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Not a Pretty Picture

‘The Queen of Versailles’ gives you a closeup of David and Jackie Siegel’s lives as metaphors for wretched excess.

Lauren Greenfield/Magnolia Pictures

 

Watching successful people fall and kicking them while they’re down is as American as apple pie and overeating. The distance of the fall is proportional to wealth and status. You know, the bigger they are, the harder they fall? And few are bigger than David Siegel, the biggest private timeshare resort owner in the world.
 
A few years ago, Siegel fell off the top of his world, with an unfinished 90,000-square-foot Windermere home made of borrowed money and bad taste landing on top of him. Many of us know this story, having watched Siegel’s plunge play out in the media (including this magazine’s June 2009 issue) as the financial crisis put a chokehold on his Westgate Resorts timeshare business just as he built a $1 billion resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
 
As big as Siegel, 77, was (and still is) in terms of wealth, his wife, Jacqueline, 46, was (and no doubt still is) bigger yet in terms of flaunting it. The latter is why I suspect the documentary about Siegel’s financial downfall came to be titled The Queen of Versailles. Showing at the Enzian theater in Maitland this month, the movie is the result of director Lauren Greenfield’s two years of filming the couple, most often at their 34,000-square-foot mansion. The film shows the Siegel home bursting at the seams, with eight children, several frou-frou lap dogs that are not housebroken, nannies and piles of clutter everywhere. The Siegels are hoarders, which complements the movie’s underlying theme of the consequences of wretched excess. 
 
“Over the top” is a phrase that Jackie wears like one of her outfits that features a revealing bustline. Early in the movie she casually reveals that she spent about a million bucks a year on her wardrobe before her husband’s fortunes went south. Money is so tight that the kids have been moved into public schools and been warned they might actually have to go to college and support themselves. On a Christmas morning, while the kids and David seem numb as they unwrap one cheap present after another that Jackie bought at Walmart, the Queen glows as she treats herself to caviar that she says cost $2,000.
 
David Siegel’s narrative throughout the film is more focused, with him stressing over his financial problems from beginning to end. Watching Siegel—and even Jackie—take it on the chin will bring you little, if any, joy. You can’t help but admire Siegel’s resolve to rescue his company and complete Versailles, the American Dream on steroids. 
 
Since the filming has wrapped, Siegel reportedly got Versailles, which had been put up for sale, out of foreclosure and he plans to complete it. However, he had to unload Westgate’s crown jewel in Vegas. Yet Siegel said in a statement that Westgate is more profitable than ever today and that the film isn’t a fair portrayal of the company. “I can handle people criticizing me or my family,’’ he said. “What I don’t like is someone manipulating reality to make it seem as if our company is unhealthy or doesn’t do business the right way.”
 
The Queen of Versailles could be a period piece about America’s rise and fall in the last decade. The Siegels may not be your typical American family, but their story is typical—albeit to the extreme—of the damage wrought by the Great Recession.  
 
Go ahead and kick them if you like. But be warned, they’ll kick back. 

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Comments, page 1 of 3 1 2 3 Next »
Nov 24, 2012 06:56 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

But eventual as it may be, Versailles and all of David's un-enjoyed accruements will still be here when he is long gone. Sad.

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Dec 1, 2012 12:19 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I take no pleasure in seeing people hit hard times....(even if only in relative terms)...but I am disgusted when I see the senseless wastefulness portrayed by these two! It is sad that they can't even see what wretched people they are.

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Dec 9, 2012 10:30 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I loved that movie. If I were Jackie and had been violently attacked and had to run out on her former life and start a new one, I'd probably be batshit crazy too. I feel a little bad for her as it is clear that her husband doesn't love her. But, with that said, there are a lot of wives with husbands who don't love them, and none of them have it as good as Jackie does.

