Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal and Tragedy Inside the Johnson and Johnson Dynasty

Jerry Oppenheimer. St. Martin's, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-312-66211-0
In his latest breathless tell-all, Oppenheimer (author of unauthorized biographies of Martha Stewart, the Hilton family, Anna Wintour, and others) trains his gaze on the Johnsons, the cursed Kennedies of pharmaceuticals—a family who, with every generation, find themselves at the center of celebrity and political scandal. From the very start, the Johnson clan courted controversy by smashing rivals and famously stealing Florence Nightingale's logo for the Red Cross. Since then, they've been plagued by misery, corruption, and misfortune (despite amassing a substantial fortune). Oppenheimer provides a wealth of salacious and sometimes tragic material—from Casey Johnson's recent breakdown and death, to the parade of outlandish characters who have married into the family (including the housekeeper-turned-dowager Barbara Piasecka Johnson, who died this past April 1) and the transformation of Robert "Woody" Johnson IV from playboy to Republican powerbroker, football mogul, and philanthropist. The book is an impressive example of journalistic synthesis, bringing together bits of tabloid journalism not usually connected (playing celebrity connect-the-dots is half the book's fun) around a strong narrative core. The lurid, occasionally clumsy writing is matched by a real sadness for a family whose money can buy influence and power, but comes with costly personal consequences. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/06/2013
Release date: 08/13/2013
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