People can be so stupid.
And I don't mean politicians who don't know enough to use throwaway cell phones when communicating with women who aren't married to them.
I mean the citizens of Milford, Connecticut, who met a 17-year-old German exchange student named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter in the fall of 1978 and believed him when he said his father was an industrialist who had something to do with Mercedes-Benz.
And I mean the citizens of San Marino, California, who believed that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter ---- now Christopher Chichester --- was related to Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of the King of England.
And I mean the citizens of Greenwich, Connecticut, who believed that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter --- now Christopher Crowe --- was the same Christopher Crowe who produced the Alfred Hitchcock television series.
And I mean Stan Phelps, who was once smart enough to have given the young Mike Milken his first job, and who now hired Crowe to trade bonds, never checking the Social Security number that Crowe provided, which actually belonged to David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as Son of Sam.
And I especially mean Sandra Boss, a 26-year-old in her final year of Harvard Business School, who met Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter --- now operating as Clark Rockefeller --- in 1993. She believed his parents had died in a car crash. That he started Yale at 14. That he lived, alone, in a townhouse on Sutton Place. That he settled a $50 million lawsuit, leaving him broke, so that she wouldn't be at financial risk if they got married. And that, on the eve of their wedding, he disinvited his distinguished family.
In fact, it wasn't until shortly before "Clark Rockefeller" assaulted a social worker and fled with their young daughter that Sandra Boss --- now a management consultant making a fortune as one of the youngest partners ever at McKinsey --- began to wonder who her husband was. Until then, she thought it was merely eccentric that her husband had no Social Security number and no checking account. Why, he was just about to be named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank!
All this and more is presented in Mark Seal's exhaustively researched "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter." Seal did 200 interviews on two continents for this book, and it shows. He did not get to interview Sandra Boss and Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, and it also shows. But still, the record is vast, the story a jaw-dropper --- this is a book that true-crime and high society buffs will devour like crab cakes at a yacht club cocktail party.
How did Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter fool Sandra Boss? Many say he was charming and brilliant, that he looked and dressed like the Real Thing. And Sandra Boss --- could she have been so bright at work and so blind in her marriage? Or did she put up with her husband's "eccentricities" because his name gave her a business advantage?
"The Man in the Rockefeller Suit" is a perplexing book. After the fact, "everyone" knew Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was a fraud. Before he was unmasked, he fooled almost everyone. I'm sure I would have seen through him. And you're sure you would have. But if we're honest, we have to wonder if a con man using a fancy name might not have fooled us too. And then we have to ask ourselves.... why?