Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas With Dame Covington!

It seems that Dame Covington has taken full-time sanctuary here ever since her unfortunate incarceration a couple of months back for assault. Other than a small bruise and hurt feelings, her victim sustained no permanent physical damage, has dropped all charges, and no lawsuits have been forthcoming. Yet still the Dame is hiding out here to let the dust settle and regain some modicum of dignity before venturing back out into local high society - and we are so pleased with her delightful company.

Last evening, in fact, she saved a cocktail party from becoming an utter disaster. I mentioned a couple of years ago that I'm not a big fan of Antonio Vivaldi. His Four Seasons composition is pleasant enough. But his concertos (relegated to breakfast music by most civilized people) are just so dingy and repetitive -  totally maddening in my opinion. In fact, composer Igor Stravinsky said, "Vivaldi didn't write four-hundred concertos, he wrote one concerto four hundred times!"

Apparently Dame Covington has a similar opinion, which endears her to me even more. My employer's latest girlfriend (number seven by our count) invited a few of her déclassé friends over for holiday cocktails. The Dame was already downstairs, and just as I setting out the hors d'oeuvres Miss Seven came downstairs and greeted us with charm, if not grace. She went over to the CD player (yes, we still have one of those) and thumbed through the collection of albums, randomly pulling one out and popping it in before her guests arrived.

When it turned out to be Vivaldi concertos, Dame Covington's eyebrows shot up in surprise and she gave me a look of what can only be described as alarm, bordering on panic. And I'm afraid my own expression of shock offered little to relieve her distress. But with finesse, aplomb and well-practiced diplomacy, Dame Covington stood up and began her plan of attack:

Dame: "My dear, I see you're a fan of Vivaldi?"
Seven: "Who?"
Dame: "The composer of these charming concertos."
Seven: "Oh.
Dame: "Have you ever heard his Four Seasons?
Seven: "Not that I recall."
Dame: "Would you do an old lady a kindness and put them on now? They're just so lovely, especially for this time of evening."
Seven: "I'd be delighted, if we have it."

As Miss Seven shuffled through the CD collection to find the requested piece, Dame Covington looked at me with a devilish grin and rolled her eyes. I had to suppress a laugh, but I really wanted to kiss her!

Seven: "Who's this Edit Piaf? There's several of her albums here."
Dame: "Oh, how wonderful. Lets do listen to her!"

And thus the evening was saved! Vivaldi free, as it were. In fact, I'm going to hide his albums up in the attic so we don't have to run into this nightmare again.

With Christmas fast approaching, it seems that my employer and Miss Seven will be spending the holiday in Cabo San Lucas. Not very Christmas-y in my opinion, but at least they'll be out of here for awhile. Which leaves only me, the house staff, the dogs and Dame Covington to celebrate the day together. Chef has generously offered to serve up a Christmas dinner for all of us, and asked the Dame what she prefers.

At her request it seems we'll be having a traditional British meal. Except instead of turkey there will be individual Cornish game hens for each of us, along with stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. But Chef declined to personally make the Dame's request for a British Christmas Pudding and took it on himself to ask our personal shopper in London to send one over from Harrods - which will be a great gift and treat for all of us!

I asked the Dame if I should set a formal table in the dining room for the event. But she insisted to sit with us at the High Table below stairs where servants have their meals. Now tell me, how classy is that?

I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season and planning a splendid Christmas dinner with family and friends. As always, thank you for reading - not just tonight but for all this year past! Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and Happy New Year!


Saturday, September 29, 2018

What? Dame Covington Is In Jail!

This evening I got a late-night call from our local Constable to see if I could come and bail Dame Covington out of jail! Seriously? It seems the dear old gal had become belligerent and created a ruckus at a fancy cocktail party here in town. Apparently there was an argument about politics and Covington used her gold-handle cane to trip her opponent - an equally elegant lady of roughly her age who didn't take it well and called the cops!

Of course I jumped out of bed and drove over right away. In my world I always have access to bail money, be it for my crazy old employer himself or for his occasionally unruly guests. But Dame Covington is a special case and I'd use my own money to bounce her out of jail, if need be.

