Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Cartier Christmas Gift!

If you've been watching TV at any time during this holiday shopping season I'm sure you've seen some of Cartier's stunning 30-second ads for their world-famous jewelry.

I'm not sure why Cartier is reaching out to the mass audience like this. something you don't see Tiffany's or Harry Winston doing. But their ads are intriguing and infinitely watchable.

There's a terrific three-minute version of these ads on YouTube, which I hope you'll find time to watch. It involves a magnificent big cat's journey all around the world in search of his beloved lost mistress, with Cartier jewels scattered along the way. The last moments when he finds her is just so very touching. And the gorgeous cat, by the way, is not a leopard as I first thought, but a spotted panther - Cartier's signature logo.

Surely one of the most expensive ads ever made, I'm sure it's deserving of major advertising awards including AAF and CLIO. In any case, here's a link to L'Odyssee de Cartier and you can decide for yourself. I promise it won't be a waste of your time. The music itself draws you in, and the photography and special effects are spectacular!

And so, after all the preparations and hard work, all the shopping, menu planning, cocktail parties, office parties, charity fund raisers, and travel plans to see our families, Christmas is finally here, just a few days away - exhausted though we might be.

For most of us this is all a labor of love for our families and friends, right? But around here it's just - well - labor.

As always, thank you so much for reading and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all!

See you in the New Year!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Birkin Handbags: Gifts for the Rich!

In the November post about Ethiad Airways luxury $48,000 suite for an overnight flight, Stacy left a hysterical comment about running across a used Birkin Bag for the exact same price! Here's part of her comment:

"...I was having a conversation with my boss this week and I told her about how I'd seen a used 2013 Birkin bag for sale for $48,000. Her response is that no one with a conscience should ever pay that much for a bag. Then I remembered your post and realized it was the same price as the flight. Even though I agreed with my boss that no one NEEDS a handbag that costs as much as a luxury vehicle, the truth is, no one NEEDS a luxury vehicle either....there's simply no way to justify a $50,000 handbag except to's really really really GORGEOUS...and it'll last a lot longer and get more miles than that flight :-)"

While I agree with you and your boss Stacy, and the questionable need for a purse that expensive, it's a real bargain in my opinion since Birkin's can run as high as $150,000. In fact, there's a one-of-a-kind Birkin being offered on the internet right now for $450,000!

In addition, there's a defensible place for these extravagant handbags in the world of the super rich. To explain it fully, I'm going to slide into sheer fantasy for a few moments and hope it makes sense in tying it altogether:  

To begin this scenario, lets focus on an imaginary Miss Betty Bankstocks sitting in the back seat of her vintage $2 million dollar chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce on her way to the airport. Wearing a simple $85,000 couture travel dress, she glances at her diamond-encrusted $1.2 million dollar Patek Philippe wristwatch to see is she's on time.

At the airport the staff aboard Ethiad Airways escorts Miss Bankstocks to her $48,000 suite, complete with private bathroom and shower, where she hopes to get a good night's sleep before her girlfriend's three-day birthday celebration begins the next day.

Before arrival the next morning she takes a quick shower and jumps into a new $125,000 haute couture cocktail dress. Feeling well rested and refreshed, she takes a limousine from the airport and a private water taxi out to her girlfriend's $225 million dollar luxury yacht sitting in the Bay of Monaco, with the Monte Carlo skyline shimmering in the background. The staff aboard the yacht hoists up her antique $75,000 Louis Vuitton wardrobe trunk and takes it to her room.

Right on time she glides into the main salon where late-morning cocktails (Bloody Mary's and Mimosas) are just getting underway. Amidst all the chatter and greetings the Maitre'd makes a hand gesture as to where she can park her $150,000 Birkin bag on a side table, in full view of all.

And that's precisely the moment when an expensive bag like that shows off it's true value. What else could Miss Bankstocks have possibly sat down there that would reflect her true status in this world? A cheap off-the-shelf $5,000 purse from Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus?

I don't think so, not in that crowd!

Anyhow, thanks for reading tonight and indulging in the fantasy. The super rich do things in their own odd way with cost being the least consideration over style, elegance and presentation. And thanks again Stacy for bringing up such a fun topic.

Before going, here's a link to what Birkin Bags are all about.

Good night,

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Expensive Hotels for the Rich!

Last month I wrote a post about Ethiad Airways' private three-room suites that can cost up to $48,000 for an overnight flight. While that may sound insanely extravagant to most of us, what I failed to do was put it all in perspective.

The thing is paying $35,000 to $65,000 a night for a luxury hotel suite is normal for the super rich in major cities all around the world. So why not on an airplane, in the hopes of getting a good night's sleep?

I could mention where famous film stars and directors hold up during the Cannes Film Festival each year on the French Riviera. The renowned Hotel Martinez is situated right on the exclusive Boulevard de la Croisette near all the action and has it's own private beach on the Bay of Cannes. The elegant Penthouse, maybe the largest in Europe, will cost you about $37,500 per night.

Then there's the venerable Four Seasons in New York. The Penthouse occupies the entire top floor with a 360-degree view of Manhattan and indoor-outdoor Zen gardens. (One of the designers, by the way, was the world famous architect I.M. Pei.) A night here will cost you about $41,750.

But let's jump to what's currently the most expensive rooms in the world, the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland. With a private elevator that goes up the Royal Penthouse, you'll find twelve rooms including a living room with a Steinway grand piano, a dining room, library, billiard room, and fitness center. For heads of state visiting the United Nations (not to mention security-conscious celebrities) the hotel boasts that all the windows and doors are bullet proof. And for all this luxury and security you'll be paying about $65,000 to $80,000 per night, depending on the time of year I guess and what's going on in town.

While this all might sound extraordinary (maybe even unbelievable) don't forget that all the above-mentioned suites usually come with a full staff - including a butler, your own private chef, room attendants, sometimes even a chauffeur. And of course for an additional fee a massage therapist can always be called in, as well as caterers for a large party - even a well-known pianist to sit at the Steinway during the cocktail or dinner hours.

So you see $48,000 for a flight on Ethiad is nothing really out of the ordinary for the super rich - although most luxury hotels don't require Dramamine to get to sleep.

