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The Filthy Rich Handbook By Christopher Tennant (247 pages Workman Publishing: $11.95)
I ordered this book from Amazon years ago because the title intrigued me. I have always had this dream of becoming a billionaire someday through our family’s various businesses. Obviously, this is one delusion of grandeur I refuse to shake off. Despite my family’s considerable fortune, I still have a lot of things I wish to acquire: a castle in Ireland, a 740 Park Avenue apartment, a fleet of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Maybachs, a dozen Aston Martins, a Boeing 747, a 250-foot megayacht, an army of English butlers and majordomos to run various summer cottages in Newport, Paris and Palm Beach, a European aristocratic title, and the friendship of Serene Highnesses and of the British Royal Family.
But instead, for now, I have to make do with what I have. Don’t get me wrong. I am really happy and content with what I have. The things I want are different from the things that I need, and I have way more than what I need. But sometimes you just can’t help but feel a little envious when you see someone have something you still can’t afford to buy at the moment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you can afford to buy and sell someone like Kate Upton many times over and not even bat an eyelash?
Well, unless you are a billionaire or mega-multihundred millionaire, having a net worth below the neighborhood of $10, 000, 000 still won’t buy you the luxuries only the richest of the rich can afford — and Kate Upton. Or Chris Evans. These days, who knows what someone prefers.
Whether you’re looking for inspiration for that rich guy you wish to include as one of the characters in your novel, or doing some research about how the 1% of the richest 1% people live, or an arriviste who wants to be accepted by the establishment of the botoxed High Society and Ruling Classes, or in need of a crash course on how the ultra-rich talk the talk and walk the walk, or a social anthropologist or a social psychologist taking notes and chronicling how lazy leisure class lives, or just truly enjoy reading stuff about the ultra-rich, this reference book by Tennant has it all covered.
Here you’ll read about the Old Guard, the parvenus, Brahmans, the upstarts, and the things they have in common, the fabulous places they summer at, the clubs they belong to, the servants who wait on them, the multimillion dollar palatial residences they live in, the parties they give and attend, and anything and everything about the oh so filthy rich.
Tennant shows chapter by chapter things like “Old Money [Country] Clubs” and “New Money [Country] Clubs,” which tycoon paid millions to which superstar singer for his daughter’s party, and which friends to avoid and be proud of. Funnily, He says Princess Diana is one of those people everyone should want to be friends with (sadly, this isn’t possible anymore), and that Imelda Marcos, the infamous former First Lady and wife of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is one of those people everyone should never admit to having been friends with (this is still possible). I found the latter so hilarious, yet a little offended, too, because the Marcoses are related to one of my dearest friends, Mary Anne Vargas, a Manila socialite and philanthropist who loves the charismatic and regal former First Lady.
Mary Anne regaled me many times with anecdotes of the former First Lady’s eccentricities and charms. One time she said Mrs. Marcos was singing endlessly during one of her birthday parties in a yacht until the wee hours of the morning. She said everyone were already getting sleepy and wanted to go home, but everybody didn’t have the heart to tell Mrs. Marcos that they wanted to go home. Now, I wonder what Mary Anne will say about this when she finds out her cousin Imelda was mentioned in this book as a shoe fetishist who should be blackballed from the charity and social circuits.
In this book, I think you will also find, like I did, the caricatures of the filthy rich people so charming and funny, along with pictures of random people where he illustrates what kind of clothes the filthy rich wear and what gadgets and different kinds of looks they sport. What also impressed upon me was his emphasis on the difference between the new rich and the old rich — the arrivistes and the blue bloods. I think this would generally help the uninitiated determine which ones are new and and which ones are old. One tip: the accent and how they pronounce Gstaad and the Carribean. Trust me, in every country, especially here in the Philippines, it’s easy to spot the parvenus from the pedigreed.
I hate talking about money and the describing wealth as it is crass and tacky to do that, but since this book is all about money and wealth, perhaps you’d be kind enough to make this an exception. Let me give you an example of the difference between the parvenu and the pedigreed. Well, I’d like to think of myself as a man of impeccable pedigree. Or maybe this is another of my delusions of grandeur I refuse to shake off, too.
One time a friend thought it funny to point out how one of our new rich friends was richer than me. To which I said jokingly with my quasi-British accent, “He may have the brass, but I have the class. You can never buy breeding and impeccable taste. He can hire someone to make it look like he has taste, but he can never acquire the breeding that only well-born people like me are born with. Unless he marries into our family, he can never have my name or my family’s illustrious background. He can show the world how rich he is with absurd and vulgar displays of wealth, whereas I have got nothing to prove.”
He laughed and replied, “Touche. Sometimes you can be such a snob.”
