Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous (or, money-money-money)

“JUST WALK, don’t ever glance at your left as you cross streets!” My dadaistic roomie of long-ago, Minnie The Ripper, glumly reminded me as I stepped out of the loft to hang out down East Village on a hot spring afternoon in New York City. “When a freakin’ car hit `ya, let ‘em hit, OK? I tell `ya, baby—just like that, get hit by some rich and famous SOB, you’re fine,” she flicked two fingers, like a magician’s castanets, spewing a dope dealer’s gunslinger zeal. “Just like that, baby!” Of course, you know what Minnie The Rip meant, right? You see, it was really difficult not to take the feisty young lady seriously. She seemed unavoidably dead-serious as Rosie O’Donnell after a parking lot brawl, y’know what I mean? You just gotta take ladies of that kind seriously, or else... “And, by the way, go Central Park West,” she added, spitting her Nuyorican twang out like three-day-old gum, “One bump equals three grand, broken neck is, uhh, twelve-grand minimum as long as you get a darn good attorney... Just don’t get killed, man. Be careful not to get hit too bad. No mo’ good s—t in heaven, my man!”
Believe it or not, Minnie The Rip’s Brazilian bro-in-law Paulinho de Souza – in cahoots with a Joe Pantoliano-looking lawyer in Corona, Queens – managed to rack up almost half a million in settlement dough after a series of freak (albeit, scripted) accidents in 1999. Paulinho didn’t care whether he broke this ankle, that jaw, both knees, lost a leg – or whatever – as long as he gets mucho dollares, on a snap of a, well, limb crashing-on-concrete. The color of money, I guess, heals all physiological wounds, whatsoever...
When desperation sets in, crazy shit inhabits one’s brain faculties... You see, there were times when I felt like standing four hours straight a-front Battery Park’s huge condo – waiting for a Weinstein piano to fly out of the penthouse window onto my poor, pitiful head – from an irate wealthy tenant up there. (You know by now that they get pretty pissed with some “voodoo” drumming down Pritchard Park, right?) Then, I’ll sue, then I’ll settle – I am sure, I’ll be able to raise more easy dollars to publish more cheapie newsprint magazines that way? I mean, Paulinho got a cold $5,000 cash after a high roller dude, a scion of a Jewish grocery chain clan in Bayside LI, broke his ribs at a Ceasar’s Palace bar in Atlantic City one July midnight. Just like that! (Don’t ask me how Paulinho pissed the dude off though...)
OK, forget about scums like Paulinho. And, okay, I’m just kidding about doing a vigil-for-an-induced-accident-for-settlement in downtown Asheville... I’m not that Desperate desperate.
Alright now—I don’t intend to consume my two pages this time out talking about the above subject. I didn’t plan to talk about Paulinho de Souza or Minnie The Ripper – although Minnie has already reformed her hustler-ways... she now works a legit job at an uptown Slovak delicatessen, and on weekends, at home, she diligently crafts handmade jewelry that she supplies to gypsies and bellydancers in Pittsburgh and New London CT. Instead I planned to talk/write about The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous – but whenever thoughts of these bluebloods cross my acerbic brain cells, I can’t help think about everyday people, I mean—the honest souls kind of breed. Most often than not, these ordinary human beings get the tail end of mishaps, “accidents,” and brat-venoms inflicted by the more privileged, more endowed...
Heard about the maid who got it from “supermodel” Naomi Campbell – in the form of a cellphone running berserk onto the nanny’s face? Well, a judge ordered Ms Campbell to pay her erstwhile slave a measly $363.32! (plus two days at an anger management class).
Geez, how much do supermodels earn for few minutes to strut and heave at a sequined runway, anyway? Five figures, more? So, would $300+ and two days of lecture make them behave—and would that be enough to compensate for the maid’s bruised face and person? I don’t think so—but I’d be so willing to offer my ugly face to Ms Campbell’s cellphone for the same amount. (That’s almost an issue’s printing budget of The Indie.) At least, it’s less riskier than Paulinho’s perilous gig, right? (Or, a lot more manageable than a Weinstein piano plummeting down my skull...)

MONEY IS SIMPLY maliciously, ferociously overflowing in America that the Rich and Famous can’t seem to figure out how to spend (or throw) them away. What more to buy, what more to spend on... I guess, unmitigated boredom and flabbergasting stupidity set in upon knowing that everything has already been “handled” by financial managers and accounts advisers. Or maybe because their wealth is so unstoppably overflowing off their diamond-studded sleeves, they actually believe that “money changes everything.” They can do anything, everything, under the blue sky—who cares whether it’s unacceptable or nauseating or revolting, or simply not good, or even illegal...
Remember those insane thousands that eccentric ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman paid the NBA in fines as a result of his on-court antics (headbutting a ref, fighting, pushing a photographer etc)? Maybe he got really sick and tired of his sick and tiring off-court stunts (cross-dressing, bar brawls, dating equally notoriously “bad” girls) that the only way to battle hubris is to stay badder and badder. The only “significant” plug, though temporary, to his badness, anyway, is monetary sanctions, plus few days at a slammer. Meantime, let the dollars do the talking.
So while fashion world and sports’ millionaires bombard our impoverished senses with magnificent tantrums that can easily be had or forgiven by an issuance of a check after the fact, Hollywood’s brat packers don’t fail to feed the tabloids for fodder for wholesale wastelessness. Britney Spears and new boyfriend Isaac Cohen recently dropped $40,000 for just one night at Palms hotel in Las Vegas. Ah, $40,000! I believe that almost 97% of my friends only earn below $20,000 (or lower) a year! Not fair!
Many years ago, I thought the rich man/poor man discrepancy was at its widest in societies like India, Nigeria, Mexico, or the Philippines. And since US of A is the bastion of equality (by way of democracy), citizens in this country somehow have more chance to be a bit at par with the rich. Can we park our 70s beat-up Sedan beside P Diddy’s Hummus at a Manhattan parking lot, or maybe position our inherited trailer home a-front a mansion up in The Cliffs, or maybe enjoy a lobster dinner beside Derek Jeter’s table at Smith & Wollensky? I am sure that in the event that a minimum wage-earning dude accidentally hits the sidemirror of Paris Hilton’s BMW, the poor dude gets aggravated assault or reckless endangerment rap. That can never be settled by Ms Campbell’s $363.32 spare change at all.
What is the use of law if the super-endowed makes fun of them? How many celebrities marry after an orgasm, divorce after a fight over who hugs the remote control, reconcile after another orgasm, divorce again following an argument over a toilet seat that wasn’t taken care of?