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Jan 5, 2013 08:58 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I really feel bad for David Siegel. His wife, Jackie, has horrible taste. It's too bad they didn't just live on the cash they had instead of letting Bank of America screw them with that huge mortgage. The banks are disgusting, greedy, horrible and they make me sick. But most of all, I felt sickened by "Tacky Jackie" and her horrible voice, her selfish dumb point of view, and her awful taste. She has NO CLASS, NO STYLE and her mentality got them where they are now.
Guys, marry someone who will not ruin you financially.
One more thing. I can't stand wealthy people who do not immediately set up trusts, life insurance, etc to protect themselves and their families.
Call a financial planner/life insurance agent and protect/take care of your children and your selves FIRST before you go losing everything.

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Feb 6, 2013 03:43 am
 Posted by  Margie

I really want to understand how is it that a man like that could not stop a woman spend and spend? If he can have control over a whole entire empire why wouldn't he have control over his life and his family first? I really hope he pulls out of this terrible ordeal, I do not wish bad on anyone! If he does pull out of this I hope next time instead of trying to help like Miss America, he says screw that I'm going to help all of my children first and last and the heck with everyone else! Do not let his wife have any credit cards or blank checks! If she really went to school for being an engineer then if he is to give her any money give it to her if she puts it towards doing something with what she has a degree in! Jackie seems like she has some intelligance why didn't she ever try and use all that money and do something for herself and her family? I think if she took all of that energy that she used to shop and spend on stupid, worthless crap, and put her mind to it she really probably could of been successful! I know Jackie is not the reason why his business belly-flopped, but it seems like she didn't do anything to help make any of it better! One thing is for sure I really do not think that she realized how the little movie that they made on their life made her look! I mean how could she think that made her look good, the only thing that made her seem like she cared for other people is when they mentioned that she gave 5,000 to a family member so they wouldn't lose their house, other then that it really made her look like she's a very selfish person! I hope and pray that if they come out of this that Jackie does something for herself and family for their future, and will make her a better person, someone her kids and husband can be proud of! All that money and for yourself nothing to show for it, WHAT A WASTE! If that was me I would be so ashamed of myself! I do wish them all the best, I am not a hater! I'm just trying to understand!?!?!

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Mar 22, 2013 05:30 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I like both David Siegel & his wife Jackie.
I wish them the best of everything that this world has to offer.
I am using his business model to start up
again. His marketing plan is biz genius & a biz guide.
The point, when someone makes it big, appreciate them & their path. There are always be some envy around, but that is not a goal.
hey guys,keep being a success model for many people in the USA.

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Apr 28, 2013 09:33 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

David Siegel lacks any type of scruples or ethics. The last feeling I have for those two is pity.

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Apr 29, 2013 10:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

karma baby...karma

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Apr 30, 2013 01:12 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I actually feel sorry for Jackie. I think David waited until they were dire straits to come clean to Jackie about how bad their financials really were. I also think Jackie probably has extremely low self-esteem and with David being 30 years older than her he just kept feeding that into her mind making her thing that she isn't smart to be involved with any aspect of the company and that her only job is to be his arm candy and to look good. She probably is capable of much more, but I think he is actually the one who has really held her back. David needs to take responsibility for the fact that he allowed his wife and family to live extravagantly and arrogantly for so long and then expect them to abruptly live within in their means. I do feel bad for him and all the stress he was put under, but he needs to take some responsibility for the bad decisions he made and stop blaming his wife for their financial position. I don't think he really loves his wife or his children.

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Apr 30, 2013 01:23 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

It's obvious that David doesn't really love his wife and wanted nothing more from her than to be his trophy wife. He should have had Jackie more involved in his business. He should have given her a job and if he did that would have done wonders for her low self esteem. As far as having that much help around the house it is just ridiculous. If she isn't working then she should be raising her own children and using sitters when need be and have a housekeeper twice a month (her house really is quite huge) and not every day. Why the hell do they need all those animals that they can't take care of? There is no reason why anyone needs to have a 90,000 sq ft home! They could have bought a slightly larger home or decluttered their current home and things would have been just fine.

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