This charming wise old woman has been a friend of my employer's since childhood, elementary school in fact, and was a best friend to his first wife who died some years back. She's like a fixture in this house - always around in the background. She can be found in the library quietly reading a book, down at the pond with parasol in hand watching the swans glide by, or unobtrusively making herself a hard boiled egg in the kitchen. In fact, I'd be worried if I didn't see her around here on a daily basis. For those evenings when she's had a few too many cocktails and can't quite make it home, she even has her own designated bedroom on the second floor, next to the elevator.

Among her multiple marriages, no one seems to know or care where she gained the title Dame along her journey in life. But she has a regal air and carriage which gives her all the respect she deserves. It's rumored that she was once quite rich, but now is almost totally dependent on other people's cocktail buffets for her daily nutrition.

Bless her dear heart, she has all kinds of issues in staying out of jail. The dents and scratches on her ancient Rolls Royce testify to her driving skills. While she doesn't drive on highways anymore, apparently she's a terror on streets here in our little community. Our local cop Michael is very lenient with her, but here's some funny exchanges he's shared with me:

Michael: Did you see that red light, Madam?
Covington: Of course I did young man, but there's so many of those in town - do you expect me to stop at all of them?

Michael: There was a stop sign at that intersection, Dame Covington!
Covington: Yes, but it appeared like more of a suggestion and I wasn't really in the mood.

Covington: Why did you stop me young man, can't you see I'm in a hurry?
Michael: Speed signs are there for a reason!
Covington: Alright then, I'll take it under advisement. May I go now?

I met Dame Covington the first week I worked here, it was in autumn. Upon escorting her and my employer's new wife (both with cocktails in hand) out to the balcony to observe the brilliant fall colors of red, yellow, orange and purple, she said to the new wife, "Your grounds are lovely my dear! Who does your trees?" And I've been in love with her ever since.

After posting bail, she fussed all the way home about the embarrassment and discomforts of being thrown into the clink. But coaxing her with a Hot Toddy I finally got her tucked into bed, up on the second floor. And I'm going back to bed myself, right this minute!

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening, even at this late hour.


PS: Her bail was only $50!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Gender-Neutral Service in Restaurants!

When it comes to the rules of etiquette between men and women, admittedly I'm what you might call old school. It was taught to me by my mother in childhood and it has fit in well with my current job as a butler in a billionaire's home.

Things like holding a door, pulling out a chair, or opening the car door for a lady are second nature to me. Giving up a seat on the subway, especially if it's an elderly woman or a mother with children, goes without saying.

And when it comes to dining - whether in a private home, a 24-hour greasy spoon cafe, or a posh five-star restaurant - serving women first seems like it's built into our collective DNA.

But now it seems there's something new afoot, and proper etiquette might be evolving. Our friend Caroline Muller (known as the Master Concierge on Twitter) shared an article by Grace Perry from about a new trend going on in some surprising places.

Entitled "The End of  Ladies First Restaurant Service", I took a deep breath and dived right in.

Grace explains that several trendy restaurants are responding to the various social movements of how women expect to be treated in this world today by offering what's called Neutral-Gender Service. Which basically means forget about serving ladies first and treat everyone at the table as equals. From water and wine, to dinner plates and dessert, guests are served clockwise around the table, regardless of male or female - or age for that matter.
While this rocks my world, I totally get it. The long-standing feminist struggles and more lately the Me Too movement have awakened us not only to grotesque physical assaults against women but also the pervasive and subtle ways of sexism and gender discrimination lingering in our society today - even in such simple things as restaurant service.

We all know that social change is agonizingly slow. Not so long ago, until the Suffragettes had finally had enough, were American women finally allowed to vote in 1920 - although driving a car or smoking a cigarette was still unthinkable for them. Going to a gathering of homosexuals, whether in a private home or a public bar, could get you arrested and thrown into jail on morals charges. But the revolts in the revolutionary 1960s put a stop to all that and the Gay Rights movement was born.

It could take years, decades, even generations for this gender-neutral trend to become universal, if ever. Especially among the royals in Europe as well as the overindulged and coddled new rich in America who are drunk on attention and personal service. Not to mention all the unique and complicated relationships between men and women in various cultures around the world. Only this past year were women in Saudi Arabia allowed to drive a car.

