Love Among the Ruins
Looking northwest from Houston and Allen Streets. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Shelby Hodge reported yesterday in the Houston Chronicle:

It's splitsville for billionaire David Saperstein ... and his glamorous wife, Suzanne, who Vanity Fair once dubbed as "probably the world's No. 1 consumer of haute couture."

He filed first — in Houston, where the couple maintains a penthouse apartment in a swank high-rise. She subsequently filed in California where they call a cozy 45,000-square-foot French-style chateau home and where alimony is a way of life for many a divorcee. As you know, Texas is not an alimony state.

A hearing is set for Tuesday to determine where the divorce will be tried. Suzanne and her local counsel, Donn Fullenweider, claim there is no personal jurisdiction for trying the case in Houston. David and his attorney, Harry Tindall, will argue the opposite.

Tongues are wagging over the manner in which Suzanne was served the divorce papers. When the family's Gulfstream IV landed in Houston for a brief stopover to deposit David, Suzanne was continuing on to Europe; she was served the citation for the petition for divorce.

Suzanne and David Saperstein
Full circle: The Sapersteins met on an airplane, many moons ago, flying from Europe to the U.S. He was married with two small children and running his very prosperous MetroTraffic business out of Houston.

They were seated side by side. She was a saftig Scandinavian blonde and they started to flirt.

In the midst of their tete-a-tete he told her he wasn’t crazy about European women because they were hairy. Whereupon she took her bare leg and flung it over his leg. Feel that, she challenged. And he did. Hey ... by the time she got off the plane, he had asked her to come to Houston to work for him. Eventually, she did.

He “fell madly in love with her,” recalls a friend who knew them well. “She was a poor little girl from Scandanavia” and he was a man on the move. They got married and built a big house which they called Tara. She staged a housewarming costume party and invited all the local swells to meet their newest (and by now very rich neighbors). Everyone came ... except for the swells. Somehow, the friend recalls, “she could never ever get one person of any social consequence in Houston to talk to her or invite her. Even though she was sweet as sugar, by the way.”

Rich to the gills and full of beans, they had three children, girl boy girl, right away. They came to New York to meet the Joneses. But the Joneses thought were kind of wild. They started visiting Los Angeles, land of the stars. Eventually they decided to move there. His business had become a billion dollar enterprise and he sold it, making him one of the richest men in the country.

He didn’t know how to spend it, a friend remembers, but she did. They bought a house in Malibu where they staged big parties — wild parties to some. Then they built a huge house sorta-18th century French chateau in Holmby Hills. A stage for more parties, wild parties to some, and stables for her horses.

She went to Paris to visit the couture. In short time she had out-spent Mouna Al-ayoub, then known as the biggest couture spender in Paris. A big girl with gorgeous blonde hair, she would buy the crocodile Manolos in every conceivable color and Hermes made the bags to match. “She was the greatest fashion victim; they saw her coming.” Rows and rows of matching sweaters, boots in every color made, she needed a mansion just for her clothes — even though she mainly wore jeans and tee shirts and riding boots.

And she loved to give parties. Big, brassy, fun and jazzy parties. When their son had his bar mitzvah, he rode into the party on a white horse. When it was just the adults, they could go all night and the dancing never stopped.

But like a space age Madame Bovary, the ladies who lunched mainly ignored her invitations. Barbara (Mrs. Marvin) Davis, the self-proclaimed doyenne of Beverly Hills ignored her, and so did many of the others “of consequence,” with the sole and curious exception of perhaps the most prominent social figure in all of Los Angeles: Betsy Bloomingdale. She went and she saw.

“They were very very gauche but sweet nice people,” according to one who knew them well. They were living well in the California sun, looking younger by the minute, tanned, fit and ready for action. They had it all. The dream life to those who can only dream.

But then the rumors began. All kinds of rumors. About her. About him. Party party, this one, that one. Rumors all. Then he gave a contribution for a wing to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood. The largest contribution in the hospital’s history – a history full of extraordinary contributions. It was to be called The David and Suzanne Saperstein Pavilion. Then the name was suddenly changed to: The Saperstein Family Pavilion.

Although her couture expenditures began to drop off, she still was spending a lot of time in Europe. There was speculation that she was looking to marry her daughter off to a Royal. But the rumors about the marriage crumbling persisted. It was said that she had someone. Then that he got involved with someone new and wanted out.

Added to this was the delicious possibility that because of California community property laws, she’d end up with half of his billion dollar self-made fortune.

And now, according to Ms. Hodge in the Houston Chronicle, it might get a little dicey. For money can’t buy you love. Sometimes it can’t even buy you a good lawyer. Although it can always buy you unhappiness.

September 20, 2005, Volume V, Number 160


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