As someone who has travelled the world and has friends from every possible walk of life, I am absolutely fascinated by some of the questions people ask of me.
A week or so ago, I was chatting with someone who owns a very high end fashion shop, his merchandise starts at around $1000 per item, and goes to well in excess of $100,000. We have known each other for over 20 years (yes, we met when we were VERY young!!) and have shared some terribly entertaining conversations over the years. His clientele are primarily aspiring socialites who want to be seen in the ‘right’ clothes, and yes, I am trying hard to be politically correct, but at times it is extremely difficult. Although he is wealthy, he is looked down upon as a shopkeeper, hence the conversation and the segue, from social climbing, real estate and eventually death, not much was missed.
Interestingly I had a similar conversation with a lovely Barrister in London a few months earlier, who is currently residing in London England and was having a difficult time meeting people. I gave her some tips as she requested, she had been astonished by the breadth of my contacts and Social Life in London over the years, considering I live in Montreal!! When we last conversed, she had been following my advice and was beginning to enjoy a social life in London.
For the last few years I have been admittedly absent from the social scene, and enjoying being relatively invisible, which has definite advantages. The never ending solicitations to purchase tickets to someone’s pet charity of the week have subsided, the requests for fundraising, and the never ending calls just simply asking for money or time have all but evaporated, and the calm is wonderful.
The last event I worked on was hugely successful, however an incredible amount of time and money was poured into its success. It was done willingly, there was no coercion, but being thanked properly would have been a nice touch, and it never came., It was the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back.
So you must be wondering where this is leading…
My wealthy shopkeeper friend asked me what steps he must take to become ‘socially connected’ and as we are good friends, he asked me what the associated costs could be. He was genuine in this, although he knows all the ‘right people’ due to his line of business, he actually does not get to socialize with them, and was curious as to what one actually does to be seriously ‘out there’.
I described an extremely aggressively social climbing businesswoman I know who has been fired in each job she has ever held, yet goes from strength to strength. Yes, you have read about her before, and the answer is that she uses the same ‘head hunter’ who is pleased to reap a huge fee every 1 1/2 to 2 years moving her from client to client. Ethical?? Not for a second, but with fees of well over $50,000 each time, this firm’s so called ‘ethics’ can be bought, and you now know the price!!!
She has a PR firm on retainer and every employer gets to pay the bills for the PR firm and for her very public social life. For every party she attends, her name and face hit the newspapers so the public are wowed by her apparent success and image. She is but one following this practice, there are many. It is not uncommon at all.
PR firms develop an image and promote the public face of many executives and politicians.
SO, to answer your question, the ‘right’ house downtown or in Westmount, absolutely lowest possible entry price is $1.5 million, for the condo or home, but $5 million is seriously more acceptable. The ‘right’ car, a large Range Rover, BMW or Mercedes SUV in the driveway, spending over a certain amount every year at 3-4 high end stores in the city so that invitations to private events are forthcoming, and the requisite mention in the social pages.
The ‘right’ clothes at the ‘right’ balls, tickets starting at $1000 per person and rising exponentially from there. Ideally a great table starts at $25,000 so that one is close to the ‘head table’ again, depending on the event, that number can easily rise to $100,000. Yup. You did read that number correctly.
Then there are the clothes for the event, figure minimum $5000 for a gown, but $10,000 for a more important designer, something from a house in Paris will start at $50,000. Hair, makeup, nails, shoes, jewellery, purse, wrap, and of course, his tuxedo, nothing under $2500 will do. Estimate, over $10,000 for each event, and,, Heaven forbid!! One couldn’t possibly be seen in the same gown at two consecutive events!!
As with everything there are pathetic cheats, and inevitably society learns about them and whispers nasty words behind their skinny backs. One ever aspiring socialite has a reputation for purchasing gowns for $10,000, bringing them to her dressmaker to copy, stealing a label and leaving the price tag firmly attached, then returning them within 48 hours. She has been rumoured to take gowns from consignment stores home to ‘show her husband’, then wearing them to an event and bringing them back the next day. Her arrogance however had her caught, as she was photographed on a couple of occasions in these gowns, and now the shop owners will not allow her to remove anything from the stores unless it is paid in full and not returnable.
This woman is now in her 60’s and has been scratching and clawing her way up the social ladder for years. She is still in the same place as ever, with the same handful of friends, it has been a costly exercise to stay in the same place because she is not a nice person. Her husband, who is equally unpleasant just pays the price to keep her quiet. He is always striving to sell SOMETHING to someone at these events, so over the years everyone who is anyone absolutely runs from them.