At the very least, gender-neutral service is a start - like a courageous first step and a new beginning. Most likely it will smolder and simmer as a lovely niche for a long while, like comfortable sanctuaries in a hostile world.

But I get it. And I'm writing this post tonight so we won't be shocked if we wander into one of these enlightened places. I doubt we'd see a sign on the door or menu about being gender neutral, but we'll know it when we see it.

Here's a link to Grace Perry's fascinating and brilliant article.

When you have time, please take a look. Personally, I myself doubt if I could ever treat an ancient Grand Dame coming into this house like one of the guys! But I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

And as always, thank you for stopping by this evening,

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MacLean & Bruce! Experiential Travel at Its Best!

This morning, minding my own business and dusting a not-dusty Renoir print near the breakfast room, I accidentally overheard my employer and his new lady friend discussing a trip to Europe. Delighted by the possibility, I immediately called my spy confidant at the corporate office to see if she had heard anything about it.

Yes, she said! In fact she'd just gotten an early morning email from the lady-of-the-moment asking her to investigate renting a small castle in Scotland - large enough to accommodate twelve people for a ten-day golf outing and birthday celebration. It's not clear who's birthday, hers I suspect. Certainly not my cranky old employer's who was born on the first of January - which makes it seriously hard to enjoy New Year's day.

Anyhow, needless to say I was overjoyed! Ten days is a good long while. Thinking fast, I told her about my Twitter pals Charles MacClean and David Bruce in Scotland who specialize in this very thing. As you may recall, a while back I wrote an essay about Experiential Travel.Well, it seems MacLean and Bruce, along with their partner Vikki, are experts at handling this very thing.

Far from the madding crowd of most mass-service tour operators, this dedicated team relies on their deep roots in Scotland and their network of family and friends to create unique and highly individualized holiday experiences for each and every one of their clients - whom they welcome as friends. Not only can they find a castle, but they can also book transportation, restaurant reservations, golf outings, Whiskey tours, entertainment events, sight seeing, and unique shopping spots off the beaten path. Here's a look at their dreamy website.

Now, if you want your castle fully staffed these fellows can provide a chef, chauffeur, valets, maids, even a butler is so desired. In fact they conduct their own butler training classes. A couple of times a year they team up with another favorite Twitter friend Grant Harrold, publicly known as The Royal Butler. Not only has Grant been in service to various members of the Royal Family, but he now conducts etiquette and butler classes at  the renowned Blenheim Palace in the UK. Here's a link to his splendid school, The Royal School of Butlers.

You can't imagine how much I'd love to join these guys for a few refresher courses. Mind you, I have all the basic skills about running a luxury home, entertaining large parties, and international protocol. But the thing is my attitude sucks. Really bad. And I could use some adjustment in that area.

It's one thing to be in service to royalty - where history, admiration and respect come into play. But quite another to tolerate the silly mindless needs of the new rich in America. If it weren't for the high-dollar paychecks I'd be out of here in a flash. (And you see, right there - that's the attitude that needs adjusting!)

If you'd like to follow these gentlemen on Twitter, Charles and David's Twitter name is @MacLeanAndBruce. And Grant's name is @TheRoyalButler. There's a lot of fun tweeting and new ideas being shared right along. Grant even gives brief and humorous etiquette lessons in the tight space of one-or-two sentences as allowed by Twitter - to which I always look forward.

In spite of seriously crappy weather this year, I do hope you're having a good summer. Mercifully cooler weather is just around the corner and all the fun holidays that autumn brings.

As always, thanks for dropping by this evening,


Monday, June 25, 2018

My Employer Is Flat Out Crazy!

It's only June but it's already hot as the dickens right now, more like something we'd expect in August! At least the summer solstice arrived this week and our dear planet earth starts to tilt northward again, one slow day at a time until Autumn arrives. I for one can't wait! Cooler temps, football games, and all the crazy holidays headed our way.

I don't know if it's the heat that's affecting both me and my employer but we've been at odds lately. On a huge property like this I'm pretty good at hiding out and conveniently running errands without ever having to come face to face with him. In fact sometimes there's ten-day to two-week stretches when we never see each other at all. But when we do there's nothing but whining, bickering and quarreling about every damned little thing around here:

He: There's a couple of tree lights out in the driveway.
Me: Yes, bulbs do burn out, don't they?
He: When you find the time would you mind changing the batteries in my remote?
Me: Certainly Sir, I've been waiting all day for such a challenge.
He: Why's the TV not working?
Me: Because it's raining and I'm not the one who chose satellite for this house!
He: Are you happy here Andrew?
Me: About what Sir, if I might ask?

