Clark Rockefeller

I’ve met a surprising number of impostors in my life. At Duke University, there was a creepy dude who posed as a member of the French branch of the Rothschild family. In my twenties, there was a gorgeous young con artist who convinced two childhood friends to come on a round-the-world adventure with her, and then jacked them for a fortune (plus their passports). I also met a pre-Madoff Ponzi scheme scumbag who managed to scam some savvy investors out of millions, but who (amazingly) realized the kinds of returns he had claimed in his phony statements after the court forced him to sell the real estate, art and classic cars he’d collected. In terms of sheer creepiness, though, Clark Rockefeller takes the cake.

Sam and I were out for dinner at a jazz club called The Beehive in Boston’s South End. A woman I barely knew came over to our table to say hi, which was fine, but she overstayed her welcome, and Sam rolled his eyes behind her back as she went on and on. Finally, she left.
To my complete and utter amazement, though, she came back, this time towing a guy so non-descript that his dorky glasses were his most memorable characteristic.
“Jonathan, this is Clark Rockefeller. I really thought you two should meet.”
Why a woman I barely knew thought I needed to meet anyone is beyond me, especially after I’d made it clear that Sam and I were on a date.
But I had to be polite, so I shook the guy’s hand and exchanged some mundane blahbuddyblah. Eventually, the subject of exchanging business cards came up. I didn’t have any on me, I said, probably rather pointedly because by this point I was ready for these people to leave me and Sam alone. And so was Sam. Visibly.
“I don’t have any on me, either,” he said, “but I do have this. I’ll write my number on it.”
He handed me his bidding card from a charity auction.


Maybe a month or two later, I was at a party in Cambridge, and at the bar, I found myself standing next to David Rockefeller, Jr.
I’d met him before, not that he would’ve remembered me, so I reintroduced myself and by way of making conversation said, “I think I met your son a while ago.”
“I don’t have a son,” he said. Suddenly, it had gone from awkward to awkward-squared.

About six months after that, I was coming back from the Adirondacks and the electronic signs on the highway posted an Amber Alert. A little girl had been kidnapped in a black SUV. By the next day, the police had arrested the man born Gerhardt von Psychokiller or whatever. He’d kidnapped his daughter while on a supervised custody visit. He was sent to jail. Vanity Fair ran a story that made his wife seem like the most gullible idiot who ever lived. Eric McCormack made the stunning career move of following up Will and Grace by playing “Rockefeller” in a made-for-TV movie. And now the police in California think he killed his landlord’s son back in the 1980s.

What’s kind of sad is that Rockefeller used to be a synonym for “rich.” Now, because of some unhinged Austrian, it stands a fair chance of becoming synonymous with “sociopath.”


  1. Posted May 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    great post.

  2. Thomas B: White
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Yes very nice entry indeed,
    but the falacious data about “two childhood friends”
    whom had their passports and money conned from them on promises of a world excursion,
    Well anyway I myself had my passport returned, with many visas and innoculation shots to boot,
    I then bought a one way ticket to Australia,
    but I suppose that would not be as good an ancedote as the story is trying to convey.
    Still it was an enjoyable read,
    thanks Jon,

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