Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Greetings 2015!

Was in bed having a cup of coffee today, leisurely watching the morning news, when I got the most alarming text from Ester the Upstairs Maid! "Can you come over right away?"

She usually doesn't disturb me so early unless there's an emergency. Since I live here on the estate, right above the carriage house, I threw on a robe and dashed over to the house expecting the worst - like no hot water or an electrical malfunction.

Instead, Ester began to lead me through the entire downstairs, pointing out room by room that all the framed photos of our employer and his new girlfriend have been removed!

Now we've both been through this scenario a couple of years back; right before the old man divorced his second wife all her pictures began to disappear as well, much to our alarm. But since neither of us like the new girlfriend very much, we were totally suspended somewhere between being in shock and high fiving each other!

The thing is, Ester and I have successfully reigned in the new girlfriend over the last couple of years as to just how far she can push us. And we both know that someone new will just take her place. So whether this is good news or not, only time will tell. 

In any case, change is always good, right? We might get someone in here we truly adore. The emphasis being on might. Experience has taught that women attaching themselves to rich old men can be somewhat lacking in adorability. Nonetheless, there's high hopes around here today for whatever's coming next. 

I hope 2016 brings happiness and joy to all of us, in one way or another! As always, thanks for dropping by this evening - and Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Gifts for the Rich and Famous: Champagne Baths!

I remember hearing some astonishing stories in childhood about Marilyn Monroe bathing in 350 bottles of champagne, of all things. Whether that had anything to do with reality or just Hollywood publicity stunts, I hadn't a clue.

For that matter, I wasn't really clear what champagne was either - but anything involving Monroe at the time made me look furiously forward to adolescence.

As it turns out, it seems champagne baths have been around for a long time, way before the Marilyn gossip began. There's the famous story of King Edward VII and actress Lillie Langtree having a champagne bath together at the infamous Cadogan Hotel in London. There were other lurid tales about a girl in a champagne glass. And in modern times the rock band U2 sprays the audience in a champagne bath before leaving the stage, not to mention that Formula 1 race car winners do the same.

My friend Miss Helen sips a glass of sparkling wine while soaking in a bubble bath, but whether she actually pours the champagne into the tub has not been disclosed. There's a question about what constitutes a champagne bath in the first place; a full tub like the fabled Monroe stories, or just one bottle or even one glass added to the water? There's even a suggestion that the term bubble bath itself originated from the bubbly spirits of champagne being poured into the tub.

Wine and champagne connoisseurs decry this practice as wasteful, shameful, and decadent of course. But as the super rich grow more numerous across the globe with their endless appetites for new experiences, champagne baths are making a reappearance to draw in their money.

The aforementioned Cadogan Hotel (with it's questionable history of renowned playwright Oscar Wilde being arrested there on moral charges, and King Edward and Langtree having their trysts), this quaint property has been renovated into a boutique hotel for the rich and is now offering champagne baths on a big scale.

The prices are astronomical, but if you're rich and looking for that special gift for someone who has everything, this might be precisely the thing. You'll spend about $6,250 in US dollars to bathe in 120 bottles of inexpensive Luis de Custine Brut, up to $39,000 for a Dom Perignon bath. If you don't believe me, here's a link to the Cadogan's champagne bath menu, prices quoted in British pounds. (Of course, this is in addition to your room rate, restaurant checks and room-service tabs.)

For the rich it's not so much about wasting fine champagne as it is about bragging rights as to how much they spent on a frivolous evening. Who am I to judge that? After all, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said "Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right".

Thanks for dropping in this evening. I hope this adds some unique ideas for your last-minute Christmas shopping. :)


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

CHATEAU MARGAUX: The world's most expensive wine?

Apparently there's a raging war going on between auction houses in Hong Kong and New York over the soaring prices of vintage wines - and the battle between Chateau Lafite and Chateau Margaux rages as well, competing to be the most expensive wines in the world.

Thanks to a recent episode of the Filthy Rich Guide on CNBC, Chateau Margaux has hit the news and I thought it would be fun to take a closer look - especially if you're looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that certain billionaire in your life.

It's an ancient winery in the Bordeaux region of France dating back to the 12th Century, but it wasn't until the 16th Century when the wines produced there came into prominence. Indeed, one of their wines dating from 1771 was the first claret ever to be sold at Christie's auction house.

During the late 1700's one of the winery's owners, Elie du Barry, was rounded up along with thousands of other rich people and sent off to the guillotine in the somewhat excessive French Revolution. But following a turbulent and bumpy ride thereafter, Chateau Margaux came back into prominence and survives to this very day. In fact, Ernest Hemingway was such a big fan that he named his daughter after the winery - the renowned and beloved actress Margaux Hemingway.

As you probably know, Thomas Jefferson was a connoisseur of fine vintages and served as wine adviser to President George Washington and successors James Madison and James Monroe. The wines from his famous cellar in Monticello (including Chateau Margaux) have been auctioned over the years in the hundred-thousand-dollar categories!

There's a darkly amusing story about an unfortunate fellow named William Sokolin who claimed he owned a bottle of Chateau Margaux from Jefferson's cellar worth half-a-million dollars! For bragging rights he took it to a Margaux party at the Four Seasons Hotel. But a clumsy waiter broke the bottle before it could be served and the insurance company only paid Sokolin $225,000 - making it one of the most expensive wines never tasted! This event was mentioned in the Filthy Rich Guide episode, and detailed in an article in The Telegraph.

But don't despair. While Chateau Margaux prices can range from the tens-of-thousands down to the mere hundreds, there's also a low-end range where you can have the famous Margaux label (and all the bragging rights) on your dinner table for as little as twenty bucks. Here's a link to Wine Searcher for the best possible prices.

Hope this has been helpful in organizing your holiday shopping list - and as always thanks for dropping in this evening,


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Greetings 2015!

I know we're all busy this week preparing for the onslaught of family and friends for the annual Thanksgiving feast, but I just wanted to drop in for a moment and say hello. Things are buzzing around here as well, but nothing so glamours or exciting as when the former Missus was here.

The new girlfriend is having a few of her trashy friends in and out during the four-day holiday, including Thanksgiving dinner itself. Compared to the haute couture seen around here in previous years, we're talking off-the-rack cocktail attire, faux furs, and costume jewelry for days! (I could black out just thinking about it!)

Knowing I'm not going to cooperate, she at least had the good sense to hire a caterer to take care of everything, and I'm taking the opportunity to duck out of here for a few days.

In a rare move on my part, I didn't ask but rather announced that I'm going to be with my family this year for Thanksgiving - daring them to rebut. In the six years I've been here I've had only one holiday off a few years back. Other than that I've been here for every holiday event - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. It's more or less part of the job description to be around for the holidays, and I knew that before I jumped in.

But this déclassé party coming up is too much to bear, and it's about time I had a break. One holiday off every six years isn't too much to ask, is it?

In any case the old man (my teetering employer) seemed to take it well and truth known, the new girlfriend is probably glad to get rid of me anyway. Surely she's weary of me looking down my nose at her and her doltish friends.

I know I'm skating on thin ice and may not have a job when I get back. But so be it. The lack of glamour around here has become boring anyway, and I know I should move on. If there's any blow back at all, I'll just call up the agency and ask them to get me out of here!

All I know right now is that I have four glorious days off - away from them and with my own family! Which allows me to truly and happily say Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your celebrations go well, and thanks for stopping by tonight,


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Goodbye Hotel Chelsea!

It's no secret the Hotel Chelsea in New York, built in 1883, is under renovation and being turned into a boutique hotel for the rich.

For decades this iconic hotel on West 23rd in Manhattan was home to struggling artists, writers, poets, musicians and other wayward souls seeking refuge within its welcoming doors.

