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The other morning, I unexpectedly woke at 5:30 and could not get myself back to sleep. But thanks to this bout of insomnia, I found a documentary that I had to share with you all. (Does everyone watch movies when they can’t sleep? I am new to sleeplessness.) The Queen of Versailles chronicles three years in the life of timeshare mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie. When the cameras started rolling, director Lauren Greenfield thought she was going to document the construction of the biggest personally owned home in America. At 90,000 square feet and outrageous cost of $100,000,000, “Versailles” was the stuff of self-made-billionaire dreams. What the director did not know when she started filming in 2008 was that an economic crash was just around the corner for this family and the entire country.

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Like so many other Americans, Siegel overextended the real estate ventures he personally and professionally embarked on. And after the very sudden and dramatic collapse of the real estate market and the near death of his business, Westgate Resorts, the fate of the Siegels and the unfinished Versailles is unknown. The cameras keep rolling as assets are auctioned off, private schools are spurned for public ones, and the spending habits of a once-billionaire’s wife finds its only outlet at Walmart. If you’ve got time for a movie this weekend, mix yourself a cocktail, grab some movie snacks and stream this stunning piece of cinéma vérité.

queen of versailles

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures; Lauren Greenfield

18 Responses

  1. Dani says:

    I stayed at Westgate twice, in Orlando, and it was beautiful and my family and I had a great time. So sad about Mr. Siegel's fiancial woes after all that hard work. Who the heck needs to live in a house THAT size? That was just sick and stupid. Had he saved that money instead of building that ridiculous house, he may have wheathered the real estate market ok.

  2. Pam W says:

    I enjoyed the documentary. He built his wealth, he deserved it. He also made poor choices. So the fact that he lost it was just rewards. It would be interesting to see what his children did learn from this. I was surprised that she seemed to deal with it – while he became a sorry excuse for a father. She needs to learn what conservation is, and I am curious how much they are living on now. Probably still enough to make most of us very comfortable.

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Lili ZarghamiLili is Editorial Director of HGTV.com. Her personal obsessions include looking for just the right sofa, ogling real estate listings, and reading floor-plans. She has an admitted "chair problem," collecting...

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