Thursday, April 26, 2018

Privacy For The Rich!

In my capacity as house manager for a rich family I've often been asked if the rich have any kind of privacy. It's a legitimate curiosity of course -  especially these days with every TV channel airing dirty laundry and salacious stories about the rich and powerful.

It's reasonable to think that having lots of money can provide layers upon layers of insulation from the outside world and prying eyes. But generally speaking it's quite the opposite. As you already know rich, famous and powerful people are under constant scrutiny by the press, the paparazzi, the IRS always snooping around - not to mention jealous back-stabbing friends ready to gossip at the drop of a hat. Plus they're under relentless siege by legitimate charity organizations as well as posers,  ladder climbers, gold diggers (both male and female) and outright scammers.

The thing is, when you get so rich and involved that you need other people to help run your busy life, then your personal privacy goes straight out the window. From my unique perspective as head of  the household staff, here's a disturbing list of privacy issues that butlers, housekeepers, laundry techs, chefs, chauffeurs, personal assistants and private secretaries know about our rich employers:
  • First and most obvious, we know every nuance of  their moods - when they're happy, sad, or just grumpy for some damned reason. (Which gives us a clue if we need to momentarily disappear or hide out for the whole day.) 
  • We can see and hear if the Missus and Mister are speaking to each other at breakfast, or not. Trouble is usually afoot if nary a word is spoken. (Hide!) 
  • From their calendars, appointment books and notes beside their phones, we can figure out their comings and goings for the day. (After all, we can't get out work done until they get out of the way.)
  • If they fall ill, we know what medications they're taking and what kind of long-term diseases they might be fighting. (Ester the upstairs maid has a talent for Googling every prescription and keeping us informed.)  
  • We know what kind of cosmetics and vitamin supplements they're using to fight the ravages of age. (And we know from the pharmacy deliveries how many Viagra pills it takes to get them through a month.)
  • Their rumpled and possibly soiled sheets tells Ester if they had a fun toss in the hay or slept on opposite sides of the bed - which she immediately reports for our own well being. (When she tells us they used separate bedrooms for the night, that's definitely a reason to hide!)
  • From the empty wine bottles and sliced limes, we can tell how much they drank last night. (Which gives us a clue about what time they might come down to breakfast.)
  • Lipstick on the stemware, or lack thereof, tells us if their late night guests were male, female, or both. (If the Missus is out of town but we still find lipstick on a glass, this is a good time for everyone to keep their mouths shut!) 
  • Going out in separate cars for the evening almost always means trouble. (Our chauffeur is an expect at detecting unfamiliar perfume and cologne aromas.)
  • By sorting the mail we see their department store bills, their investment companies, letters from their attorneys, and legal notices from the court during whatever court battle is at hand. More importantly we see their party invitations and RSVPs. (Which tells us where they stand in local high society at the moment, like who's coming or who's snubbing them this year.) 
  • What they're wearing tells us exactly where they're going for the day. Dark clothes and veils obviously indicate a funeral. Casual clothes means they're meeting with intimate friends. Haute couture indicates a party or gala. (A cheap suit from Walmart means yet another day in court fighting off lawsuits.)
  • How they pack and how much luggage they take indicates how long they will be gone. (Which spreads like wildfire among the staff!)
  • And finally, by typing the tail number of their private jet into Flight Aware's tracking website, we know precisely when their plane is taking off, where it is at all times, and when they'll be coming back. (Urgent information so that we can all look busy when they return!)    

Mind you this is not so much about snooping and gossip as it is about job protection and self preservation. If you work in a 9-5 office job forty hours a week, you have every right to expect your employer to be on best behaviour at all times. Otherwise legal recourse comes into play. But in household service we know our employers can't be on best behaviour 24/7. We're much more tolerant of grumpy moods - we know how to deal with it or else we couldn't tolerate our jobs. In the service industry it's called professionalism. If we don't have it, then we're in the wrong business.

So do rich people have any kind of  privacy?

No, I don't really think so myself. And the constant drone of daily news on cable TV bears this out. Loyalty and confidentiality agreements can only go so far. But intense scrutiny (and gossip) is what it is.

Thanks for dropping by this evening. I hope this has shed some light.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cosmetic Surgery in the World of the Rich!

"I see a lot of new faces out there tonight - especially on the old faces." - Johnny Carson.

Of course, that brought a big laugh from his TV audience. But Carson was tapping into a source of humor that all rich people understand - their endless quest for youth and beauty. Which comes up now because this is the time of year when rich people return from their mysterious winter trips abroad, ready to show off their new faces and bodies for the Spring Social Season.

I can't wait to see the results and wonder if I'll recognize anybody. There comes a point when the face has been stretched so many times that original features start to disappear. What's left is just this smooth mask-like visage - which is one of the reasons I've often said that rich people all look alike to me. The other being their flawless makeup, currently-popular coifs, and of course the endless parade of haute couture and flashy jewels. Seriously, it all becomes a blur.

A few years back I remember telling you about one lady whose face had been stretched so many times that she had a permanent smile - which is why no one ever invited her to a wake or funeral. Last year she had her back stretched and showed up at a cocktail event in a backless dress. Which was  (how to say it politely?) a source of murmur and comment. I'm wondering what the poor thing will look like this year.

A couple of years ago my employer and his then-current girlfriend had their eyes lifted during a winter disappearance. When they got home, with the lingering black eyes and bruising for days on end, they looked like two raccoons sitting there at the breakfast table and didn't dare go out for the evening.

But this year it seems my employer opted for Botox rather than going under the knife. The upstairs maid found a bill for one treatment, photographed it and texted it to me. Indeed, there's noticeably less laugh lines around his mouth. And since the crabby old buzzard gentleman doesn't laugh or smile very often, I'm thinking this treatment will last a lot longer than the usual five-or-six months.

While it's all a source of humor for most of us, there are huge risks involved with these procedures, and there's endless tales of botched cosmetic surgeries that didn't go so well - leaving people with unexpected blemishes and scars.

I once worked in a five-star hotel where a famous and elegant high-society socialite often showed up, always wearing dark veils. She was the heiress to an oil-fortune magnate, and history records that she was somehow "mysteriously disfigured". But rumor was rampant at the time that while undergoing plastic surgery, an oxygen tank had exploded in the operating room.

I'm not sure why I'm reporting all this. The temptation to undergo youth-restoration procedures is entirely understandable. Why not? But it's urgent to seek out the best practitioners available - no time to cut costs here. By all means, check out their references, their successes, and their failures. I mean, how do you go to sleep with a permanent smile stretched on your face?

There is something to be said, after all, for growing old gracefully. Age is a gift, is it not? So many, many people for so many, many reasons don't get to experience this normal progression of life. But rather than going under the knife, the old standbys of exfoliating, regular facials, Oil of Olay moisturizing products and Porcelana Fading Cream can go a long way in upping one's self esteem in the inevitable and god-given process of aging.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening. I hope this report hasn't been too alarming!