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#88 - Producing Movies

#88 - Producing Movies

Producing Movies
Price: Casting Couch and A Wallet 

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. I’m not saying I agree with this adage but I am confident that my woodworking teacher’s seven fingers didn’t improve his street cred. While working for NASA is an unlikely endgame for a high school physics teacher, rich people see no reason to thwart their ambition over something trivial like talent, skill and experience. It is this eccentric quirk that makes the world of Hollywood turn and ensures that even the very worst scripts can still make it to the silver screen thanks to a terrifically uninformed bankroll. Meet the Executive Producer.  

The Executive Producer plays a critical role in every film; provide financial backing and stay out of the way of people who claim to know what they are doing. It is easy to assume that these captains of industry, having made their fortunes in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate, are interested in further padding their Swiss bank accounts with the next Avatar, Toy Story 3 or Inception. Au contraire reader, becoming an Executive Producer is the proverbial golden ticket that rich people need to pull back the curtain and gain access to Hollywood’s red carpet; think Christina Hendricks, Isla Fisher and Jayma Mays. In Los Angeles’ film circles there is only one rule; the bigger the bankroll, the bigger the celebrity. It is this simple rule that attracts the modern day robber barons to sink their millions into terrible scripts written by “starving artists” and directed by “tortured souls”. In exchange, they all but guarantee themselves discussions on method acting with George Clooney, cinematography lessons from Scorsese and a performance by Justin Bieber at their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. In many cases profitability is an afterthought and a pleasant surprise.  

While spending millions to be on-set at Hollywood’s next box office bust may seem excessive to the average autograph hound, rich people have an innate knack for justifying almost any financial failure; the tax-loss carry forward. This little taxation trickster is the fix-all for blowing their wad on a film that will quickly pass from theater to distant memory without a hint of embarrassment on the part of the producer. Losing an eight figure investment not only appears acceptable within their social circle, it actually makes rich people seem quite savvy! This “win-win” situation means rubbing shoulders with Brangelina, a significant tax write-off and the opportunity to talk like a Hollywood insider. Oh, and for the trust fund hipsters, a well stocked casting couch is a significant perk because while you can’t buy happiness, money lets you choose your misery. 

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#84 - Designer Cupcakes

#84 - Designer Cupcakes

Designer Cupcakes
Price: $36 a dozen

Prevailing wisdom dictates that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Spend some time in a trendy shopping district and you will soon find that this is largely due to designer cupcakes, emphasis on the sugar and light on the nice. Thankfully, for the financially endowed, they need venture no further than around the corner in their hybrid SUV to satisfy a craving that used to take their private chef as much as an hour to whip up. Designer cupcake shops are becoming so popular, they are threatening to supplant Starbucks as the storefront voted most likely to replace a former tenant, although Vietnamese nail salons run a close third.

While common people may purchase these single serving delights at the supermarket, this could never satisfy the sophisticated sweet tooth of a high net worth individual. For starters, store bought icing isn’t rich enough; cupcake shops appear to have cracked the age old problem of condensing a full pound of butter into a half pound of icing. Second, buying a dozen chocolate cupcakes is blasé; the baked pleasures of the wealthy deserve creative names like “Tickled Pink”, “Lady Baltimore” or “Dirty Blonde”, the latter may also describe one’s third wife. Finally, the creativity doesn’t end with naming cupcakes, rich people love to fawn over the playful shop names where they purchased these heavenly indulgences; think Babycakes, Buttercup and Flour Girls for starters; I adore the t-shirts from Babycakes in NYC.

While many quirks of the wealthy are out of reach of the common man, a love of rich desserts is a human condition that knows no economic boundaries. With this in mind, impressing the wealthy is simple when done by the dozen. Discussing your favorite cupcake shop will certainly do in a pinch but it is the gift of cupcakes that will truly impress. The elegance and tastefulness of ribbon wrapped sugary goodness will have your hosts beaming at your thoughtfulness and once it comes to naming these savory delights, they will figuratively if not literally be eating out of your hand. An excellent conversation starter, your affection for cupcakes will win hearts, minds and stapled stomachs. Be sure to save the “Sexy Red Velvet” for the beautiful heiress you’ve been watching and she may turn out to be your sweet temptation!

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#78 - Opera

#78 - Opera

Opera
Price: Miniature Binoculars

Does being confined to a chair in a dark room, unable to eat, drink or speak while angry people berate you in a language you do not understand sound like an ideal night out? For most, this sounds like the worst vacation ever and one reason that visiting Afghanistan, Venezuela and Guantanamo Bay rank low on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of dream destinations. For rich people, this is called opera and the biggie sized German or Italian woman wearing the Viking helmet is a Diva rather than an interrogator.

The love of opera runs deep. Rich people love to talk about the architecture of the opera house, exotic sets, magnificent costumes, vocal size and range, Puccini, Strauss, Verdi and of course Mozart. A rich person from a good family can wax poetic for hours on the bittersweet tragedy of La Bohème, the comedic genius of Così Fan Tutte and the scandal of I Pagliacci. Given their knowledge and deep love of opera, you may wonder how the rich manage to grasp the plot and subtleties of productions conducted in a foreign language they neither speak nor understand. The simple answer is they don’t! The performance is a thinly veiled prelude to the most important part of any opera, the intermissions. Intermission is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a full meal, champagne and allow sycophants to compliment a rich person’s refinement, class, taste and sophistication. Watching this can prove more entertaining than the opera itself.