Among the notable writers and poets, Mark Twain, O'Henry, Dylan Thomas, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Boroughs sought shelter or camaraderie within these hallowed walls, taking their meals in the inexpensive El Quijote bar and restaurant on the lobby floor.

Singers from Edith Piaf and Bob Dylan to Pink Floyd and Leonard Cohen frequented the Chelsea. Poet/singer Patti Smith and her photographer boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe were long-term residents, and Janis Joplin would rent a cheap room there during her New York concerts. Not to mention Andy Warhol's bizarre and wonderful crowd were regular visitors.

All of these people in their various ways were in the forefront of social revolution - most notably beginning with the Beat Generation in the 1950s, throughout the turbulent and revolutionary 1960s, and the total madness of the 1970s and 80s. The Hotel Chelsea, on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, was a crossroads and mingling place for all of them, and all of us benefit from the extraordinary social changes they set in motion.

But now this island of refuge and inspiration to artists for decades is being renovated - turned into a chic hotel for rich people to come and go as they please.

My question is, don't the rich have enough in this world already? Why do they need the Chelsea for God's sake? The very idea of watching them sashay in and out in their haute couture seems antithetic to the hotel's very history and purpose.

I feel a personal loss in this as well. Some years back I and some buddies rented an apartment on West 22nd, directly behind the Chelsea. When there was nothing else to do at night we'd wander over to the hotel, have a few drinks or dinner in the El Quijote, and observe first hand the amazing characters that still called this place home.

As lamentable as all this might be, life changes and I understand that. Perhaps it's time to graciously let go of the Chelsea - as if we had a choice. The extraordinary efforts and struggles of its residents have come to fruition in so many, many ways over the decades. And the forces of social justice and equal rights set in motion there have become mainstream thinking, right up to present-day.

I just hope rich people checking in at the front desk can somehow appreciate and revere the hard work accomplished within its walls. After all, it was in the vanguard of creating this amazing new world of liberation and freedom in which we all live and thrive - and has allowed them to accumulate their fortunes.

Thanks for stopping by tonight,

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Parties for the Rich!

It's that time of year again when Halloween frolic is upon us, no matter how silly and absurdly we might celebrate the day. For the rich, Halloween is most certainly on the agenda as well.

As you might suspect they pass up no opportunity to throw a cocktail party or gala to show off their latest fashions and jewels, and just hang out together in a safe environment - far from the Great Unwashed. But Halloween adds a special flavor to an otherwise typical party.

There was a time when full-scale masquerade balls were all the rage, with people showing up dressed like European royalty with tiaras and diplomatic ribbons all over the place. But with everyone being so busy nowadays, it seems most rich people have opted for something more simple.

I'm recalling the days when the former Missus was here and the elegant Halloween parties she could come up with. Instead of costumes, guests mostly wore their own haute couture attire plus a designer Venetian mask of some sort. The Missus wore a simple eye mask she bought in Venice some years back - black silk with small diamonds outlining the eye portals. Together with her Coco Chanel little black dress and renowned string of uneven pearls, she always looked radiant.

These parties always incorporated caterers, bar tenders, valet parkers, security, expensive vintage wines, the obligatory Beluga caviar of course, and always music. For small parties she would hire a pianist and saxophone player; for large parties tents might be set up outside to accommodate bands and a dance floor. She could spend fifty to two-hundred thousand in nothing flat.

On more than one Halloween event she would hire thespians from the local theater, dressed as witches and vampires, to skulk around the gardens and stare in the windows at the elegant party going on inside (which to the paranoid rich was quite spooky indeed!). Plus she always hired a fortune teller to sit in the library, for those so willing or daring.

Then there was that one year she even tried to hire Nancy Reagan's astrologer Joan Quigley to appear at the event, but it didn't work out. (Not to sound ill-mannered in any way, I'm just surmising that Quigley had her hands full at the time.)

In any case, I hope you have some fun Halloween events planned. But with the Missus gone there's nothing going on around here at all. Period! Even the gates and dogs prevent trick-or-treaters from entertaining the evening.

Thanks for stopping by tonight and Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 16, 2015

National Boss's Day! Is this for real?

I've spent the entire day hiding out in the butler's closet or upstairs in my carriage house apartment to avoid having to see the Mister today.

It's National Boss's Day, in case you most certainly didn't know, and if the old goat even knows about it I'm afraid he'll expect me to say something nice or at least smile at him - which is beyond the pale.

Honestly, he's been incorrigible for the last few months and the older he gets the worse it becomes. Plus he's developed this annoying habit of expecting people who draw a paycheck on his behalf to actually do some productive work from time to time.

This has given us all a shock and I must say it's getting old really fast. We all have our job descriptions around here (which are a little cushy, I'll admit), but to suddenly expect more work for the same pay is confusing to all of us and not about to happen. (We've been through these psychotic episodes before and know he'll forget about it in a few days.)

But what are we supposed to do on this stupid and ill-thought holiday? Buy him a card? Express gratitude for our abuse and slavery? That's not going to happen either. Whoever came up with the idea and congressional approval for a Boss's Day needs to have their butts kicked!

If you're in the corporate world and forced to participate in this absurd day, here's a link to some off-the-cuff nice things you might say in case you come face to face with your employer. But you don't want to compromise your own integrity by doing so, right?

I hope this doesn't come across as negative in any way. I mean, who would sign our paychecks if we didn't have a boss? But that doesn't mean we have to kiss his butt, does it?

I'd look for another job myself, but the potential to run across an employer who expects work and productivity eight hours a day is seriously intimidating.

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Boss's Day.



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Neiman Marcus Makes It Official: Christmas Is On The Way!

Well, well, it's only the first week of October. Halloween is still three weeks away, but we got an email today from Neiman Marcus that the Christmas Catalog is in the mail and now available online.

Taking only a quick peek, it has it's usual understated cover (some might think it tacky or even worse, artsy-fartsy) which belies the insanely expensive gifts inside.

In any case, for those in the high-end retail world this seemingly marks the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season, and all hell's about to break loose. For the rich, of course, this three-month lead time is helpful in appropriating the funds to accommodate the voracious expectations of their friends and families.

For those of us in private service here at the mansion, this also marks the beginning of when our stomachs start going into knots with so much work to do!

Upon consultations with our employer, we need to get the greeting cards designed, printed and sent to the calligrapher for addressing. Make out a gift list and do the shopping in order of priority. Prepare for the exterior house decorations and meet with our dreadful florist for the interior designs. Deal with events planners and caterers for all the parties that are about to slam us in the face. And all the while trying to put on a happy face about this annual work overload.

I can't really say that rich people look any more forward to all this than we do. It's just part of their social obligations and trying to fulfill what's expected of them by way of generosity and charity events that overwhelm them every year at this time. But we do our best to back them up and make everything go smoothly.

We'll also be looking much forward to their winter vacation directly after New Year's, when all this nutty crap joyous occasion is behind us.

Before going, here's a link to the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog. Just hit the Flip Book button to go through it and see what rich people are up to this year.

Thanks for dropping in tonight,


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pope in America! What just happened?

I must say my head is spinning this weekend, not unlike Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. The Pope has been all over the place in America and there's like this crazy upside-down sort of thing going on.

Pope Francis spoke to the U.S. Congress and the very next day John Boehner, Speaker of the House, stepped down. Well, okay. Fine I guess.

Practically at the same time President Obama was meeting with China's Xi and made some agreement on cyber theft. That's good too I suppose, right?

Moving right along, Francis went to Philadelphia to attend the Festival of Families on the same day the controversial movie Stonewall opened in America about the beginning of Gay Rights. But get this, the Master of Ceremonies was none other than Mark Wahlberg, the Calvin Klein underwear boy, who has since evolved into a serious actor and producer, and apparently a right-wing conservative. And all that's fine too, I guess. Whatever.

