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The Poorest Rich Kids in the World
August 15, 2013 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Raised by two drug addicts with virtually unlimited wealth, Georgia and Patterson survived a gilded childhood that was also a horror story of Dickensian neglect and abuse. They were globe-trotting trust-fund babies who snorkeled in Fiji, owned a pet lion cub and considered it normal to bring loose diamonds to elementary school for show and tell. And yet they also spent their childhoods inhaling freebase fumes, locked in cellars and deadbolted into their bedrooms at night in the secluded Wyoming mountains and on their ancestral South Carolina plantation. While their father spent millions on drug binges and extravagances, the children lived like terrified prisoners, kept at bay by a revolving door of some four dozen nannies and caregivers, underfed, undereducated, scarcely noticed except as objects of wrath.
posted by showbiz_liz (52 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
> His death certificate listed his occupation as "lifetime adventurer."

In a different, less sad, story, that would be an amazing denouement.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:23 AM on August 15, 2013


It's a shame that child protective services doesn't seem to work for rich kids.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:24 AM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who used to handle sexual assault and domestic violence cases, it remains astounding to me how much insulation rich perpetrators have from investigation and prosecution. I'll add that I remain surprised at how many embezzlers and cheats escape anything but civil litigation consequences. Money buys a lot of criminal license.
posted by bearwife at 10:34 AM on August 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


Hell, look at Michael Jackson's kids.
posted by spitbull at 10:35 AM on August 15, 2013


Wealth is a hell of a drug.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Georgia, though the more outgoing of the pair, is even more cautious. "I don't think I'm ready for friendship yet," she says heavily.

Horrifying and sad, and somehow stranger yet because of all the money involved. Surely, one might think, the enormity of wealth these kids are tied up with would protect them somehow, but it seems like the very opposite is true.
posted by xingcat at 10:40 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of the story of the Baekelands (made into the movie "Savage Grace" with Julianne Moore).
posted by Melismata at 10:43 AM on August 15, 2013


I came into post the exact quote xingcat did.

That has got to be the saddest thing I've ever heard someone say.
posted by sio42 at 10:46 AM on August 15, 2013


This is a tremendously sad story, but god do I hate the framing.

Why did the heirs to one of the largest fortunes in America grow up horribly neglected and abused?

Um, because wealth is in no way correlated with character or parenting ability?

This wasn't some no-name clan of backwoods hillbillies, Georgia and Patterson Inman were among the wealthiest kids in America...

Shocking! Rich people get drunk in the morning and drive recklessly too!

This story could easily have been told without relying on the hook that we should be surprised that rich people can be selfish, abusive, catastrophically terrible parents. The tragedy here isn't that two rich kids grew up this way (as if that's a tragedy that really should only be reserved for hillbillies or poor kids), but that two kids grew up this way, full stop.
posted by googly at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2013 [38 favorites]


The worst part of the whole thing, to me, is the way that their mother and stepmother still seem to want all of the money so, so badly.

Also, googly: the terrible truth is that, although YOU might be so enlightened, many people aren't. The dominant narrative IS that growing up rich equals super fucking awesome, full stop. And that drug addicts and abusers are poor and uneducated.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Amazing that scions of the Duke fortune would wind up with a messed-up life. As a kid growing up on Aquidneck Island, every time on the Cliff Walk was an excuse to peer over the fence and see if you could spot the giraffe. Call me harsh, but the lady seemed a little detached from reality.
posted by yerfatma at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the rest of my NPR-listening life, I'm not going to be able to hear "the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation" without thinking of this.
posted by Slothrup at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


I think boarding school might actually be best for these kids. They need structure, socialization, and adults who are less crazy than their relatives. They need to form friendships with people who aren't trying to steal their money.
posted by Area Man at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, if wealth reduces empathy, stands to reason that it would make you a worse parent. Poor kids.
posted by emjaybee at 11:26 AM on August 15, 2013


There are shitty rich parents, there are shitty poor parents. Being a shitty parent isn't defined by wealth, gender, race, or anything else. Shitty parents are everywhere.
posted by three blind mice at 11:26 AM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the twins' father, Walker Patterson Inman Jr., few things in life were as much fun as blowing things up. He never missed an opportunity to squeeze a trigger or light a fuse, cackling away under the brim of his cowboy hat while engaged in the cleansing act of destruction.

Fast cars, plenty of stimulants, and an endless supply of money and explosives. If that ain't the Great Redneck Dream, then I've never heard anyone say "Hey, y'all, look at me!"
posted by octobersurprise at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hell, look at Michael Jackson's kids.

Apparently the plan is to set up playdates.

Daisha has devised what she thinks is a terrific idea for an appropriate new set of playmates: She's working on getting the twins together with Michael Jackson's kids, with whom she thinks they'd have tons in common. "Wouldn't that be historic? The Jacksons and the Dukes, two of the most famous names, together?"

