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ĎAinít What They Used To Be, Many Long Years Ago

By 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 you remember.

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. How gauche.

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 newspapers anyway.

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 cane.

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 salesman.

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 blend-into-the-wallpaper persona.

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 donít know?

Click on author's byline for bio.
Email lc at
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Reader Comments

Name: Bruce Clifford Email:
Comment: Financial wealth is a very different mind set in today's world. I make a very good living. I am NOT wealthy by all means, but I do well, yet it can all go away very quickly. The amount of money people have to pay out to survive has far exceeded any rate of income or shall we say vs. inflation? It's very different today. If a person has 1Mil in assets,it takes just 1 bad deal to wipe it all away. money doesn't go as far as it did not so long ago. Bruce



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