An Island Of Millionaires
A typical Palm Beach Newsday: King Hussein yachting the Inlet, Prince Charles
doing a polo match, President arrives by Air Force 1 for golfing event.
There were no kings, no princes, no polo ponies in Paul William Scott's Palm Beach.
Ft. Lauderdale is a land of fun and sun for everyone who can afford
the price tag. It's an expensive place to live, but it's do-able,
all you need is a bankroll. Lauderdale has something for everyone,
a lush beach front, which is home to kids on 'Spring break' all
year-round, and elegant gated communities for the wealthy. As you
work your way west, you'll see blacks and whites and Hispanics
and Haitians and you name it. Work your way further west and you have
cowboys, rednecks and construction workers, things like that.
When Kentucky governor and entrepreneur John Y. Brown, of KFC fame
and fortune, first arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and pulled his yacht
into the pricey Club International, they made him feel less than
welcome. So John goes inside and he buys the club, sophistication and all.
Money talks, as they say, and it earned him respect after that.
Ft. Lauderdale is in Broward County, which lies in between Dade County
(Miami) to the south, and Palm Beach County (Palm Beach) to the
Palm Beach is an island of millionaires, accessible by three
drawbridges. The money isn't made here, however, it's all made elsewhere -
somewhere up North or in Europe or Asia or South America.
Palm Beach is winter home to the Kennedys, Fords, Rockefellers,
Vanderbilts, and a host of 'old' money, and to Donald Trump, Rush
Limbaugh, Burt Reynolds. Jimmy Buffet and an interesting assortment of
'new' money. They like to know where the money comes from before
they'll invite you into their exclusive island clubs.
Blacks are not allowed in Palm Beach. They won't tell you that, but
as you look around you'll notice their conspicuous absence.
That's even today, by the way. Every day is a sunny day in Palm
Beach and the snow never falls. It did snow once back in 1976,
a few flurries in the air, nothing serious. My kids - now grown
up - still remember that day. I was gone to West Virginia all that week
for the inauguration if Jay Rockefeller as new governor of that
state. I still remember how fifteen degrees below zero feels
from that colder-than-average visit to the frozen Northland. Brrr!
I never cease to be impressed by the beauty of grandiosity of
this remarkable island. The rich and famous gather here to play after
the money has all been made. Today I saw Wayne Newton through
the smoke-filled room of a Worth Avenue cigar shop, and Rod Stewart
leaning against a lamppost waiting for his lovely bride who had stepped
into a boutique. Jimmy buffet was showing houseguest Brad Pitt
around the strip, Donald Trump and family were watching Miss USA trim
down near their colossal Mar-a-lago (ocean to lake) estate.
Christie Brinkley steps out of a Rolls Royce - more plentiful than
Chevys on the island - into the lush gardens of Esplanade Mall.
Burt Reynolds just cruised by in a baby-blue Rolls.
Handsome playboy Bill Wakeman was a friend of mine here on the
island of millionaires. He would often drive around Palm Beach
in his bright red 1925 Rolls Royce touring car - top down, always
- just for the fun of it. Bill's wife, Nancy, was the heiress
to the John Deere tractor fortune. One day Nancy caught Bill
in an uncompromising act of infidelity - they say - and she shot
him, then and there, in a bedroom of their massive estate on El
Bill had a choice: Let well-known Houston physician Michael
DeBakey perform an extremely risky operation on his spine
or remain confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.
Always the gambler, Bill chose to have the operation, and he
promptly died. Poor Miss Nancy, the bereaved - she got 2500
hours of community service for that rash act. And so goes life
in Palm Beach.
To exit the island you may use any one of three drawbridges.
Take the center one - Royal Palm Way - and you'll find yourself
in downtown West Palm Beach. Crossing the bridge today I saw the
fabulous motor-sailing craft, the 'Butterfly McQueen' - so computerized,
the owner told me, that one person can sail her around the
world unassisted. "Gone With the Wind" movie buffs will
appreciate the significance of that craft's name, by the way.
