A real-life Talented Mr. Ripley, the unbelievable thirty-year run of a shape-shifting con man.
The career con man who convincingly passed himself off as Clark Rockefeller was born in a small village in Germany. At seventeen, obsessed with getting to America, he flew into the country on dubious student visa documents and thus began his journey of deception.
Over the next thirty years, boldly assuming a series of false identities, he moved up the social ladder through exclusive enclaves on both coasts, culminating in a stunning twelve-year marriage to a rising-star businesswoman with a Harvard MBA who believed she'd wed a member of the infamously wealthy Rockefeller family.
The impostor charmed his way into exclusive clubs and financial institutions - working on Wall Street, showing off an extraordinary art collection - until his marriage ended, and he was arrested for kidnapping his daughter, which exposed his past of astounding deceptions as well as a connection to the bizarre disappearance of a California couple in the mid-1980s.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The plan was foolproof, the route rehearsed, the cast of characters in place, the itinerary perfectly organized. Outwardly calm but with his heart racing, he was at last ready to accomplish what he had been so meticulously planning for months.
He had come a long way to land in this privileged place, a fifth-floor room in Boston's Algonquin Club, a venerable bastion of the most blue-blooded city in America, a preferred meeting place since 1886 for U.S. presidents, heads of state, and local and national aristocrats. He belonged here; he was a member of the board and a familiar presence in the club's impossibly grand rooms, with their tall ceilings, museum-quality paintings, and uniformed staff, all of whom he had come to know and rely upon. His name was James Frederick Mills Clark Rockefeller - Clark to his friends but Mr. Rockefeller to everyone else.
"Good day, Mr. Rockefeller," the waiters would say as he sat for ...
Mark Seal's absorbing biography about con man Christian Karl Gerhartstreiter (aka Clark Rockefeller), The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, invites the reader to contemplate the power of a big lie, the fluidity of a person's identity, and the limits of credulity. Seal succeeds in fleshing out a personality so unfixed that, at times, the man at the center of his narrative seems completely empty on the inside - save for a relentless drive toward personal wealth and social advancement.
(Reviewed by Jo Perry).
You can't read The Man in the Rockefeller Suit without wondering if Rockefeller would have conned you too. While Seal notes that a few people failed to believe Rockefeller's stories or personas, the majority of people Gerhartstreiter met were more than happy to call the eccentric aristocrat friend, neighbor, business partner, club member, or even "uncle" and were generous with their time and money as well.
People in the business of detecting lies have offered various theories about how liars give themselves away. Widely recognized signs that a person is lying, such as shifty eyes, unusual speech patterns or inflections in the voice, awkward body language, and sweating, are all useful tools in identifying possible liars, however these "...
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