The divorce of the century - David v. David - is oozing all over us.
"I can't believe it," one of the leading players, Anne Dranginis, a lawyer for UTC Chairman George David, told me at the end of one smutty day this week, before the proceedings were adjourned till summer. "I was a judge for 15 years. It is frustrating to see this."
Naturally, I was drawn to this Wolfeian drama, perhaps because I hoped it would reveal some dark commentary about these greedy times. At the sordid trial of Hartford royalty - David the all-powerful and his sort-of countess wife from Sweden, Marie Douglas-David - nothing is held back.
Sex, money, power, even spurned sex, a Swedish "castle," it's all here, with daily, hilarious updates on Page 1 of the New York Post: She forced Swede love on him!
It is a madcap round-the-world farce, with sexual hijinks and champagne toasts extending from Hartford to Argentina to St. Tropez, Malta, Stockholm and back to Avon. Always, it seems, a UTC jet was waiting on the tarmac. How many of us need to consult flight logs to recall the past?
"It's really a play," former Courant editor Lary Bloom, covering the trial as a free-lancer, remarked as we sat side by side in the cramped courtroom.
If there wasn't so much misery out there, it would be an insanely funny one. Maybe it still is, in a Rome-is-burning way. How depressing.
While the layoff slips float down almost daily - including recently at United Technologies Corp. - two aristocrats duel over $60 million, their lawyers wrestling in the slime as they fight over an ironclad post-nuptial agreement. The Davids' post-nup, inked in 2005 and negotiated by the same lawyers now fighting in court, guarantees the sort-of countess about $38 million, plus the apartment in Stockholm, the jewelry and the beach house. Douglas-David, whose lawyer eagerly explained to the court how she struggled to yank the 220-pound CEO titan, a.k.a. Pumpkin, into the sack, wants $100 million.
But a contract is a contract. Until, that is, a lawyer finds a way to weasel out of it. This is known as "abandonment of agreement," as Douglas-David lawyer William Beslow hammered home daily in his questioning of the mostly unexcitable George David.
And we thought we'd seen it all during that unseemly flap at the Wadsworth Atheneum a few years ago. King George took his donors and resigned from the board in a power struggle that left the museum gasping.
Now, I almost feel for this poor alpha male with the Bill Clinton problem - a poor sap who woke up to his multimillion-dollar mistake just weeks after his trophy wife marriage in May of 2002.
Here was one of Connecticut's - and perhaps one of America's - most powerful and successful CEOs pathetically racing from New York to hide in the Avon Old Farms Inn to avoid being served with divorce papers from a wife 30 years his junior. Later, Douglas-David's lawyer accused David of virtually dumping his wife's luggage on the tarmac in Stockholm - even though she said he was "the person who gave me my wings and taught me to fly." Not on this plane, Countess!
I'll confess I was prepared to be sympathetic to the attractive, leggy Swede. I mean, who goes golfing after your wife's friend e-mails you to say that your beloved had a miscarriage? But after two days in court, I couldn't help but feel for the ruthless CEO-turned-Archie Bunker, a patient $300-million man apparently driven nuts by his wife's "hours and hours of haranguing."
The truth is, David said, "she heaped abuse on me day after day. She said things that were cruel. And unkind ... for five solid years ... I had enough of this cruel treatment."
I realized I'd had my fill of this guilty, dirty pleasure, after two days in the courtroom.
An early morning e-mail from 63-year-old Judy Olson, a former UTC employee in North Carolina, sobered me up. She heard about the divorce while watching TV this week.
"I am a victim of all this money," Olson told me when we spoke by phone. "This man closed the production plant in North Carolina where I was working, sending my job to Mexico for cheaper labor and more money in his pocket. I had to sell my home. How arrogant are these people?"
I think we all know the answer.
Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. Read his blog at courant.com/rick.