I was hoping for a happy ending to this, but it seems like their birthmom is just as nuts as their dad and stepmother.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


She might be nuts, but she at least seems to have some idea of wanting them to be happy. I would call that an improvement.
posted by Sequence at 11:38 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Read the article and did a quick page find for "relatives" and nothing turned up.

Family dysfunction knows no class or race, and I think that's pretty damn apparent, here. But there are a lot of Duke descendants who don't appear to have tried to help these kids.

Overall, I think a lot of us applied our own projections to come up with a subtext here, and IMO, I think everyone overshot it. Lets assume that if there wasn't a massive family inheritance, chances are good the parents would have still been drug addled assholes, with step-mothers and hanger-ons that stick around to mooch off of each other and make these kids lives suck. Reality and news stories show that even in the poorest neighborhoods, many children fall through the cracks. There really isn't a perfect solution for society to provide for personal problems such as these. A caring relative, I would expect, would be the best influence in these situations.

I feel that the article wasnt pandering to the proles' hatred of the guilded class, or those of us well aware of the excesses of trust-fund kids (see Hunter S. Thompson's previous masterpiece, involving musical instruments and cocaine). I felt there were two themes hinted at:

1) This family derives their fortune from tobacco, which has proven a destructive addiction in the health and well being of millions of Americans for decades. Is it fitting that this fortune is sponsoring a devastating addiction, as well?
2) It's a glimpse into the mind of the ultra-wealthy whose standing is the result of birth, and America's capitalist version of Europe's monarchies of bygone centuries. Oddly, it allows us to empathize with the people who feel isolated from the American citizenry and the institutions they've built around the fortresses of the ogliarchs. Perhaps, for a moment, we see the formation of the distrust and angst manifests from personal experiences. The very things the sycophants cling to is something they never asked for in the first place, but rather, were born into. For us middle and lower class citizens to ask them to pay higher taxes and obey our rules... We might as well get in line. It is no wonder they feel only kinship with the other 1%ers.

So, what we have here are children, their flesh, and progeny, who are being treated as the second class citizens, if not worse. It shows there is something almost pathological in the animosity of the super rich. The reward for these children's suffering? A massive trust fund, and the opportunity to continue the vicious cycle.

If somehow we shatter the gates and redistribute the imbalance and concentration of resources, I should hope, in the end, many of these who are incarcerated by their wealth will thank us.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:41 AM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find something poetic in the idea of just drugging and eating yourself to death. I mean, SAD POEM, but still, just give money until the soul implodes.
posted by jscott at 11:51 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI - The HST piece I was referring to is Bad Craziness in Palm Beach: I Told Her it was Wrong.

It was originally published in Rolling Stone and in his book Songs of the Doomed, if you want to read it. I could have sworn I read it online as a PDF or TXT somewhere, but now I can't find it.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:53 AM on August 15, 2013


"We were all too self-centered to be bothered with a problem child," she would later tell her cousin, Angier St. George Biddle "Pony" Duke.

W-
posted by Iridic at 1:18 PM on August 15, 2013


The thing that really stuck out for me was the fact that the kids have clearly internalized their dad's penchant for making up crazy stories as a defense mechanism of some kind.

I guess it just hits home for me because achievement is something that was drilled into me as a kid. Do something with yourself. Work hard and get good at something. Be proud of your hard work and your achievements. These kids (and their dad before them) had none of that, and what's worse, no opportunity for that, despite their wealth. So they make up crazy stories that are obviously lies or embellishments to the truth.

What a shame.
posted by LN at 1:25 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, it sounds like they remember those things happening. They're not being naughty, they have PTSD so severe that their mental health professionals can't even put it on a scale.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:43 PM on August 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


There is a correlation between wealth and lack of ethics: "The upper class has a higher propensity for unethical behavior" according to numerous studies. If you've seen the recent reports about drivers of blue BMW's being the most likely to engage in road rage, that came out of these same studies on wealth and ethics.
posted by stbalbach at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I think boarding school might actually be best for these kids. They need structure, socialization, and adults who are less crazy than their relatives. They need to form friendships with people who aren't trying to steal their money."

I think they need their Mom, as long as the bank can keep her from excessively draining their inheritance. (And how did a billion dollars become sixty million, anyway? Was that their Dad, or JP Morgan putting it all into junk bonds?) Whatever strange relationship they have with her, she's still their only remaining parent, and that bond is better than no ties to anyone at all.

But more than anything, they need therapy. Lots and lots of therapy from professionals who will stay with them for years. Now that they're slowly becoming part of the world, school and peer relationships are going to be very stressful (but necessary), and it would help if they had someone to share those feelings with. (Like they seemed willing to share with the reporter.)