The thing is, in my mind the rich have nothing very much to complain about in this life. They have luxurious secure housing, as much gourmet food as they want or need, top-dollar health insurance, vacations, travel - and free time out the wazoo. What else on earth is there to grumble about?

The big rub right now is that he has a new girlfriend - I've lost count but she's like seventh or eighth since the divorce several years back. Some last a few months, some a couple of years, but this new one has a strange grip that I've not seen before. She's like a Goody two-shoes type (nothing wrong with that) but she's planted Bibles all over the house, including the old man's bedside table. And she's even coaxed him into going to church on Sunday mornings - which is way too late in my opinion.

So here's how it goes: the pharmacy delivers Viagra to the house on Saturday, they go to church on Sunday morning, then come home and fornicate all afternoon. Which is fine, I'm no one's judge - and it certainly does keep them out of my hair for the day.

But the other thing is my employer is getting up there in years and showing signs of dementia and paranoia. Which is scary! He has total recall of things that never happened, and in his mind everyone is trying to steal from him or screw him in some kind of way. He'll devour an entire can of nuts while watching a soccer game, then claim the next day that someone stole his cashews. It's not just the house-staff here that gets the evil eye, but the office staff as well. He'll approve a new purchase or renovation for a property he owns, but then forget about his approval and chew everyone out for spending his money! This gets old really fast. How can we know what to do without running afoul of the bear?

The good news tonight is that my spy confidant at the office said the pilot has been alerted and the old man and new woman will be away during the week of July 4th celebrations - a much needed respite for all of us! And I think if I'm wise I need to sit down and update my resume while it's quiet around here for a few days. Who knows what the future may bring?

Thanks for dropping by this evening. I hope you're planning some fun events for the Fourth. I'd love to be with my family for some outdoor grilling and homemade ice cream, but it's not in the cards this year. House sitting and dog sitting are never-ending tasks, whether the old man is here or not.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Is It Like To Have Servants?

I love this question, often asked by friends and associates who daydream about being rich and not having to lift a finger to get through a day. It's like, what else is money for if you can't have other people help you with all your stuff, right? For example, what if:
  • You don't have to make your own coffee or breakfast when you wake up? Thanks to Chef it's already waiting for you on the breakfast-room table. Or if you're feeling poorly or lazy you could ask for a tray to be sent up to your room - complete with a bud vase and the morning newspaper. 
  • You don't have to make your own bed or change the sheets (ever) since the Upstairs Maid will do that for you? (my personal favorite!)
  • You don't have to dust, vacuum or mop (again, ever) because that's the Executive Housekeeper's job to assign to her assistant House Cleaners.
  • Nor do you have to do your own laundry, ironing, or shine your own shoes since the Laundry Tech takes cares of all that. 
  • Do you need to take your car(s) out for inspection, an oil change, or routine maintenance? No, that's the Chauffeurs job of course - along with washing, waxing and filling them up with petrol.
  • Do you need to call a repairman (and wait hours for them to arrive) when the air conditioning, internet, or the washing machine goes out? Heavens no, that's what your House Manager/Butler is for.
  • Is it your job to mow the grass, trim the hedges and tend the flower gardens on your precious weekend off? Not bloody likely when you have full-time Groundskeepers to do that for you. 
  • Is it on your schedule to pick up the dry cleaning or drop off alterations at the tailor shop? No, either the Butler or his assistant, the household Errand Runner will take care of that for you.
  • Do you need to dash out to Neiman's to buy a few gifts for a wedding or other such reckless events? You can if you like, or your Personal Shopper is on hand anytime you wish, waiting for your call. Likewise she/he's there for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and the enormous task of Christmas shopping.
  • Do you need to make your own travel arrangements, acquire theater tickets, or write your own Thank You notes? Not when you have a Personal Assistant.
  • Is it your responsibility to fly your own plane or steer your own luxury yacht? Not if you have a Pilot and Sea Captain on retainer, ready to go at your every whim. 
  • When you're having a gala at your estate for five-or-six hundred guests, do you have to be involved in any way? Not really! Just turn it over to your Events Planner who will organize the Caterers, Musicians, Florists, Decorators, Valet Parkers, Security Personnel, and Party Rental companies if you need tents and canopies. Then you can arrive at your own party stress free, dressed to the hilt in haute couture, dripping in diamonds - ready to enjoy a pleasant evening!  
While this list is hardly exhaustive, you at least get the drift of what it might be like to have an army of people helping you run your busy daily life. However, as noted in the previous post entitled Privacy For The Rich, there's a price to pay for all this help. And there are some situations, no matter how rich and powerful you are, when you have to do a task all by yourself - like standing on line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to have your picture made and driver's license renewed. (Although it's not uncommon to have a servant stand on line, then the boss steps up to take his place when his name is called.)

