[imagesource: Jonathan Becker/CONTOUR]
There’s a lot to unpack here, and honestly, I needed a minute to digest all the info I’m about to throw at you, so buckle up.
We like to cringe-watch shows like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Keeping up with the Kardashians (on its last season, thank the heavens).
There’s a kind of schadenfreude in watching rich people make fools of themselves on international television.
There’s a part of us, however, that doesn’t really make the connection between reality TV stars and real people living with more money than they can handle.
But, they exist, and their lives are weirder than anything you could have imagined, or scripted, or edited into a show.
This is glaringly apparent in a new book, Friends and Enemies: A Memoir, penned by Barbara Amiel, the wife of former media tycoon Conrad Black.
The two are pictured above.
She decided to write the exposé after things went awry for Black, who was imprisoned and fined $125 000 after being found guilty of fraud.
Donald Trump pardoned him, but that’s a rant for another time.
Some background on Amiel – she was a journalist, and married into money, placing her smack bang in the middle of a world where wives were basically accessories to their husbands, held up to impossible standards and bitter as a result.
Per The Telegraph,
Your home, your clothes, your face, your jewellery, your toys: everything is on show in the land of the super-rich…This group is so small that the suppliers of jewellery, flowers, art, handbags, houses, Botox and fillers are almost as rarified – they make it fiendishly hard to get their business (being far snootier than their clients), which is an act of course.
Yeah, while we’re on the topic of Botox, here’s a fun little anecdote to kick things off:
A beautiful 32-year old mother in the set was found bawling her eyes out in the foyer of a top New York plastic surgeon. When asked what the problem was, she replied that her friends hated her for not doing Botox and having several ribs removed because “I give away their age.”
Men, she added, like bulging lips and ballooning buttocks and cleavage because it means lot of time, money and pain were involved.
Yep, the patriarchy is alive and well and sitting pretty among the one percent.
Amiel also describes social norms that had to be learned in order to fit in (apart from the weird plastic surgery thing).
Here’s a list of some of the guidelines that wives should familiarise themselves with:
You typically landed your role as a wife through your looks and performance in the bedroom. Once the marriage was secured, the job morphed into a hostess position with expectations that makes training to be in the Royal Family look like a game of dress-up.
Like Amiel, many of them were new to the job and desperately scared of showing it, so in came the great designers who pretend to decorate your house but actually educate you.
Trips to look at antiques in reality were training sessions in table manners and wine connoisseurship. The famous French designer Jacques Granges gives his clients reading lists. If they show no interest, he suggests they try someone else.
Then there are the parties which rival even those of the folks chasing whales, bottle trains, and girl capital.
I remember attending a party of a Greek tycoon who served caviar out of enormous crystal drums, which we ate with soup spoons. Though everyone gorged, they whispered nonetheless about how uncouth it all was.
A Greek fortune was definitely better than a Russian one but less good than a British one, which was pennies as far as an American one was concerned.
Let’s head on over to the Daily Mail for a summary of some of the weirder moments in the memoir:
Was I dreaming, or did she really get drunk with Leonard Cohen on the night before her first wedding?
Did she really bump into ‘a tall African-American’ with a handsome Doberman dog on a New York street, go back to his apartment for sex, then allow him to spray whipped cream on her nude self before he invited his dog to lick it off?
Did Vogue fashion boss Andre Leon Talley really send her mad, hysterical faxes from the Paris fashion shows, advising her what to buy? (‘Steer clear of anything edged in sable at Balmain!’ ‘Let rip at Gaultier!’)
Yes, yes and yes again. It is all true, every word of it, and lots more besides.
The ‘lots more besides’ includes that time her butler was mauled in the snow by one of her dogs after he had eaten a baked salmon dinner (the dog, not the butler).
I can’t take anymore, but if you’d like to go further down the rabbit hole, head here.
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