If you are more interested in life imitating art than the art itself, opera provides ample opportunities to mirror your own hopes and dreams. The annals of operatic discourse are rife with tales of sugar daddies fawning over young women and beautiful countesses falling for dashing men with ambition and optimism lacking only social status. If you are an aspiring sugar baby, male or female, your work is cut out for you. A conversational knowledge of Tristan and Isolde or The Barber of Seville that extends beyond Bugs Bunny or Seinfeld plus the ability to bat ones eyelashes should suffice. Either of these love stories may ingratiate you with your cultured courtier and with luck you’ll be enjoying lump crab cakes, roasted filet of beef and amaretto cheesecake at the Grand Tier restaurant faster than you can say “in te ravviso il sogno ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!” loosely translated as “I see in you the fulfillment of all my dreams!” Fitting isn’t it?

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#39 - Auction Houses

#39 - Auction Houses

Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Price: $4,080,349 incl bid premium

Rich people love auctions as much as the rest of the world. Name a product and there is an auctioneer that will sell it. Ask people what comes to mind when you say auction and you will hear eBay, perhaps Ritchie Brothers if you come from an Italian construction family or 4-H if you believe chewing grass while riding a tractor is a good day’s work. For the rich, the timeless auction houses of Christie’s and Sotheby’s are the only place to bid on rare items.

The difference between auctions that the wealthy attend and the fast-talking hawkers or electronic auctions that the rest of the world uses may seem as superficial as price but it goes much deeper than that. The rich love exclusive auction houses for the, well exclusivity of it. There is something intensely gratifying for the wealthy to sit in a hushed room surrounded by other sophisticated, educated, cultured and wealthy people. The sound of the gavel and the soothing English accent of the auctioneer make buying rare items with the flash of a numbered paddle worth the 10% to 30% premium that buyers part with as part of the “hammer price”. Yes, that’s right when you pay more than $6M for a little known Picasso, you can expect to give Sotheby’s as much as $1.8M for the privilege of owning it. On top of that, the house takes about 15% from the seller. Imagine that.

If you can get past the sheer volume of commissions you can better understand what bidders are really paying for. It isn’t about buying the art, but rather the peer recognition at cocktail parties and museum galas of your unspoken wealth and ability to pay extraordinary sums for products that will likely end up in a climate controlled vault. Remember, this is a world of exclusivity. Anyone can walk into a gallery in Chelsea to buy art or the local liquor store to buy wine but neither bestows the level of recognition from your peers as purchasing a Château Lafite-Rothschild Vintage 1982 from Christie’s for $186,643. So raise your glasses and toast the rich for their uncanny ability to lose touch with what things really cost.

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#38 - Alluding To Their Wealth

#38 - Alluding To Their Wealth

Joana Vasconcelos’ Golden Independent Heart
Price: $230,205

Rich people love alluding to their wealth. Few rich people will flat out tell you how much they are worth and if they do it is a sign that they are a flaming douchebag! Instead, rich people will drop not-too-subtle hints to ensure that you know they have amassed great wealth. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the children of rich people who will tell anyone within earshot the value of their trust fund.

The ability to integrate key phrases into normal conversation is a life skill that one must perfect if they are to mingle with the wealthy. As with most skills, timing is everything and without it you will seem like the poor, red headed stepsister. Allusion is an art but with some practice you can shine like the Hope Diamond or Julia Roberts’ teeth. First consider which of your latest material possessions will be most impressive to the group. Wait for the conversation to meander within the proximity of the topic most interesting to you before drawing a loose parallel to your topic. Now, offhandedly drop the bomb. If necessary, use this as an opportunity to land a figurative uppercut on the glass jaw of the most repulsive person in the group.

Let me give you an example. Some pompous ass, who claims to have worked on “The Street”, is talking about risk strategies and municipal bonds. He asserts that his portfolio is primarily weighted towards oil but he has hedged with airline stocks. You step in and mention that volatility in the marketplace has shifted your focus to investing in art. In fact, you just acquired a beautiful contemporary piece by Joana Vasconcelos while visiting London. Turn to the windbag and say, I was surprised you had not been invited to the auction at Christie’s. BOOM! He’s down for the count, you’ve impressed the group with your taste, and the conversation now centers on your knowledge of post-war sculptures and paintings while your colleagues are left to speculate about your net worth. Congratulations, you float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…Sun Tzu and Machiavelli salute you.

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#24 - Naming Museum Wings

#24 - Naming Museum Wings

Naming Museum Wings
Price: $28 million

All rich people consider themselves philanthropists. They want you to believe that they make the world a better place through sizable donations. More importantly, they crave the attention that people pay to their name on university buildings, hospitals and museum wings. But, just because the rich lack a sense of humour doesn’t mean museum names have to; the Wing Luke could host a great Star Wars exhibit and the Cockburn or Cummer Museum would…I think you get where I’m going.

Museum wings herald to the city, state and country that their benefactors are wealthy, tasteful, highly cultured and clearly connected to the right people. Why do donors fund a museum’s major construction costs when even in a no-name US city costs run upwards of $12 million? To the rich, naming makes a lovely gift, a lasting monument to themselves, a permanent place on the A-list, makes up for years of greedy indiscretions and ensures a table at the best restaurants…the Guggenheims never wait at Per Se or Le Bernardin.

If you want to make wealthy friends, dote on the upper class at any opportunity. Make constant references to their philanthropic efforts, regardless of the size of the gift. You’ll walk a fine line between sycophantic pandering and outright ass kissing, but the right level of recognition to their cries for attention will pay healthy dividends. Wooing the rich is easy but there are rules. First, do not ask how much they gave to the Met or MoMA…they are itching to tell you anyway. Next, mention that the use of an initial in their name conveyed tremendous sophistication. Finally, don’t talk about the art housed in their wing as they likely will have no idea that there are balloon animals and lava lamps masquerading as art under their silver plated nameplate. Natrally, knowing the difference between Monet or Manet is critical and it may land you invites to socialite galas chatting with beautiful women in Marc Bouwers and Jimmy Choos…now that’s art!

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