Before going I might also mention from personal experience that Motel 6 has comfortable beds, clean sheets, and a TV for about $59 a night. Although in Napa Valley and other desirable destinations it might jump up to $69. So beware, and always call ahead to get the best rates.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, November 21, 2014

Flying First Class: New Luxury for the Rich!

In the last post about Ethiad Airways' luxury three-room suites I should have mentioned that there's a lot of other airlines that are getting into the game of catering to the super rich.

For decades we've all known about the spacious first class cabin up in the front of the plane - screened off from the riffraff by forbidding closed curtains. We know they have plenty of leg room and that their seats recline all the way into beds for overnight flights. We've heard about the sumptuous steak and lobster meals and the fine wines and champagne, served on real china with glass stemware, silverware, and linen napkins - compared to the casseroles in plastic trays that are shoveled out back in coach.

But now things are going to extreme. While most airlines can't compete with Ethiad in offering three-room suites, they're still going nuts in trying to lure and accommodate the rich. Some of them are installing what they refer to as 'suites' but in reality are just small cubicles with space enough for a narrow bed right beside the already-wide seats. Each cubicle has it's own big screen TV and the linens on the bed are of the highest quality. The meals are chef created and the wine list is not unlike a fine restaurant. Nevertheless, there's certainly no private toilets in these cubicles like in Ethiad, so rich people still have to stand on line to pee just like everyone else on the plane.

Whether or not this extraordinary accommodation for the rich has anything to do with why seats are squeezed so tightly together back in coach I haven't a clue although my suspicions are high.

If you have time this evening to indulge in sheer fantasy about how the rich travel, here's some fun YouTube links to a few airlines that are unashamedly promoting their groveling to the rich with their so-called suites. Personally I'm concerned about all the elaborate table settings and what happens when the plane hits turbulence - with all those wine glasses and china plates hitting you in the face or dumped in your lap. Maybe that's a risk the rich are willingly to take, so who am I to judge?

In any case, take a look at these airlines and see for yourself what they have to offer - provided you're rich and can afford it:

Air France- La Premiere Suite
British Air
Singapore Airlines

Thanks for dropping in this evening. I hope your holiday travels are as smooth and comfortable as possible. If for some amazing reason I do get to go home for the holidays, I'll be sitting way back there in coach with my knees squeezed up to my chin.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Etihad Airways: Luxury Travel for the Rich!

During this holiday time of year many of us are making travel plans to see our family, friends, and loved ones - although not necessarily in that order. I'm hoping and praying, of course, that my nutty employer will be making travel plans as well.

It's no big secret that the rich travel differently from the rest of us, is it? If they don't have their own jets and are forced to fly on commercial airlines, you can bet you won't see them sitting back there in coach along with the rest of us, with their legs going numb from crowded seats and crying babies all around.

Instead, they'll be up there in first class with plenty of space, peace and quiet, and seats that recline all the way into beds for overnight flights. Some airlines even have private cubicles for the rich and famous, and of course their crying babies are left at home with their nannies.

You won't see them in the airports either, huddled in the crowded waiting rooms at each gate. They have their own luxurious first-class lounges complete with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and when all the riffraff have boarded the plane they're escorted to their first class seats just moments before the plane takes off. Nice, right? Champagne and lobster will be on their dinner trays, complete with linen napkins and silverware, as opposed to plastic knives and forks back there in coach.

But now there's something quite extraordinary I want to tell you about - a whole new way for the super rich to travel. It seems that Etihad Airways from United Arab Emirates is installing private rooms on their Airbus A380 Superjumbos for the discerning traveler. Designed for only two people, it's called "The Residence" and consists of a private three-room suite.

The living room has a big flat-screen TV, a chilled-drink bar, luxurious leather furnishings and a dining table; the separate bedroom has a double bed with fine Egyptian cotton sheets; and the bathroom not only has a shower but also high-dollar toiletries and bathrobes like you might expect in any five-star hotel.

But it doesn't stop there. There's also an on-board gourmet chef available to them and a personal assistant from the Savoy Butler Academy to see after their needs - including their fancy dinner with vintage wine, hotel reservations, and a limousine to get them there.

At currents prices this private suite will cost between $43,000 to $48,000 round-trip to get you from here to there. Which is only about $24,000 per person after all, and considerably less than having your own private jet and pilot. In any case, no doubt you'll wake up refreshed with a nice shower before the plane lands.

Here's a link to "The Residence". See for yourself.

Thanks for dropping in tonight, and happy holiday travels,


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Furniture for the Rich!

Our friend Justin Dew recently sent an inquiry as to where rich people buy furniture. While I might have described the house and furnishings briefly here and there, he made me realize I've never written about this particular topic in full, and there's so much fun stuff to tell.

The thing is, a lot of busy rich people (especially the new rich) rely almost entirely upon their interior designers to do all the work and fill their homes and rooms with whatever fits their needs. This can be tricky of course, since the new rich often don't have a clue as to what they need or want, and the end result depends upon the imagination, creativity, and expertise of the designer engaged.

Depending on what kind of budget he's given, the designer might just shovel in a truck load of nice looking upper-middle-class stuff from Bloomingdale's and call it a day. Given a larger budget, however, he'll probably check out some high end furniture purveyors like Horchow or the Italian Bakokko Group, not overlooking Neiman Marcus of course. And if he's worth his salt, he'll mix in some real antiques here and there that match his overall scheme and design.

The danger is that these decorator-designed rooms, without the personal touch of the homeowner, can come across looking impersonal, stiff, and uninviting. You see it all the time, and you wouldn't want to sit down for even a minute in these picture-perfect rooms.

Now having said all that, many rich people take a huge interest in working closely with their interior decorators, both in designing and continuously adding to their home's comfort and beauty. And they do, after all, have plenty of free time to do so, right?

You'll find them browsing through antique shops throughout their travels in America and Europe, or perhaps attending an estate auction after some rich old biddy in their hometown kicks the bucket. This is always a little amusing since you can't deny these estate sales resemble a flock of scavenger birds swooping down for the pickings.

The former Missus of the house was fond of checking out the renowned furniture auctions at Christie's, where documented and historic antiques can bring in huge sums of money. Not to mention the bragging rights when someone asks, "Wherever did you find this?"

