Yesterday Anthony Scarpino, the judge overseeing the Brooke Astor estate, shamed Andrew Cuomo for holding up the distribution of her trust while his office waits for the grand-jury probe which will decide whether Anthony Marshall took advantage of his mom. "You know she's dead, right?" he said. "We're never going to get a real answer!" Kidding! He didn't say that. What he did say, according to the Daily News, was that he was "very disappointed" that it was taking everyone so long to get it together and that he thought they were being very selfish to the charities who were waiting patiently for their windfall.
"It's going to cost the charities a lot of money," Scarpino warned. "I feel we were very close [to settling]. I am very, very disappointed that we haven't been able to close that gap."
Mmmm. This is awkward. Anthony Marshall, who has been making such a fuss about his late mother Brooke Astor's mental clarity in the years before her death, was revealed yesterday to actually have questioned her sanity as early as 2000. That year he wrote a worried letter to a doctor saying, "she is delusional at times" and would get lost on her own Maine property, which she'd owned for decades. This was over a year before Astor signed a codicil to her will that would leave Marshall with millions more dollars after her death, an act that Marshall has been insisting was done with full mental clarity. Oopsie! That's going to hurt his side of the battle for her money. Still, it's sort of nice to have proof that at some point, Marshall was worried about his mother's well-being.
Astor's Son Faces Letter of the Law [NYP]
As a halfhearted cabbie strike made it easier to flag down a school bus than a yellow taxi during rush hour last week, the Big Apple did its best to keep moving forward. Hillary out-earned rivals Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani in the city during the second quarter — and bested Rudy in a poll asking which candidate people would most like to have riding shotgun on a long road trip — but hit a speed bump trying to maintain her distance from former six-figure fund-raiser and felon Norman Hsu, who skipped out on bail.
Death may have knocked Brooke Astor down, but it certainly didn't keep her out of the fight. In the inheritance battle between her son, Anthony Marshall, and her legal guardians, Astor's mental capacity has been called into question once again. Now Annette de la Renta and JPMorgan Chase, who took charge of her affairs in the year before her death, allege that she was unfit to change her will as early as age 98. Marshall, who stands to gain millions based on codicils signed after that, disputes this. He points out that she was older than 100 when doctors ordered her to "cut down on late night dancing and parties." (And here we thought being 100 was all about pooping and People's Court.) Marshall also claims that De la Renta bought the support of Astor's staffers when she wrested guardianship away from him and fired one long-term housekeeper who wouldn't turn against Marshall. It looks like all parties are settled in for a long fight, which should be fun, as Marshall himself is 83 and De la Renta is 75. Being rich and old: not so easy as we thought!
Lawyer: Astor may have been incompetent before will was written [Newsday]
Brooke Astor friend fired caretaker who opposed her – son [NYDN]
Now, you know it used to be good to be an Astor. They had millions of dollars and were pinnacles of society, etc., etc. But in light of all the trouble surrounding the late Brooke Astor's estate, we thought it might be nice to look at exactly how good it used to be. The timing couldn't be better – just this week one of the most famous old Astor mansions (not owned by Brooke, but by her husband Vincent's ancestors) went on sale in Newport for $16 million. The fifteen-bedroom, eight-bath palace called "Beechwood" was a mere summer home for Vincent's grandparents. It was partially there, during grand parties, that Caroline Astor created her famous "400," a gathering of the most prominent members of society. We found photos of the place on broker Lila Delman's Website. As you look at the extra pics after the jump, you may find yourself wondering why they called it "Beechwood." We, of course, would have called it "Versailles."
Anthony Marshall has wisely decided against asking a probate judge to support the sketchy third codicil to the will of his mother, Brooke Astor. The late addition, made after the ailing matriarch was over 100 years old, would have transferred $40 million of her real-estate holdings into cash to be managed by Marshall. This would have meant more fees for him and his lawyer, Francis Morrissey Jr. But a handwriting expert said last year that Brooke's signature on the codicil had been forged — and a source told the Post that the issue was being dropped to avoid more scrutiny toward Marshall and his lawyer's legal high jinks before Astor's death. This is a good move for everyone involved, especially us, because it gives us something to write about on a Friday in late August.
"Will-ful" Son Caves on Codicil [NYP]
Brooke Astor's embattled son, Anthony Marshall, has finally started lashing back at his opponents in the contest over his late mother's will. Specifically, he chose the first day of legal proceedings to issue a barrage of attacks against Annette de la Renta, Astor's friend who was named Astor's guardian in the year before her death. Marshall's lawyer Ken Warner accused the designer's wife yesterday of "making a lunge for power and control," according to the Daily News. The Post quotes Marshall as calling De la Renta "heartless and hostile" for refusing to allow his wife, Charlene, to see Astor the weekend before her death. Marshall also claims that De la Renta accepted expensive gifts from Astor even after she claimed that the elderly woman was mentally unfit. He made no mention of the fact that De la Renta, who does not stand to benefit financially from the debate, has been paying her own legal fees throughout. He did, however, claim that JP Morgan Chase, De la Renta's ally in the legal skirmish, was "reckless," "irresponsible," and "outrageous" — and called their pursuit of him "a malicious jihad." We're beginning to really like where this is all going.
