ĎAinít What They Used To Be, Many Long Years Ago
LC Van Savage
Ever notice that millionaires arenít
very millionairey looking anymore? So
disappointing. Oh they were such an elegant
lot in the early years of this century. No,
I wasnít there and no, we didnít socialize.
I am only 69 after all. But you know of whom
I speak; the Vanderbilts, Astors, DuPonts,
Rockefellers, Morgans, Biddle Dukes. Surely
OK, I know they had their issues with
the hoi polloi, werenít always kind to them,
often forgot that they were once themselves
members of the great underprivileged, but
thatís not what Iím focusing on right now
even though Iím about as hoi as one human
can possibly get.
No, Iím talking about elegance here.
Opulence. Classic, luxurious stuff. For
example, the millionaires way back in the
20s and 30s always dressed the part. They
were never seen in rumpled anything and
never in shirtsleeves. Even on the hottest
of days they ventured forth in nothing less
than full three-piece suits tailored to
within an inch, shined shoes, well- gartered
stockings, well-knotted expensive ties, high
starched shirt collars, solid gold
pocket/vest watches, beautifully fitted
fedoras, sometimes spats, often swinging
expensive, hand carved canes with sterling
silver or gold handles that could open on a
hinge, hollowed out to hold a bit of
libation to get them through the afternoon,
or perhaps even the morning. That handle
came off for that subtle swig; those gents
were way too classy to tip an entire cane
high into the air for that desired quench.
Those moneyed men, and they were mostly
men altho there actually were (and are)
women millionairesses, often had mustaches
and beards trimmed to such sharp, perfect
edges they could have been used as weapons.
Those guys were perfectly turned out and
would not have dreamt of appearing in
public, even to pick up their newspapers on
their front porches, without being dressed
to the nines or even the tens although most
depended on servants to pick up those
Todayís millionaires, who are actually
now billionaires, just donít have that great
look about them that separated them from the
rest of the normal unmonied world 80 odd
years ago. When Commodore Vanderbilt
strolled down a street, people stopped,
stared, tipped their hats, swooned, stepped
out of his way, and showed respect. When
Bill Gates of Washington, ($56 bil) strolls
down a street, no one much notices or cares.
He seems to work at trying to look just like
the rest of us, at least those of us who
happen to have enough cash to buy Argentina.
I am not impressed with his oh so blah
Everyman look and I find it vaguely
insulting. He doesnít even carry a libation
Warren Buffett of Nebraska, ($52 bil)
looks OK. At least he wears a tie once in a
while, but he just doesnít have that special
billionaire nimbus about him. He kind of
looks like your average car insurance
Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico ($49 bil)
hardly has the look of eagles about him.
Avuncular Ingvar Kamprad of Sweden ($33 bil)
looks vaguely confused and has a just plain
Howard Schultz and Michael Eisner have
joined that still fairly exclusive club,
along with Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie
(Blackberry boyos) of Canada but, I donít
know, they just donít have that sort of
aloof, superior attitude the rich guys did
back at the turn of the century.
Those mega wealthy folks back then even
knew how to be looked after in style when
their souls finally departed this weary
planet. Ever seen some of their gravesites?
Some of those marble, brass and cast iron
mausoleums could house a young family of
four with a large dog very comfortably, and
the cost of all that perpetual care
landscaping could really put a serious dent
in the world hunger problems.
But still, I miss those good old days
when cottages were really Newport Rhode
Island mansions rivaling Versailles, where
you got chauffeured everywhere, where
shadowy figures of servants kept creeping
about dusting up after you, where if you
missed paying your electric bill nothing
would happen and besides, what exactly was
an electric bill anyway?
Those grand old days are gone folks. Now
you could be sitting next to a billionaire
at McDonaldís and never even suspect. What a
waste. Itís just not fair. I mean how can we
possibly fawn, truckle and grovel if we
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