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.


  1. Liza Not MinnelliFriday, 27 April, 2018

    Too funny Andrew! An extraction from your book, right? Laughed when I first read it & laughing again today. You & your staff are SO BAD! LOL!

    1. Always nice to hear from you Liza and thanks so much for reading! I'm thrilled you got a laugh!

  2. I too am a butler Mr Williams at a very busy villa in Portofino and I could not agree with your comments more, privacy does not exist in this house. The kitchen in the servants quarters is a place of constant conversation. I have shared your writings with the other staff members and I think you would enjoy the laughter Sir.

    1. Ciao Marcello! Grazie mille per la tua riposta! I'm thrilled that you and your staff got a laugh! I'm keenly aware of what you are dealing with in this crazy job we have. Please stop by here anytime.