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Huguette Clark Mystery Deepens

Cabrillo Boulevard Estate Heiress Taken Advantage of, or Just Generous?


EAST-COAST JUSTICE: East is east, and east is where a judge has thrown 104-year-old multimillionaire Huguette Clark’s relatives out of court.

Even though the New York District Attorney is conducting a criminal investigation into how her attorney and accountant are handling (or mishandling) her $500-million fortune, New York Superior Court Judge Laura Visitacion-Lewis has refused to appoint a guardian to protect Clark from possible financial abuse.

Barney Brantingham

Just “hearsay,” the judge said, scorning a petition by Clark’s relatives. They say they’ve been blocked from seeing Huguette, and that attorney Wally Bock solicited $1.5 million from her for Bock’s daughter’s family in Israel, a possible violation of New York’s code of legal ethics. Bock denies any wrongdoing.

Since Bock hasn’t said whether he’s named in her will and because he and Clark’s accountant ended up with $100,000 each, a Mercedes, and a valuable New York co-op apartment (plus $368,000 in fees) after settling an elderly man’s estate, you’d think a judge might want to give Clark’s relatives a careful hearing.

But, instead, it sounds like the kind of short-shrift kiss-off I’d expect from a Chicago judge. When I phoned Bock’s Manhattan office this week to ask about Clark’s $100-million East Cabrillo Boulevard estate, I was referred to his “media consultant.” So far he hasn’t returned my call.

The people who had asked the court to appoint a financial institution to oversee Clark’s affairs were distant relatives. Clark has no children. In view of the mystery surrounding Clark’s will and Bock’s influence, Santa Barbarans wonder about the future of her hilltop estate. She also owns a $24-million Connecticut country house she’s never lived in, and the $100-million Fifth Avenue co-op she left 22 years ago to live in a New York hospital room.

Bock issued a statement confirming that Clark donated $1.5 million to an Israeli settlement where his daughter lives, according to an msnbc.com report by journalist Bill Dedman. New York State ethics rules ban attorneys from soliciting gifts from clients for the benefit of the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer, Dedman said.

East Coast justice may be lacking, but not its journalism. New York papers are full of the story. Headlined the Wall Street Journal: “The Heiress Clark Scandal and $10,000 Doll Houses.” Bock was quoted there as saying he doesn’t control her finances, just carries out her wishes. Those wishes, according to the WSJ, apparently included a $10,000 dollhouse Bock said was given to his granddaughter. “Over the years,” Bock is quoted as saying, “Ms. Clark frequently made gifts of dolls or dollhouses to the children or grandchildren of her friends and employees.”

She’s also given a friend $10 million. Her longtime nurse received homes worth nearly $2 million, Bock said. She gave Filipino-born nurse Hadassah Peri money to buy four properties, including a $700,000 house in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and a $500,000 home on a golf course on the Jersey Shore.

Despite suspicions, the heiress may just be generous instead of being taken advantage of. We may never know.

WACKY TITLES: The annual Planned Parenthood book sale kicks off Thursday, September 23, at Earl Warren Showgrounds, and volunteers have spotted some bizarre titles among the donations. Here are a few:

  • From Beer to Maternity
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy thru Jokes
  • Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women
  • I Still Miss My Man but My Arm Is Getting Better
  • Translations from the Siamese: A Novel About Cats Who Talk and the People Who Understand
  • Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?
  • Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles
  • Truck: A Love Story
  • The Face of the Clam

While the following isn’t a wacky title, it made volunteer Mary Brown laugh. Here’s an inscription found in a copy of a book by e.e. cummings: “Jerry dear. You asked for it. Don’t blame me! Mother. 10/11/53.”

The sale starts with a 5-9 p.m. $25 cheese-and-wine early-bird event on September 23, featuring books from the estate of the late bandleader Artie Shaw. It continues daily from 9 a.m. until Oct. 3. See ppsbvslo.org for more info.

BEVMO! TO OPEN: Even though California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officials haven’t given final approval, they’ve allowed the controversial Beverages and More! megastore on Santa Barbara’s upper State Street to open Friday, September 24, on an interim basis.

ABC officials in Ventura have recommended approval of the retail store at 3052 State Street, site of the former Thomasville furniture store. ABC district administrator Leslie Pond said BevMo! got interim okay to open pending a public hearing on protests that have been lodged. No hearing date has been set, Pond told me. If an administrative law judge then rules against the license, BevMo! would have to close, he said.

Neighbors and parents at the nearby Peabody Charter School have objected to noise, traffic, and other problems.

GO FOR BAROQUE: What’s this? Bach on a marimba? And flute? No matter what you might think, they made beautiful music, filling the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall Friday with J.S. Bach’s Sonata in A Major. Thanks go to Santa Barbara’s Camerata Pacifica, marimba magician Ji Hye Jung, and flutist Adrian Spence, Camerata’s founder.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.



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