“The Shoes of Imelda Marcos”

Morrow, Lance

Time, March 31, 1986

p. 30

Deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda had millions, indeed billions, in accumulated and plundered wealth upon deposition: office towers in Manhattan, waterfront estate on Long Island, dozens of country houses in the Philippines, a second secret palace, millions in jewels and clothes, etc. On a single day in NY Imelda would buy $10,000 worth of bedsheets. She also had 2,700 pairs of shoes. Why? After all, like Teddy Roosevelt’s thousands of slaughtered animals or Farouk’s grandfather, Khedive Ismail’s 3,000 concubines, it’s hard to imagine Imelda actually using, let alone needing, anything like all those shoes. “What is the purpose of riches? To buy freedom–to purchase choices, immunities from the will of others, or of fate. If Imelda kept a collection of 2,700 pairs of shoes, it was not because (as some candle-snuffing moralists might think) she should be expected to wear them all, and must be judged a wastrel if she did not, but because the 2,700 pairs gave her options. . . Or were the Marcos shoes, like the billions of stolen dollars, merely grotesque? The Russian word pashlost suggest the transcendent vulgarity at work in the Marcos spectacle. Pashlost is something preposterously overdone, but without self-knowledge or irony. It is comic and sad and awful. An 18th century French merchant of great wealth named Beaujean came to the same dead end as Marcos with his Swiss gold and his ruined kidneys. ‘He owned amazing gardens,’ the historian Miriam Bearch wrote of Beaujean, ‘but he was too fat to walk in them. . .He had countless splendid bedrooms and suffered from insomnia. . . . a monstrous, bald, bloated old man in a bed sculptured and painted’ to resemble a gilded basket of roses.”