For knickknacks and ornamental fillers, she also loved to browse through distinguished shops like A La Vielle Russie on Fifth Avenue in New York, known for getting their hands on items from the Russian Imperial Court jeweler, Carl Faberge - including his world famous Faberge Eggs. And she always looked forward to visiting London and browsing through the Aspery Collection.

For the super rich, accumulating unique and interesting items for the home is a never-ending ongoing hobby. Their attics are full of furniture and ornaments they're grown tired of and their homes are constantly evolving, not unlike a museum, with new displays coming in all the time - something amazing to observe from my point of view.

Thanks for asking the question, Justin. I hope this has shed some light.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Addendum to: Avant-Bland versus Normcore!

In response to the last post about average-looking clothes being all the rage nowadays, our friend Ben down in Australia mentioned a supportive magazine article I want to share with you tonight.

Entitled "You Say You Want a Devolution" by Kurt Anderson, the article appeared in Vanity Fair in 2012, and early on sets the stage as to why Normcore and Avant-Bland might have arrived on the scene in the first place.

Anderson's premise is that fashion, music, architecture, even interior design have become stagnant, and have changed little during the past twenty years compared to the explosive, revolutionary changes in the twenty-year period before that, and the twenty years before that.

His entirely plausible explanation is that during these past twenty years we've all become so addicted to our laptops and notebooks, to our smart phones with their endless apps, not to mention a multitude of social media, that we're focusing less on individual creativity and style these days. With all of us being so busy, we have willingly yielded to major corporations like Ikea, Old Navy, and the Gap to tell us how to live and dress. In our online distractions, sameness has seemingly taken over and radical change has more-or-less been rendered dormant. This is, of course, welcome news to those corporations who don't want their cages rattled.

In Anderson's words, "The things we own are more than ever like movie props, the clothes we wear like costumes, the places we live, dine, shop, and vacation like stage sets." 

Beyond fashion and design, the article goes even deeper into music for example, saying that Lady Gaga is nothing new or original, just an update and replacement for Madonna, and that Adele has simply replaced Mariah Carey.

All said and done, it's not a far leap to understand how Normcore and Avant-Bland fit into the overall premise of Anderson's argument.

It's a fascinating eye-opening article and if you have a few minutes, here's the link to "You Say You Want a Devolution". You'll not find it disappointing.

Thanks again, Ben, for remembering it and bringing it to our attention.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Avant-Bland versus Normcore!

I don't know about you but all of a sudden my somewhat-drab and dreary wardrobe is back in style, perhaps even considered high fashion in some circles nowadays.

The trend toward bland average-looking attire - whether from an upscale department store like Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom, or from the big-box stores like Walmart and Target - is suddenly all the rage and no doubt causing some concern among fashion designers world wide.

The buzz words 'Normcore' and 'Avant-Bland' are all over the place to describe this new fashion phenomenon. Of course, it's yet to be determined if these are real and sustainable trends or if it's just some kind of imaginary hype and babble from the low-end manufacturers and retailers. In either case, there's a subtle difference between the two terms to begin with.

Normcore seems to refer to our everyday blue-collar work attire (the Jerry Seinfeld look), plus the creative street wear that young people come up with all the time.

Avant-Bland on the other hand gives the appearance of Normcore upon first glance. But closer inspection reveals it to be a high-fashion design from a well-known designer, cleverly disguised and jumping on the current, trendy bandwagon of Normcore.

My friend Linda in New York is known to show up at the TV studio where she works in jeans and tee shirts from Old Navy, and a pair of sneakers.

Miss Helen is known to run around her chic Washington neighborhood in old designer jeans and a pair of comfortable but scuffed-up black high heels.

Since the divorce things have gotten more lax around here and I myself show up for work in 501's, sneakers and a polo shirt - but from Brooks Brothers, I might add.

So what are we? Normcore or Avant-Bland? How about a new fashion category altogether: 'Just Shut Up'.

The whole issue will probably settle out as merely another semantic battle between the haves and have-nots, a temporary consumer rebellion against the ruling 1%.  But I think the have-nots are gaining some ground here - which is to say, it's okay to be Normcore in this life, regardless what the Fashionistas have to say.

Thanks for dropping in tonight.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Addendum to: "Board Games for the Rich!"

The question about what the super rich do when they get together has come up many times in several different ways. In the last post you may recall I was attempting to answer the question about whether or not they play board games.

In my world of the old-guard rich, the answer is no. But they do engage in another type of parlor game that requires wit, mental agility, and stamina. It's called repartee, or sparring.

They chitchat, they drink, and they banter all through the evening. There's laughter with each level of excess, and the drunker they get, the louder the laughter. These mindless conversations almost always involve a degree of self deprecating humor, poking fun at themselves (or at each other) for some stupid little thing that's happened in their day-to-day lives. Nothing too mean or probing mind you, just silly stuff like:

"Can you imagine? Escada declined my order!" a fat lady said one evening, which brought some serious chuckles!

" Forgive the way I look tonight. The minute she finished washing my hair my hairdresser went into labor!" More laughter!

"When the pharmacy dropped off my husband's Viagra the dogs grabbed it and chewed up the bottle! We didn't dare go outside!" Which brings howls!

Dame Covington, explaining why she was late one evening, told everyone that when she was caught doing 50 in a 30, she scolded the cop and asked him, "Why did you stop me, young man, can't you see I'm in a hurry?"

Once when I got rooked into tending bar, a few old gentlemen clustered around the bar were discussing what their actuaries said about how much longer they have to live. "Six, eight, ten years", some of them bragged. But reaching for his fourth gin and tonic, one old buzzard replied "Twenty-five, thirty minutes tops!" Which brought down the room!

This kind of playfulness is always going on at cocktail parties and events around here. And the thing is, the laughter seems genuine and everyone seems to be having a good time. In fact, it all seems to be in the great tradition of Oscar Wilde, who's repartee among the British upper classes is well known if not renowned.

I think it was Wilde's stage play "An Ideal Husband" wherein the lead character Sir Robert Chiltern was berating himself for something or other, and one of his old cronies said "You needn't put yourself down old man, your friends will do that for you."

Now that's the kind of repartee that legends are made of!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Board Games for the Rich!