And then, opening the concert for the Festival of Families was Sister Sledge with her internationally recognized Gay Anthem, "We Are Family", and there were dancing Nuns in the audience that will no doubt show up on YouTube!

As I said, my head is totally spinning around, but Aretha Franklin pulled it out at the last minute and brought the concert to a more spiritual level with her rendition of Amazing Grace, along with a few fancy dance steps for the Pontiff's benefit.

I'm not sure what Pope Francis will take away and think about America after this whirlwind visit, On the whole, however, I think he will see what an amazing, wonderful, complex nation this is, and how we get along together as best we can - all the struggles and in-fighting notwithstanding.

I love this crazy country, and thanks for stopping by this evening!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Foliage 2015! Happy Autumn!

I know it's hard to believe but Autumn's here again, beginning today in case you haven't noticed! Things have been so nutty and busy around here that I'm totally out of touch with the calendar.

It's always so hard to let go of summer and face the cold weather ahead. Plus this day signifies the onslaught of holidays about to hit us like a steam roller - like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's - bring it on.

But maybe we can take a moment to enjoy this wonderful transition between hot and cold and look forward to the natural beauty during this time of year. If you happen to live in a Fall Foliage Zone you'll soon be seeing the trees in your area displaying brilliant colors of pink, red, orange, yellow, gold and purple - like a last splendid gift before going dormant for the winter.

Even if you don't live in these zones you can still see the colors by taking a drive through the ritzy neighborhoods in almost every American city in less temperate areas. You see, not to be left out the rich hire landscapers who import non-indigenous trees specifically to enjoy these fall colors.

If you have the time and money of course, you can take a leisurely train ride through the regions where fall foliage is a big tourist attraction. Some of these trains even have pleasantries like cocktails and hors d'hoeuvres being served along the way.

My rich employers have even rented the entire Presidents car (aptly named "Determination") on the New Hampshire fall foliage train for themselves and their rich friends. Reminiscent of the grand days of railroad barons, it's a lavish private parlor car with a grand piano, and chefs and waiters to cater to every need along the way. But this same train has other cars for regular folk, with reasonable prices to enjoy the view.

Meanwhile, to help get us in the mood for this amazing time of year, here's a dreamy YouTube link to the little sparrow Edith Piaf and her lovely rendition of 'Autumn Leaves' - 'Les Feuilles Mortes'.

Thanks for dropping in tonight, and Happy Autumn!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Are Rich People Mean?

Over the years I've been asked in various ways about the attitude and demeanor of the rich toward their servants and house staff - which obviously includes moi, n'est-ce pas?

Question: "Are rich people nice?"
Moi: "Well, in a phony sort of way I guess, especially at cocktail parties. But in general, their 'being nice' is not within my daily experience."

Question: "Do they treat you well?"
Moi: "Pay-wise yes, and I have no bruises to report. But their lack of appreciation for anything anyone does for them is hurtful. Not just for me, but for all the house-staff."

Question: "Are the rich always happy?"
Moi: "No, not by a long shot!  In fact, even though they have life's major financial stresses completely eliminated (like coming up with monthly rent or getting enough food and health care for their kids) they still manage to whine and complain about every damned little thing in their path, from sunup until sundown - and they do so without any self reflection, shame or embarrassment as far as I can tell."  

But now comes a Forbes article that addresses the topic from another direction. Written by health and psychology contributor Alice G. Walton, it's entitled "Rich People Are Mean, but Does It Pay To Be Nice?" 

I'll not be a spoiler, but the humor in the title sets the pace for an intelligent look at what money does to people, and more importantly how the rich relate to others around them.

Here's a link to Alice's article in Forbes. In these days when the one-percent are under a microscope, I promise you'll not find it a waste of time.

As always, thanks for stopping in this evening.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September Already!

Oh my gosh, where did the summer go? Things have been so crazy busy around here the last couple of months I haven't even had time to get a decent suntan yet and suddenly September pops up out of nowhere.

I think it was the flashing lights in the School Zone today that finally woke me up. Like, this is really happening; the lazy hazy days are over and it's time to face the music.

Cooler weather will be welcome of course, and fun football events will be starting up any day now. But this also puts us on notice that the holidays are lurking and headed our way.

In mid-July I mentioned that rich people are already staking out their party dates, and I still don't have a clear answer on that yet. But party invitations are quick and easy to crank out, so I'm not really worried.

My serious task this month, however, is to hook up with our Christmas card designer to get that all going. Then I have to come up with a list of addresses for our calligrapher so she can get started on the envelopes.

And there's the rub. We have to figure out from one year to the next who's on the greeting card list. Like, who is being snubbed this year for whatever unforgivable or tragic reasons? Who are the newcomers trying to jump into this crowd? Worst of all, has anyone on the card list died this last year and we forgot all about it? Oops!

It takes a lot of snooping and sidling up to social secretaries to get this all worked out. But in the end it's my employer who approves the final list. So the blame for any faux pas is not entirely on my shoulders.

Autumn is such a spectacular time of year. I hope your approach and point of view is not quite so tainted and nerve wracking as mine.

Thanks for stopping in this evening.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why Do the Rich Sue So Often?

Our friend Ben down in Australia sent a link to a question and answer forum called Quora and the question for the day was "What do rich people do for fun?" One of the answers that popped up was from Brandon Smietana who's list included "Suing People".

Putting aside my own laughter, the truth is that rich people are always and forever going to court for one damned reason or another. It seems that everyone wants to sue them to get some of their money, and likewise the rich seek to accumulate even more wealth by going after someone else with deep pockets.

Just off hand I'd say that suing among the rich is like a game of chess - except that's entirely too intellectual for most of them. It's more like a game of table tennis, slamming the ball back and forth until someone freezes up. For the rich, going to court is not unlike going to Las Vegas: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose - but since you're so insanely rich, it doesn't really matter either way.

I'd also mention that most rich people have law firms on retainer. So it usually doesn't cost much extra to tell them to get off their lazy butts and sue somebody! One favorite game seems to be doing a renovation to the house, agreeing to the bid (including a 20% cost overrun) but then finding dozens of reasons due to faulty or shoddy work to get the final price down. Faced with costly and time consuming lawsuits, the poor contractors almost always cave. In fact, I know of a man who threatened to sue his own attorneys because he lost too much in his divorce proceedings.

I don't know about other rich people but around here my employer has a specific wardrobe for going to court. Usually he appears in public in a fine-tailored bespoke suit (ranging from $25,000 to $75,000) as any gentleman would.

But if he comes downstairs in one of his cheap ill-fitting polyester suits from Walmart or the Men's Warehouse, we know exactly where he's going for the day. In addition, he leaves off his Patek Philippe and wears some godawful fifty-dollar watch from Walgreen's. Apparently whether suing or being sued, it's best not to look too well moneyed in court, right?

I hope this has shed some light. Being rich has it's own unique set of problems, and going to court is just part of the norm. For us, the house staff, it means the old man will be out of our hair for the day, if not several days running. So we don't mind one bit!

As always, thanks for dropping in this evening,


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dinner Fit For A Queen!

I ran across something today and can't wait to share it with you!

If you've been reading for awhile you may remember I've already written a few articles about fine dining in America - like how we set a proper table here in the States, and the confusing number of eating utensils that rich people are fond of using.

But what I'm about to share makes my pitiful attempts pale in comparison to what's going on in Britain!

Thanks to a Twitter tweet by the British Royals, this article in The Daily Telegraph simply blows me away. It describes in minute detail how a state dinner at Buckingham Palace is organized and executed - step by painstaking step.

