NR Digital

Regime Change

by Ross Douthat

A review of The Queen of Versailles

Sometime in 2007, a documentary filmmaker named Lauren Greenfield insinuated herself into the lives of David and Jackie Siegel, a septuagenarian time-share tycoon and his middle-aged, much-augmented wife. At the time, the Siegels seemed like nouveau riche cartoon characters: the husband a glad-handing, lecherous empire-builder whose favorite charitable pursuit is reviving the fortunes of the Miss America pageant; his spouse a former model turned trophy wife turned mother of eight (because it’s easy to have kids, she tells the cameras, when the nannies raise them for you); their lifestyle a Vegas-and-Florida round of private jets, fluffy dogs, and outrageous shopping sprees.

When Greenfield began filming them, the Siegels were in the process of achieving the ultimate in meretricious grandeur, having laid the foundations and raised high the roof beams on a house that promised to be the largest in America. They had been inspired by a visit to Louis XIV’s Versailles, which so bedazzled the couple they resolved to recreate its grandeur in suburban Orlando, where their bedroom windows could open onto a view of the Disney World fireworks.

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