Our friend Ben Reierson in Melbourne, Australia asked what kind of board games rich people play?

He went on to suggest that when the super rich play Monopoly perhaps they should start with the railroads and hotels they already own in real life, and add a few zero's to the money values to bring the game up to date!

After that hearty laugh, I don't even know where to start. Do roulette tables in Monte Carlo and poker variants aboard a luxury yacht count as board games, Ben? I know for sure my employers participate in those particular activities.

In this house, at the far end of the library, there's an antique wooden card table, with a leather top of course and two comfortable wing-back chairs. Sitting there on the table is a deck of gold-edged Louis Vuitton playing cards, which as far as I can tell have never been touched or shuffled. But there's also an antique mahogany chess board with carved ivory chessmen, exquisitely intricate in detail at God knows what price.

Ever since I've worked here there seems to be an on-going game at this table between my employer and one of his old cronies. These two old buzzards will take their gin and tonics to the table and sit there for awhile, sometimes actually making a move on the board, sometimes just picking up one of the chessmen as though to examine the artwork, then sitting it back down in the same place. Except to touch it up with a feather duster now and then, we in the house staff are extremely careful not to ever disturb the board or the chessmen's positions.

Unfortunately to say, considering the topic, that's about it as far as parlor games around here. However, while you might not often see the rich clustered around a board game, that certainly doesn't mean they don't own them as investments. Take a look at this awesome webpage. You can find a cheap Trivial Pursuit for about $6,000; a Backgammon for $1.5 million, a Monopoly game for $2 million, and a chess set encrusted with gold, diamonds, rubies and pearls for a whopping $10 million dollars!

It seems to me that all the fun and challenging new games that Ben's talking about requires a kind of intimacy among friends that allows for mistakes, laughter, disappointment, loss and failure all in one game, and it's not within my experience to see the stuffy old-guard rich open up like this. A slow never-ending chess games is about the best they can come up with, at least around here.

Anyhow, sorry for the disappointing answer, Ben. It's entirely possible that the younger rich might actually be able to sit down and concentrate on a board game. But somewhere in the back of my mind I kinda doubt it. They're all so busy running around the world in their jets and helicopters, from one high society event to another, where is there time for such idle-time fillers? "You wanna go to Rome and grab a pizza?"

Going out on a limb here, I'm inclined to think that board games are designed for us non-rich poor folk who can't afford to jump on our jets and run around the world in a moment's notice. And I'm aware of how horrible and crappy that must sound. Anyone with more upbeat or enlightened information can hit me right back in the comments below. But these are my observations, from my perch among the old guard.

As always, thanks for stopping by tonight,


Friday, August 1, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Do Your Guests Bring Their Own Staff?

The question of how we deal with guests who travel with their own house staff has come up several times, both in blog comments and email inquiries. As you might imagine this has the potential of creating an awkward situation being that the guest's staff members are our industry peers, but our guests at the same time.

Fortunately, long before going into private service, I gained a lot of valuable experience in this regard due to employment in some fancy five-star hotels. In that environment it's pretty routine for the rich and famous to travel with the own personal assistants or nannies. Of course, rock stars and film divas arrive with a whole entourage - wardrobe assistants, hair and makeup people, secretaries and personal assistants, security personnel, not to leave out their current bed partner.

We had a frequent British gentleman who always brought along his Valet who stayed in a separate room. Bored to death and lonely, he would wander down to the lobby and hang out with us at the concierge desk, which was a little confusing. What is he? A guest, or a peer? But in no time I grew to admire this poor fellow and learned so much from him about proper British service. Even so, I had enough sense to maintain the boundary between guest and service personnel, which he seemed to understand and appreciate.

In private homes and private service things are not quite so chaotic. But it's not at all unusual for guests to arrive with their own personal assistants, or a nanny to take care of their little brats - which is a blessing to us of course, under the circumstances.

We once had a lady who came to the house with her own chef, due to her delicate health and dietary needs, and I thought all heck would break loose between her and our lazy-ass chef. But for some unknown and mysterious reason they seemed to hit it off and were filling the house with wonderful aromas. He didn't dash out that day like he usually does the minute his work is finished, and the next morning he showed up early, clean shaven and sober for God's sake. I don't even want to think about it.

The thing is, all these traveling staff members seem to be humble and polite in their new environment and circumstance, and seemingly relate to us as peers. They take their meals in the kitchen with us, not at the dining table with our employers. And, unlike their employers, they make few if any demands on us.

I don't really know if this is my own personal experience and good luck or if it's just the way it is when servants to the rich confront one another. We're all in the same boat, after all. But the basic bottom-line rule is that anyone sleeping under this roof is a guest, no matter their station in life, and treated accordingly.

Thanks for dropping in this evening. I hope this four-part series has shed some light on the subject of house guests, which we all have to deal with from time to time.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Laundry Services

I've often been asked "Do you provide laundry services for your guests?" 

Well, the short answer is no, not if we can avoid it! I don't know about you but if I've got house guests for an extended stay I just show them the washer and dryer closet, the jugs of Tide and Downy, and let them have at it, right?

But in the world of the rich, especially in my role as butler and house manager, you can't get away with that. So here goes with the third entry of a four-part series on house guests in the world of the super rich.

First off, if guests are staying for only one night then there's usually no need for laundry services in the first place. In fact like in a hotel, we hang a plastic laundry bag in the closet which they can use to cart off their own dirty laundry.

But if they're staying for a few days things start to get gamey in their room, and all of a sudden socks and underwear are being sent down to the laundry room. Sometimes they have the good taste to use the plastic bag, but sometimes they just leave their socks and undies in a pile, along with the day's used towels, on the bathroom floor with the expectation that house staff will pick it up and return it all clean, just like they do in a hotel.

We've even had guests leave their shoes outside the bedroom door, again like in a hotel, expecting us to polish them overnight. Normally we just blow this off, daring them to complain to their host about poor service in the house.

Anyhow, as rude and unwelcome as all this might be, guests' laundry is not really a big problem for us. There's two washers and two dryers in the laundry room. Louise our laundry tech just throws the items into an empty washer (along with a little bleach to kill whatever vermin and other ick the guests might be bringing into the house) and that's that. She folds everything expertly of course, then hands it off to Ester the upstairs maid who returns the items to the guests' room on her next trip up the elevator. Except for aggravation, no problem at all, really.