As mentioned in the last post we usually have three or four months notice before huge events or galas are scheduled around here - which gives us plenty of time to get our act together,

But can you imagine a state dinner that takes one full year in preparation? It gives me a headache just to think about it and makes me grateful I work for a simple-minded klutzy billionaire here in the States.

If you're the least bit interested in this kind of rigorous detail and grandeur, here's a link to the July 24, 2015 article in The Telegraph. It's absolutely absorbing in terms of history, social propriety, and the massive amount of work involved!

As always, thanks for dropping by this evening,


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Halloween Candy in July?

As an addendum to the last post about rich people already staking out Christmas party dates in mid-to-late summer, I just wanted to mention that Walgreen's is already putting out Halloween candy!

We're hardly through with our vacations and lazy hazy days of summer, right? But greedy corporations are already shoving the holidays in our face.

I just wanted to say thank you very much Walgreen's for your unveiled and unbridled eagerness to get a jump on your competitors, no matter how unseemly it may be.

Plus we're all so glad to know that the candy you're putting out for innocent children is so loaded with chemicals that it'll last on your store shelves for at least the next four months - from now until Halloween, if not for years to come!

I'm not the rampaging anti-corporation type, but there comes a point when a sense of social order, good taste and propriety should regulate even corporations, don't you think?

Why can't you wait 'til at least September, Walgreen's, to put out your Halloween chemicals candy?

But in July? In the middle of summer? Why not go ahead and put out your Valentine's candy at the same time?

I'm sure it'll keep!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Christmas Plans in July?

With the Fourth of July behind us summer's about half over, and for many of us our thoughts turn to cooler days in autumn and football season on the horizon.

In my world among the super rich this is also the agonizing month when Christmas preparations begin. By that I mean it's time for high society to start staking out dates for their holiday parties and galas.

While this might seem a simple task on the surface, it's actually a freak-out nightmare! Like working an intricate jigsaw puzzle, whatever date you select must correspond to when your events planner, your caterer, party rental company and valet parkers are available all on the same date. Not so easy.

But wait. It's even more complicated than that! Your party dates cannot conflict with other high society parties within your social circles. And this is where it gets really tricky.

In most cities and rich communities across the country the reigning queen has first dibs on her party dates. Then deferring to her, the hierarchy of lesser rich has to wait for her decision and then fall into place as best they can.

So July is the month when everyone's desperately abuzz, trying to find out when a certain Mrs. Huffenbitch is throwing her grand gala. It starts with phone calls, luncheons and cocktail parties, with anyone and everyone offering whatever bits of information and gossip they have. (No one dares ask Huffenbitch herself, of course.)

But in polite society the reigning queen, knowing her power and position, is gracious enough to announce her party dates in mid-to-late summer so all the underlings in her world can get on with their plans.

With this accomplished, it just leaves the in-fighting among the lesser rich for choosing their party dates - and again corresponding to when their events planner, caterers, vendors and valet parkers will be available to oblige.

So if you think planning Christmas parties in the world of the rich is an easy task, think twice. It can be a knock-down, drag-out fight for power and position.

Thanks for dropping by this evening.

I hope your Christmas plans aren't quite so complicated and nerve shattering, with ladder-climbing ambitions at stake.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Fourth of July, 2015!

I just got some terrific news! My spy coworker at the office called to say the pilot has been engaged for ten days over the Fourth of July weekend!

She has no idea where they're going and said there's no hotel bookings coming across her desk. Which usually means they're going to one of their other properties - maybe the Caribbean or perhaps the condo in Paris. But it could also mean they're visiting friends somewhere else altogether and don't need a hotel.

In any case (as mentioned before) I'll know precisely where they're going the moment the jet leaves the hanger from a plane-tracking website called Flight Aware. Just type in the tail number of a private jet and you know the exact flight plan. Likewise, I'll know when the jet is on the move again and on it's way home.

So I have the happy task of giving the house staff and groundskeepers lots of time off during the next ten days. Of course when you have your own jet and pilot, rich people can change their plans at a moment's notice and come home early, God forbid.

In which case I simply send an EMERGENCY TEXT ALERT to the staff so that we can all be caught working dead in our tracks when our employer returns.

But with the old man being out of our hair for at least a few days gives new meaning to the words Independence Day.

Happy Fourth!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Trouble With Being Rich!

Most of us have at least occasional thoughts and dreams about being insanely rich and how we might spend our lives with unlimited wealth, right? Wouldn't it be nice not to set an alarm clock and show up at some crappy job every day? Wouldn't it be fun to travel and see the world?

Some of us are already on the path to accumulating wealth to make these very dreams come true. But in the back of our minds there's this nagging question about what responsibilities are involved in managing all that money and the lifestyles that go along with it - not to mention what would we do with ourselves once we're free from the struggle?

Since writing this blog I've had many, many questions about how the rich live; where do they go, what do they eat, what do they do with all their free time? And there's about 90 million Google inquiries asking "Are Rich People Happy?"

Most definitely there's unseen burdens and untold obligations associated with being super rich, and there's many opinions on the subject of course. But one of the most insightful I've read in a long time is an article in the BBC News by Angela Henshall, entitled "The Trouble With Being a Billionaire".

Among her many pearls of wisdom, Henshall quotes Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

To cite an example, in one of the topics about how rich people raise their kids, Mezrich writes: "The children of the supremely wealthy have lots of issues because they never had to struggle - and struggle makes us strong. Struggle is the human condition, the key to evolution, the reason we adapt. If you don't have to struggle, you don't really have to get smart or strong, you just drift along." 

Personally I wouldn't mind drifting along for a few weeks or months, dilly dallying on an exotic beach somewhere in the Caribbean or hopping around the Greek islands. But that gets boring pretty quick, doesn't it?

Then we're faced with the age-old question that all rich people must ultimately deal with, most poetically described when Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby forlornly mused"What will we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?" 

Before going, here's a link to Angela Henshall's fascinating article in the BBC News: "The Trouble With Being a Billionaire".

Thanks from dropping in this evening,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Farewell F.A.O. Schwarz!

With all the crazy news going on in the world these days the last thing we ever expected was an announcement in the New York Times that F.A.O.Schwarz is closing its doors on Fifth Avenue.

Quoting the Times article"The legendary toy store on Fifth Avenue will close its doors July 15, a victim of rising rents and ultraluxury retailing in New York City's hottest shopping district."

For millions of us who have known this store since childhood this is truly heartbreaking news. And for millions more who've seen the movie 'Big', who can forget Tom Hanks romping around inside and dancing 'Chopsticks' on the floor piano?

Sitting there on Fifth Avenue in the very midst of ultra high-end retailers and surrounded by neighbors like the Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf's, Cartier and Tiffany's, Schwarz was like the crown jewel of the whole neighborhood - a children's toy store in the very epicenter of all the opulence. Like a heart throb to remind us what a society and culture is all about.

Schwarz is not closing its doors altogether, just looking for lower rent somewhere off Fifth Avenue. Founded in Baltimore in 1862 by Frederick August Otto Schwarz, the store has held a New York location since 1870 and will be around for many more years to come in one form or another.

We'll look forward to hearing the new location, but we're going to miss the Fifth Avenue store big time - especially their charming windows at Christmas with the little trains running around. Allowing rising rents to push Schwarz off Fifth seems like a sad and insidious crime, doesn't it? Who's next to flee? Tiffany's? Cartier?

Unthinkable? Well then why is Schwarz having to move out?

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Do Rich People Eat?

This is the most frequently asked question since I've been writing the blog - and it comes from countries all over the globe. For those of us who have to stretch our budgets, of course there's curiosity about the eating habits and nutrition of those with unlimited means. But the answer might be surprising.

