Dexter Coffin III was given his first outboard motorboat when he was 6, his first horse at 13, his first motorbike at 14, his first car at 16. At the age of 14, he discovered that a family trust fund paid his parents $7,400 a month to provide for his needs.
He grew up believing that the world and most of the people in it existed for his amusement. "I knew who the hired help was when I was 3 or 4 years old," he said. "I had the impression that the people who waited on us at the various clubs, at the lawn parties and in my house were put on earth to serve me. I figured there had to be a reason why I was receiving all these things. My conclusion was that I was special."
Then he found out he wasn't, that there were other teen-agers who were more likely to be "successes." So he rebelled.
He started drinking and womanizing at 16, luring rich girls from Palm Beach to cheap motel rooms.
He drove a Lincoln Continental Mark III and spent a fortune on cocaine. As a yacht broker, he flew off to Europe with a buyer's money and returned home to face grand larceny charges. He was in and out of jail for seven years, once working on a road gang in state-issue dungarees and Gucci loafers.
When he was out of jail, Coffin laid off cocaine in favor of a highly addictive prescription drug called Percodan and then moved to an equally addictive cough syrup.In 1978, after posing as a doctor to get a prescription-only cough syrup, he was slapped with a five-year felony sentence for fraud. He entered a psychiatric hospital, but skipped to Rio de Janeiro, returning home last year to a Florida judge who'd had enough of his rich-kid antics. Coffin spent a year in the minimum-security Fort Pierce Community Correctional Center in Florida.
He is 32 now, and, without working at all, gets $100,000 a year from his family's trust fund. He is worth about $6 million, his share of family holdings in the Dexter Corp., a Suffield, Conn., firm.
Here's what he says about his life:
"I was given far too much, too quickly. I don't think a kid is emotionally equipped to determine what his limits should be. I felt I could do whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted, without regard to other people. I did things without really caring if I got caught. I figured there would always be somebody to work it out for me.
"I can remember as a child trying any way under the sun to get my father's attention. There was a time in Connecticut when my father was preoccupied with the family business and my mother was busy getting ready to move us all to Florida. I went up on a hill near our house with several of my father's hand-painted, meticulously constructed model airplanes that he took such great pride in. I threw them down the hill. That got his attention."
Coffin says he was always told that he had to mesure up to the achievements of his grandfather, who presided over the development of a paper process that made hundreds of millions of dollars for the Dextor Corp.
"I was told from a very early age you've got to succeed, you've got to succeed . . . It seemed to me the goals I was expected to attain were impossible . . ."
Coffin is now attending summer business courses at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, planning to get married for the fourth time.
Parents, he says, have to decide whether it is more important to be successful, upper-income people or to raise children in a solid, family-oriented atmosphere. "I don't think you can have both these days . . . The values that got you the money are not the same values that you use to raise children."