Jonathan Franzen is in my estimation America's best living novelist (OKAY?) and a substantial number of people get upset whenever he writes or says basically anything. It's interesting to ask why! In part it's because his ideas about novels and what people respond to in them are provocative and controversial, and sometimes, as in his recent essay about Edith Wharton, he projects his own responses onto "us" in a way that can be irritating, if we disagree with him. Our opinion about his writing is also affected by of how rich he is and his gender and what he looks like, and that's very hard to talk about. But [...]
The New York Post account of the Sid and Mercedes Bass divorce is PHENOMENAL. So well done! It's the greatest thing ever, ever, EVER. Don't miss the part where the young Mercedes Tavacoli Diba Kellogg Bass is described by rich person chronicler Charlotte Hays this way: "When she met the ambassador, she was heavier than she is now, and, of course, she’s no great beauty. But she was the ultimate geisha." AND: "And so nine weeks after Mercedes, then 41, lobbed that fateful piece of bread, she called her husband, Ambassador Francis Kellogg, from her five-star Parisian hotel suite. 'Goodbye, darling,' she said. 'I’m marrying Sid.'" OH YES. [...]
Back in the days before the great bull market began to charge in August of 1982, there was a soothsayer called Joe Granville. He was the Mad Money Jim Cramer of his day, a showman and exhibitionist whose performances included walking on water (across a swimming pool in Tucson, dressed in a tuxedo) and a piano-playing chimp. Despite that his demeanor wasn't what you would expect of a great financial brain, he attracted a large following of investors for his $250-a-year financial letter (about $615 in today's money), partly because, as People magazine explained, he had called four major stock-market turns in two years. His reputation grew to [...]
“We found that people from a lower-class background—in terms of occupation, status, education and income level—performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling…. You turn to people, it’s an adaptive strategy. You develop this sort of heightened independence with other individuals as a way to deal with not having enough individual resources.” —Michael Kraus explains the findings of his recent study, which shows that rich people don't understand how you're feeling, because they don't have to. They're rich!
New York city's Wall Street barons and supermarket baronets and real estate dukes have, it actually seems, been shut down by the White House. (Except for all the ones that work in the White House.) The old-fashioned, Clintonesque Presidential check-receiving tour of Manhattan is donezo! "Speaking on the condition of anonymity to explain the hard feelings toward the president, many of his most generous donors express a more personal grievance, as well: They have been treated like pariahs. Obama has not only denied them government jobs, but thank-you letters and White House invites. He has not anointed a new first couple of fundraising." (It doesn't help that big [...]
This odd profile today in the Times of the current state of New York office-building-owning real estate royalty indicates that they are all just fine and dandy! The Rudins, the Dursts, the Roses-they have weathered the storms (now all long past, apparently?) and there's not a single bit of data in this accounting about any upcoming lease expirations or negotiations or regarding any possible dropping of rental prices per square foot. The only bit of contrast to their apparent success offered is the disaster facing solely residential developers, like Shaya Boymelgreen, in deep trouble for having jumped wholeheartedly into providing a glut of luxury condos. Somehow still, [...]
American "futurologist" Paul Saffo is getting a lot of buzz for an interview he did with Britain's Sunday Times in which he mused that the upper classes will use their vast fortunes to provide themselves with the bounties of emerging technologies. I sometimes wonder if the very rich will become a completely separate species. Imagine if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor. That's 20 more years of earning and saving. Think what that means about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.
A harrowing and plausible vision of our future? Possibly. But he also suggests [...]
"The 'upper class,' as defined by the study, were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to increase their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work, researchers reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Taken together, the experiments suggest at least some wealthier people 'perceive greed as positive and beneficial,' probably as a result of education, personal independence and the resources they have to deal with potentially negative consequences, the authors wrote."
Right now, many young summer campers are frolicking beneath the open sky, the wind on their faces perfumed by the rough fragrances of pine and their parents' jet exhaust; on the horizon, the mountains shrug, "whatevs." Their families will pay one-fifth of the median national household income so they can go "rough it." And The New York Times has been on it.
The modern tales are ghastly—and not just that now-infamous tale of chartered planes and rural runways. Because of the economy, some owners have to deal with lower enrollment this year; in July, the Times told the story of one camp that hit only 98 percent capacity [...]