In a recent article in the New York Daily News it seems that people with lots of money go to fast food restaurants more frequently than lower-income families. Somewhat the opposite of what we'd expect, right? But it's not all that shocking since a Big Mac costs five bucks nowadays. For a large family it's far less expensive to cook at home than to run out to McDonald's, dollar menu or not.

While rich people can afford the finest cuts of meat at the local butcher shop and the freshest langostino shrimp imported to their cities by overnight air, they don't necessarily do so, at least not all the time. And they can snack on expensive imported cheeses and hors d'oeuvres brought in by a caterer, or the finest chocolates from Belgium and Switzerland. But again, not always. It's not unusual for us to find an empty pizza box when we get to work in the mornings.

Every night of the week they can afford to go to restaurants like Masa in New York for a minimum of $450 per person, or a more modestly-priced place like Ruth's Chris for a two-hundred dollar steak dinner (although I should mention that Ruth's also offers a fifty-dollar steak on their equivalent of McDonald's Dollar Menu).

They might have a light lunch at the Palm Court in New York, then fly off in their private jets to a late dinner at Maxim's in Paris, or the Brasserie in Monte Carlo overlooking the Princess Grace rose gardens.
In spite of all this temptation the modern-day rich are health conscious, of course. Many follow the Mediterranean diet both in their homes and when they go to restaurants. That's basically what's going on here where I work. It's more of a lifestyle than a diet anyway, consisting of lots of fish, fresh veggies, pasta, nuts and berries, and olive oil.

But we're not surprised when we find the kitchen cluttered with take-out Chinese cartons when we get to work, or an empty package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the trash can. The truth is rich people eat anything they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.

As for their secret to staying slim, my observation is that they take only small portions of whatever's being served, and hit the gym on a regular basis. In centuries past being rich meant getting fat and suffering from gout - known as the rich man's disease. But those days are long gone.

Hope this was informative, and thanks for stopping by this evening,


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Eating Utensils for the Rich!

In a previous post entitled Proper Table Setting for the Rich I was rambling on about how Victorian dinner tables might be set with twenty or more eating utensils at each place setting. Then the question came up as to exactly how many types of utensils there are in this world

In prehistory primitive people ate with their hands and fingers, of course. (In modern-day America we've pretty much reverted to that level with our fast-food restaurants. Burgers, fries, tacos, and friend chicken don't really require utensils - in fact no utensils are offered.) But the evolution of flatware is truly fascinating if you have a couple of minutes.

Obviously in primitive times knives came first, made from sharpened stone or flint, which could be used both to cut and lift the food on the point of the knife. Then, as early humans started leaning how to cook, like boiling vegetables and creating recipes, spoons came next - apparently and urgently needed to protect the skin from steam.

But get this: when forks were first introduced as eating utensils it bordered upon scandal, heresy, and wickedness. Why replace using the tip of a knife with a fork? It was considered pretentious, effete and unworthy of nobility. In fact, some catholic writers in the Vatican challenged it's very use as opposed to our God-given fingers for lifting food to the mouth.

While the origins are obscure, apparently forks were developed in the east, Persia most likely, but perhaps the Byzantine empire first introduced the use of a personal table fork. It crept it's way into southern Europe first, and Italians found it particularly useful in their much-beloved pasta creations. Then when Catherine de Medici left Italy to become Queen of France in the mid 1500's, she brought forks along and taught the reluctant French how to use them in court.

Northern Europe was slower to adopt the fork, considering it to be a silly Italian affectation, and it apparently didn't reach England until about the late 17th century. But when Queen Victoria clocked in, all hell broke loose. It was embraced wholeheartedly by the Victorians in the 1800's when proper manners demanded that fingers never touch food. With no TV, internet or smart phones there wasn't much to do in the evenings except fuss with your food. And from that point on dozens upon dozens of utensils were invented, way beyond the basic knife, spoon and fork. One fork simply wasn't good enough for the Victorians; you needed a dinner fork, a salad fork, fish fork, shrimp fork, a beet fork, pickle fork, lobster fork, all kinds of serving forks, and finally for the last course, a dessert fork. The list of knives and spoons is almost as long.

In reality, there's no definitive answer as to how many types of eating utensils there are in this world, from stone and flint knives to chop sticks in the far east to all the madness of the Victorian age. Plus the fact that it's all still quite fluid with designers coming up with new looks and styles all the time. Like the Australian-designed Splayd, or this silliness from Dine Ink.

As you know, dining utensils come in materials ranging from plastic to various kinds of metals such as stainless steel, all the way up to sterling silver - and sold in stores that range from Target to Walmart to Tiffany's. Here's a look at some amazing utensils you might have never seen or even thought about. It's from the Silver Queen: Sterling Dictionary of Flatware Pieces 

At the all-night diner where I sometimes go for the blue-plate special, there's a cheap knife, spoon, and fork all rolled up together in a paper napkin. Without any reflection on history or how this all came about, it's entirely adequate to get through the evening meal, isn't it?

Queen Victoria can rest peacefully that our fingers never touch the food with just these three basic utensils, and I feel rather sure she would forgive us if we don't eat our hamburgers with a knife and fork.

Thanks for dropping in this evening,


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Robert Duvall's Mom and Her Famous Crab Cakes!

Recently the house where I work was lent out to a special event, which is nothing unusual around here. It's just a thing rich people do by way of non-involved charity - and maybe a little publicity within the community and a degree of good will to boot.

It was for some kind of professional business club and certainly nothing splashy to speak of - no diamonds, expensive watches or furs. Just lots of people running around with name tags on their polyester suits - something a little shocking and rarely seen around here but I'm dealing with it right along.

In any case, it required little on my part except to be here during prime gym time. It was fully catered of course - a chef, waiters, valet parkers out front, even a bartender. While I wasn't familiar with the caterer engaged for the evening, they turned out to be wonderful. The type who are smart enough to bring plenty of food not only for the party but also for their own employees and the house staff here as well. I mean, if we're all supposed to give up our evenings and work the damned party, the least is that we all get to join in and sample the food, don't you think?

Anyhow, the caterer made the best crab cakes I've ever tasted, honestly! When I inquired about the recipe she somewhat smugly said it was Robert Duvall's mother's recipe. I naturally assumed she knew the Duvall family personally and didn't question her further.

However, as the evening dragged endlessly on we became more chummy and gossip finally raised it's ugly head - normally reserved for those of intimate acquaintance, right? But we were all so tired and bored by this dreary unfashionable event that there really wasn't much else to do except spill the beans about some of the quirky people we've worked for.

Finally she admitted she didn't know the Duvall's at all, that she'd found the recipe on the internet. (Which would explain her beat up old catering van outside, I guess.)  But it didn't matter. I adored her and loved the crab cakes.

If you like crab cakes too, here's a link to Mrs. Duvall's appearing on the Food Network. The secret is out!

Thanks for dropping in this evening, and happy dining.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Holy Year of Mercy!

You may have heard last week that the Vatican announced a Holy Year is coming up! And the first thing I want to say is don't anybody PANIC!

It's called the Holy Year of Mercy. But it's not like the forty-six days of Lent when you're supposed to give up something you enjoy - like drinking, smoking or too much time surfing the web. Nor is it like the New Years resolutions we all make, then abandon after a week or two.

It's just a year of celebrations, festivities, and forgiveness. Originally it was held just once in every one-hundred years, then it became a Jubilee Celebration every twenty-five years, but nowadays it's basically "at the will of the Pope" for events he deems worthy and important.

