‘The Queen of Versailles’ with David Siegel Revisited

Riches to Rags? Not Quite

         
 

11 October 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

In light of David Siegel’s recent letter to his employees, I thought it appropriate to re-post the review on the extravagant lifestyle shown in the recent documentary Queen of Versailles, out on video on November 13th. First, this is the actual letter that went viral.

Siegel’s letter:

Subject: Message from David Siegel

Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)

From: [David Siegel]

To: [All employees]

To All My Valued Employees,

As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.

However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.The current administration and members of the press have perpetuated an environment that casts employers against employees. They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the “1%” and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country. This could not be further from the truth. Sure, you may have heard about the big home that I’m building. I’m sure many people think that I live a privileged life. However, what you don’t see or hear is the true story behind any success that I have achieved.

I started this company over 42 years ago. At that time, I lived in a very modest home. I converted my garage into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. We didn’t eat in fancy restaurants or take expensive vacations because every dollar I made went back into this company. I drove an old used car, and often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, many of my friends got regular jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a nice income, and they spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into this business —-with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted. Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into this company. Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed.

Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me- there is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I’m the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed. Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for. Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don’t pay enough. We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes. The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?

Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50% of your paycheck you’d quit and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, that’s what happens to me.

Here is what most people don’t understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth. My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But that is not what our current Government wants you to believe. They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve. They don’t want you to know that the “1%”, as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our great Constitution, once said, “democracy” will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it. However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change they want.

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, your boss,

David Siegel

‘The Queen of Versailles’ Review

It’s a compelling eavesdrop experience, and yet there is something really sad here that works you over. The Queen of Versailles is the documentary about the billionaire and his beauty queen wife. In 2007, David Siegel – who made his fortune from selling time-share resorts – decided to build a 90,000 square foot palace extravaganza. Among the amenities: ten kitchens, a bowling alley, a roller rink, a baseball field and the mother of all bedroom closets. You look at their current 26,000 foot Orlando, Florida home and see they’re filthy rich – and that they have no taste. Construction stalls after the fallout of the housing market, a result of unregulated banks. David’s own business faces innumerable cutbacks, wife Jacqueline has to shop at Wal-Mart. Yes, she did shop at Wal-Mart to save on costs. But did she really have to? She still spends a gratuitous fortune there.

First off, there is more unavoidable cleavage to stare at courtesy of Jacqueline than you’d find at any movie this summer. More ostentatious, however, are their decorating choices. This is a family consumed by consumption. “I didn’t know we even owned a lizard,” remarks the younger son, after it has died from starvation in its aquarium.

You really see what too much money does to people. Even if their 90,000 square foot dream home comes to them, if they are to rebound from the real estate collapse, they would still have dog poop stains to deal with, excess rugs and stuffed animal heads, and whatever else that is gaudy to the max. Didn’t they see how Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu mansion swallowed him up in “Citizen Kane?” I guess not, what I remember from this documentary is the family watching “Shrek.”

But please, the obstacles. Put this couple in a financial crisis, and the marital relations sour. Lauren Greenfield, the director, got three years of footage. By the end, there is a certain personality change in David.

How could you really love David anyway? He gloats to Greenfield’s camera, “I got George W. Bush elected president.” How did you do that? “I’d rather not say it. It may not necessarily have been legal.” He confesses later that the leak in the housing market might have been indirectly caused by the Bush administration’s mishandling of the economy, the trickle effect hurting his dreams. His new dream, by the way, besides the house is to replace his impending 40-year old wife with two 20-year olds, which would be a teasing husband-to-wife remark if it didn’t come off with a touch of chauvinistic venom.

But the star of the movie is the plastic pseudo-Queen Jacqueline, who goes to a Hertz rental car facility – a step down from limousine service – and earnestly asks the front desk who will be her driver for the day. While grasping such rude awakenings, she also braces the kids for their uncertain future. “You might actually have to go to college now,” she warns them. The kids, on camera, acknowledge that they have been spoiled but still have a distorted picture of how segregated they are from the rest of American children. But back to Jacqueline, the former Miss Florida. Really, she’s a laff riot.

The say you can get this same kind of entertainment with the “Real Housewives” on television. I don’t think so, I think it’s better. Be conscious that something more shaped, and probing, is strengthening about Greenfield’s documentary. And how come the Siegels’ agreed to be filmed in the first place? Well, Jacqueline was hoping for her own reality show, one that highlighted the erection of America’s finest estate that echoed both the palace of Versailles in Europe and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.

David and Jacqueline, King and Queen of America? Close, but missed the dream. Lovely people? Nah. Amazing people? Kind of, yes. Is it sad that you and me don’t have as much money to see if we’d dodge the pitfalls that come with tons and tons of money? Hmm, yeah.

100 Minutes. Rated PG.

DOCUMENTARY / LIFE LESSONS / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY

Film Cousins: “Citizen Kane” (1941); “Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time” (1992); “Born Rich” (2003); “The Housemaid” (2011, South Korea).

 

Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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