In her recent book, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, writer Meryl Gordon focuses on the life behind the doors of a famous Fifth Avenue apartment. Huguette Clark (pronounced ‘you-get’), the heiress and daughter of William Andrews Clark, was born into a life of privilege and isolation. Very little was known of the personal life she experienced behind closed doors. Hugutte spend the end of her life in Beth Israel hospital in New York, not due to illness, but because the hospital provided a warm and loving environment away from the prying eyes of the world. Unfortunately, she was still hounded by fortune seekers and people willing to take advantage of her for her money.
Disliked by her half-siblings, and divorced by her husband Bill Gower after only a few months, Huguette learned to take pleasure in collecting dolls and miniature models of castles and Japanese gardens. She was close to her painting instructor, the beloved Tade Styka, and only a handful of others. She chose to avoid the spotlight her half-siblings had found themselves in and the scandals that accompanied them.
Gordon is sympathetic towards the plight of Huguette, but at the same time shows the benefits of life as a wealthy heiress. Still, it is hard not to feel for a woman who was raised mostly by tutors and left behind at private school multiple times while her parents lived in California to avoid property taxes in New York state.
Huguette Clark passed away in 2011 and is buried with her family in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. For those fascinated with the history of a bygone era, or just wanting to know the secrets the Clarks kept hidden, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue is a fascinating read.