The fun thing is, a Holy Year is the time when the mysterious Holy Door at the Vatican is unsealed, unlocked and shoved open by the Pope himself. And when you walk through this holy portal your earthly sins are miraculously absolved - without going to Confession, without doing Lent or anything like that. Just walk through the door, all is forgiven, and you're good to go!

Actually there's four of these Holy Doors at the Papal basilicas in Rome, there's also one in Spain, and there's one in Quebec City in Canada, the first one outside of Europe as far as I know.

This all starts on December 8 of 2015. So there's still plenty of time to make airline and five-star hotel reservations, in case you've been really bad and need to walk through one of those doors. My rich employer certainly needs to, I know for a fact!

I'm even thinking about it myself, although going to Confession is a whole lot cheaper - no matter how humbling and embarrassing. Just don't go on Easter Sunday when the damned line is two or three blocks long.

Before you leave this evening, here's a link to the Vatican's awesome and mysterious Holy Door.

As always, thanks for dropping in,


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Best Shopping Streets in the World!

From the beginning of this blog I've had many inquiries about the shopping habits and favorite stores of the rich, and it's been terrific fun writing about Tiffany's, Saks, Bijan of Beverly Hills, Neiman Marcus, and on and on.

As you might expect, many of these luxury department stores and specialty boutiques are clustered together in areas where rich people live and travel. (You think?) My favorite is Fifth Avenue in New York of course, not just because I lived in the city but also because of the avenue's unique history in evolution and development.

Clustered near the enduring Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, you'll find Henri Bendel's flagship store, the world-famous toy emporium FAO Schwarz, Bergdorf Goodman's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and all kinds of high-dollar boutiques tucked in between. The original and time-honored Abercrombie & Fitch for sophisticated African safari outfits and travel gear is still there as well - although as you probably know it's now become a silly and somewhat-bizarre national chain, catering to teenage libidos.

And then, if you need to pick up a few silver, gold or diamond trinkets for Christmas and birthday gifts you've got Tiffany's, Harry Winston, and Cartier all right there close together within a couple of blocks from the Plaza. Your'e in. You're out. You're done!

Of course, there's wonderful shopping places for the rich all around the globe. Perhaps not as unique and quirky as Fifth Avenue, and perhaps a little more obscure and esoteric for those in the know, but all of them wonderfully fun and dazzling. Here's a current look at what the New York Post recently called the nine best shopping streets in the world.

Special thanks to Luxe Tiffany on Twitter for bringing this to our attention. As she's a world-wide luxury hotel expert, you can bet that wherever these high-dollar stores are located, fancy 5-Star hotels won't be far away.

Happy shopping. And don't blame me when the credit card bills come in!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bar Sheds: The Next New Thing!

Recently I ran across something really fun on Twitter and wanted to share it with you! Citing an article "Move Over Man Caves" by Caleb Houseknect in a website called Keg Works, wealth manager Bill Sullivan tweeted that Bar Sheds are among the next big things popping up on the market - and my imagination ran wild!

In my cloistered world of living among the rich, it seems that everyone has these amazing and elaborate outdoor kitchens; some small and intimate, others large enough to entertain hundreds of guests - requiring chefs, caterers, waiters and bartenders to accommodate the occasion. Here's a link to what I'm talking about.

But now there's something fun for all of us - a Bar Shed in your very own back yard - and it doesn't matter what income level you're in at the moment. It can be as elaborate as your budget allows, or just silly and fun, a reason to get out of the house and go outside. Here's a link to what's already out there, but you could probably design and build your own with a little help from Home Depot or Loews, right?

Of course, there might be issues with bitchy neighbors, barking dogs, and cops driving by if things get out of hand. But then, so what?

My cousin Celene and her partner Dan are way ahead of the game here. They have a nice home tucked away in the woods, a nice-sized pool with a volley ball net, and it's nothing to have fifteen or twenty family members and friends sleeping over during hot summer nights, albeit with the aid of a blow-up mattress and a few sleeping bags on the floor.

But the most fun thing, they have a huge covered patio which could be considered the ultimate Bar Shed. It has a complete wet bar and a frig stocked with beer, two grills and a smoker, an armoire with a big screen TV, sound system, wi-fi of course, and enough seating, tables, and lounge chairs to accommodate everyone staying over - not forgetting the hammocks strung between the trees.

There's a flowing pond with gold fish and frogs, humming birds all around, deer grazing in the background, and the nighttime exterior lighting (complete with candles) makes the whole place look magical. In fact, the house is only used for sleeping and showers; the rest of the day is spent outside on the patio. The first thing you do when waking up in the morning is grab a cup of coffee and go outside to watch the morning news, then maybe take a dip in the pool to get the day started.

I know this is way off topic but other people can have fun in this world - not just the rich, right?

Hope you're enjoying a nice spring, and thanks for dropping by this evening.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lorre White: The Guru of Luxury!

Do you remember back in December when I was hyperventilating over Cartier's amazing three-minute commercials for their high-end luxury jewelry?

Easily among the most expensive ads ever made, the dramatic music and narrative of a gorgeous Spotted Panther in search of his beloved lost mistress instantly draws you in and can mesmerize you in a flash - especially the last tender moments when they finally meet and caress.

In case you didn't see it, here's a link to what I'm apparently still raving about, and promise it won't be a waste of your time.  L'Odyssee de Cartier

Anyhow, I was totally mystified as to why Cartier would do that, spending millions and throwing themselves out there in front of a mass TV audience - the 99% of us who can't afford bupkis, right?

But then I ran across an article in Forbes Magazine that might make sense of the whole thing. It's written by Lorre White, known as the "The Guru of Luxury" in many circles, including numerous upscale magazines and TV shows like CNN Money, ABC, and NBC, just to name a few.

According to Ms. White there's so many new rich people popping up all around the globe, who don't have a clue as to how to spend their money, that wonderful old brands like Cartier, Crane and Company, and Patek Philippe need to get back out there and introduce themselves to this whole new crowd of newly-rich consumers.

So it all makes sense now and satisfies my utter bewilderment. I'm guessing Cartier thinks that all these new rich folk are still watching the same crap on TV that all the rest of us do, right? But then one of their ads comes on and the new rich suddenly realize, "OMG, we can afford Cartier stuff now!"

Here's a link to Ms. White's most interesting and enlightening article in Forbes Magazine.

As always, thanks for dropping in tonight.


Friday, March 6, 2015

European Rich vs. American Rich!

Over the years in writing this blog we've received several requests to compare the old rich of Europe to the new rich in America, which I've been reluctant to tackle. But I do have some observations to share if you have the time and patience.

While the differences between European and American rich people are huge, they're also rather obvious and easy to understand. In America's relatively short history we threw off the rule of kings during the Revolutionary War, and consequently there is no royal class in the United States.

As well and good as that all might be, the unfortunate side effect is that our rich people in America are unrestrained by a disciplined upper class. Like fish out of water, they're flopping around and free to run amok with whatever self aggrandizement and nutty ideas they have going on in their brains.

But in Europe it's not so. No matter how rich you can make yourself in whatever way you do so, you're still up against the royals at the very top of the social scale, and you cannot cross that barrier into royalty no matter how much cash you've managed to accumulate.*

Oddly enough, some of the royals might not have a dime to their name. But they're still royals, and way ahead of the rich in social standing. After various wars and revolutions - making mention of the Romanov family in Russia being murdered in cold blood, and the rich people in France being sent off to the guillotine - the royals were driven from power and questionable republics sprung up all over the place in Europe.

Allowing for this topsy-turvy new world even Regina, Queen of England, was reduced to being a figure head of her new Parliamentary Government. But you'll have to admit her social position remains much higher than anyone in the Parliament, surpassing even that of the late Sir Winston Churchill himself. When she goes out in public the press and tens of thousands follow her every move, don't they? Not so for members of Parliament.

