Millions of immigrants have found success in America through hard work, pluck and a little ingenuity. Christian Gerhartsreiter took a more duplicitous approach. In 1978, the 17-year-old German schemed his way into the United States and didn’t stop. He worked himself into affluent environments by claiming to be anything from a TV producer to a baronet.
In 1992, Gerhartsreiter unveiled his greatest creation: Clark Rockefeller, a scion of the famed wealthy family. Amazingly, nobody discovered this elaborate lie until—divorced, cut off from money and desperate—he kidnapped his young daughter in July 2008. The incident, involving a fake Rockefeller no less, was national news.
Mark Seal, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair who previously wrote about the Rockefeller saga for the magazine, chronicles the con man’s brazen odyssey in The Man in the Rockefeller Suit. Relying on loads of research and nearly 200 interviews, Seal captures the essence of a man whose soul was buried underneath countless faÃÂ§ades. Seriously, it’s next to impossible to tally all the lies and shifty identities. Even when he was brought down, Gerhartsreiter was still delivering falsities with a smile on his face.
How did he remain out of trouble for 30 years? Regardless of his alias, Gerhartsreiter was charismatic, told well-researched, convincing lies and immersed himself in American culture. He was unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit, and Gilligan’s Island’s Thurston Howell III provided patrician inspiration. “For Clark, things that are imaginary were very, very real,” explains Patrick Hickox, who befriended Clark Rockefeller in Boston. The only[Fri Apr 18 14:23:58 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. real thing in Rockefeller’s life, he adds, may have been his daughter.
Seal’s first-person approach can be distracting at times, but he brings color and depth to this most unusual immigrant story—one that is brave, bizarre and utterly enthralling.Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.
Vanity Fair contributing editor Seal (Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa, 2009) unravels the complex case of "Clark Rockefeller," a fiendishly clever con man who, over the course of three decades, insinuated himself into the highest echelons of American society using only his wits and a borrowed name.
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a precocious teenager hailing from an obscure Bavarian village, felt he was destined for greatness, and such humble beginnings would not do. Consequently, he made his way to the United States, where he adopted a series of identities more in line with his self-image: patrician, wealthy, well-educated and possessed of impeccable social standing. In privileged enclaves nestled in exclusive pockets of California, Connecticut, New York and Boston, Gerhartsreiter spun wild stories of his family's prominence and wealth (and invented an ever-changing professional resume, at various points claiming to be a Hollywood producer, Defense Department contractor and international financial advisor), charming their blue-blooded denizens with his erudition, sponge-like appropriation of manners and appearance and, most crucially, the magic name Rockefeller.ÃÂ Seal delineates his endless schemes in an irresistibly lucid and propulsive manner, and his characterizations of his many victims are richly observed. Readers will marvel at Gerhartsreiter's ability to bamboozle his way into tony social clubs, jobs at eminent financial institutions (he had no qualifications or experience) and, most crucially, into the affections of wife Sandra Boss, a savvy financial wunderkind who nonetheless funded "Rockefeller's" lavish lifestyle in complete ignorance of his true identity. The narrative occasionally takes some dark turns. Seal makes a strong case naming Gerhartsreiter as the likely murderer of a young couple who fell under his sway early in his career, and the impostor's kidnapping of his own daughter once his faÃÂ§ade began to crumble is uncomfortably gripping material.
Impossible to put down—Patricia Highsmith couldn't have written a more compelling thriller.
ÃÂCopyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
For over two decades, Clark Rockefeller was accepted in exclusive circles on both coasts on the strength of his famous name; he eventually married a dazzling Harvard MBA. But there is no real Clark Rockefeller. That was just the name adopted by a young man from Germany, eager to succeed in America. Seal was a 2010 National Magazine Award finalist for the Vanity Fair piece that served as the basis for this book, which should please anyone who enjoys a good comeuppance.[Page 65]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
When the story of a parental kidnapping in Boston went out over the newswires in 2008, it seemed initially like a routine family tragedy. But it took strange twists as time passed. The father, wealthy businessman Clark Rockefeller, was not who he seemed to be. In fact, no one at all knew who he was. This episode ended the long career of professional imposter and con man Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, originally from the tiny German village of Bergen. His ambition to emigrate to America and become a filmmaker took him from Boston to California and back. Charm, arrogance, and a wickedly sharp mind helped him create his personae but also enabled him to maintain his lifestyle by stealing, swindling…and maybe worse. In 1985, John and Linda Sohus, Gerhartsreiter's roommates, disappeared, and Gerhartsreiter was charged with murdering John on March 15, 2011, 26 years after the crime. While the subject's aloofness and arrogance keep the reader from rooting for him, one almost has to admire the chutzpah. VERDICT The talented Mr. Rockefeller could have come right out of a Hitchcock film. For crime buffs and fans of flimflam.--Deirdre Root, Middletown P.L., OH[Page 103]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Hiding behind one of America's wealthiest names, a German immigrant duped the world in a decades-long charade that Vanity Fair contributing editor Seal unravels in this fascinating account. Born Christian Gerhartsreiter in Germany in 1961 , he left home at age 17, landing with an acquaintance in Connecticut. Over the next 14 years, he carefully honed his impersonation skills. He shed his German accent and began acquiring aliases, first in wealthy San Marino, Calif., and then, in 1992, in Manhattan society, where he made a calculatedly low-key entrance as James Frederick Mills Clark Rockefeller. He soon married Sandra Boss, a financial executive, whose money Rockefeller spent with abandon. Only when she filed for divorce after 12 rocky years of marriage did his carefully constructed facade crumble, and he went on the run with their young daughter, sparking an FBI chase and a prison sentence for kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Seal (Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa) brilliantly reconstructs and dissects Gerhartsreiter's strange life, weaving in interviews with those who knew--or thought they knew--one of the men he pretended to be along the way. (Earlier this month, the L.A. Times reported that prosecutors have brought an indictment against Gerhartsreiter in a 1980s murder in San Marino.) (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC