This “WASP” tome could pique the chic world.
A new book released this week explores the debauched lives of the upper cla*s by profiling 15 prominent families.
As an example, “Flight of the WASP: The Rise, Fall, and Future of America’s Original Ruling Cla*s” details how a blue-blood heir to the Vanderbilt and Whitney fortune delved into degenerate drug use in luxury.
Whitney Tower Jr. tried cocaine at age 17 at a boarding school before hanging out with “the heirs of the Merck and General Foods pharmaceutical brands” in college, reports Michael Gross’ new book. “We were the little rascals of the jet set,” Whitney recalls.
By the late ’70s he was part of the New York nightlife scene, alongside John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, and was doing harder drugs and also becoming a regular at Studio 54.
He even took a photo at a family funeral at Gloria Vanderbilt’s home, where he said he asked First Lady Nancy Reagan what inspired her “Just Say No” campaign. “I thought I was going to die,” he recalls of his addiction in the book.
He married a Texas oil heiress, Pamela Franzheim, and the couple spent their honeymoon in Thailand smoking heroin together. (“We never left the hotel. It was a bad start,” she told Gross.) The marriage ended in the ’90s when she cleaned house and got a Ph.D.
But Whitney – the great-grandson of Whitney Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and a direct descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt – continued to use, estimating that he went to rehab 10 times and spent 1, 5 million dollars. He stole family heirlooms for money and was cut off from his trust fund.
He survived a heart attack at age 51, remarried, got sober and became a drug counselor. But at age 66, he found himself in an a*sisted living community in Florida after breaking his back in a car accident.
“Raised to be superior, he had to go a long way to fall – and he did it with fierce, reckless enthusiasm,” the book says of Whitney.
From a wheelchair in the mid-70s, he’s had a sense of humor about everything. A relative, Payne Whitney, owns a psychiatric clinic named after him on the Upper East Side. “I can’t believe we don’t have family reunions there,” he said.