For the audience that read Maria Flook's New York Times bestseller, Invisible Eden, this is the extraordinary story of a high-stakes murder case set in the high society world of East Hamptonthe playground of New York's superrich.
On October 22, 2001, handsome multimillionaire financier Ted Ammon was found bludgeoned to death in the magnificent East Hampton mansion he'd built with his beautifuland volatilewife, Generosa. She stood to make millions, but it wasn't the money that made Ted's friends suspicious: Generosa Ammon had a history of violent outbursts and bizarre obsessions.
A talented decorator, Generosa had fashioned a lavish lifestyle for her husband and their two children, divided between Fifth Avenue, the Long Island estate, and a manor house in England. But when Generosa discovered Ted had a mistress, her demons were unleashed.
She began a very public affair with Danny Pelosi, a strikingly handsome womanizer who was also her electrician. She called him her "tool belt guy." But he was also an ex-con with a mile-long rap sheet who was suspected of playing a pivotal role in Ted's murder and the final destruction of a once-perfect family.
In Almost Paradise, New York Times bestselling author Kieran Crowley, who has covered the Ammon case from the time it broke, recreates the three tumultuous lives that intersected fatally in East Hampton that fall. He tracks Generosa's lonely transformation from angry teenagerorphaned, unwanted and abusedto temperamental Manhattan artist and Society Wife. He follows the rambunctious odyssey that transformed Danny Pelosi from banking executive's privileged son, to street fighter and down-on-his luck alcoholic, to unsuccessful contractor charged with murder. And he chronicles the charmed life and tragic death of Ted Ammon, whose money and status couldn't save him from the machinations of those around him and his ultimate brutal demise.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.94(d)|
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1GENEROSA: PRAYERS AND SECRETS, 1955
Babe and her girlfriend were all dolled up in bright, attractive summer dresses, with makeup, red lipstick, and nylons, their high heels clicking on the pavement as they walked to the nightspot. The place was jumping, the dance music audible from out front, thumping drums, bass, and saxophone. Babe fiddled with her ring finger, which felt naked without her wedding ring. The warm, June night air was fragrant with flowers, salt air, and leaded-gasoline fumes. In the nearby harbor of Long Beach, California, more than a dozen ships were docked. Hundreds of seesawing steel oil rigs clanged at the mouth of the bay, sucking the black liquid up from under the muddy bottom of the Los Angeles River.
The women walked in the front door and were hit with a warm blast of noise, cigarette smoke, and beer. Everybody inside was laughing, flirting, having a great time. There was no such thing as AIDS. It was 1955. Doctors made TV commercials for cigarettes.
Half of the men in the nightclub were wearing uniforms from a dozen different countries. Babe was a sucker for a man in a uniform. After she and her friend had ordered drinks, a couple of sailors walked over. One of them smiled at Babe. It was a nice smile. He was tall and blond in his summer whites, his blue eyes set off by the tanned, olive skin of his clean-shaven face. Nervously brushing at her wavy blond hair, she smiled back at the handsome sailor. He extended his hand to Babe and she placed her hand in his. She was surprised when he took her hand and kissed it. In deeply accented English he asked her to dance, then led her onto the dance floor. Babe was over thirty-five, a woman with three children, but she blushed, warming the cheeks of her pretty, round face. She hoped he would not guess her true age as they danced. She asked his name.
“Generoso,” he replied.
In halting English, he told her he was a sailor in the Italian navy and that his ship had just docked.
“Gen-er-o-so?” she pronounced the unfamiliar name.
He asked her name. Babe told him her real name: Marie.
“Marie,” he repeated, nodding his head like a Continental gentleman.
In short, awkward sentences that he had practiced aboard his ship, he told Babe he liked her. He also said that he liked America and Hollywood, just thirty miles and a world away from the waterfront bar. Babe told him that she did not live in Hollywood, but nearby, right in Long Beach. After their dance, they had more drinks with Babe’s girlfriend and the other sailor and then danced some more. He kissed her and offered to see her home.
She took his arm as they strolled along the sidewalk toward her place. The dark green blades of the palm trees clacked gently in the sea breeze, slicing up the white moonlight. They entered Babe’s dark apartment and she turned on the lights. He took her in his arms and kissed her again, deeper. Neither could understand what the other was saying, but they didn’t need words. Soon the words melted into sighs and the ardent strangers turned out the lights and made love in the dark.
Babe was born Marie Therese Legaye in the Roaring Tweenties, the child of a California farmer and his wife. She was an adorable child but moody and sometimes confused. Babe was very religious, and when she was a young woman, she entered a convent. After a year under vows, she decided that being a nun was not her true vocation. She rejoined the world during World War II and made up for lost time. Babe became a party girl, dating and drinking and dancing whenever she could. She seemed to have no ambition and was alternately listless or active. Some people in the family wondered if she might be what was then called a manic-depressive.
