Program Details

All That Glitters is Not Gold: The Perils of Being Too Rich

René Silvin
Storytelling / History
Video Catch-up

Course Description

René Silvin knows, first-hand, that all that glitters is not gold and will describe several enormously wealthy families' fascinating stories to illustrate the point. From his earliest childhood, René’s family was intertwined with William Woodward's family, in what Life Magazine called “the shooting of the century,” the glamorous, social climbing Ann Woodward fatally shot her handsome, moneyed husband, Billy in 1955. Many will recall Barbara Hutton, known as the “poor little rich girl,” who married and divorced seven men, never finding happiness. By the time of her death in 1979, she was alone and nearly penniless. René saw her days before her death. René also knew Aristotle Onassis’ children, Christina and Alexander Onassis, heirs to two huge shipping fortunes. The audience will learn details of how both Alexander and Christina had early, tragic deaths. And then there was Leona Helmsley, “the queen of mean,” married to real estate magnet, Harry Helmsley. Leona led a controversial, tumultuous life, including 19 months in prison. Tragedy also surrounded heiress Sunny von Bülow. After her husband allegedly tried to kill her with an insulin overdose, she remained in a vegetative state for 28 years. Few know about René’s business associate, New York socialite, Gigi Jordan who killed her 8-year old son, but botched her suicide the same night. Ms. Jordan is currently in jail. René, the ultimate raconteur, will describe these and other tragic stories in his colorful and inimitable fashion, proving the adage that all that glitters is definitely not gold.

About the Instructor

  • Born in New York, René Silvin grew up in Swiss boarding schools. After earning his bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in 1970 and two MBAs from Cornell University in 1972, he spent 25 years in the investor-owned hospital industry. Since retiring, Silvin has published five books, including a memoir about his friendship with the late Duchess of Windsor, as well as a history of Palm Beach, Florida seen through the eyes of the famous society architect, Addison Mizner, and a coffee table book titled Normandie: The Tragic Story of the Most Majestic Ocean Liner, which is a historical novel that brings to life the magnificent flagship of the French line, Normandie, which met its tragic end during WWII. He continues to add lecture topics, through offering well-researched, glamorous stories with historical significance, infused with personal experiences, including a history of transatlantic ocean liner travel, the history of Mar-a-Lago, and a series of presentations about the pitfalls of being too rich. Silvin serves as the chairman on the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Upcoming programs presented by René Silvin.

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