The Brooke Astor of France Is the New Nigerian Prince

What would you do if a famously rich stranger reached out to you by email and offered you her family's fortune?

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Hi Mom, It’s Laura.

Yes, Laura! Your only daughter, sister of George, and stepdaughter of Mort. Granddaughter of George and Molly. Cousin of Lucy and Sam. Syracuse class of ’94. How are you?

I’m really sorry to hear that, but they have sugarless ice cream at the Price Chopper. I’ll get some for you next time I go there. But wait, I called you with good news.

Remember a few years ago there were these articles about that French billionaire woman who owned L’Oreal? Her name was Liliane Bettencourt? And her family was suing her because she had written some young guy into her will and given him a priceless art collection? And even though she looked perfect and was always in a Chanel suit in her pictures her kids thought she was losing her mind?

Well … you won’t believe it, but she’s written to me! I don’t know whether she’s got her marbles or not, but now she’s offered to give me some of her fortune too! I swear to God! I don’t know how she found me, but she wrote to me on my AOL account.

Here’s the letter. I will read you every word.


How are you and the family?

I, Liliane authenticate this email, you can read about me on:

I write to you because I intend to give to you a portion of my Net-worth which I have been banking. I want to cede it out as gift hoping it would be of help to

you and others too. Respond for directive. My private contact email:

[email protected] for more informatiom



L Bettencourt.”


I know, right? She asked about you and the family! I guess she’s done her research. Why me? Mom, I think the question you should be asking is “why not me?” Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right? After seven years as a teacher’s aide it’s not like I’m rolling in the dough. I could use a portion of her “Net-worth” [sic] for a lot of things. I could finally buy that condo on the Northside! And a flower shop! Come on, I’ve always loved flowers! Well Mort said he’d loan me the money for the Suburu, but he never did. It doesn’t matter now. I’m going to send Liliane Bettencourt my account number, and the French francs will come rolling in. Or euros or whatever. Maybe we’ll have to go to France to pick up the check! That would be cool.

Look, I think it’s legit; she included her Wikipedia entry, which I’m going to send to you now. Sure, send it to Mort. She’s like the ninth richest person on the planet. No I’m serious. Read it yourself. I just skimmed it.

Well she’s 91. When you’re 91 you’ll probably want to put Eloise in your will. Eloise who you don’t like. It was supposed to be a joke. A lot of old rich people do crazy things. Hold on a sec mom, I have another call.

I’m back. It was Amy. Liliane Bettencourt wrote to her, too. I’ve got to go.


Part Deux.

Hi Mom, it’s Laura again. I’m leaving this voicemail because you’re at golf now with Beverly, Fran, and Doris and then going for a club sandwich at the club. So I read Liliane Bettencourt’s full Wikipedia thingy, and it’s a little bit less cut and dried. Wait—is it ‘Cut and Dry?’ like when we used to go to Pierre Michel together on our trips to the city? Nevermind.

In any case, my benefactress was the daughter of a Nazi and married to a Nazi. Well, not exactly; I’ll read you what it says. “In 1950 she married French politician André Bettencourt, who served as a cabinet minister in French governments of the 1960s and 1970s and rose to become deputy chairman of L’Oréal. Bettencourt had been a member of La Cagoule, a violent French fascist group that Liliane’s father had funded and supported in the 1930s and that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. After the war, her husband, like other members of La Cagoule, was given refuge at L’Oréal despite his politically inconvenient past.”

Mom? Oh, shit, I have to call back.


Hi Mom.  Laura. Anyway, what do you think?  I mean, Grandpa wouldn’t drive a German car. Do you think I should take the money? I could buy the condo and give whatever’s left over to Steven Spielberg? Please call me back, Mommy.


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