habitue of municipal golf courses. Steven invited people who he enjoyed playing with. I met his mother and his wife, Kimberley. Gracious and lovely people. It speaks to the pretensions of those who aspire to connections. Go out and have some fun. It will come to you if you have a smile on your face.