On the other hand, if guests are staying for a really long time (God forbid) then they'll be needing their shirts and blouses washed and ironed, maybe even their suits and woolens sent out for cleaning. I'm not about to ask Louise to do any of this. Although we do have a rotary iron, washing sheets, bath towels, dish towels, bathroom hand towels, dinner napkins and bar towels, not to mention the Mister's own garments, is quite enough for her day's labor - especially that the pillow cases and dinner napkins have to be spray-starched and ironed by hand.

Thankfully we have a laundry/dry cleaning service that comes by the house twice a week for pickup and delivery. They even have a one-day emergency turn if need be, for an additional fee of course. So the guest's garments are sent out through this service, which is tossed onto the household expense account - not onto Louise's shoulders.

Unfortunately sometimes a guest will decide to leave a day or two early before their garments come back from the cleaners, but there's no real problem there either. Any left-behind items can be sent to them via FedEx next-day air, with all due regrets and apologies on my part - although I'm the one who has to stand on line at FedEx.

But scatter-brained rich people are accustomed to having things sent back home from wherever they go - jewelry, cell phones, books, garments, what have you. We once had a lady jump into her Bentley and rush off - leaving her annoying little Pekingese behind. Luckily for us she came back fifteen minutes later to pick up the little monster.

As always, thanks for dropping in tonight. I hope your guests aren't as tedious and rude as the ones we have around here.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Valet Services

In this four-part series dealing with the horrors of having house guests, the question of valet services has come up - that is, whether or not we have to unpack and repack their luggage?

Right up front I'll just say that we certainly don't go out of our way to offer this service. I mean, this is not a luxury hotel or royal palace, right? Unpacking a guest's wardrobe is a dangerous Pandora's Box that invites requests for laundry, pressing, stain removal, shoe polishing, sewing on a missing button, we've even been asked if we can lift a hem.

If someone indeed needs our help, then that's another story and we jump right in. There's a wonderful old Grand Dame who comes here two or three times a year and, bless her heart, her arthritic shoulders don't allow her to reach up to the hangers in the closet. I'm always delighted to help her out, and in exchange she regales me with stories about her glory days at the Metropolitan Opera.

Valet knowledge is a tediously taught subject in any good butler school, and if you're in private service you might very well be called upon to utilize theses skills from time to time. The truth is, although boring as all get out, it's not really all that hard once you have the knack.

For unpacking you simply hang everything up on garment-appropriate hangers and save all the guest's tissue paper for repacking (which we pray will be soon). Unmentionables and socks go into the empty bureau drawers, set aside especially for guests. The bag of toiletries and medications is placed on the bathroom vanity, without opening or touching anything inside.

Now as for repacking, do you know how to fold men's and women's garments, stuff them into a suitcase, and get them to their destination wrinkle free? It's not entirely simple but there's specific folds for each and every garment and procedures to pack the suitcase just right so that things don't shift around during transportation. There's some great folding diagrams in Cheryl Mendelson's amazing and invaluable book Home Comforts.

As already mentioned there's lots of tissue paper involved to put between the folds which minimizes the wrinkles - not unlike a new garment you buy at a department store. You also need to know how to stuff the tissue into the arms and shoulders of a man's suit before shoving it into a suitcase.

Not just any tissue like for gift wrapping, but acid-free archival tissue which can cost you a pretty penny. But if you're folding a $30,000 haute-couture cocktail dress, you bet you're going to use acid-free tissue. You can buy it online or if there's a Container Store near you anywhere, they always have a ready supply.

You'll put shoes and heavy stuff on the bottom of the suitcase of course, then lay in the folded slacks, shirts, dresses and blouses in the space above that. Socks and unmentionables are tightly stuffed in around all the edges to keep the carefully-folded garments from shifting. And that's it. Simple enough, right?

It just so happens (to my insanely good luck) that the Mister likes to pack his own suitcases himself without our help. He just throws stuff in without any tissue folds, and I pity the receiving end at the hotel where he's headed. Lots of pressing no doubt, but it saves me a lot of tedious labor and headaches on this end.

Thanks for stopping by tonight,

PS: I should mention that while we don't readily offer valet services around here, Ester the upstairs maid has reported some handsome tips when guests occasionally ask for her help.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Dietary Needs

Like a plague of locusts, house guests arrive suddenly. They eat you out of house and home, destroy everything in their path, and on top of that they're damned hard to get rid of, right? And it's no different around here with my rich employers.

Thankfully every detail concerning guest care was well covered at the butler academy in a four-part course. So here goes with the first of a four-part series on how to deal with this vexing problem.

The first topic: "How do you fulfill your guests' dietary needs, restrictions, or favorites?"

First of all we have a Guest Registry Log that details a previous guest's needs or requests. This might include such things as Splenda instead of sugar, a gluten-free diet, tea rather than coffee, a soft boiled egg instead of scrambled or fried and on and on until your eyes glaze over. Since I intensely dislike our chef, I'm always delighted to pass along these annoying little notes just to get him all stirred up and crazy.

If it's a first-time notable guest headed our way, there's no problem at all in calling their office, their personal secretary, or their house manager to find out any personal needs or requirements. Sometimes there's a form letter these people email right back, itemizing any special idiosyncrasies. Some go so far as to specify what magazines are appreciated - which I don't appreciate one bit. The most I'm willing to do is put gender-specific magazines in a guest's room. But to run all over town to find a certain title? Forget it.

If the guest is way up there on the fancy-pants list, like European royalty or some significant politician from Washington, you can bet that some bitch someone from their staff will alert this house before their arrival as to any specific needs and other nonsense we have to deal with. Not the least being protocol - how to address them, how to bow, curtsey or shake hands, and where to put them in a reception line or at a dining room table. We're not idiots around here, you know? We can handle all this silliness without their Office of Protocol waking me up early in the morning.

And finally, if we have no notice or information regarding the plague that's about to hit, there's no problem at all in simply asking the new guest "Is there anything we can get you while you're here?" 