Most abused children will never receive the amount of therapy that they need, but there's no practical reason Georgia and Patterson can't have as many psychologists and counselors as it takes to help them. I hope they get that help, and find a way to come to terms with their past.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:15 PM on August 15, 2013


Surely, one might think, the enormity of wealth these kids are tied up with would protect them somehow, but it seems like the very opposite is true.

Enormity also means "the great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong"

Your sentence works just as well.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:23 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The parents' marriage:
After the exchange of vows, boxes of white doves were opened, but nothing emerged. As Walker kissed the bride, a caretaker scooped out a handful of dead and dying birds and tossed them skyward, where they fell in a pile on the grass.
the ghost of HST wants to tell this story.
posted by ohshenandoah at 2:26 PM on August 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've seldom read something so depressing that left me feeling so ambivalent. Horrible - HORRIBLE - things happened to those children, and they are damaged, perhaps permanently as a result. But the fact that they are going to a school that costs FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH and living in a monthly rental in a resort town that costs half that again significantly diminishes my concern for their "problems." Thousands - millions? - of children are abused in the US all the time, many in worse ways than these two, and it seems our only concern is making sure their Welfare Queen mothers and Absent Black fathers aren't "gaming the system." Where's the Rolling Stone Outrage of the Week story about them? The bad crazy has been going on in the Duke family for literally generations, how is this in any way illuminating rather than voyeuristic?

(Sprry, nothing ignites my righteous indignation like animal cruelty or child abuse...)
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 2:37 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why isn't that stepmother rotting in jail for child abuse NOW?

And OneMonkeysUncle, we have enough compassion for everyone. My husband was one of those abused kids without $$. Abuse is abuse. And it isn't like the rich kids could buy themselves out of it. Or buy themselves into wholeness. That's not how it works.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:01 PM on August 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I never understand why people like the Inman twins' parents have children. I mean, hell, do all the drugs, be as crazy as you want, whatever. But why have children if that isn't going to be your first priority in life? Do people just do it because, no matter how decadent or irresponsible their lifestyle, everyone by default is expected to have and want children?

/childfree
posted by evil otto at 3:15 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why isn't that stepmother rotting in jail for child abuse NOW?

You haveta ask?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:16 PM on August 15, 2013


I never understand why people like the Inman twins' parents have children. I mean, hell, do all the drugs, be as crazy as you want, whatever. But why have children if that isn't going to be your first priority in life? Do people just do it because, no matter how decadent or irresponsible their lifestyle, everyone by default is expected to have and want children?

He had to have kids by a certain age to keep part of the family fortune.
posted by Area Man at 3:20 PM on August 15, 2013


He had to have kids by a certain age to keep part of the family fortune.

Huh. I thought that when people put conditions like that in wills, they rarely hold up in court. Of course, all justice goes right out the window when there's that kind of money involved....
posted by evil otto at 3:22 PM on August 15, 2013


In the article Walker confided to a "friend" (no name given) that:
...His grandmother's will had stipulated that if Walker left no heirs, upon his death his trust would be funneled into the Duke Endowment, a $2.8 billion foundation established by Buck Duke that nourishes, among other institutions, Duke University. The idea repulsed Walker: The very name that had given him such unearned bounty also stood for everything he felt he'd been deprived. "He despised Duke!" says longtime friend Mike Todd. "Duke University, Duke Foundation – everything Duke, he hated."
So supposedly he had children to spite his dead grandmother. It wasn't to keep money for himself, but rather, to keep it out of her family charity.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:26 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, I read that part too quickly. That's crazy.
posted by Area Man at 3:38 PM on August 15, 2013


This article was a fascinating read, in a very voyeuristic way, especially since I work at Duke. But I keep wondering if this was a good idea for Georgia and Patterson. There's a whole lot of trauma, which the article makes clear they still need a lot of time and help working through, and personal information revealed here. They're minors so I'm assuming Mom had to okay this? But after reading that article I'm skeptical of their mother's ability to make smart decisions about this sort of thing. Playdate with Michael Jackson's kids? Yikes.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 3:44 PM on August 15, 2013


It's a fascinating story, and terribly sad, but was anyone else bothered by the weird fictionalizing of some bits? Like the description of the father going through the box of his father's belongings and crying.... Who was there? Who saw that?

The writer's tendency to make up little narrative moments seems way too similar to the kids' habit of making up stories.

