When the U.S. stock market crashes in 2008, the Siegels' world of privilege crumbles.
Four months after the opening of the newly built Planet Hollywood Westgate Towers in Las Vegas, the company is sued for unpaid bills. The Siegels begin selling their assets to pay off the huge debt, cease construction on the 90,000 square-foot Versailles and put it up for sale. Eventually, the property goes into foreclosure.
At first the Siegels don't accept responsibility for their predicament.
Instead, the family blames the banks, which they claim forced them to stop sales and lay off 6,000 employees. Money lenders are likened to drug pushers; they offered cheap money, got people addicted, then withdrew the money. Jackie is baffled as to why the government bailout money, which she says was supposed to be passed along to the "common people. You know, us," hasn't trickled down to benefit them.
As the situation grows dire, David fights to save his company. Jackie, meanwhile, does what she can to live on a budget but is woefully out of touch. She lets most of the servants go but can't maintain her household. She shops at Wal-Mart for Christmas presents but gives out puppies and enjoys caviar on Christmas Day. She flies commercially to visit her hometown and tries to rent a car, but asks if a driver comes with the car. The clerk's reaction is priceless.
Ultimately, "The Queen of Versailles" is a familiar story, told on a grander scale. It is one of success and failure, personal responsibility, family and marriage. David himself finally understands the moral of this cautionary tale:
"We need to live within our means," he says. "Don't spent money that we don't have. Don't spend money that we think we're eventually gonna have. Spend what we do have. Get back to reality."
Lisa E. Brown is a columnist for The Joplin (Mo.) Globe and the the administrative assistant at the Joplin Public Library.