When Babe’s father died, ownership of the family ranch passed to her mother. When her mom died of cancer a few years later, she left the farm to Babe but made her older brother, Al, the executor of the will. He set up a trust fund and purchased oil stock so that there would be money to take care of Babe. Al became a rich wheeler-dealer businessman. Babe floundered and, eventually, had only what Al gave her.
Babe became a war bride, marrying a man named Lynne Thomas. They partied hard, which was fine, until they had children. Charles came first, and then Marie Therese followed in 1945. Everyone called them Chuck and Terry. Babe continued to carouse and refused to let motherhood stop the party. She often left her babies home alone, unfed and in stinking diapers, and went out dancing and drinking. Not surprisingly, the marriage fell apart, ending in divorce.
Chuck was eventually parceled out to relatives but Terry was sent to a foster home, forgotten and cut off from the family for years. As soon as she could, at age nineteen, she escaped into marriage.
Babe married another soldier, Clarence Rand. In 1953, they had a daughter, Dolly, who became the victim of the same neglect and abandonment as Babe’s earlier children. Clarence, a disabled war veteran, later went into a veterans’ hospital and would not get out any time soon. Their marriage also ended. Babe kept Dolly with her but often left her at her brother’s place, with his wife, Edwina, who had four kids of her own to look after. Babe had left Dolly there the night she met her Italian sailor.
Babe’s romance with Generoso at her Long Beach apartment was passionate but brief. In just over a week, he was gone. She went to see him off at the dock and he kissed her goodbye, leaving her with a photograph of him in his uniform, and a scribbled mailing address in Italy.
The next month, she woke up nauseated and she knew that she was pregnant. She wrote Generoso and told him about her condition. There was no answer. She wrote several times and waited for a reply but she never received one.
Babe gave birth to that fourth child, her third daughter, Generosa Jomary Rand, in Long Beach, California, on March 22, 1956. She gave the baby her husband’s last name, Rand. It was easier to keep the secret of the child’s paternity because Babe was a married woman although she did not live with her husband. She adored her new daughter but soon returned to her hard partying habits. The family did not use Generosa’s first name, which she had gotten from the sailor whose existence was a family secret. Some called the new baby Gen, but most called her by her middle name, Jomary, or simply Jo. A cute, chubby child with blond hair, she was a friendly, happy kid. Generosa and her older sister Dolly played well together and became close, especially when their mother would go off on a spree and leave them alone.
In 1960, when Generosa was four and Dolly was seven, they moved with their mother into a new house with their uncle Al in Oceanside, California. Al had divorced his wife, and his kids went to live with relatives. He bought a three-family house in the beachside community and fixed it up. The top floor was rented out to tenants. The girls and Babe lived in the middle apartment, and Al lived in the ground-level apartment, a sort of bachelor pad, now that he was single again. He put in a circular staircase from his apartment up to Babe’s, giving them a duplex. At the time, Babe had one of her infrequent jobs, as a secretary to the pastor at a Catholic church in Oceanside. On Sundays, Babe would dress Dolly and Generosa up in pretty dresses and black patent leather shoes and take them to Mass.
Al hired Beryl,* an English housekeeper, who often acted as babysitter for Dolly and her sister. Generosa really liked Beryl, who was very nice to her, and she was particularly charmed by Beryl’s British accent. Generosa began to realize that she liked the housekeeper better than her own mother.
After a year or so, Babe started spending more time away on flings and the girls were left with Beryl and their uncle Al or others.
That was when it happened. It involved a man that Generosa trusted as she did any other adult, as if he were the father she had never known. When he asked her to rub his shoulders and neck with her little hands, she did it. He thanked her and told her that she was a good girl and that it felt good. Sometimes he rubbed her shoulders and that felt good, too. Slowly, he would have her rub another part of his body a bit more each time they were alone. Then he would rub another part of her body. One time, he had her touch a part of him she had never seen before and something strange happened. It made her feel funny and bad but he told her that she had done a very good thing—but that it was a secret. Then he touched her somewhere he had never touched her before and she was scared. When it was over, he told her that what they had done was their special secret, just between them. He warned her that if she told anyone, like her mother, they would be very angry and would not believe her. Everyone would think she was bad. Someone might even come and take her away from her mother.
Generosa was terrified. For the first time in her life she turned inward, to a place deep inside where bad things happened. She wanted to bury the bad things there and leave. Suddenly, everything she had been taught was wrong. Not all adults were her friends. Anyone could betray her, hurt her, make her feel afraid and lonely and bad about herself. Generosa said nothing and everything went on as if nothing had happened. Maybe it would never, ever happen again.
But by the time she had almost forgotten about it, it did happen again. It always started with rubbing shoulders when they were alone. She was powerless to stop the descent into that deep place for bad things.
