Rubbing Elbows

People are obsessed with the wealthy. Some more than others but most people have that bug.

The rampant existence of the paparazzi attest to the fact and the success of television shows like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” show how voyeuristic interest in the subject.

Years ago, a book on economics and sociology shot to the top of the bestseller lists: The Rich and The Super-Rich by Ferdinand Lundberg had everyone drooling even more than Stephen Birmingham’s earlier volumes about the super-wealthy set.

When I was younger, my grandfather told me that there was no difference between the rich guys and me, we both had to put our pants on one leg at a time. And while the concept of us being the same might be true, I think it is more a case of his valet putting his pants on for him one leg at a time, just like me.

Wow. Now if only I had a valet!

Nah.

Anyway, I grew up in a rather heady neighborhood many moons ago. We weren’t rich but my father had a pretty good job with the government and we lived in a modest suburb of Washington that bordered on the other set. Some of the kids I went to school with were children of ambassadors and undersecretaries and one was a grandson of the postmaster General.

And one rather chubby kid. A lot of the group called him “fat Eddie” but he wasn’t really fat, just a little chunky. And he was funny, and personable. He invited me over to his house one day after school and I was amazed. The place was huge and well-protected behind a stone fence and an iron gate, and so forth.

Later that year, we moved to another suburb of Washington and I lost track of those kids but I know Eddie has done well for himself, continuing in the family business. Today he goes by “Edwin” rather than Eddie and he is in charge of the American Heritage Magazine… his older brother was in charge of the National Geographic Society: Melville Bell Grosvenor.

I didn’t know Melville – he was twenty years older than Eddie – and I was only close to Eddie for about six months. And, no, we have never kept in touch. After all, I am not part of “that crowd” as Stephen Birmingham termed the wealthy.

Years later, I lived in Hollywood, California. I tried to get a job in the motion picture industry as a grip or a set-builder but the unions were pretty much full up at that time and I wound up in a clerical position not with that industry.

Still, I was in Hollywood and I ran into “stars” all the time. At first I was excited about it but after a while it became too normal. I didn’t chase anyone down for autographs nor did I try to start up conversations with them like an old friend… I don’t have the stalker mentality… well, mostly not.

For the most part, they seemed a lot like the rest of us. One stopped his Maserati in front of a 7-11 store and dashed in for… of course… a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. You think only the middle class have the call from the wife saying “don’t forget some milk and bread on the way home”?

Once, in a park there, I came off a trail to find one actor and his famous wife having a picnic lunch with their small children. I smiled and nodded to them and kept going.

I cannot imagine how it would be to have such a degree of fame that strangers assaulted you – all the time – for autographs, photo ops, or even a simple handshake and praise for how much they loved my latest… whatever. I really don’t think I would like that lifestyle much.

Fortunately, the rate I am going with my booksales, that doesn’t appear to be a problem looming in my future.

Whew! What a relief!

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