Friday, April 27, 2012

Finials in a Billionaire's House!

A small catastrophe happened today and I'm still not over it! As you might imagine, the lamp finials in this house are absolutely exquisite. "Lamp Jewelry" as the Missus calls them, and she's spent a lifetime collecting them from her travels all over the globe.

In this house we have an array of finials ranging from carved ivory to hand-painted porcelains, pewter, brass, marble, jade, hand-whittled wood and dazzling lead crystals.

So anyhow, this evening there was a small meeting planned for a few VIPs and Ester decided the lamp shade next to the guest of honor's chair needed to be dusted. We take them outside to do this, and as she unscrewed the turquoise finial - it broke in half in her hand!

OMG! We're all getting fired! As the butler here, normally when something gets broken we carefully wrap each piece (including the slivers) and send it off to a professional conservator. But certainly no time for that today!

So I called one of the groundskeepers Maurizio and asked him to come right away! It was a clean break in the turquoise, and he was able to fuse the two pieces together with superglue. And the lamp shade and finial were put back into place - just in time. We don't have that many guests who walk around with a magnifying glass to inspect for cracks and improper repairs, so I guess we got away with it, at least for the evening.

I have a professional obligation to report any incidents like this in my daily log - which the Missus reads from time to time. But I don't think anything more will come from this, especially if  the superglue holds.

Hope this wasn't boring, but such is my world.

Thanks for dropping in,


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do Charm Schools Still Exist?

Yes they do! While they may have evolved with the times, Charm Schools are still around and serve an important purpose within certain circles. Primarily they teach social etiquette in such areas as:

- How to greet someone (especially dignitaries and royalty).
- How to shake hands and/or bow.
- Proper topics for social conversation.
- Letter writing, invitations, regrets, and thank you notes.
- How to set a formal dining table.
- And physical comportment - such as posture, how to walk with style, how to sit, even how to eat.

Also called Finishing Schools, they flourished in earlier times when professional careers were not open to women. They were designed primarily to prepare young women for marriage - hopefully into high society. But many of these schools closed when women began entering college and going out into the marketplace, seeking careers of their own.

Even so, social skills are still quiet important, and many prominent schools have survived. It's well known that even Diana, Princess of Wales briefly attended the Institut Alpin Videmanette - a famous finishing school in Switzerland.

In modern times these schools have evolved and are experiencing a resurgence, especially as the rich grow in numbers. And major corporations are jumping in and sending their prized employees to what they call Protocol or Etiquette schools, especially when dealing with foreign corporations. But long gone are the days when every city and small town in America had a "Miss Lovely's Finishing School for Girls". 

For more information on the best schools still in existence in America, England, or Switzerland, just Google the words Finishing Schools.

I hope this has been helpful, and as always, thanks for stopping by,


Friday, April 13, 2012

New Rich versus Old Rich!

As the butler in a billionaire's household I'm frequently asked about the differences between the old rich and the new. This is one of those areas where generalizations are dangerous of course, in that we're all so different in the way we conduct ourselves - whether we're new rich, old rich, or poor for that matter.

To make an attempt to answer, let's first look at the definitions:

Old Rich is usually associated with land ownership (the landed gentry), with money being inherited down the line for at least three generations. These people live from their trust funds and incomes from their properties. They don't have to work - at least as we know it - but to be fair some of them do administrate. Which is great work if you can get it, right?

New Rich (the Nouveau Riche) usually refers to those who've made their fortunes themselves - as industrialists, bankers, builders, the oil rich, inventors, investors - not to mention the money that flows from sports and media fame - actors, musicians and the like.

An interesting note here: in America the Rockefeller family (oil) and the DuPont family (gun powder), the Vanderbilt's (railroads) and the Astor's (real estate and hotels) were once considered new rich. But since these families have managed to hang on to their fortunes and pass it down to these very days, they're now considered old rich families.

Moving right along - conventional wisdom has some very specific adjectives when describing the new and the old rich:

The Old:  Quiet, proper, reserved, careful and moderate. They don't know any other way of life except being rich.

The New:  Loud, crass, vulgar, gauche and splashy. They're ecstatic about their new-found wealth, and why not have some fun, right?

I have to admit I agree with the above assessments. But again, the danger of generalizations is that it overlooks the new rich who are quiet, modest and share their wealth through charities of all sorts. And it overlooks the famous heirs from prominent old rich families who's crassness and vulgarities are constantly being splashed across the news and Hollywood tabloids. So go figure.

In Europe, there are three classesThe Royals of course, the Bourgeoisie (people with lots of money), and the Proletariat (the working classes). Interestingly enough, no matter how many billions the Bourgeoisie might accumulate, they still cannot cross that social barrier of becoming Royalty. Although with enough money and socially-important accomplishments you could be 'Knighted', like Sir Paul McCartney or Dame Edith Evans

In America, having thrown off kings and queens in the War of Independence, we just have the Bourgeoisie (our Upper Classes), and the Proletariat (our Middle and Lower Classes). And not having royalty to keep the richest bourgeoisie in their place, our American billionaires often seem like fish out of water - flopping around, not knowing what to do with themselves and all their money, and constantly embarrassing themselves in front of a TV audience.    

Nonetheless, we still try to re-create royalty in America by assigning lineage as an indication of respectability and respect. Members of the Mayflower Society, families that can trace their ancestors back to the Mayflower, are of high esteem. Then there's the DAR, Daughter's of the American Revolution, way up there on the list of American high society. And there's the Junior League that further establishes a social hierarchy in America in the absence of royalty.

The thing is, history shows us that being rich, whether new or old, is of no real indication of serious intelligence, magnanimity, or any social conscience at all. You can have old money out the wazoo and still be stupid as an ox, or even worse, selfish. Or new money that allows you the opportunity for selflessness, grace and charity.

To wind this up, I really don't know what else to say about the differences between the new and the old rich. There's decidedly a difference, of course. But who really cares, and why? Would you rather be at a cocktail party with a bunch of boring old-rich buzzards - or a nutty new rich party where any crazy thing might happen? I vote for the latter myself - but that's just me.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Moderation for the Rich!

As the butler here in a billionaire's world, I've often noticed and admired that moderation seems to be the rule of the day around here. Not just for my employers but their guests as well. Apparently it's the way they keep themselves fit and trim, and mentally agile enough to juggle their millions and billions.

By definition moderation just means restraint and avoidance of excess of course, in everything from food, alcohol, tobacco, politics, temper and mood swings - anything we frail human beings are prone to. And there's a lot of debate on the subject:

- Mark Twain said he didn't care for moderation himself, but "It's always been my rule to never smoke while asleep, or refrain from smoking when awake." 

- Oscar Wilde suggested that "Moderation is a fatal thing".

- Plato thought a man of moderation was someone of character and wisdom.

- Aristotle advised to avoid extremes and seek "moderation in all things."

- And Saint Augustine said that "Complete abstinence is easier than moderation."

Obviously, there's several divergent ideas on the subject, to say the least. But it seems to work for the rich. It's a choice of course, but once adopted it seemingly becomes a way of life.

Having tossed this idea around myself for a long time, and to condense the wit and wisdom of people much wiser than me, my own point of view is simply this: Moderation should never be carried to extreme!

Thanks for stopping by tonight,