Which we may or may not do, depending entirely upon their uppity stature or the threat we face if we don't. I'll admit that on rare occasions it's actually fun having house guests, contingent upon their pleasant nature or entertainment value. But generally speaking it's just drudgery and extra work.

Thanks for dropping in this evening,

PS: This post is dedicated to Liz, Stacy, Butler Fan, Jeff, Molly and Jason, who all asked this very same question about seeing after a guest's dietary needs.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Hyder House: Vacation Rentals for the Rich!

Do you remember my friend Linda, the leading post-production editor for TV reality shows in New York? Well yesterday she sent an email from La Guardia airport telling me she was off to a wedding at the famed Hyder House in central Mexico.

My imagination exploded and I realized it's time to start a series about where the rich like to play and frolic. You see Casa Hyder is not like a hotel. You can't just call them up and book a room for the night.

What you can do, however, is load up your private jet with fifteen or twenty of your most dreadful friends and rent the entire place for a few days in one of the most famous vacation rentals in all the Americas.

It's quite intimate and small, but I think it has ten or twelve guest rooms. The place is well known for its lavish wedding parties but I happen to know about a certain gentlemen who filled up the entire house to celebrate his divorce.

Once rented, Casa Hyder comes with a complete staff; house keepers, laundry techs, and a world class chef to titillate the palate with both classical Mexican cuisine and Italian. According to Linda, breakfast was served in a flower-perfumed garden which in her own words she called ecstasy! 

No words from me can adequately describe the tranquil town of San Miguel de Allende or this awesome Spanish Colonial home. But I found a really dreamy YouTube video that explores Casa Hyder in exquisite detail. If you have a few moments just hit this link. You'll not be disappointed.

Thanks for dropping in this evening,

PS: If you want to rent this place you'll probably need to go through a vacation rental website. Here's one that seems to know what they're doing. As with many things among the rich, you'll notice that the prices are 'Upon Request' - which means open for polite negotiation or else buzz off.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do Rich People Order Pizza?

This inquiry comes to us from Stacy who asked if rich people order pizza and Chinese food like all the rest of us. Her question is not so much about appetite and nutrition but framed within the context of security. Which is to say who is and who is not allowed onto the property? Anyone, everyone, even Pizza delivery guys?

While the rich might have their own chefs and kitchen staff, maybe even a brick pizza oven to boot, it's still fun to order Chinese or a couple of pizzas on a whim, right? As mentioned before, I can't answer for all the rich, especially with their varying levels of threats and security needs. But I do have some info and observations on the subject:

- If extreme wealth, royalty, leadership positions or merely fame has put you at high risk requiring 24/7 security (possibly even bodyguards) then your pizza will be dropped off at the guard station by the main gate, or with security personnel at the front door. No problem.

- If you live in a luxury high rise your pizza will be delivered to the Concierge desk and sent upstairs by a Messenger or Bellman. No problem there, either.

- If you're staying in a five-star hotel with a world class restaurant, you still might fancy a pizza in the privacy of your own room. So you call the Concierge to order it for you. Adding a handsome tip for the driver, she pays for it with cash from the Front Desk, which is simply added to your room bill. She gives the cash to the Doorman who pays the driver and then brings the stupid pizza inside to the Concierge - and it's sent upstairs by a Bellman. In a hotel of this stature it's not uncommon for the rich to tip the Bellman $50 or $100 bucks to cover not only his aggravation and extreme labor, but also that of the Doorman and Concierge as well.

- For the ordinary private rich however, things are more simple and we can order takeout with little fuss or fanfare. Mercifully this is not a paranoid household where I work, with no need for high security. But here's the sequence of events around here if our employer suddenly decides he wants a pizza for himself or his guests:

- He'll annoy me or someone on the evening shift to order it.
- We call it in to the pizza shop and give them the community gate code. Payment is made with the household credit card at the time of ordering, with a generous tip already added.
- When the delivery guy* gets to the second gate, there's a call button on the keypad which we can answer inside and open the gate by remote control.

So to fully answer your question Stacy, yes we do order pizza and Chinese. While all the delivery guys, contractors and vendors may have their iPhone cameras as you worried and knowledge of the layout, they can't miss the security cameras aimed directly at the driveway or the guard dogs running and yelping alongside their cars. And how could they know about the loaded guns inside the house, or mine for that matter?

Thanks for dropping in,

* Our pizza delivery guy is a 170 pound female with a butch haircut, a chain belt and a big set of keys dangling from her hip. She's adorable and always full of gossip about what's going on in the neighborhood - who's having a party, who had to call EMS last week, who's car was seen sitting overnight at who's house? Sometimes I want to order a pizza myself just to catch up.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Ideal Guest Room!

Most of us don't have enough space for ourselves or enough rooms for our kids, much less the ability to dedicate a separate room entirely for a guest. Myself, a pull-out sofa or a blow-up mattress is about the best I can offer.

But in the world of the rich guest rooms are a top priority and well covered in the butler academy. In this house where I work, in addition to the family bedrooms, there are three rooms set aside specifically for guests.

As you might expect our uppity guests need their privacy, comfort, and access to the outside world. Each one of these rooms has its own bathroom - the premiere with a huge tub on a marble platform, the others with smaller marble-encased tubs and showers. Each room has a sitting area complete with a coffee table and end tables, and most importantly a desk. There's a telephone and cable TV in each room of course, along with a stable internet connection.

Basically these rooms are set up like a hotel. There's a luggage bench and the closets are empty, with plenty of wooden hangers inside. The bureau drawers are empty as well, and the bathrooms have essential luxury toiletries in case the guest's luggage doesn't make it on the same plane.

As the butler academy taught us here's what we do if a guest is expected:

- Open the balcony doors or windows and air out the room.
- Replace hanging towels with fresh ones, in case dust or odors have collected.
- Double check that bed sheets are fresh and smoothed out.
- Make sure the soap dishes have fresh bars of designer soap.
- Put current, gender-specific magazines on the coffee table. Or neutral magazines like The New Yorker and  Robb Report if we don't know who's coming.
- Make sure the TV Guide is current and remote batteries are okay.
- Check all light bulbs in the room, especially reading lamps.
- Set a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table.
- Turn down the bed.
- Finally, vacuum our way out of the room so as not to leave footprints in the carpet.

