Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Report: The Big Rich

So, I am a bit of a reader.  I am currently working on a book called The Big Rich by Brian Burrough, a WSJ reporter based out of Texas.  The book tells the story in great detail of the rise and fall of the great Texas oil fortunes.  It is full of stories of hard work, good and bad luck, and amazing perseverance.  It is also a great story of the forefathers of American new money decadence. In some ways, ostentatious behavior in the US was invented by the Texas Oilman.  In addition, this relatively small group of Texans influenced US politics in ways vastly out of proportion to their popular name recognition.  I have selected a few of the more important characters to give some vivid examples.

 "Silver Dollar" Jim West Jr.
Mr. West was known as "Silver Dollar" for his habit of handing everyone around him silver dollars.  He had special pockets sewn into his pants for the purposes of carrying the coins.  He used to hand doormen stacks of 20 coins, throw them in pools for kids, and drop them along the aisle as he walked through restaurants.  He also was a law enforcement buff, and wore a diamond-encrusted Texas Ranger badge at all times.  He wore a diamond coated pistol as well, and favored a full-length mink in the Houston winter that was coated with (what did you expect) diamonds.

Glenn McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy is famous for using his oil fortune to build the Shamrock Hotel in Houston, at the time the biggest hotel in the world.  It was decorated entirely in the colors salmon and emerald, and was described by most as "ghastly."  He was also quite fond of getting in bar brawls, courting Hollywood starlets, and running up nearly $100million in debt he never really even attempted to pay back.  he was described by his friend Howard Hughes as "eccentric."  No lie.

HL Hunt

Mr. Hunt is "famous" for having four separate families.  No particular reason, he just had four "wives" and sets of kids at the same time, and managed to keep each of them from knowing about the others for years.  He was apparently very good at managing his time.

Hugh Roy Cullen

Mr.Cullen was a 5th grade dropout that made his fortune in the first wave of the Texas oil rush.  He went on to be one of the preeminent figures in the birth of the conservative political movement, fighting long and hard against anything that might allow black people to vote or basically do anything except be owned by white folk like himself.  He also built several hospitals in Houston, and founded the University of Houston.  People sure are complex sometimes, aren't they?

It's a pretty interesting book.  So read it, or don't.

Mr French

1 comment:

  1. you crack me up with the last line. and all i can think about the book is that it just doesn't pay for some people to come into money