With the narrow definition of a servant being someone who provides a service, we all have a degree of unavoidable helpers and service workers in our lives, right? Beauticians, barbers, manicurists, dry cleaners, plumbers, electricians, repairmen, tax accountants and lawyers to name a few. Some of us can afford to have house cleaners and lawn-care workers come in once or twice a week. Some of us can afford to get a facial or massage now and then. And let's not overlook all the doctors, dentists and pharmacists trying to help us live healthy lives.

But there's one area when we actually choose to have service, even if we're not rich or powerful - that being when we go out to a restaurant. Depending on the establishment of course, here's what we might have available when we dine out, to a greater or lesser degree:
  • Valet Parkers to eliminate finding a parking place.
  • A Host/Hostess to escort us to our tables.
  • A Table Attendant brings in water and a menu.
  • Then a Waiter shows up to take our aperitif orders and dinner choices.
  • Right beside him a Sommelier (fancy name for Wine Steward) steps up with a wine list, ready to explain all the fine vintages in their collection that might be suitable for our dinner selections.
  • In the kitchen we have Food Preps washing lettuce and dicing veggies, and a Sous Chef and Executive Chef arguing about recipes and how the plate should be laid out.
  • Throughout the meal our Waiter shows up to observe, poor more wine, and his Table Attendant brings more water or bread and butter as needed.
  • When dinner is over, a Busboy comes quickly to take away the dirty dishes and clean up the mess we've made.
  • And back in the kitchen, the Dishwasher cleans all the plates, flatware and stemware so we don't have to do that when we wake up in the morning.
It's a nice experience to have a hearty meal and nourish ourselves without lifting a finger, right? But a word of caution here: this is NOT the time to act silly and snobby. The way we treat our Waiter and his crew reveals our entire personality, not just to the restaurant staff but also to the people we've brought along to dinner. Playing the uppity Big Shot here only gets us bad service, and scorn from our table party guests. And trying to show off our extensive (yet still sophomoric) wine knowledge to a dedicated Sommelier is a lost cause to begin with. In fact, here's a fun and informative article from the Food Network entitled 8 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew!

I guess the bottom line is that professional servants take care of needed, legitimate jobs in this world. Not because our rich employers are little Gods on this earth and feel entitled, but for a fat paycheck or a big tip in a restaurant! Abuse, whether it be physical, verbal or emotional, is not allowed - illegal in fact, and can be prosecuted. Arrogance on the other hand might be tolerated by those of us in service - that is, for awhile and to an extent. But it gets tiresome and reveals the true character of the person we're working for -  and provides a big clue as to whether we need to move on and get away from such a self-centered person at the first opportunity.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening! I hope this post wasn't too tedious, but it's always fun to write about the master/servant relationship. Especially with so many instant and clueless billionaires popping up these days all over the world - like corn kernels on a hot skillet.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Privacy For The Rich!

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

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

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

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

So do rich people have any kind of  privacy?

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

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cosmetic Surgery in the World of the Rich!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lent vs. Valentine's!

What a nutty year this has been! Climate change, politics run amok, and now Lent and Valentine's coming up back to back. How weird is that?