I feel quite sure you do the very same things if your mother-in-law or other relatives are coming for the weekend, right?  But around here, this is the normal and expected sequence of events when guests are coming - which is all too frequent if you want my opinion.

Mercifully we have a full staff to handle all this, including a florist who drops off the vase of fresh flowers. And the kitchen staff is geared up for breakfast, snacks, and extra meals if the guests hang around and don't go out. Being professionals in our jobs, there's really nothing much to it, all said and done.

The only burning question in our minds upon the arrival of every guest is "How frigging long are you going to be here?"

But the problem is that rich people themselves, not having any significant schedules to keep up with, often don't know how long they're going to plunk down in any given spot. So our tricky balancing act is not to be too accommodating or make them feel too comfortable - or else they'll be here for a solid month. 

Thanks for stopping by this evening,


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Seven Social Sins in the World of the Rich!

Back in the days when Mahatma Gandhi was trying to throw off British rule from his beloved India, he published a list of what he called the Seven Social Sins in his weekly newspaper Young India. 

It challenges what Gandhi felt were the wrong doings of the rich and the British ruling class that were oppressing his country. Considering the current climate in America about the 1% and income inequality, his observations seem apropos to this very day.

Here is his list of the Seven Social Sins, sometimes referred to as the Seven Blunders of the World - which in his mind could lead to anger, chaos, violence, and revolution:

1) Wealth without work.
2) Pleasure without conscience.
3) Knowledge without character.
4) Commerce without morality.
5) Science without humanity.
6) Worship without sacrifice.
7) Politics without principle.

Astounding accusations, aren't they? Which seems to me can apply to the rise and fall of so many nations and cultures all throughout history - starting with Persia and Rome.

Where do the modern-day super rich fit into Gandhi's observations? It's certainly not for me to say or judge, but would depend on how they use their wealth I suppose. Whether for the greater good or merely self aggrandizement.      

Thanks for dropping in this evening.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Basil: The King of Herbs!

I planted some basil seeds this spring in a large terracotta pot near the kitchen, and for days I've been going out with a magnifying glass to check on the progress. For twelve long days I've been fretting about what I'd done wrong: The seeds are too deep; the seeds are too shallow; the soil's too wet; the soil's too dry. Maybe it's the wrong kind of soil to begin with. Why didn't I take out farm insurance?

But this morning there they were - tiny little green shoots poking up through the soil. And in about three or four weeks from now we should have nice plump basil leaves whenever we need them. We use this spice constantly around here. Of course you can buy it all year round in most supermarkets - three or four sprigs for about four or five dollars.

The problem with that is that once cut from the plant, the stems and leaves go bad really fast and you find yourself running back and forth to the market two or three times a week just for basil. So having a nice healthy plant on hand where you can snatch as many leaves as needed, one recipe at a time, will be a big time and money saver around here.

The origin of the word basil, both from the Greek and Latin roots, relates to royalty, and therefore a herb fit for kings. And while it's from the mint family, it has a mildly-spicy peppery flavor. For cooking, like the Italians we put it into all types of pasta sauces (tomato, cream, or olive oil); in marinades for fish and chicken; and in soups of every known variety. Even in the slow cooker with a pot roast and vegetables, we drop it in at the last minute to give it an extra kick. And who doesn't know that basil is the main ingredient in pesto sauce?

As a garnish, we shred it with kitchen scissors and sprinkle it on top of pasta sauces, on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and rice dishes. We even scramble it into eggs, and it's great inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

My rich employer, who wants to live forever of course, is well aware of basil's health benefits and the internet is full of information on the anti-oxidant effects and cardiovascular benefits.

But it's the flavor of  fresh basil that's made it the king of herbs - and it's been with us in India and Asia for over 5,000 years that we know of.

So am I happy to have fresh basil on hand? You bet! (The only thing I have to worry about now is a devastating drought - like when I forget to water.)

Anyhow, thanks for stopping by this evening,

PS: Dried basil in a spice jar is a poor substitute. Not only are the health benefits of fresh herbs gone, but it tastes pretty much like hay.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Things Money Can't Buy!

In this bizarre world of the super rich where I live and work, more than once I've been asked about things rich people cannot buy. So I thought I'd give this topic a shot.

Of course we all know and dream about the amazing things money can buy - fun, luxury, travel, fancy cars, furs, diamonds, not to mention peace of mind and endless rest, right? But still there are some things in this crazy world that money can't touch or acquire. So from my point of view, here's what I've got:

It was Aristophanes who said "Ignorance can be educated, but stupid lasts forever".  Which is to say, you can purchase the best education available at Harvard or Yale, but without wisdom to put all that knowledge together you can still wind up stupid as an ox in understanding the ways of the world.

The very definition of integrity is having the quality of being honest with strong moral principals and uprightness, right? But unfortunately too many rich people, having to claw their way to the top, have given up any sense of integrity altogether. Which is fine; nobody really cares how you got rich. But nobody forgets either. Try to remember that.

Well, without integrity how could anyone hope to have respect? This is something earned - not purchased.

You can live in a trailer park and still be as classy as Eleanor Roosevelt or Audrey Hepburn, with an outward look toward others and compassion in your heart. Or you can be rich as all get out and still be entirely selfish and self centered. Class, like wisdom, is something a person is born with - you either have it or you don't. And good luck to anyone who's trying to purchase it with money.

Without question money can buy steady and constant companionship, perhaps even loyalty, as long as the money and paychecks keeps flowing. But love? That would be rare-to-impossible. Which is precisely why the rich are so reliant upon Prenuptial Agreements.

To extend their names beyond the grave, rich people are fond of giving endowments to hospitals and universities with their names prominently displayed on the new wing or addition. And to extend their own bodily lives, they of course have access to the finest medical care available. They have their compound pharmacists and supplements, and they have their favorite plastic surgeons in Switzerland to help reverse the ravages of age. But in the end? Guess what....

To a degree money can most definitely buy certain aspects of fun and pleasure, right? But true happiness is a special place in the soul - available to everyone whether we're rich or poor. Personally, it's not in my observation that rich people are blessed with any more or any less happiness than all the rest of us.

