Rich people behaving badly

Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden reminded me of the line from Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Wendy Burden’s family was super wealthy and incredibly dysfunctional by any standard.  Burden is the great, great, great great granddaughter of billionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her grandfather was billionaire businessman William A.M. Burden, former president of the Museum of Modern Art. Her grandmother, Florence Adele Twombly was a direct Vanderbilt descendent.


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endy Burden details the slow decay of her very wealthy American family. She describes her unhappy widowed “man-eating mother” who is a 60s-style bombshell. She also has two tortured and drug-using brothers who are favoured by her wealthy grandparents merely for being male. Raised with equal measures of neglect and luxury, it is amazing that Wendy survived intact to tell her tale.
 
Despite of themes of child neglect, drinking, and drugging the book is both amusing and fascinating. Wendy shares her memories and insights of life among the super wealthy in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She details her grandfather’s obsession with food, wine, and French chefs. She also recounts his competition with Nelson Rockefeller.
 
Wendy BurdenBurden and here brothers spend long visits with their grandparents. Hangovers, sleeplessness, and any other discomfort are muted with an array of powerful prescription drugs and a staff of cosseting servants. Later on, her teen siblings pilfer her grandparents’s stash to feed and finance their drug habits.
 
Dead End Gene Pool is a startling picture of the rich behaving badly. Burden captures the age of Dr. Feelgood, when many people drank and used drugs with abandon. If you like memoirs of the rich and infamous this one will not disappoint. I read it cover to cover.
 

 

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