In church one Sunday, Generosa knelt on the padded kneeler, her head barely reaching the top of the wooden pew in front of her. As the organ music played, she looked up at the stained glass windows with the colorful images of Jesus. Generosa put her little hands together and prayed to God. She prayed for the bad thing to stop.
Later, she prayed at home, but it happened again. And again. God did not answer her prayers. Why? Because she was bad? Was God really there? If he was, why didn’t he help her? Why didn’t her mother protect her? Generosa told no one about the sexual abuse.
One Halloween, Al arranged for Beryl and her friend to stay with Generosa and Dolly at the house while he and Babe were away. Later, Al discovered that the two English girls had been bringing sailors and others back to the house and having raucous, boozy parties while the kids were there, so he fired Beryl.
In 1963, Al married his second wife, Marge, and moved into a beachfront home in an exclusive enclave called Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach. He set Babe and her daughters up in a beachfront cottage in Oceanside.
Two years later, while in the shower, Babe felt a lump in her breast, but she ignored it, hoping it would go away. Not only did it not go away, it got bigger. Babe was embarrassed about the location of the lump and did not mention it to anyone. She did nothing, although she was frightened. Cancer, which had killed quite a few of her relatives, was a plague in her family but still she denied that anything was wrong and went to more parties, more dancing, more drinking. For some time, the lump seemed to stop growing and it didn’t hurt, and Babe hoped that it was nothing, despite the fact that occasionally she was very tired and felt strange things happening inside her body. In 1967, she was so weak and dizzy that she couldn’t stand up and couldn’t breathe. She finally went to a doctor.
It was far too late. Babe’s denial had killed her.
The breast cancer had spread through her abdomen and into her ovaries and into her brain through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Babe’s daughters were told that their mother was ill but the true nature of her affliction was kept from them. Generosa prayed in church for her mother. As the organ played the holy music, she asked God to make her mother better. But the more she prayed, the sicker her mother got.
As Christmas approached, her mother worsened and had to take medicine that made her sleepy. It also made her act crazy, as if she didn’t know what was going on. A doctor had given Babe morphine for the pain and it had worked for a while. But the pain kept getting worse and she kept increasing the dose to keep ahead of the agony, gradually descending into an opium stupor in front of her girls. They didn’t have money for gifts for Christmas, so Generosa, who had learned to sew from her mother, kept busy designing and stitching pillow covers in the shape of cute beagles for her relatives. As she slowly, carefully pushed the needle and thread through the material, Generosa concentrated on the work, not on her mother sitting on the couch. She took comfort from the fact that she could take cloth and thread and scissors and create something that was pretty and looked like a real puppy. Generosa had made it, and even though she had to give it away, it would always belong to her.
The disease attacked Babe’s brain, slowly destroying it, a little bit each day. As she lost weight, her eyes sunk in their sockets, her cheeks hollowed, and her body wasted away like that of a concentration camp victim. Generosa’s mother’s pretty, soft face hardened into a death mask.
Generosa wondered whether she would get cancer when she grew up, and if it would kill her. She vowed that she would never suffer such a slow death.
Babe was losing the battle and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Orange, where she had emergency surgery to remove part of her brain. Dolly and Generosa were too young to be allowed to visit. Within a few weeks, Babe was dead. When their uncle Al and his new wife, Marge, told them that their mother had gone to heaven, Generosa and her sister cried. Generosa was just ten years old when they buried her mother. The girls went to live with Uncle Al and Aunt Marge, who was a lawyer, and his kids in Emerald Bay, an exclusive community on the coast just north of Laguna Beach. With its beautiful homes, palm trees, and magnificent views of the Pacific, it was quite different from the places where Generosa had lived before. But the home was not huge and accommodations were crowded.
After her mother’s death, Generosa was looking through family photos with Dolly, when her sister showed her a picture she had never seen before, a shot of a handsome, blond sailor in a strange uniform. Dolly explained that the man was Generosa’s biological father—not the man she had been told was her father, the man in an institution, whose last name she bore—Clarence Rand. On the back of the photograph was written the name Generoso. She had been named Generosa after the sailor, Dolly explained. Her father had not been married to their mother. It was a family secret.
The revelation hit Generosa like a bolt of lightning. That was when Generosa’s vague feelings about her mother began to take shape. She remembered her mother yelling and screaming at her a lot. Not only did Generosa feel her mother had abandoned her by dying but she had lied to her. She believed that her mother had resented her from birth because she was illegitimate, because her mother saw in her eyes the sailor who had left her. In Generosa’s eyes, her mother did not want her. Her mother had been weak and had failed to protect her. Generosa resolved to be different. She would be strong. She would have lots of money. Also, Generosa vowed that should she ever have children, she would be a better mother. She would never lie and would always protect them. Now that she was free of her, Generosa decided that her mother’s death was actually a good thing. Later in her life, she would tell people it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
It was the answer to her prayers.
Copyright © 2005 by Kieran Crowley.