Maybe that seems like a minor quibble, but it really detracted from the actual facts of the story for me. Leave off the "You Are There!" filigree.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 3:48 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


it was the Dukes! [sorry]
posted by j_curiouser at 3:53 PM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the saddest parts is how the kids, especially Patterson, still defend their father. I mean, I think by anybody's standards, he was a Bad Person. The kind of person you'd spit on if you could. And yet, he seems to be the only person who ever even noticed these children -- even if he only noticed them long enough to treat them like shit. Georgia doesn't even feel ready for friendship yet. Forget for a moment that they're rich. The only thing I can compare this to is articles I've read about children who were locked in a room and punched every time they spoke. I believe feral is the word. I hope they get the help they need from someone. Their mother sounds kinda batty and more than a little greedy. It makes me worried and sad and I probably shouldn't have read this at work.
posted by evil otto at 4:56 PM on August 15, 2013


I want these children to be trained by the same ninjas who trained Christian Bale Batman in the mountains, and then return to go Kill Bill on everyone who had a hand in their sad story.
posted by reenum at 6:34 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


But there are a lot of Duke descendants who don't appear to have tried to help these kids.

These kids aren't actually members of the Duke family. They are descended from Doris Duke's mother's first marriage, not from James B. Duke.

Besides charities, Doris Duke left much of her fortune to her butler after disowning a daughter that she adopted as an adult, who nevertheless contested the will and won $65 million.

The living Dukes are descendants of James Duke's brothers and would be very distant step-relations to these kids.
posted by knoyers at 6:46 PM on August 15, 2013


evil otto, my husband would say nice things about his very abusive father. It isn't uncommon in the slightest.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:53 PM on August 15, 2013


I don't understand how people can feel less sympathy for these two because of their wealth. If anything I feel like the father's huge fortune was what kept anyone from interfering.

One of the many troubling aspects of Georgia and Patterson's story is how many people witnessed their torment, and yet no help came. Certainly the kids were on the radar of Wyoming authorities for years.

What in the world does someone's future inheritance have to do with sympathy for a pair of trapped kids who had and still have absolutely no one in the world who's just on their side?
posted by bleep at 6:54 PM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean I'm pretty sure children are always the innocent parties, how can you feel less sympathy for a child because of what their abusive parents happen to have in the bank?
posted by bleep at 6:55 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of Jack Whittaker's story (previously on Metafilter).

You know, I'd really like to hear more stories about people who came into unimaginable wealth, and then went on to make life better for other people. Would seem to be the exception and not the rule.
posted by evil otto at 7:35 PM on August 15, 2013


how can you feel less sympathy for a child because of what their abusive parents happen to have in the bank?

I don't know that I have less sympathy for them than I do other kids--I think that it's horrible and fucked up, and that it's appalling that it happens to anyone, let alone to children. I don't think that I'm unsympathetic. But do I feel as bad for them as I do for the non-wealthy children of abusive or drug-addicted parents? No. Not because I have less sympathy, but because these kids have all the money in the world to get therapy and buy new-age woo or whatever they think it is that they need to heal. They have plenty of money to cushion them when they inevitably fall down in the way that people whose parents failed to teach them life skills fall down. It's a luxury that isn't afforded to many, and it's a luxury that will, in theory, significantly diminish their long-term suffering, if only because they can get treatment for their psychic injuries. Most people can't, and I feel far worse for those people than I do for these two.
posted by MeghanC at 9:03 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That article felt like Suffering Porn, and kind of predatory towards two young people who don't need their business spread all over America, and the only man bites dog part of it was the money. If they weren't millionaires there would be no Rolling Stone story.
posted by feets at 12:02 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


MeghanC, sometimes money is a curse. It sure was for their dad. Money can allow you to get more and more effed up. Look at Michael Jackson, for one. Money can insulate you from the help you need.

All I am saying is their story is horrific, and it is no more or less horrific because their dad had money. It would be horrific if they were poor, and it is horrific even though they aren't. Money cannot fix EVERYTHING.


But it can make people feel less empathy for you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:56 AM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


these kids have all the money in the world to get therapy and buy new-age woo

But they're children, badly damaged children, with no capacity or legal right to make decisions about their own mental health care and whose mother is trying but has a pretty creative grip on reality. Woo doesn't fix anything in general, but it sure as hell doesn't fix the brain damage from childhood malnutrition or the emotional damage of living locked in a basement covered in feces. You can't pay trauma to go away.

The only thing they can count on is exploitation, the article made that pretty clear. Having all the money in the world, when other people are spending it, is the same as having no money. These children are no less worthy of sympathy than any other.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:00 AM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't understand why the story of minors, who still have to navigate themselves through the world, and get better is ALLOWED to be published! WTF?! These kids have no-one protecting them, not their family, not the government, not the law. What the fuck is up with Rolling Stone exposes these kids and their problems? How is that even allowed?
posted by b33j at 9:34 PM on August 16, 2013


Rolling Stone? You mean that cheerleader for the drug war? I wonder how much coke Jann Wenner hoovered in the 70's before it seeped into the rest of the culture and became a Bad Thing?
posted by telstar at 12:29 AM on August 17, 2013


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