Many of the royals in Europe went into hiding during these turbulent times, and collected in places where the cost of living was low, lots of them fleeing to Portugal. Nonetheless, to this day there's always mention in the press about some Italian, French or Spanish prince or princess, long gone from power, but who's hereditary titles still reign court in modern high society.

The reason we look to these people for guidance is simple. They're the guardians of civility, customs, and manners in all their various countries and cultures, which gives us something to emulate and strive for. Even here in the USA we still look to our American guardians of British manners for style and class - Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post.  

I know this hardly covers the topic. But the differences among the rich are vast in all nations and cultures. Even in America we have the notion that the old-school rich on the east coast are somehow superior to the clueless new rich on the west coast, and there's some rational reasoning behind that, if I might say. However, the lines are blurred today; there's most certainly new rich on the east cost, and old rich on the west. So, as Oscar Wilde might have said, "The whole argument is a colossal waste of time."   

I hope this post wasn't a colossal waste of yours. Thanks for stopping by this evening,


* Of course there's such a thing as Knighthood and Damehood, offered by the royals to those whose accomplishments and contributions to society transcend their non-royal roots: Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Edith Evans, Sir Richard Branson - to name but a few.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ultra High Net Worth!

If you're interested in the world of the rich and famous, no doubt you've run across the initials UHNW in magazine articles, blogs, even on Twitter nowadays. But what does that mean exactly?

It stands for Ultra High Net Worth. Basically it's tossed around by marketers and advertising agencies as to where they should target their ads for high-end products, as well as by wealth managers when referring to their clients. But more and more we hear the term used in other settings to describe the super rich and all the things they're up to. So I thought I might jump in here with some observations.

Here's the breakdown of terms in historical order:

- The Affluent ($100,000): Back in the days after World War II, this original term was used to describe someone who owned their own home and cars, and had a hundred-thousand-dollars or more in liquid cash for investments or purchasing expensive goods.

- High Net Worth ($1,000,000): Likewise, this term was used to describe someone who had accumulated at least a million dollars in liquid cash to invest or make high-end purchases, and it's still in use today in some circles.

- Very High Net Worth ($5,000,000): As wealth grew over the years and people became even richer, this term popped up to describe those who have five-million or more to play around with.

- Ultra High Net Worth ($30,000,000): Around 2007 we first began to hear the term UHNW come into play, and it seems to be where we're stuck today. More often than not it's used to describe people with thirty-million-dollars or more to toss around.

By saying 'stuck' with this term at the moment, it seems to me there's an inherent danger with this type of reductive labeling. The problem is that in the last few decades we've seen billionaires springing forth all around the globe with way more spending power than the mere millionaires.

To cite one simple example, on a whim a billionaire can afford to buy and staff a luxury yacht that costs $120,000,000 which the UHNW with only $30,000,000 in the bank couldn't possibly touch, right? And buying a private island for a hundred-million-bucks would be above the price range of the average UHNW - not to mention building a house there, staffing it fully, and adding a small port to accommodate the yacht upon arrival.

So why would advertisers and investment counselors continue to lump all these people under one umbrella at the thirty-million-dollar level, unless they think the UHNW are on their way to becoming billionaires themselves? It's a mystery to me. Sociologically speaking, the term is useless as well. Quite honestly there's very little likeness between the super rich and the lowly millionaires in this world.

Perhaps it's time to have a new category altogether to separate the millionaires from the billionaires, maybe something simple like the Billionaires Net Worth (BNW). What do you think? It makes sense to me.

But then we'd have to dig deeper I guess, to separate the poor billionaires with only two or three billion in the bank from the ones who have seventy billion or more, like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. What would we call them? The Ultra High Billionaires Net Worth (UHBNW)?

I thought the terms Super Rich or the One Percent were clear as a bell and pretty much described who we're talking about. In fact, in his New York Times bestseller Richistan, the famed Wall Street journalist Robert Frank calls them the 'Absurdly Rich' which pretty much suffices, don't you think?

But the term Ultra High Net Worth seems to be chic nowadays, gaining in popularity, and it may be around for awhile.

Thanks for dropping in,


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Proper Table Conversation!

After the last two posts in January about formal table settings, our friend Ben Reierson down in Australia asked a timely and appropriate question"What kind of conversation would be good or at least safe to talk about at a billionaire's table?"

There's a whole lot to say about this, Ben, but I'll try to be concise. After all, trying to converse at the same time you're trying to eat is a tricky affair. There's few things more frustrating than when someone asks you a question at the exact moment when you've just put a fork load of food in your mouth, right? There's an art to how all this is done, and here's a few tips:

To whom are you responsible for conversation? 
If it's a small party of five or six people, you'll probably be expected to interact with everyone at the table. But if it's a larger party, say fifteen-to-twenty people, then you're only responsible to speak with the person on your right, on your left, and the person directly across the table from you. In fact, it would be rude to try to carry on a conversation with someone at the other end of the table.

Unwelcome Topics: 
Above all we don't talk about ourselves or try to dominate the conversation. In addition, politics, religion, world order, health issues, death, and bereavement are not welcome. These topics are best left to the bar area before the meal or the drawing room after - if even then. But at the dinner table we're trying to ingest and digest without agitation, right?

Light Conversation: 
The natural topic at a formal table is about the food being served. There's usually chatter and comments on the flavor and ingredients of each course that's brought out - which leads to other conversations like a new chef in town, the best caterers to deal with, a new restaurant that's just opened up, or mentions of a similar dish someone had in Europe or Asia - which opens the conversation to travel, international cuisines, and fine hotels.

Volley Ball:
Try to think of table conversation as a volley ball game - except with a balloon. You must be careful, observant, and then gently toss out a topic or question - but not to someone who's mouth is full of food. The time-honored rule of not talking with your mouth full can create some awkward moments in getting an answer to an ill-timed question.

At large dinner parties around here there's usually a general hum of several different conversations going on at the same time among those sitting next to each other. Occasionally there might be an outburst of laughter which draws everybody's attention - and the reason for that laugh is expected to be repeated so that everyone at the table can join in the laughter as well. (Celebrities seem to be especially fond of this tactic, to gain attention.) In between courses the host or hostess might take the opportunity to make an announcement or redirect the topics altogether, like a new winery they've just visited - which might change the topic to fine wines when everyone goes back into their private huddles.

In Victorian times when a dinner lasted for five or six hours, there might have been more thoughtful and intellectual topics thrown out during the meal, which were tossed around, discussed, and developed at length during a sixteen or twenty-one course meal. But nowadays table conversation is expected to be light, crisp, and not requiring deep thought or consideration.

In America we're especially fond of getting laughs for our trivial table chatter, and there's nothing wrong with that. The same might not be so in more conservative societies. But we are as we are here in the States - with no plausible apologies I can think of.

I hope this has shed some light. Thanks for dropping in, and thanks again Ben for suggesting the topic.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Proper Table Setting for the Rich!

All said and done we're just so very fortunate in the modern world that formal dining has been reduced and streamlined into the most basic five-or-six course meal, with only eight-or-ten pieces of silverware required to get through a stuffy sit-down dinner.

In Victoria times there might have been twenty-to-thirty eating utensils at each and every place setting, all laid out for a sixteen or twenty-one course meal! Even the Titanic offered a ten-course menu in the first class section.

If you're a hostess or caterer you simply must take a peek at the following link - although personally it gives me a migraine to see all those utensils at just one place setting! Try to imagine if there were twenty or thirty guests coming for dinner! Here's the horrifying picture!

