Barbara Amiel does not want her critics’ pity.
Injecting them with the Ebola virus or guillotining them, however, would be just fine.
Amiel, 79, the newspaper columnist and wife of former media tycoon Conrad Black, 76, who lost his multibillion-dollar fortune and spent over three years in jail for fraud and obstructing justice before being pardoned by Donald Trump, has written a defiant memoir in which she details decades of lavish spending and settles scores with her former billionaire and celebrity friends who she believes abandoned her.
Eye-popping excerpts from the book, Friends and Enemies: A Life in Vogue, Prison, and Park Avenue, have been published in the U.K. Daily Mail, and Amiel has also given an interview to the outlet, published Wednesday.
Amiel, who estimates she spent around $180,000 annually on couture clothes, writes in her book in unsparing detail about many aspects of her life, including frank descriptions of her sexual relationships.
Saying that she conducted an affair with the publishing mogul George Weidenfeld (later Lord Weidenfeld) despite finding him physically unattractive, she writes: “The only way I could deal with it was to avoid actual body-to-body contact and pleasure him orally. Men rarely care whether you like or dislike doing it, since they go into some world where they can live out every fantasy in their heads.”
Amiel also details an extraordinary meeting with mogul Kerry Packer at London casino the Clermont Club.
After she sat with him while he won “double-figure millions of pounds,” she was handed a check for £100,000 made out in her name.
A few nights later, Packer asked her to accompany him gambling again, and, upon winning again, gave her another check for the same amount.
She used the money as a downpayment on a London apartment.
Amiel gives some jaw-dropping anecdotes into the lives of her wealthy friends, with the wife of one storing her clothes on revolving racks “in their several heated mews garages across the way. Each outfit was numbered and could be viewed on a closed-circuit video system together with the appropriate accessories.”
Of her own life after marrying Black, and buying a $3 million apartment on Park Avenue, she says her indulgences included spending “tens of thousands of dollars per set” on bed sheets.
“Holiday greetings would come from world leaders, the royal family, and statesmen across Europe, from film stars and industrialists,” she writes.
Amiel describes her difficulty fitting into a close-knit gang of billionaires and their wives she calls “the Group,” which included Mercedes Bass, the wife of the investor and philanthropist Sid Bass who once for chastised her for wearing white high-heeled shoes, telling her white was “for sales girls.”
The Group also included “Mrs. Henry Kissinger (Nancy) and Mrs. Oscar de la Renta (Annette), and included TV interviewer Barbara Walters.”
When she sent a thank-you gift of two braided silver cuffs to Nancy Kissinger, Kissinger told her: “I gave the silver bracelets you sent me to my nieces and they loved them.”
However Amiel’s gilded life collapsed in October 2003, when Conrad Black was accused of financial misconduct.
Amiel was swiftly dropped by most of her friends and even her hairdresser of 10 years: “When I called to make my appointment, at the salon where he’d proudly hung my photo on the wall, I was told by him: ‘It would be embarrassing for everyone to have you here.’” She was also left in little doubt she would not be welcome at the Manhattan Manolo Blahnik shop.
Another low point came when she was blanked by Ghislaine Maxwell at a reception. “She had been importuning my friendship before our crash with repeat invites for us to go to the island owned by Jeffrey Epstein—yet to be accused of being a pedophile. Putting on my ‘so good to see you’ face, I headed for her. She bolted. Turned that sharp tight little turn when you really want to get away, and that was it.”
One of the few friends to stand by her was Elton John, who took her out to dinner and gave her “a quite lovely pavé diamond star and chain from the jeweler Theo Fennell,” in “a moment of immense kindness.”
She writes that most of their “billionaire friends who’d promised financial help spontaneously, without our solicitation, claimed their lawyer wouldn’t let them. But the most original explanation I heard—and probably the only truthful one—was that if they lent a couple of million of their $3 billion, the wife would never give a blow-job again.”
Amiel also describes the travails of dressing appropriately to visit her husband in prison. Orange was not a permitted color and she had arguments with the guards as she attempted to explain “the spectrum differences between orange, bronze, apricot, and amber.”
Amiel says that when the couple sold their art collection, they discovered many of the works they had been sold were fakes, however, “there was one hidden gem: the small van Dyck painting that when cleaned had a completely different stunning masterpiece by him underneath and fetched a handsome number of millions.”
Black was released from prison after three and a half years and subsequently pardoned by Donald Trump.
The couple stayed together and Amiel proudly tells her interviewer they still have regular sex.
She adds that Black, who has written for The Daily Beast, has started earning money again, she says, and has encouraged her to to start shopping at Chanel again.
“Buying Chanel is such a cliché it makes me ill, but the thing is it always fits. I don’t have to have alterations. Conrad is always saying, ‘Barbara, you don’t have to skimp this way, you can go out and do it.’
“I am not a creature of hideous extravagance anymore. I have become this rather bizarre person who worries all the time. But don’t worry, I will learn to buy again! You can count on this in me. I am not going to suddenly turn into the little woman in the thrift store.”
One would think not.