Stories From the Formerly Ultra Wealthy

Simone turned out stronger than Bill. Eventually, after one too many failures, he lay lifeless at the bottom of his string. He ended in a haze. But Simone always comes back, jaguar coat and all. She is poor, she is rich, then poor again, but that was far from the end. I realized that, as much as the story she’d told me was about a tragic man, it was also one of triumph—her triumph. Because she’d kept going, living richly, making things. For years, she was a friend and muse to Janet Brown, a well-known Long Island fashion designer, with whom she’d lived for a decade. Now Brown was gone too—but that opened the door for the next thing. And anyway, her story, the one she’d just told me, was more valuable than any jewel. No husband could take it away.

In this week’s issue of New York magazine, Rich Cohen talks to Simone Levitt, the wife of Bill Levitt, who built Levittown in Long Island, N.Y. and is known as the creator of the modern American suburbia. Levitt lost nearly all his wealth after a series of real estate development deals gone wrong, and died before he could build his wealth back up. Simone did everything she could to keep afloat (including keeping a 27-carat diamond her husband asked her to give back to him so he could pay off some business debts, which she later sold for $800K), and now at 84, resides in a one-bedroom rental in Manhattan.

It’s a little Blue Jasmine-y (without the seizing of all the assets by federal investigators, and the mental breakdown).



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