"According to a Fidelity Investments survey of more than 1,000 millionaires (households with at least $1 million in investible assets, excluding retirement accounts and real estate), 42% of respondents say they don’t feel wealthy…. Those who don’t feel wealthy were asked how much money they would need to feel wealthy. Their answer: $7.5 million."
Jeff Greene, the credit default-swapping millionaire Senate candidate for Florida whose best man was Mike Tyson and who is running on the platform that he is an "outsider," which may not be totally crazy, is today dealing with the big banner headline: "Jeff Greene's yacht holds the secrets: Sexcapades or Sabbath?" Green's talking point: "There's a million people not working in Florida. Why are we talking about the yacht all the time? I care too much about my country to spend all my time talking about a yacht and Mike Tyson." I appreciate the sentiment! Sort of. Except the sentiment is sort of "please stop talking about my [...]
I could spend 20 minutes semi-explaining why the legendary lawyer Arthur Kramer (known better to you artsy folks as brother of Larry, regarding whom, no comment at this time) engaged in complicated maneuvers near the end of his life to bundle and resell seven life insurance policies, worth $56.2 million, to investors, over which the family is now suing and being sued, but can we just go with RICH PEOPLE SURE IS CRAZY and leave it at that? (On the upside, this mess may smooth out some conflicting little bits of law in New York State! Perhaps that's Arthur Kramer's real final legacy.)
Things will be allowed to be stable again in America only when executive pay is restored to its ludicrous bubble value. Writes Felix Salmon: "People who were comfortable with seven- and eight-figure salaries a couple of years ago have a natural tendency to want to return to the status quo ante; the rest of us see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring executive pay down to the kind of levels which normal human beings can relate to. Given that the pay levels of old clearly did no good and colorably did a great deal of harm, that doesn't sound like an unreasonable request. But there aren't any mechanisms in place [...]
It's not all bad news for the battered economy of South Florida: The yacht repair industry is so hot right now that businesses need to expand to cope with demand. "It's very rare to see a megayacht with deferred maintenance," says Power Motor Yacht magazine executive editor Richard Thiel. I'll bet!
"A drill-down to the zip code level shows that the zip code with the largest number of very rich households is 10023 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, with 7,621 such households. That zip code, plus one other on the Upper West Side, one on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and the Washington suburb of Potomac, Maryland, each have about 0.2 percent of all the nation’s very high-income households. Rounding out the 20 zip codes with the most very high-income households are several in Manhattan (on the Upper East and Upper West Sides, Midtown East, and Greenwich Village), the New York suburb of Scarsdale, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, [...]
"Their problem, which required a series of five architects to solve, was this: they had bought a 40-room Georgian manor house, and they wanted to occupy it as a family of six."
The other night, I ate at JoJo, on 64th Street. It's a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, but one of those on the less fancy, more affordable side of his 14-restaurant empire. It's small and quiet, too, and so it was that much more noticeable when, about halfway through our meal, a man in a powder-blue fleece pullover walked into the dining room talking loudly into the earphone attachment thing of his cell-phone and—without ending his conversation—told the hostess who'd led him to his table, right next to ours, to bring him "the most expensive bottle of wine" she had. She looked embarrassed and opened the menu and showed him what [...]
In looking at the recent wild estimate that there are 667,200 "millionaires" in New York City-supposedly up nearly 20% from 2008-it's important to pull back and look at what makes someone a millionaire on paper. The number one marker in New York City of this semi-mythical, marvelous status is home ownership.
Serious business: it's the Vanity Fair Men's Best Dressed List voting time! Will it be Viscount Linley, known to you as David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, the 1st Viscount of Snowdon, not to be confused with craggy-hot Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon? Or Ogden Phipps II, known to you as horse-loving Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps? The odious Cody Franchetti? Or some other descendant of the hideous elitist blood-stained riders of the working class? We're voting Daniel Craig and also equity fund manager Ivan de la Fressange, solely because his name sounds like some fun lesbian act.
So this new study by the Empire Center for New York State Policy is totally fascinating. Their agenda is anti-tax, so their framing for the exodus of 1.5 million New York residents from 2000 to 2008 is about tax burdens. So their point is mostly that rich people are leaving and poor foreign people are coming in. In real fact, the population of New York state grew 2.7% from 2000 to 2008; Manhattan's migration zeroed out in that time period (someone's always ready to take your apartment!), although New York City overall had 1.1 million people leave. (Is this atypical? No idea!) And also notably, departures from New York [...]