On either side of the bridge as you cross it are the finest yachts
in all the world - making dreams come true for those fortunate
enough to afford one. Just around the bend to the
north, the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean awaits their next
voyage seaward. Across the bridge to the west lies West Palm
Beach, the city designed by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to be
a "working" town to service the privileged class of Palm Beach.
As county seat of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach is central to
the largest county east of the Mississippi and now home to over
one million people.
Downtown West Palm Beach features the Burt Reynolds Theatrical Training
Center, Donald Trump's Trump Towers and lots of upscale restaurants,
clubs and shopping.
Here sits also, a huge new county courthouse, built in
anticipation of the massive case they have been building
against the cigarette manufacturers for messing with the lungs
of their residents. Our story get into what goes on behind the
scenes in some of the bedrooms - and subsequently - in the
courtrooms on this prosperous county.
Robert Ripley was a Palm Beacher - in his day - and in his honor,
perhaps, the Palm Beach County Courthouse could hang a giant sign:
Believe it or not! Which is to suggest that not everything that goes
on in that monstrous hall of justice is necessarily done with the
absolute best interest of its citizen in mind. what I'm getting
at is a noticeable absence, on occasion, of things like truth,
sincerity, virtue, goodwill toward mankind - things like that.
One promising young man on the Palm Beach scene was Dexter Coffin.
Rich, good looking - nd heir apparent to the Tetley Tea fortune.
Dexter had an affinity for codeine and it comes by prescription
only. Poor little rich kid that he was, Dexter fins himself
forging prescriptions just to obtain cough syrup - gotta have that
sweet concoction. Unfortunately he just can't seem to
get enough of the addictive tonic. One thing leads to another as
Dexter hits the skids over a bad, bad habit.
The Palm Beach Police Department finally has no choice but to place
Dexter into the population of criminals over at the "Gun Club Hilton".
Palm Beach built a huge high-rise prison over on Gin Club Road,
hence the nickname. Dex finds one thing he's very good at here - snitching.
That's jailhouse slang, of course, for informing on fellow inmates.
What a shame, but as they say, everybody gotta be someplace - why not
As fate would have it, Dexter is placed into a cell with Rick
Kondian to try to gather incriminating evidence on Kondian and
Paul William Scott - supposedly.
Now what they should have been looking for was the truth,
right? Here was Rick Kondian, yet to go to trial, and Paul William
Scott, also yet to go to trial - and Kondian telling the facts
of the case to Coffin. Coffin recalls: "Rick specifically told me
that he"beat the shit out of him (Alessi) and killed him"
by hitting him over the head".
"In my daily meetings with Captain Donnelly and the representatives
of the state, I would divulge to them whatever I had learned from
Rick. I repeatedly informed them that Rick said that hewas
responsible for killing James Alessi."
"Rick Kondian was a very confrontational man. He was extremely demanding.
Even though I am much bigger than Rick, he would not hesitate to get very
aggressive with me. He was really pushy with the other inmates, even if
they were a lot bigger. He was very self-centered and would interrupt
my reading or watching tv and insist that I do what he wanted to do.
Usually, what he wanted was to discuss his case."
Dexter Coffin was not located by CCR attorneys until August, 1994,
sixteen years after sharing a cell with Rick Kondian. It seems
pretty obvious that the state had the truth, but they wanted something
3else - namely Paul William Scott.
Meanwhile, down on the south end of Palm Beach County lies Boca
Raton, stronghold for the nouveau rich. Boca Raton
(translation: mouth of the rat) is home to a whole new breed of
fast-talking, get-rich-quick hustlers, attorneys, stockbrokers, multi-level
marketers and the like. And, of course, a youthful crowd of those, fortunate
enough to have had wealthy parents. On my own resume is a stint as
night manager of the opulent Boca Raton Hotel and Club, way
back in 1969-70.
Which brings us back to the incident at 97 Seminole Lane -
and an evening of terror that Boca Raton would just as soon forget.
Mild winter sun, shine gently on me
Warm southern winds, lend your reach
Providence, grant me a smidgen of wealth
...Or get me the hell out of Palm Beach
Bob Pauley, A Beggarman's Prayer
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