Saturday, August 25, 2012

Decadence hath its privileges

There is a reason why some view us as the land of decadent, capitalist running dogs. Exhibit A: Hollywood power broker Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures. He's worth hundreds of millions just for producing films about, well, alien robots (think Transformers), among other cinematic citadels to human folly. In terms of wealth, though, this is lighting-Cuban-stogies-with-hundred-dollar-bills territory, baby. As for for decadent part, I give you Exhibit B: Grey bought a 4-bedroom Manhattan apartment at the Carlyle for $15.5 million last winter. That, friends, is just for openers.

For the privilege of living there, our mogul pays the storied co-op $37,946 -- a month -- for maintenance. So, for the "price of a new BMW each month," as the NY Times put it, Mr. Grey gets twice-daily housekeeping service, daily newspapers, the use of Frette bathrobes and 600-count Yves Delorme bedding; window-washing, heavy cleanings, bath amenities, cable television and telephone voice mail. This tidy sum (the equivalent of buying two median-priced homes a year) also gets him discounts on laundry, personal training sessions, room-service food and drink; plus preferred pricing on treatments at the hotel’s Sense spa, and 20% off on parking rates in the garage. But it's not all wine and roses. Services like dog-walking, couriers and personalized flower arrangements cost extra. Plus tips, of course.

There is, however, a dirty little secret, as running dogs the world over know. At this stratospheric level of wealth, the buckets of cash made from interest income alone (compounded monthly at a minimum of 4%) conveniently pays for all of this capitalist decadence, and more. Where do you think the saying, "laughing all the way to the bank," comes from? The phrase "running dog" -- typically used in combination with corrupt, decadent, imperialist or capitalist -- was a Chinese communist pejorative smugly flung at Westerners. Today, of course, they're busy elbowing their way to the head of the monied canine pack. Thick is the irony.

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