Test of Wills [NYP]
Another week, another socialite parental-abuse saga! Today's Post cover blares "DAUGHTER DEAREST," and plugs a story within about Emily "Pemmy" du Pont Frick, an heiress who is accused by relatives of letting her mother live out her old age under poor care. Sound familiar? Didn't we just go through this with Brooke Astor? The Post is clearly trying to gin up another newsstand seller – but is this one really as good? After the jump, our analysis.
We've just learned that St. Thomas Church has live audio feeds for many of its major events, which you can tune into here. Which means, you guessed it — death-blogging! We'll sit here and listen to all of the action at Brooke Astor's funeral, so you don't have to. Expected guests include luminaries like Martha Stewart, Walter Cronkite, Annette de la Renta, and various senators and socialites. We'll do our best to identify them by their muffled coughs (or in Cronkite's case, his irritated hack).
Daily Intel's roving photographer, Everett Bogue, is back from St. Thomas Church, at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, where he reports crowds five or so people deep on all the sidewalks, a phalanx of NYPD, and lots of confused motorists heading down Fifth and wondering what all the commotions is for. For Brooke Astor's funeral, silly motorists. For Brooke Astor's funeral. Follow what's going on inside with Daily Intel's live-blog.
The Times yesterday posted actual images of Brooke Astor's now-to-be-contested will, so we can have a bit of fun. The biggest and most entertaining details have been out there before — some sculptures for some Rockefellers, a few hundred grand for an azalea garden in Maine — but there is still an embarrassment of riches in the actual text itself. After the jump, a post-mortem look at how the other half lives and contemplates death. (We bolded the parts we think are just chahming.)
Brooke Astor is not yet in her grave, and already tempers are boiling over funeral plans, bequests, and contested codicils to her will. The society matriarch had been planning her grand funeral for over ten years (it's not morbid, people, a decade ago she was 95), and the list includes surviving boldfacers like Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, Renée Fleming, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Martha Stewart. It will take place at 2:30 on Friday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue, the home nest of American Wasp culture. Still to be determined are the pallbearers, notes the Times. Per Astor's request, will her friends David Rockefeller and Annette de la Renta be included? Or will their foe Anthony Marshall, her son, replace them with Marines? (And who will play the role of Kitty Carlisle Hart, who died this April??) Meanwhile, the Post claims Marshall worked with a crooked lawyer to amend his mother's will during her ailing years, and that De la Renta may try to take over stewardship of the estate. "I see no valid reason to contest the will," retorted Marshall when contacted by the Post. "A will is a will!" We really hope the dialogue continues on this level.
Funeral A-List: New Version of Mrs. Astor's 400 [NYT]
Changed of Her Own Free 'Will' [NYP]
Update: The will is online! [NYT]
Every new beginning, as they say, comes from some other beginning's end, and from Brooke Astor’s death yesterday comes a new beginning that's just getting warmed up: the fight over her fortune, estimated at $130 million. Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, who last year was accused by his son of neglecting her and subsequently agreed to return $11 million, claims he shared her final moments, and according to his wife, even “cradled her in his arms.” But the Daily News quotes a source who says he wasn’t even there. And the Post jumps on the bandwagon, too, finding sources who say that a handwriting expert found a forged signature on a recent codicil to her will. They also claim the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is considering tax-fraud charges against Marshall. In other words, it's just as we all suspected: The only parties set to benefit more than her heirs are the tabloids.
Charity Giant At Peace, Heirs Set For War [NYP]
Brooke Finds Peace At Last [NYDN]
Related:The Family Astor [NYM]
Earlier:Daily Intel's coverage of Brooke Astor
After a messy year of battles between her son and her friends for control of her finances and well-being, Brooke Astor died today at her Westchester estate in Briarcliff Manor. She was 105. For decades Astor was a paragon of Upper East Side elegance and noblesse-oblige charity, but last year a legal battle waged on her behalf against her son, Anthony Marshall, resulted in a series of embarrassing accusations: neglect, misuse of family funds, and fraud. A year ago, Meryl Gordon examined Mrs. Astor's life, including its messy final chapter, for New York, and found that "the story of the Astor lawsuit is also something simpler and sadder, a tale of parental neglect, repeated generations over." Annette de la Renta, who took over as Astor's guardian after charges were first leveled, told Gordon that she hoped the society matron would "slip away" at Briarcliff, "a place she adores." She got her wish, and Astor can now go back to being remembered as the legend she was.
