Son of a Grifter: The Twisted Tale of Sante and Kenny Kimes, the Most Notorious Con Artists in America: A Memoir by the Other Son
Kent Walker, Mark Schone
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In 1998 a troubled young man and his flamboyant mother were arrested for murdering a wealthy widow in her New York City mansion. Suddenly, America was transfixed by a pair of real-life film noir characters, an Oedipal team of scam artists who left a trail of blood, lies, and larceny from coast to coast. The media couldn't get enough of the twisted relationship between Sante Kimes and her twenty-three-year-old son Kenny.
But the most chilling story of all was never told -- until now. Kent Walker, Sante's elder son, reveals how he survived forty years of "the Dragon Lady's" very special brand of motherly love and still managed to get away.
As a child Kent watched his mother destroy his hardworking father, Ed Walker, and then -- with Kent's painful collusion -- snare what Sante called "my millionaire." When she married seemingly respectable real-estate developer Ken Kimes, it was a match made in hell.
For the next two decades Kent's mother and stepfather indulged in a globetrotting orgy of criminal behavior, laying waste to each other and anyone who got in the way. Kent, their would-be recruit, was privvy to the family business -- torching houses, defrauding friends, crashing White House parties, "shopping" for trunkloads of fur coats -- and Sante's self-serving style of adultery. When Kent's half-brother, Kenny was born, Kent was twelve years old -- old enough to know that he was his younger sibling's only protector. Kent tried desperately to save Kenny from his mother's sinister bidding. His failure haunts him to this day.
Here, with shocking and sometimes brutal frankness, Kent explodes the romantic Hollywood image of the grifter as antihero and exposes the truth about Sante Kimes behind the headlines. Sone of a Grifter poignantly chronicles what it means to love somebody despite your better instincts, your worst fears, and even your most forbidden hopes.
won, when I said, “You’re going to die a lonely old woman.” It was the worst thing you could say to Sante. For her, silence equaled death, and not having an audience was worse than death. I’d reached into her chest and squeezed her heart, and it felt so good I nearly got goose bumps. I finally convinced Mom and Ken to take their things and go back to the islands by threatening to call the cops. Since my name was on the lease and their names were all over the police blotter, they complied. But
filled his order and made myself scarce while Mom and her date sat on the couch, nursing their tumblers. Soon they got up and headed for the door. As always, Mom was dressed to the nines, in a seductive way that played up her resemblance to Liz Taylor. It was the late sixties, and she had the same big black hair and curvy figure as the Burton-era Liz. It was important that I perform to Mom’s expectations. She had a job and I was her assistant; the goal was to marry a millionaire. She’d been
year, the four of us moved into the house that became our permanent Hawaii address. We always referred to it as “the Portlock house,” a run-down, rambling, L-shaped wooden ranch house hidden behind a screen of palms and an eight-foot brick wall. It was a beachfront property next door to our first Hawaii Kai rental. It was a ratty house on an ultradesirable lot. Ken was getting bored with the slow pace of island life, and I wondered why he was buying any property, especially such a ramshackle
seat, and I grabbed the controls of the rented chopper. I felt the rush of embarrassed excitement that I often felt when my mother went over the top with her generosity, but the chopper was such an appropriate gesture. It was a good-bye present as well as a birthday present, since I’d be leaving Hawaii soon for the mainland and basic training. I took a long ride up around Diamond Head and over to the big breakers on the North Shore. When I set the chopper down on the lawn at Portlock two hours
called Chatters, on the corner of Eastern and Tropicana. Each booth had a telephone and a sign with a number, the idea being that singles could come in and start a conversation with a stranger by dialing the number. I never saw one person use the phone system, but plenty used the dollar poker machines at the end of the bar. Ken and I would camp out there. He bought “racks” of coins instead of rolls—a hundred bucks in silver dollars. He’d buy me two racks of dollar coins. If I lost the two