C.J.: 'Queen of Versailles' has bons amis in Twin Cities connection

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2012 - 7:50 PM

Minutes after taking in "The Queen of Versailles" Sunday at the Edina Cinema, Fox 9's Todd Walker phoned Jackie Siegel.

"She said, Don't believe everything you see. The ending isn't right,'" Walker told me, after talking to the movie's subject.

I was at the same showing of the controversial documentary about the former beauty queen and her billionaire timeshare tycoon husband, David Siegel, whose company, Florida's Westgate Resorts, hit the financial skids in the middle of the couple's building a 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by France's Versailles. Construction was halted on their version of Versailles, with by some reports 10 kitchens, even more bathrooms, a sushi restaurant, roller rink, bowling alley and so much more.

I attended the movie with my PR pal Jean Golden, who's been a friend of Walker's since seventh grade. Walker was late and didn't sit with us because he couldn't locate us in the theater. As we left the theater, I noticed Walker strolling along looking at his iPhone, on which there was a photo of him with Jackie. Since Todd had Jackie's phone number, he decided to call and tell her he had just seen the movie and hoped all was going well for her.

In 2008, I was with Jean and Todd in Florida for the opening of Steve Schussler's T-Rex cafe at Disney World, where he introduced us to the Siegels, then one of the world's richest couples. They came to the restaurant opening gala with their kids, and by the time they parted, Jackie and Todd had bonded. They took a photo together, swapped phone numbers and have remained in contact.

I asked Schussler what he thought about his friends' movie: "I don't think they should have done the movie. I don't know why they would let people in their lives to do a movie about the largest house in America. If you owned the largest house in America, why would you want anyone to know that? Let the neighbors know, but why let the rest of the world know? You see any upside to Kim Kardashian?"

No, only backside.

To me, the worst part about the "Queen of Versailles" is the animal cruelty. A lizard died in the current enormous manse in which the Siegels live. Despite all the shopping done for the Siegel family and all the children old enough to take care of pets, nobody made sure that reptile food was purchased. The lizard was not getting food or water. Water wasn't the dead fish's problem, but clean water might have been.

And what is up with not trying to housebreak the dogs, not that that's easy when you have so many running around the place?

There was also an extremely worrisome scene involving missing puppies and whether they could be located before the boa constrictor came upon the white furballs. I was outraged. Later during a discussion about the movie, I asked Walker if he was willing to ask Jackie Siegel any of my questions about having a residence too large to guarantee the safety of the pets. Todd declined.

Crowing about this video

Check out my video of the car-counting crow (www.startribune.com/video).

Who knows what this wild bird was watching as it repeatedly returned to a low wood fence outside the Star Tribune. I didn't see any rabbits or a nest, although the bird clearly saw me.

In an unrelated animal note:

That February question I asked avid hunter and HOF Vikings coach Bud Grant about python hunting in the Florida Everglades is not sounding all that silly after all the news reports of a 17-foot reptile with 87 eggs.

"The snake is just the latest evidence of Florida's growing problem with the exotic, highly adaptable species that has a foothold in the Everglades National Park [where it] increasingly threatens native wildlife," wrote Rene Lynch of the Los Angeles Times.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try.

  • WATCH VIDEO of C.J.'s interview with another Crow
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