Barbara Goldsmith, author – obituary

barbara-goldsmith,-author –-obituary

Barbara Goldsmith, who has died aged 85, was a author who specialised in provocative tracts concerning the corrupting affect of extreme wealth and energy, most notably Little Gloria … Completely happy at Final (1980), during which she recounted the Matter of Vanderbilt (1934), America’s longest and most sensational child-custody trial, and Johnson v Johnson (1987), an account of the 1983 confrontation over the need of the billionaire J Seward Johnson, inheritor to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune.

Gloria Vanderbilt, the unique “poor little wealthy lady”, might be finest identified as of late for lending her title to a model of designer denims. She didn’t cooperate within the writing of Barbara Goldsmith’s e book, however others did and the transcripts of the notorious custody trial, which Barbara Goldsmith had chanced upon in a Manhattan legislation library in 1974, offered loads of materials.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s dad and mom, Gloria Morgan and Reggie Vanderbilt, the youngest son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, married in 1923. She was an exquisite 19-year previous socialite, he a dissipated 43-year previous alcoholic whose passions included playing. In 1925, a yr after the delivery of their solely daughter Reggie died, vomiting blood from ruptured oesophageal varices. His widow’s solely actual supply of monetary help thereafter lay within the revenue to be derived from a $2.5- million belief established for his or her toddler daughter by Cornelius, the restrictions on which led her to resent and neglect the toddler on whom she depended financially.

In 1934 little Gloria’s aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, egged on by the kid’s aggressive maternal grandmother, Laura Kilpatrick Morgan, determined to attempt to declare custody of the kid, a transfer seen by mom Gloria as a Vanderbilt conspiracy to chop off her funds. The following custody battle made nationwide headlines, with sensational allegations of mom Gloria’s debauched life-style – together with a purported lesbian relationship with Nadezhda de Torby, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, and an affair with a German prince.

Presided over by Supreme Courtroom Justice Carew (who would crack from the pressures of the case and find yourself in a psychiatric hospital), the custody hearings offered terrific leisure for a public looking forward to tales of greed, intercourse, sadism and selfishness. Little Gloria’s plight had a particular poignancy within the Despair. Folks wished to be advised cash couldn’t purchase happiness; right here was proof.

Public sentiment favoured a reunion between daughter and glamorous mom, however the eventual winner was Aunt Gertrude. It was, nonetheless, grandmother Laura, together with a nurse, who truly reared the lady.

If the Vanderbilts had been dysfunctional, they appeared positively saintly when set in opposition to the principle topic of Johnson v Johnson, the billionaire J Seward Johnson, who died in 1983, leaving his $500 million fortune to his former maid and third spouse, Basia, a Polish emigrée 42 years his junior, and nothing to the six kids of his first two marriages. Satisfied that Basia had coerced their father into disinheriting them, they took her to court docket.

This time Barbara Goldsmith discovered the protagonists prepared to speak and the story she uncovered was a surprising one. The late inheritor to Johnson & Johnson, she claimed, was a priapic monster who  molested his daughter Mary Lea (the primary child pictured on cans of Johnson & Johnson child powder) from when she was 9 years previous, and slept along with his son’s spouse. He additionally proposed to his spouse’s 14-year-old sister, who turned him down. Different interviewees included the gay lover of Mary Lea’s first husband, who claimed that the estranged partner had supplied cash to have Mary Lea killed.

The case was finally settled out of court docket however not earlier than the 210 attorneys concerned had raked in additional than $24 million in authorized charges.

“Right here was this paradigm of the American Dream,” Barbara Goldsmith recalled . “Everyone sits at house and thinks, ‘My God, if I had 1,000,000 {dollars}.’ Effectively, what about $1.4 billion, a $100 million artwork assortment, a $10 million house? However behind what we dream was such banality – such lack of path and creativeness – and such ache… Everyone I spoke with had the freight of three generations of psychic trauma.”

She was born Barbara Joan Lubin on Could 18 1931, in Manhattan. Her father, Joseph, had risen from rags to riches, founding a big agency of accountants and turning into a property investor.

After taking a level in English and Artwork Historical past from Wellesley Faculty in 1953 Barbara labored as a critic for an artwork journal, then as an editor at Girl’s Residence Companion, and later as a author for The New York Herald Tribune. When the newspaper went out of enterprise in 1966, she lent certainly one of its editors Clay Felker $6,500 to accumulate the title of its Sunday complement, New York, which he reworked into New York journal, with Barbara Goldsmith as one of many founding editors. Two years later she practically scuttled the publication with a profile of the Andy Warhol “famous person” Viva, which depicted her as drug-addled, destitute, dissolute and promiscuous, resulting in an exodus of advertisers from the journal.

Within the early Nineteen Seventies she grew to become senior editor at Harper’s Bazaar, however didn’t benefit from the work and determined to attempt her hand as a novelist. It was whereas researching this work, The Straw Man (1975), a story of skullduggery within the artwork world, that she got here throughout the Vanderbilt custody case.

Her analysis into the Vanderbilts additionally sparked the concept for her third e book of social historical past, Different Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull (1998), after she seen an interview in an 1870 copy of the New York Tribune during which a reporter had requested Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, founding father of the household fortune, how he had made his hundreds of thousands. “Seek the advice of the spirits,” Vanderbilt advised him. “Mrs Woodhull tells me what to do financially when she is in her trance.”

Barbara Goldsmith found that Mrs Woodhull, Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927), was a prostitute-turned-journalist who, in 1872, grew to become the primary lady to run for the US presidency, campaigning in opposition to Ulysses S Grant. She misplaced, having spent election day in jail, charged with libel and obscenity for having revealed particulars of an affair between the favored revivalist preacher Henry Ward Beecher with the spouse of his finest buddy. She was additionally a spiritualist,  suffragist, apostle of free love (“If I need sexual activity with 100 males, I shall have it”), a disciple of Marx, a blackmailer and a monetary adviser who requested the spirits for funding suggestions.

Barbara Goldsmith’s final e book, Obsessive Genius: The Internal World of Marie Curie, was revealed in 2005.

In addition to her writing, Barbara Goldsmith was a famous philanthropist who, little question scarred by her experiences with crumbling newspaper clippings, carried out an extended campaign in opposition to acidic paper, endowing a New York Public Library laboratory which works to preserve texts and save others on microfilm. For a few years she funded the PEN Freedom to Write awards.

Barbara Goldsmith’s marriages to Gerald Goldsmith and the movie maker Frank Perry had been dissolved. She is survived by two sons and a daughter from her first marriage.

Barbara Goldsmith, born Could 18 1931, died June 26 2016


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