Today is Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday) and Lent begins precisely at midnight tonight. Have you ever been to New Orleans on this day? They're deadly serious about this stuff. All the music stops at 12:00pm, all the bars close. The police march down the streets to throw all the revelers out, and water trucks come right behind to spray down the streets and anyone refusing to leave! It's like a totally deranging moment; one minute you're having fun, and the next you're thrown out into the cold dark night.

Honestly I'm so not into Lent this year. We're supposed to give up something for the next forty days until Easter to cleanse our souls, right? If chocolates or champagne were on your list, good luck with that with Valentine's coming tomorrow. Which is why it's so weird these two holidays are back to back this year - fasting versus indulgence!  👀

At this late hour I haven't decided yet what to give up. Was thinking perhaps I could give up giving up things for Lent. But that might be a ticket straight to hell. (Although that convoluted thought might work if Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders were taking charge of the gates on Saint Peter's day off.)

As for Valentine's, as usual I'm the one who has to buy flowers and a card for my employer's current girlfriend. I'm sure he expected me to buy two dozen roses from the wholesale florist and arrange them myself. But that didn't happen this year. Instead, he gets a bill from the local floral designer for $120. (Seriously, I just didn't feel up to it.)

As for the card, it's not supposed to be too sappy or committal, you understand - avoiding words like "I love you" at all cost. So I settled for one of those expensive Hallmark cards ($8 bucks) that said something neutral like "Hope this day is everything you hoped it would be."

On the other hand, my spy confidant at the corporate office told me she'd received a bill from Fendi for a 24-carat gold python bag for $36,000. So I guess that's not too shabby to go along with my flowers and card, right?

Wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day this year! And if you're Catholic, I hope you get through the next forty days without too much stress!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Holidays Are Over! Now What?

"I celebrate everyone's religious holidays! If it's good enough for the righteous, it's good enough for the self-righteous, I always say" - Bette Midler

I don't know about you but I'm totally exhausted from the nonstop craziness that just slammed us from October til January - like a tidal wave from Halloween until New Year's day. And honestly I've still not quite recovered from the excesses of New Year's Eve.

But the craziness doesn't let up around here for one second. As a sturdy Catholic family we started taking down all the outdoor and indoor decorations on the eve of Epiphany (January 6) which finally ends the twelve days of Christmas. But right off the bat there were problems.

Dario our groundskeeper was trying to get the 14-foot Christmas tree back up to the attic when the elevator broke down between floors. I was able to pop the door open so he could jump out, but the repair guys can't get here til next week. So all the housekeepers, our employer and his lady friends in their stilettos are going to have to climb stairs for awhile.

Then the swimming pool dropped half a foot that day, which doesn't look too bad in most pools. But this particular pool has an infinity edge. So apparently infinity has to wait until the pool guys can get here next week. And to top off the day, my employer's jackass son came over with his dog, resulting in a bloody fight with our dogs. So off I went to the emergency vet.

But what's next after all these nutty holidays? Many of us suffer from post-holiday depression, or deep winter blues. And the rich are not immune to this. Of course, they can escape on their yachts or jets for sunnier warm climates for a few weeks or a couple of months. Some of them go off to ski in magical places like Aspen or Zermatt. And many of them choose this time to vanish to Switzerland for a few nips and tucks on their faces and butts before the spring social season starts to wind up.

Other than that, there's a few big football games on the horizon - which requires nothing more than a caterer for the day. Then there's Mardi Gras on February 13 and Valentine's on February 14 coming up back to back. How weird is that?

Mardi Gras, again, can be dispensed with by hiring caterers and maybe a band for the evening. But Valentine's for the rich might require a little more than flowers and chocolates. Like poking around in Tiffany's, Harry Winston, and Cartier for the perfect diamond necklace or bracelet - to stave off divorce for a little while longer.

But football games, Mardi Gras and Valentine's don't provoke anywhere near the stress of Christmas and New Years, right? The next really big thing coming up around here will be when the spring social season starts to wind up - debutante balls, dinner parties and charity events galore. And I can't wait.

As for me, I'll be watching Super Bowl at a buddy's house with his rowdy friends - with plenty of chips, dips and hot dogs on hand, not to mention ice tubs full of the world's cheapest beers. But at least we have fun when we're all together.

Thank's so much for stopping by this evening. I hope our deep winter blues are short lived. After all, every passing day brings us closer to spring.