The Rich: Caught Short

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To keep the good life rolling in high gear, an annual income of $600,000 from trust funds totaling $30 million should be just the ticket. That sum is what Palm Beach-Long Island Socialite Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, 61, can count on, and it has gone a long way toward making him appear to be the man who has everything. Family? Hard to top a steel-rich Phipps mother and a British father who was a polo-playing first cousin to Winston Churchill. Wife? None other than the patrician blonde "Ceezee," the former Lucy Cochrane of Boston (TIME cover, July 20, 1962), who, at 47, is one of the world's most elegant women. Hobbies? What's wrong with the Guests' Templeton Stables, whose thoroughbreds carry his and Ceezee's colors at tracks throughout the U.S. and Europe?

While the rich are always notoriously short of ready cash, the Guests of late have set some kind of record. To keep up with an avalanche of bills (the stables alone can cost $200,000 a year), in 1959 he sold his mother's Palm Beach house, Villa Artemis, for $350,000, moved in over the garage across the street. Next, in 1963, he sold their Manhattan apartment, took to commuting from his I l l-acre Long Island estate. Meanwhile, his plunges into Latin American airlines had come a cropper. He lost one airline when the Mexican government nationalized it. Even worse was his flyer with Aerovias Panama, a scheduled passenger and freight airline that went bankrupt two years ago, leaving him sole guarantor for bills totaling $499,765.43 owed to a Miami airplane-leasing company.

Out of the Woods. What made Guest's predicament all the more painful was that to keep current he had already taken out $265,000 in bank loans, plus another $105,000 against his life insurance, and put up for sale several paintings, including Moro's Mary Tudor. Once a federal court ruled last March that Guest alone was responsible for Aerovias' bad debts, it was only a question of time before a federal marshal showed up at the Guests' Long Island estate. In August, he started tagging their paintings and objets d'art. Winston Guest went to court to stave off the indignity of a marshal's sale, got a month's grace, during which he scraped together the money to cover the half-million-dollar debt, plus $20,000 in interest and legal fees.

Last week it was finally time to pay the piper. Up for auction at Manhattan's Parke-Bernet Galleries went 151 items of Guest's choicest Chinese and Meissen porcelain and signed French 18th century furniture. In three hours of furious bidding, collectors, in what was a resounding tribute to Guest's connoisseur taste, bid a handsome $815,275. It was enough to see the Guests safely out of the woods for the moment. But in the tradition of the rich, they could not have appeared to care less. Even before the sale began, Winston had taken off for the weekend to shoot quail in the Carolinas.