But again, modern formal tables are much more manageable for hostesses and caterers alike, not to mention the poor guests trapped at the dining table. After all, the Victorians had no television or computers, and certainly no iPhone's or digital streaming. So what better to way to spend an idle evening with rich friends than sitting down to full-course dinner for five or six hours? This was the era of chamber music, of course, so no doubt they had a pianist or string quartet on hand to disrupt the monotony. (I might also mention this was the era when gout was rampant among the rich and upper classes!)

Anyhow, this post is not so much about proper table setting or manners (which you can get from Emily Post) but more about what to do if you suddenly find yourself plunked down at a formal dining table. Maybe you're engaged to someone rich and your fiance's family invites you to dinner? Or perhaps you've been promoted and your boss invites you to a fine restaurant to celebrate? The first rule, even though confronted with ten pieces of silverware, is don't freak out!

You don't really need to know ANYTHING about formal dining to get through this meal, I promise. The table is set according to the menu, with each piece of silverware laid out in the order of what's being served, starting from the outside in.

For example, in America (unlike in Europe) salad is often the first course served. So the waiter brings out the salad on a small plate, sets it down on the large charger plate in front of you, and you pick up the small salad fork on your outside left - simple enough, right? When finished, he takes both the salad plate and fork away, leaving the charger in place for the next course.

Now, while forks always go on the left side of the plate, the exception is a small shrimp fork which goes on the right, next to the soup spoon. So if you see a tiny little three-prong fork on the extreme right of your plate, that means the waiter will bring out a shrimp cocktail next. He sets it down on the charger plate, and you pick up the little fork. When you're finished with that, he takes the cocktail dish and fork away, which leaves you with a big soup spoon on the right - meaning he'll bring soup out next. Getting the picture?

After the soup you'll probably be left with a fish knife on the outside right and a fish fork on the outside left. Then after the fish course you'll only have a dinner knife on the right and a dinner fork on the left, for the main course. And finally the only utensil left on the table is a dessert fork or spoon, probably laid horizontally above the charger plate.

So whatever you do, don't freak out or feel intimidated. If there's other utensils on the table I haven't mentioned, you can always pause (as you should anyway) to wait for your host to begin and see what piece of silverware he/she picks up first, then follow the lead.

A few pointers:

1) Once a piece of silverware is picked up, you never lay it back down on the table cloth. For example, when you're finished with the salad you leave the fork on the salad plate and the waiter will whisk it away.

2) The butter knife won't be on the right side of your plate along with the other knives, but laid on the small bread plate, set on the upper left of the charger plate.

3) If there's unfamiliar and bizarre utensils required, like a lobster cracker or escargot tongs, they'll most likely not be laid out on the table, but brought out when the lobster or snails are served. If you don't know how to use these, again just follow the lead of your host. (And if the first snail you pick up flies across the room because you squeezed the tongs too hard, don't even worry about it! You might get a good laugh - but everyone, including the rich, had to learn this at one point or another, and will love you for the effort.)

4) Right above the dinner knife on your right you'll probably find three different stemware; a white-wine goblet for the fish course, a red-wine goblet for the main course, and a water goblet. In extremely formal affairs there might even be a fourth glass - a champagne flute. But again not to worry; the waiter will bring out the appropriate wine with each course, indicating which glass you use first. (All you really have to worry about is knocking all the rest of them over when you pick one up.)

5) If you're nervous or sloppy and drop food on the charger plate, you'll probably get a frown from the waiter. But he'll politely whisk it away, replace it with a clean one, and no one will even notice during all the chatter and gossip.

6) As your mother taught you, no elbows on the table, ever. (Unless perhaps you're in a sports bar with a plate full of chicken wings and French fries in front of you.)

This has turned out to be way too long, but there's really no reason to be intimidated by a formal table. Just keep an eye on your host, go with the flow and above all, try to pretend you're enjoying it. Personally I'm satisfied with the blue plate special down at the diner - with a fork, spoon, and knife all rolled up together in a paper napkin.

Thanks for stopping by, and please forgive the ramble.

PS: The post right before this one has a more detailed explanation of how formal tables are laid out, if you think it would be helpful. Just don't let the diagrams frighten you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Well, crap! I forgot to publish this!

Considering I have this day job around here, it takes about a week or ten days to research, write and edit a new post. And then what? I forget to hit the PUBLISH button? For real? I just found this in my drafts folder and I'm furious with myself for not sending it out sooner!

It concerns proper table settings, meant to be posted right before the holidays in case your parents or in-laws were coming and you might have needed a little help in knowing exactly where to put what on the dining room table.

It was inspired by my sister's recent visit to England. She stopped by Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and sent a photo of a wedding party setup in the main dining room. To pay the taxes on such an enormous estate the Palace apparently hires itself out for weddings, anniversaries, and other questionable occasions like that.

Anyhow, at first glance the picture was dazzling. Enough tables to seat fifty or sixty guests with fine china, crystal wine goblets, and sterling silverware up and down the line. But on closer examination when you enlarge the photo, the tables were so hastily set that I almost croaked.

I understand that busy caterers threw it all together and that it was just a wedding party after all, not a state dinner with Regina and Prince Phillip showing up. But the silverware was all crooked, not parallel, and not properly measured from the edge of the table. While there were two wine glasses at each setting for the red and white wines, the third goblet for water was missing. And not to get down in the mud, but the napkins were simply rolled up beside the plate, instead of all the fancy options out there.

I could understand this more easily if the wedding was in Buttzville, New Jersey in the United States. But in England, the very source and mother-load of propriety and manners? Maybe the British are a little less uptight than the upstart new-rich here in America. Who knows?
In any case here's a link to some really beautiful table settings, from casual to formal. And here's a link to the diagrams you might need.

Don't freak out! They all make sense according to what menu you're serving for the evening. If soup is not the first course then you wouldn't put out a bowl or soup spoon, right? Tables are set according to the menu.

Once you have a basic informal layout in mind, then you can always expand it - all the way up to a more formal table, complete with a white tablecloth and white linen napkins.

It's actually all pretty simple: knives and spoons on the right of the plate, forks on the left, and the drinking goblets go directly above the dinner knife. One important rule is that the blade of the knife is always turned toward the plate, not toward the spoons. (You don't want your guests cutting their fingers when they pick up the tea or soup spoon, right?)

Now don't be alarmed, but if you're serving an eight-or-ten course dinner then there's going to be a lot more eating utensils on the right and left of the plate than just the basic five. But that's a whole different topic, coming up next.

Again, I hope you'll forgive my lameness for not sending this out before the holidays. But there's always some kind of idiotic special occasion or formal affair to deal with all throughout the year, isn't there? So this might come in handy anyway from time to time.

Happy dining!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Milestone for the Blog!

It's hard to believe but as of this month we're beginning the fifth year of  "The Billionaires Butler"!

When I first began back in 2011 it was mostly a diary for family and friends about how the super rich live and conduct themselves on a daily basis. I seriously doubted anyone else would be interested, but that wasn't even important at the time. I just needed a place to write about my employers' amazing lifestyles, and to blow off steam from time to time at their occasionally shocking behaviors.

But all that has changed. Soon enough I began to realize that beyond my own circles there's a real interest in the way rich people live, how they spend all that money, and what they do with themselves in their daily lives. With just word of mouth advertising and Google search engines, there's over three-hundred-thousand readers to date, and the comments are in the thousands.

In fact it's the comments that have kept me going. Responding to readers from all around the globe has been the most unexpected fun of all, and has expanded the topics in ways I could have never dreamed of.

In any case, for this anniversary and the beginning of our fifth year, I can only say thank you so much for reading, and for your terrific comments that add to and explore our understanding of how the super rich live. Especially during these days when the divide between the rich and the poor are more scrutinized than ever.

I hope your new year is starting off well,