Brooke Astor, New York Socialite, Dies at 105 [NYT]
Related:The Family Astor [NYM]
Paris Hilton's first meal out of the clink was takeout from Mr. Chow. Former gossip columnist Charlotte Hays has written a book about attractive women and the rich men they marry. Rudy Giuliani wasn't a fan of France until Nicolas Sarkoz — the "French Rudy" — was elected president. Brooke Astor may have cancer. Bill Clinton won't be attending his personal trainer's Chappaqua book signing. Laura Albert, better known as JT LeRoy, wants to pose for Playboy, though the magazine hasn't made her an offer. Ashton, Demi, and their daughter went to the "Bodies" exhibit at South Street Seaport. A bunch of waiters are suing Sparks Steak House for allegedly using tip money to pay bartenders and others not entitled to it. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is throwing a party for Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Sunday’s Times brought a detailed look at Brooke Astor’s last will and testament, the “dark center of a legal battle” between her son Anthony and her grandson Philip. The article doesn’t specify how this center came to be so well illuminated — a “party” involved in the case has furnished the Gray Lady with a copy, we’re breezily informed in the story’s eleventh paragraph. The timing of the leak seems to be tied to Brooke Astor’s frail health — she is now 105 and in what the Times terms a “final decline.” So, not to be crass, but, um, who’s getting what? There’s no particular surprise as to where the lion’s share goes: to Anthony, who has redirected a bulk of the Astor fortune to himself in three controversial amendments to the 2002 document. There are, however, some pretty whimsical allotments on tap. David Rockefeller gets something! So does his (dead) brother Laurance! And NYU! And a garden. An itemization, after the jump.
Today's Times indulges one of our favorite pastimes — counting other people's money — with a piece detailing the twelve-page audit report of Brooke Astor's riches. The numbers come from the fortune's court-appointed guardian, JPMorgan Chase. One unexpected side effect of the list: It makes Brooke Astor's disgraced son, Anthony D. Marshall, look like a pretty sensible handler of his mother's money. (Marshall claims to have quadrupled Astor's liquid assets over the last 25 years.)
How does Mrs. Astor's $131 million kitty break down?
• This shouldn't necessarily sway anyone's opinion about the Sean Bell shooting, but it's, um, interesting: A drug dealer tells the police he was once shot by Bell. Cops call the story credible (shocker). [NYDN]
• Wesley Autrey, the Subway Superman, gains a Subway Lex Luthor in lawyer Diane Kleiman. Kleiman and her partner have allegedly swindled Autrey into a deal that would give them half of whatever he gets (book advance, speaking fees, etc.). [NYP]
• Jacob the Jeweler is heading to the courtroom on some serious charges: helping launder $270 million in drug money for a Detroit-based crime ring. Now that's cred. [AP via amNY]
• JPMorgan Chase has released a twelve-page assessment that itemizes Brooke Astor's fortune: $41 million in real estate, $23.5 million in stocks, and $816 in the bank. [NYT]
• And the day's Headless Body Award (it's our new, ad-hoc headline-pun prize) goes to Metro New York, for running the gamut from the awesome "Marky Marksman" (a Shooterreview) to the god-awful "An Indie-sent Proposal" (a SXSW feature). [MetroNY]
• OMG. Hillary Clinton is — you're not gonna believe this — totally running for president. She said so to a "New York lawmaker" on the phone, and he told the Post. Her declaration? "I'm really going to go for this." OMG. [NYP]
• Yesterday in Astor-ia: In finalizing the settlement long settled, Anthony Marshall was cleared of abuse allegations concerning his 104-year-old mother, Brooke Astor. He and his wife still need to return over $11 million in "gifts." Oh, and his lawyer was docked 10 percent of his six-figure fee for chatting to the press. [NYDN]
• Thirty-nine people in New York and New Jersey are now down with E. coli, all traceable to a single Taco Bell in South Plainfield, New Jersey. Some of the joint's employees are sick as well. And the marketers of Fast Food Nation are really wishing this happened two weeks ago. [NYT]
• Crews will take another tug at the ol' Intrepid, currently stuck in cementlike silt on its way to a dry dock where it was supposed to be getting a spruce-up. The path is reportedly clear now that a Navy contractor has ladled out some of the gunk from under the ship's stern (for $3 million). [amNY]
• And in an irresistible police-blotter item, a man is arrested for a series of shop, hotel, and drug-store robberies wherein he'd open his coat to reveal a dynamite-stick belt (actually highway flares). Inventive but unsurprising, considering the perp is an actor with Law & Order on his resume. (Duh-dum.) [WNBC]
Did you think the Astor family saga was finally effectively over? Us too. In fact, we were thinking about retiring that Today in Astor-ia tag and launching into a full-on obsession with the Aokis. But not so fast, it turns out.
Earlier this month, Brooke Astor's son and heir Anthony Marshall, along with his wife Charlene, reluctantly agreed to give up running Brooke's affairs and return about $1.3 million in disputed money. That seemed to be the end of them, for a while. But now they're back, distributing morbid hints that they'll be around for good, and soon. "There will be a battle royal when Brooke Astor dies," Charlene informs the new Vanity Fair. The whistle-blowing grandson, Philip, notes dryly that now that Brooke is out of Marshalls' care, her death is not quite as imminent as it was. Still, the Loathsome Couple appears content to lie in wait, expecting to receive everything they gave up (and more) when the will is read.
Of course, speaking of the will, a big juicy part of the scandal is an investigation into whether someone had altered it and/or forged Brooke Astor's signature on one of its provisions. In short, it ain't over till it's over — and not even then.
Astor Kin Ready to Rumble [NYDN]