Part-satire, part-parody, and all the way true-to-life, Tennant’s well-researched book is one of those I would be happy to recommend to everybody even for just a good laugh. It’s got everything you need, and a veritable guide to anything and everything filthy rich. If you’re filthy rich enough, or with a stroke of luck you’ll strike it rich, or just want to know how and where to spend your money, or just curious as to how Bill Gates and the rest of the Forbes 400 Richest live, Tennant’s The Filthy Rich Handbook is all the book you’ll ever need. This is one mean Rolodex of watering holes, country clubs, vacation spots, tag prices for celebrity entertainers, and big bad toys that you should definitely have!
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I subscribe to the notion that rich people are more interesting when they do crazy things like murder, embezzlement, fraud, rape, or homicide; or when they act crazy or somewhat crazy like those with manic-depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and any philias associated with rich people. If you read back on some of my posts, it wouldn’t be hard to tell what my obsessions and thoughts are. Along with Dominick Dunne, I know two other authors also subscribe to this notion, Alan Hollinghurst and Louis Auchincloss.
I first saw Dominic Dunne‘s novel, People Like Us, at my favorite thrift bookstore, Booksale, three or four years ago. I was intrigued by the synopsis so I decided to buy a copy. When I got home, I started reading it. I devoured the book. I finished it in one sitting. Since People Like Us, I started collecting some of his most famous bestselling novels and collection of essays. Just like the first novel of his that I read, the others that followed didn’t disappoint. His novels and writings, in retrospect, became my standard of good storytelling, beautiful writing technique, journalistic integrity, and literary restraint.
His name became synonymous with O.J. Simpson, William Kennedy Smith, the Menendez brothers, and John Sweeney — people who allegedly, in their respective order, murdered his wife, raped and accidentally killed a teenage girl, committed parricide, and murdered Dominick’s own daughter. Their public trials were regarded as the The Trials of The Century, and Dominick Dunne always had the best view — the front row seats in all of them. His fixation with famous people committing crimes made him a star reporter for honestly writing about his opinions about the trial and the defendants on his column at Vanity Fair, and for courageously voicing out his personal verdicts and judgments on TV shows and news bigwigs like CNN. As a result, this made him the the toast of Hollywood’s and New York’s movers and shakers.
HE WAS ONE OF THEM
His work gave him access to the highest of American Society and earned him the adulation of his admiring society lady friends and the contempt and disgust of his powerful archenemies whom he criticized and portrayed in his satires. Coming from a privileged family and a WASP background worked even more to his advantage, as the parties he was invited to required a sense of security in oneself and refinement innate only to those who were born groomed for a life of endless socializing and small talk with narcissists and people who had never been denied anything.
Whether it’s an expository piece about the trial of his daughter’s murderer, John Sweeney and his first-row seat experiences at the O.J, Simpson trial for Vanity Fair, penning a novel about rich people doing the unspeakable and the unthinkable, or writing his memoirs infused with anecdotes of his friendships with Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor and Diane Keaton, first ladies like Imelda Marcos, society doyennes like Betsy Bloomingdale, European aristocrats like Claus and Sunny Von Bulow, and arms dealer heavyweights like Adnan Khashoggi, Dominick Dunne’s writings are always terrifyingly entertaining and scathingly honest.
For writing to be effective and good, they say, you must write about what you know and read about. Without a speck of doubt, Dominick Dunne wrote not only about who he knows or what he reads, he also wrote about who he knows and what books those people he knows read — successfully and eloquently did just that. He had wined and dined with names equivalent to power and status: Windsor, Von Furstenburg, Astor, Woodland, Hutton, Reagan, and Kissinger; some he reputedly repeatedly maligned. (Well, don’t they all say that?)
PAYING THE PRICE FOR BEING A WRITER
So, the questions remains: Would they have trusted him had most of them knew he was going to write about them? Maybe yes, maybe not. Still, he had to do what any good writer would have done: draw inspiration from real life and translate them into honest words, and then write them down onto the eager pages of white sheets of paper.
He lost friends along the way, gained the animosity of others. He was good at dropping names, and sometimes he dropped those names strewn together in sentences like murder, scandal, adulteress, and fraud. He knew he would someday pay the price. And pay he did.
For telling things unfiltered through his bespectacled and filtered eyes, Dominick Dunne paid a hefty price.
BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR
I have read almost all of Dunne’s books save for three or four more. Here are a list of his novels that I’ve already read:
“Dominick Dunne was born October 29, 1925, to a wealthy family in Hartford, Connecticut. He worked in television in New York and later produced films in Hollywood. After a battle with alcoholism and drug abuse, he began writing novels. He wrote about the trial of his daughter’s murderer for Vanity Fair and then covered other trials for the magazine, including O. J. Simpson‘s. Dunne died in 2009.”