The preferred caterer of Manhattan high society, Sean Driscoll, described his longtime client, the late philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor, as a scotch-on-the-rocks kind of gal who spent her 100th birthday dining with the likes of Kofi Annan and Barbara Walters.
Taking the witness stand on Thursday, April 30, Mr. Driscoll also recalled how the centenarian society maven had seemed confused at a lunch in 2003, insisting on paying for her meal with a credit card, as if she were in a restaurant. She was not. She was actually having an informal lunch with New York Times photographer Bill Cunninghmam and Mr. Driscoll at the catering company’s headquarters.
Prosecutors are trying to convince jurors that the late Ms. Astor, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in 2007 at the age of 105, was mentally unsound when she signed over some $60 million of her vast fortune to her only son, Anthony Marshall, 84, who’s now facing trial on charges of conspiracy and grand larceny. If convicted, Mr. Marshall faces up to 25 years in prison.
Later in the day, Ms. Astor’s longtime friend, the author Louis Auchincloss, told jurors that the last time he ever met the charitable doyenne, at a lunch at the Knickerbocker Club in 2001, she didn’t remember him. “She knew she ought to know me,” Mr. Auchincloss said. “There was no question about it, she did not know me.”
Manhattan art dealer Baird Ryan also testified on Thursday, about the sale of Ms. Astor’s most beloved Childe Hassam painting, which once hung prominently in the library of her posh Park Avenue home. (Prosecutors have argued that Mr. Marshall tricked his mother into selling the painting by convincing her that she was going broke.)
Mr. Ryan told jurors he never actually met Ms. Astor. He dealt exclusively with the son, Mr. Marshall, acting as his mother’s agent.
Mr. Ryan, the vice-president of Gerald Peters Gallery on the Upper East Side, purchased the painting for $10 million. Prosecutors have charged that Mr. Marshall earned himself a $2 million commission on the deal.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Astor’s cousin-in-law, British Lord William Astor, took the witness stand along with Linda Gillies, former director of the family’s now-defunct charitable foundation.
Future witnesses are expected to include such luminaries and power brokers as Ms. Walters and Henry Kissinger.
New York Daily News columnist Joanna Malloy, for one, can’t wait to hear the testimony of Annette de la Renta:
She once took her private plane from the Dominican Republic just to have lunch with Astor at Holly Hill, and flew back by nightfall.
Boy, that’s gonna really hit home with jurors who can barely afford the monthly MetroCard to get to the courthouse.