Sheiks and Socialists–A belated New Year’s report
“I have a client,” he says.”He would like a massage.”
“When?” my friend asks.
“Now,” he says.
“But….” she says.
“He will pay $3,000. Cash. He will also provide a limousine to pick you up and drop you off.”
“I’ll be waiting,” my friend replies.
At 7 pm, the limousine pulls up in front of a glass palace on the West Side. A short, silent elevator ride later, my friend is greeted in the foyer of a duplex by a butler. The butler escorts her to the second floor and shows her into a massive lapis and marble dressing room., complete with dolphin spouting water fountain.
“What is my client’s name?” my friend asks.
“You will call him Highness,” the concierge replies. “You may massage his body but you may not shake his hand.”
At which point, two maids enter the dressing room. The first carries a pile of the finest, softest sheets my friend has ever touched. 1,000 thread count, at least, she figures, as the maid lays them down, one on top of another, on the massage table and my friend worries about spilling a drop of oil.
The second maid lays out five different, fresh-from-the-store, outfits for His Highness’s evening. Prada tuxes, Lobb shoes, shirt and jackets from Bottega. His Highness saunters in. Naked. There is no eye contact.
An hour later, my friend is done. There hasn’t been a single word exchanged between them. The butler escorts her back to the foyer, hands her an envelope, and promises to call again.
Meanwhile… Up in the wilds of Greenwich where no FUCKS are permitted and the grass really does grow greener. (It grows greener because, as I learn at dinner, people pay gardeners $45 an hour to make it so), I take a discreet peek at a display of holiday cards. Panning across this display might make a great trailer, a preview, for a horror movie. Because all of these happy family portraits–all of these faces with tight, white skin and bright, white teeth– seen smiling everywhere from the humps of camels in Egypt and the backseats of Land Rovers in Africa to the beaches of Harbour Island, were shot BEFORE the end of the world. Or before the end of the world as many of these families in Greenwich have known it.
At dinner, there’s talk about the town reassessing property and raising taxes. There’s talk about illegal immigrants. There’s also talk–well, more like a shouting match–about the need to, finally, share the wealth. This from a belligerent, self-declared Socialist, sitting across from me. You don’t meet many Socialists in Greenwich. And you don’t meet any who talk about sharing the wealth while also boasting about 8 acres of lawn, an Equinox sized private gym, an indoor swimming pool, and four in household help.
(“At 9,000 sq. ft,” this woman chuckles, “Our house is modest by Greenwich standards. Why, it’s even modest for me,” she adds. “I was brought up in a London townhouse with ten bedrooms.”
“Gag her with a silver, nail-studded spoon,” I mutter to myself. But she is funny. In a very inadvertent kind of way. I am so mesmerized and appalled, I can’t think of a thing to say. Which so stuns and delights my friend, Robert, he guffaws about it later. “It’s the first time I’ve seen you at a loss for words, Brenda.”
Oh. There’s talk about les filles de Madame Claude, too. Bred in a convent, Madame Claude became the most famous, sought after procurer in Paris. This was in the sixties. Many of her “girls” went on to marry the world’s richest, most powerful men. There were rumors shooting around the table concerning these women, these wives of men whose names I am not at liberty to disclose.( One of the them, however, is always in New York’s society news and bears the name of a very expensive car.)