Archive » March 6, 2008
THE BOOK WORM
By SYVJ Staff
“Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue”
by Geoff Schumacher
c.2008, Stephens Media $25.95 292 pages, includes index
So, let’s say you won the lottery this week. What would you do with your millions?
Most people would buy a house or pay off the mortgage. They’d be driving a luxury car within a week or two, and watching a big-screen TV in the evenings.
Most people wouldn’t hire a plane to house-hunt, they wouldn’t have a staff of drivers for that fancy car, nor would they buy an entire TV station so they could dictate what movies are aired.
But then, most people aren’t Howard Hughes.
In the new book “Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue,” by Geoff Schumacher, you’ll read about a man who had money to burn and a burning desire to own things.
In a strange, cosmic coincidence, Howard Robard Hughes made his appearance the same year that Las Vegas became a town. The son of an oil man, Hughes was born near Houston, Texas, and spent considerable time in Southern California as a young man, but he was drawn to the “peaceful” desert as an adult. In the late 1940s, he began taking vacations near Las Vegas. In the early 1950s, he started buying up land.
Although he lived near the Strip on and off, Hughes’ most intriguing years in Las Vegas didn’t start until he moved to the Desert Inn in 1966. By the time he bought the hotel in 1967, his health was deteriorating, both mentally and physically, Schumacher says. Aides claim that Hughes spent his time sitting nude in a chair, a pink cocktail napkin over his upper thighs, the windows blacked out, the TV on. Some employees were expected to be on call 24 hours a day but weren’t allowed to look at Hughes. Others couldn’t speak to him.
While it’s true that Hughes had mental issues, there’s no denying that he was a brilliant man. He correctly predicted an influx of tourism to Las Vegas. He understood the dangers of open-air nuclear testing. His innovations in aviation still fascinate experts. But he wasn’t quite as attentive to his personal affairs. When Howard Hughes died in 1976, he left behind controversy, arguments, an incredibly messy estate, and billions of dollars for his heirs.
Despite the fact that “Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue” is a little scattered, this is an intriguing book filled with scandal, scads of money, and surprising sadness. Author Geoff Schumacher lays to rest some enduring Vegas mythology and he dishes a few juicy tidbits that are sure to renew interest in Hughes, a man one District Court Judge called (in the understatement of the decade) “an unusual person.” Schumacher overturned lots of rocks in his research for the real story here, and he includes interviews with people who told head-shaking, almost-unbelievable tales about America’s best-known, strangest hermit.
Pick up a copy of this book and settle in for a bit of nostalgia, a whiff of scandal, and a peek at the wealthy, famous, and odd. “Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue” is a rich story and a sure bet.