The ‘Season’ generally commences mid September and goes to the end of December, then restarts in March through to June. During this time it is expected that one is seen at a minimum of 5 important events per month, and during the ‘down time’ one is to be seen vacationing in a hot climate, and skiing in Europe. It is socially acceptable to fly economy, but one MUST either stay with friends or in a posh, known hotel, and to be seen out at fine restaurants with glamorous friends which can easily cost upwards of $1000 per evening, as one must order a decent bottle of wine or two.
When summer finally arrives, one’s Country home is opened for never ending ‘casual entertaining’ and enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the never ending stream of guests, many of which will be required to stay overnight due to their level of inebriation, (which is a fabulous excuse for a night out and no costs involved ) and unfortunately there are far too many of those famed for this behaviour.
So you ask, what is the cost of all this? It can run easily into $100,000 per year and climb exponentially. If one participates in the annual Grand Prix madness, a weekend can easily run to over $50,000 to acquire the best tickets and invitation to the many events with the drivers and their entourages. Hopefully one owns a company with deep pockets which can pick up these insane costs, otherwise you had better be earning serious money, but with all this, regardless of attending the ‘right’ Museum ball, supporting the ‘right’ charities, wearing the ‘right clothes’, if certain socialites do not like you, GOOD LUCK, as their social cattiness will destroy any whiff of success……..
Many of these social denizens actually come from actually nothing, but they have clawed and scratched their way up the social ladder, re-inventing themselves with every new and improved marriage to the next more successful and wealthy husband. Stealing someone’s husband is unfortunate but often necessary. They are ever so quick to deny their backgrounds, as their surgically enhanced noses tilt higher and higher towards the sky.
Is this only Montreal? Absolutely NOT. It is the same in every international city worldwide, the only difference being a different set of rules and costs. Some of the house costs can be mind numbing, the event costs even more so, and depending on your manners and behaviour, acceptance becomes more and more difficult.
With homes in Holland Park, London now reaching the $100 Million range, yes, indeed, one must be a Billionaire today to get in to that particular social stratosphere. The ‘Right’ Country Seat, minimum 20 rooms if it is the ‘Right’ address, but at least 50 is de rigeur, with lots of surrounding park land for privacy, and another residence somewhere warm, with a Private Jet and Helicopter to get you to your destination at a moment’s notice.
Can one have an exciting social life in London without that level of wealth?? Absolutely, but one had better speak a minimum of 2 languages, 4 is more acceptable, have travelled extensively, know about art, economics, and have an absolutely wonderful sense of humour, so that your personality is your introduction instead of your wallet.
Ten years ago, at a very exclusive Gallery Opening, I was introduced to a Gentleman who looked like he had just escaped from an 18th Century Painting. He wore a white frilly shirt, a black leather Frock Coat, Breeches, and fabulous over the knee boots, long blond curly hair and bottle green eyes completed the package, with the most absolutely stained hands I have ever seen. An oxymoron……..but a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face. He was surrounded!! He was funny!! His position in life?? He owned a leather company, but nothing you would expect. He made all his own clothing which was spectacular, but he was actually under non-disclosure as he was working for a Saudi Prince, and was doing leather work on his private boat, and we are speaking of something in excess of 300 feet of private boat. Furniture, walls, floors, you name it. A massive contract in the millions of pounds, and here he was, the life of the party. He looked like a pirate, but was anything but. He was to do the Private Plane of the Prince once the boat was completed.
So, he was meeting some of the wealthiest people in the world and travelling to exotic locales with his team, so they could complete their work. Should the Prince decide they were off to a new port, he and his staff were abord to continue the work, so provisions were constantly being loaded to ensure they had what they needed.
So why Death?? …..Seems like a strange inclusion in a BLOG about Social Climbing. The conclusion is simple, no matter who you know, how rich you are, how popular you are, what parties you attended, it all boils down to a very humbling ending. You will be all alone in that wood box for eternity. I have been to a frightening number of funerals, and seen behaviour which is horrifying.
At the end of the day the only things that really matter were the acts of kindness people remember, generosity to those who have a better life due to your kindness, and it need not be monetary, those whose life you may have changed by your assistance or the time you spent with them.
Non of the rest really matters, it is superficial, it is fake.
Please leave your affairs in order so that we do not hear about the absolutely disgustingly greedy behaviour of your heirs at your funeral. It will be the only thing anyone will remember.