Monday, December 21, 2009

Tony Gets His Stripes

While in basic terms, the trial of Tony Marshall has been a somber story of financial misdeeds, it has also been a saga of unrequited parental love, manipulative spousal greed, and nefarious legal shenanigans (the latter of which is redundant).

Today, the late socialite Brooke Astor's only child (born, that is - she admitted to at least 1 abortion), was sentenced to one to three years of prison for his role in what a jury determined to be criminal books-cooking by him and his lawyer. Apparently, this was the minimum sentence the judge could impose in terms of jail time. Tony also must repay over $12 million to Astor's estate, although a repayment schedule wasn't announced.

Because of his age - 85 - and his frail health, chances appear strong that Tony will avoid spending any time in the slammer. His lawyers will probably appeal on health grounds, and in reality, the real kicker of the sentence just might be the $12 million restitution levied against Tony and his social-climbing third wife, Charlene.

Charlene has been a hovering figure in all of this mess - not only as a constant companion to Tony at everything from press conferences to courtroom appearances, but also as the shrewd power behind the throne that was Tony's already lucrative position as his mother's financial adviser. About 20 years ago, Charlene left her children and Episcopalian rector husband for Tony. They met at her then-husband's parish on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where industrialist wealth and social glamor glide between the whispering pines of Maine's idyllic summers. The sea air apparently got to be too much for the married Tony, too, because it wasn't long before the two of them became quite the topic of conversation in normally-reserved Maine. My mother even remembers the time my grandmother - a stoic Maine native - called to report the extraordinarily scandalous goings-on within the summer set.

And you can see where I'm going - the vamp of a rector's wife runs off with the son of a storied philanthropist with her eye on an even bigger prize: the millions in cash, property, and jewelry her husband would soon inherit. Or, would he? After all, nobody foresaw that Brooke Astor would ride her own red carpet (she was born of humble means and married up 3 times herself) to the grand old age of 105, dying in 2007 when her son was already in his 80's. (All the dirt is in Meryl Gordon's book that I referenced on Friday).

So my question is: where is the jail time for Charlene? Tony has gotten his stripes, although he may never actually have to wear them. Their lawyer is getting his own comeuppance sooner or later, and the three of them have lost whatever status they may have tentatively held in New York's high society. But the person who just may have been the catalyst for all of this mess - the woman who scorned her own family for a chance at the super-big time, the woman who was bested at her own game by the grande dame who "lucked" into her own prize at a surprisingly early age (Brooke's sugardaddy husband died after they were only married for a few years); that woman, Charlene, may be persona-non-grata, but at least she doesn't have a rap sheet.

Then, too, Tony could have settled quietly into Upper East Side retirement - enjoying his post on the Metropolitan Museum's board, ensconced in the haughty Knickerbocker Club - if his own morality kept him from a dalliance with the rector's wife.

Update:  Tony Marshall passed away Sunday, November 30, in New York City, at the age of 90.

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