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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Deplorable. THE Brooke Astor, 104 years old, living in hell on Park Avenue

Poor Brooke Astor. Why is this happening to her? I'd rather have love than money, damnit.

--from the NY Daily News, July 25, 2006

Vicious court battle rocks the world of Manhattan's one-time society queen

Society queen Brooke Astor is living a twilight hell because of son Anthony Marshall, court papers say.

According to court papers, Brooke Astor, 104, lives in wretched conditions in Park Ave. building.

-->Brooke Astor, the patron saint of philanthropy and society in New York, is being forced to live her remaining days in wretched, uncharitable conditions, according to court papers filed by her grandson.

Astor, now 104, is allegedly being kept inside her dilapidated Park Ave. duplex by her only child, Anthony Marshall - who controls her $45 million fortune, yet refuses to spend money for her care.

The stunning blue blood family feud emerged from court documents obtained exclusively by the Daily News.

According to court papers, Marshall:

--->Cut back on everything from her doctor visits to the brand of makeup she uses.

--->Won't give Astor a hospital bed fitted with rails, even though she has fallen from her bed.

--->Ordered her aides to not buy certain medicine at the drugstore because a weaker version is available for less on the Internet.

---> Wouldn't allow nurses to buy his mother a new outfit for her 104th birthday.

The grandson, Philip Marshall, is seeking to immediately remove his father as legal guardian, and replace him with Annette de la Renta, the wife of Oscar de la Renta, and JPMorgan Chase Bank.

Philip Marshall charges that his grandmother is a victim of "elder abuse" - and he's got some influential people on his side.

A trio of prominent New Yorkers - former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Chase Manhattan Bank CEO David Rockefeller and Annette de la Renta - have filed affidavits in support of the grandson.

Astor's 82-year-old son landed at Iwo Jima during World War II, is a former intelligence officer with the CIA, a former diplomat and a Broadway producer with his wife, Charlene. The pair have won two Tony Awards.

Reached at his E. 79th St. apartment, Anthony Marshall, who pays himself $2.3 million as Astor's caretaker, according to the papers, declined to comment.

"No, I don't want to comment. You said it is shocking and I agree. I don't think I should comment. It is a matter that is going to be coming up in a court of law and it should be left to the court," Anthony Marshall said.

He said a hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 8, putting one of New York's first families on display.

The massive court filing details everything from Astor's bland diet - which includes pureed peas, carrots, liver and oatmeal prepared by an "unmotivated cook" who replaced her French chef last year - to her medical care.

According to the papers quietly filed last week, Anthony Marshall has had Astor's weekly doctor visits cut down to once a month, and has ordered the staff not to take her to an emergency room or call 911 if she is having a medical emergency without contacting him first.

The grandson went to court because his father, who is supposed to be overseeing the care of Astor, "has turned a blind eye to her, intentionally and repeatedly ignoring her health, safety, personal and household needs, while enriching himself with millions of dollars."

"My grandmother is one of the great philanthropists of our time," Philip Marshall said in an affidavit. "The sad and deplorable state of my family's affairs has compelled me to bring this guardianship action."

Astor - who still receives about $2 million a year in income from her late husband Vincent Astor's trust - suffers from significant memory loss, skin cancer, chronic anemia, heart problems, spinal stenosis, among other ailments, and has broken her hip twice, according to court papers.

"Her bedroom is so cold in the winter that my grandmother is forced to sleep in the TV room in torn nightgowns on a filthy couch that smells, probably from dog urine," according to the affidavit.

Astor, who is one of 33 women to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, "has devoted her life to making the world a better place," according to Philip Marshall. She has given away $200 million to city charities alone.

Yet, according to her grandson's court filings, this is what her life has come to:

Although Astor had always used Estée Lauder cosmetics and face creams, her head maid, Mily Degernier, who has worked for Astor for 35 years, has instructed that a "cheaper brand" of makeup be used and that Vaseline be used instead of face cream.

A prescription for Astor's anemia, Procrit, which costs about $1,000 a month, was stopped for no medical reason.

An enzyme supplement, CoQ10, to promote a healthy heart, and which may help in Astor's battle against cancer, which costs $60 a bottle, was stopped at the instruction of Charlene Marshall, Anthony's wife. She then told the aides to buy the medicine off the Internet, a diluted version that costs $26 for three bottles.

When an aide's request for two air purifiers - needed for the dust-filled apartment - was denied, they were bought by de la Renta.

When a request for hair bonnets and no-skid socks was denied, Astor's nurses bought them themselves.

Astor apparently has not seen her beloved dogs, Boysie and Girlsie, in six months because they are kept locked in a pantry to keep them from damaging the apartment.

Anthony Marshall, Astor's son from her first marriage, repeatedly has refused to open up Holly Hill, her 75-acre estate in Briarcliff Manor, Westchester County, this year, even though Astor has said she wants to die there.

While Astor has a nurse on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the staff has been cut back. She used to have two aides on duty at all times, according to an affidavit filed by one of her nurses, Minnette Christie.

Astor's physical therapy has been cut from three to two times a week over the protests of the therapist.

While the apartment was once filled with art, figurines and fresh flowers, according to court papers, "which gave Mrs. Astor great pleasure," some of the art and figurines have been removed. Floral arrangements have been replaced with one or two bouquets from the local Korean market.

Although Astor was known for being always impeccably dressed, she is now reduced to wearing torn nightgowns and old clothes because her son won't buy new ones.

Philip Marshall said her old clothes are too tight because Astor is not as flexible as she used to be, and the nightgowns are rough against her sensitive skin so the staff turns them inside out so that the smoother surface is against her skin.

"New clothes would be good for her spirits," he said in the affidavit.

Another aide, Pearline Noble, said that despite Astor's concern about her appearance, her son has ordered that her manicures and pedicures be cut to once a month, that a scarf Noble had used to cheer Astor not be worn because of a $16 cleaning bill, and that her hair dye be eliminated. Instead, Noble said, she now pays for the hair rinse out of her own pocket.

"The staff that works for Ms. Astor really loves her. It breaks our hearts to see that she is not being cared for by her son in an appropriate way at the end of her life," Noble said.

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