I hope this wasn't insanely sophomoric or tedious. I think we all agree it would be more fun to be rich than poor, right? But the truth is, just because they have a few more beans in their pockets than most of us, the rich are subject to the same human frailties as everyone else. And the old adage is so very true - money can't buy everything.

Thanks for stopping by this evening,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Affluenza! Are you kidding me?

I've not wanted to get into this discussion, but there's been so many requests for an opinion that I thought I might as well jump in.

By way of background, a few months back four people died and others were injured in a drunken driving incident. The rich Texas teenager charged with the deed was sentenced to only ten years probation, plus a little time in rehab. Which, of course, created a stir around the country.

His attorneys argued he was the victim of "Affluenza and the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy."  

Simply said, it was claimed the boy didn't have the ability to discern between right and wrong because he was so rich.

I don't even know where to begin on this nonsense. Maybe it's best to start by mentioning the term first originated in an anti-consumerism book called Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic which went on to describe the disease as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more."

Well okay, whatever. All I know is that in lesser circles the rest of us in this situation might be diagnosed as having sociopathic behaviors, or at the very least, anti-social personality disorders. And we'd be thrown directly into jail or a mental institution, right?

Having said that however, there's some small truth in the argument. Rich kids grow up in a bubble. They're raised by nannies, sent to private schools, aided by private tutors, and they have house staff to make their beds, do their laundry, and clean up after their mess. Plus the fact they live in extremely protected neighborhoods, often behind locked gates, in the ritzy part of town where only the rich run around and play.

These kids have no meaningful contact with the outside world. Not with the middle class, not the poor, certainly not the homeless, and seemingly develop a sense of superiority and entitlement in their world of endlessly getting what they want.

I see it all the time around here when rich people bring their little brats over to the house. And when I'm ordered around by these kids, perhaps told precisely how to prepare their cereal, I can't help but think here's another future sociopath on the way up. (That was meant to be sadly funny, btw.)

But when you add this sense of entitlement to normal teenage hormones and rebellion, there can be some real trouble in the works, sometimes with dangerous consequences. We see it almost daily in the news and tabloids about privileged kids or famous teenage stars devolving before our very eyes and constantly getting into some kind of trouble.

Well, that's about all I've got on the subject. In my mind it seems to me rich kids should be held to a much higher standard due to all their privilege in life - not let off the hook because they're rich. But that's just me, I guess.

Thanks for stopping by tonight.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

"The Billionaire's Butler", a novel by Andrew Arthur Williams

It's hard to believe we're beginning the fourth year of this blog! Where does time go for Pete's sake?

To begin this year I'm so happy to announce the publication of a new book entitled The Billionaire's Butler - Mystery, Murder and Romance in the Wacky World of the Super Rich!

It's based on many of the events I've been telling you about for the past few years, plus it fills in all the gaps about the true-life dramas we've been dealing with here for so long - not the least being that now we're all under suspicion for attempted murder!

Overall, it's an insider's up-close point of view as to how the super rich really live and conduct themselves on a daily basis, good, bad or otherwise. And the observations are not so much about the family I'm currently with but all the rich and famous I've crossed paths with in this somewhat odd career.

Here's what's being said about the book so far:

"--Williams' insights into the lives of the wealthy and those who serve them intrigues"--Kirkus Reviews

"--Shocking, comical, and full of delicious gossip, this unique tell-all is sure to enlighten as well as entertain." - The Createspace Team.

The book's available in both paperback and on Kindle. I sincerely hope you'll read it and more than that, I hope you get a few laughs! It's the only reason I wrote it.

Here's the link to The Billionaire's Butler on Amazon Books.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Gossip in the World of the Rich!

You know, I'm beginning to love our new Pope Francis, as many of us are whether we're Catholic or not. He's a breath of fresh air and gives real hope to the poor and suffering, not to mention a modernized although carefully-nuanced vision for the church.

But out of the blue last month, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, Pope Francis made a statement that came down hard on gossip! Oops! As you can see this admonishment cuts way to close to home. What am I to do? Shut down the blog?

I'm assuming this is based on number nine of the Big Tenthat business about "not bearing false witness against thy neighbor". But honestly, if Moses could have known how dreadful our neighbors are in this part of town he might have left some loopholes in this one.

Taking it all into consideration I do have a few thoughts on the subject I'd like to share. First and foremost is the simple fact that the biggest gossip mill on the face of this entire planet is within the Vatican itself, and everybody knows it! So give me a break.

Second, because of this castigation there could be a massive loss of work for newspapers, tabloids, magazines, films, TV shows, news programs, gossip columnists, bloggers and paparazzi. (i.e. How many employees and freelancers are employed by People Magazine?) 

Third, gossip is one of many tried-and-true forms of social bonding. It's the '"Us against them'" factor and how we sometimes distinguish ourselves into groups and cliques.

And last, what might be thought of as gossip to some might be considered urgent information to others - especially in the world of the super rich where gossip can be vital. Not just about fashion, jewelry, what's in, what's out, who's on top and who's on bottom - but there's big money at stake in their relationships. (e.g. Would it be wise to invest with someone whose wife at the moment is suing him for half his fortune?) I believe it was Sir Francis Bacon who first said "Knowledge is power". And power is something rich people love for sure.

Having said all that, I'm not really certain if I've made a convincing argument to either you or the Vatican this evening, and I may have to address this again with St. Peter someday when I'm knocking on the gates. If he does let me in, I certainly hope that none of our neighbors will be up there. Although I can't imagine for a minute that they would be.

Thanks for dropping in this evening.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit! Happy New Year 2014!

I'm desperately trying to be the very first one tonight to say Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit on this first day of the New Year - which means, of course, good luck for the entire new year to come!

I have a feeling that other Rabbitteers are trying to do the same thing right now and may very well crash the web!

In any case, I just wanted to say Happy New Year this early morning hour, with all best wishes for whatever is ahead of us in the coming new year!

If you have a moment today, I hope you can listen to a rendition of Auld Lang Syne by a band in Hong Kong, complete with bagpipes of all things. It's so amazing and fun, and just goes to show how bound up we are as nations and cultures.

Here's a link to the PLA band, accompanied by the Hong Kong Police band, on YouTube.

Happy New Year - and Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!