FOUR YEARS AGO SHE LOST HER HUSBAND, FAMED DALLAS LAWYER FRED BARON, TO CANCER JUST AS THE DETAILS OF HIS ROLE IN THE SORDID JOHN EDWARDS SEX SCANDAL CAME TO LIGHT. BUT INSTEAD OF DISAPPEARING FROM PUBLIC VIEW TO RAISE HER THREE SMALL CHILDREN, SHE DECIDED THAT HER LIFE HAD TO GO ON, ONE LAVISH PARTY AT A TIME.
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One afternoon in early September, I pulled up to the gates of a nine-acre estate in North Dallas. I waited for them to open, then drove down a long, curving lane to a 15,254-square-foot mansion that looked like a country home for England’s royal family. I rang the doorbell, and a voice over the intercom said, “Please, come in.” But when I opened the door, there was no one to greet me.
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I stood for a few moments in the foyer, which featured marble floors, Asian vases the size of Gemini rockets, and a gilded chandelier, and then I ambled toward the living room, which contained thirteen chairs, two couches, two benches, and a grand piano. A couple of semi-priceless portraits hung on the walls: one of George Washington, painted by James Peale, and the other of Benjamin Franklin, painted by Joseph Duplessis. In the distance were the kinds of hushed sounds you tend to hear only in the homes of the very wealthy: a vacuum cleaner humming in a faraway room, a lawn mower purring over a back lawn, the solemn ticking of a clock. A gray cat that must have weighed twenty pounds walked across the room, paused to look at me, and padded away. “Hello?” I called out meekly.
5 New Tricks
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Then there was a new sound: tennis shoes squeaking over the floor. And suddenly, whipping around a corner, came the mansion’s owner, 59-year-old Lisa Blue Baron, dressed in tourniquet-tight workout clothes, her brunette hair bouncing off her shoulders as she strode toward me, grinning like a cheerleader. “Hey, you!” she exclaimed, leading me past the kitchen and into the breakfast room, where papers and two cellphones were strewed across a large table. The lights on both phones were blinking as the voice mails piled up. Someone had called with details about her upcoming trip to the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was scheduled to attend a party with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and someone else had called about a speech she was scheduled to give to a group of trial attorneys in Austin. A couple of lawyers had called to discuss a lawsuit, a representative from a charitable organization had called to ask for a hefty donation, and her assistant had called to discuss a fundraiser Lisa was throwing at her home later that month for incumbent senator Al Franken, of Minnesota, and Senate hopefuls Rich Carmona, of Arizona, and Martin Heinrich, of New Mexico.