ON ANOTHER ANGLE... Tell me honestly, are you touched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s billion-d0llar donation to funding agencies – purportedly for the poor people of the world? Big deal, isn’t it? So the richest human beings have finally agreed to share their astronomical wealth to poor, pitiful humanity?
I’m not impressed. If the world’s richest dudes could easily “share” their billions just like that... why didn’t they just raise the salaries of their employees and workers? Simple. The labor workforce – especially those toiling in sweatshops in faraway communities – should be the first batch of souls who deserve a piece of Gates/Buffett’s magnificently impossible fortune.
This moolah to nonprofit organizations is downright, straight-up PR.
Give the working class their just due, so there’ll be lesser poor on Earth. Mr Gates’ 12-month earnings is easily higher than the annual budget of a dozen or more countries in Africa, we all know that... So if he’ll just make ways to justly pay wages that assure a “decent” living in poor countries where his microchip factories abound, then—there’s not much need for grant foundations to supposedly facilitate aid assistance to the needy anymore.
Or, how about the millionaires who supposedly rendered their time and talent – through live concerts attended by thousands and thousands of taxpaying, paycheck-to-paycheck citizens – to help Hurricane Katrina victims? Who paid for the “aid” money and goods for the displaced families? The people.
The people pay/paid for the tickets, buy CDs, download songs, purchase merchandise etc so the Rich and Famous could “help” those who most need help. But PR makes us believe that the benefit money or relief help came out of these glitterdome gods/goddesses’ willing hearts and hands.
Is it so hard for them to just sign a check, like $5 million or so, the minute that they learned of the calamity, right there right at that moment? They didn’t have to go out of their mansions to be able to help, just a phone call to their assistants—that’s it!
Ah, so they performed for free for the poor – so they should be exalted as Good Souls – or is it plain and simple marketing strategy to sell you more merchandise?

THE UNREALISM of materialism in America has grown so unfathomable and unreachable that we don’t know anymore how to deal with what we have and what we don’t have. For instance, we sometimes love our pets more than our fellow human beings – that we also seem to get confused about what’s a human being and what’s an animal.
Like this one – saddened horseracing fans, sane human beings, sent CDs, flower bouquets, and books to then ailing Barbaro, the “famous” Kentucky Derby winner to cheer her up. Makes me wonder—what’d happen when the time comes when these animals start getting pissed because of this amazing, unrealistic attention heaped on them... sometimes, I believe, they just wanna be left alone to live and enjoy their being animals, not human beings. Who “killed” Barbaro, anyway? We “love” these horses because they entertain us on the racetrack when they should be running in joyful freedom somewhere in the prairie... We love our pet dogs and cats because we fall short of tolerating our fellow human beings and, yes, these animals are such swell playthings and baubles.
A 5 foot, 100 lb pitbull in Portland, Oregon got upset with his owner that he viciously attacked the poor fellow. I guess, the solution of most people when animals act this way is to find them a shrink or maybe take them to Disneyland or buy them an iPod nano.
Oh well, of course, it’s not an “extraordinary” occurrence that a Naomi Campbell exhibits or displays real love and affection to her poodle than to her maid – I know of so many people, ordinary people, who’d rather buy their dogs and cats jewelries and NHL jerseys than share $5 to their poor relatives. I mean, I know of a dude who got jailed because it was uncovered that he was receiving food stamps and all kinds of social security benefit for his coterie of 15 dogs! But then, that’s not a far-fetched reality! A survey came out few years ago that said something like, more than 50% of Americans maintain that owning a pet is part of the US Constitution.
Now, hear this – a Dutch pet-shop owner has recently came up with Kwispelbier, a beef-flavored beer created for dogs. She figured she wanted to have drinks with her Weimaraners after a hunt, so... It cost $2.14 a bottle, by the way. Geez, that’s even a dollar more expensive than my favorite PBR! Not fair!
So expect this at a bar in a not so distant future: “Hey, Mister Doberman, show me your ID. No ID, no Kwispelbier, sorry! Want a soda, instead?”

WHEN PEOPLE have money, they just gotta spend them. Money, money, money. Some 200 fans of Michael Jackson have reportedly agreed to pay him $3,300 for an hour – to just hang out with him. I mean, if a baseball fan could easily churn out few thousands to purchase a glob of gum that Diamondbacks slugger Luis Gonzalez spat out, then what really is weird these days?
I rant and rave about the Rich and Famous who juggle their moolah like balls of fire, or voided beer cans... but then, we Ordinary People are also guilty of the same oblique extravagance, am I right? I wonder what would Naomi Campbell’s victim do with the $363.32? Ah, don’t tell me she’s so thankful now that she could pay her late Verizon cellphone bill?
Think about this – while we perpetually whine about unpaid cable TV bills and late rent, we also “threw away” close to $5 billion to watch “Spider-Man,” “Shrek,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” – and the sequels (not including DVD rental). Well, I am guilty—VERY guilty. I treat DVDs, my “other” food. Like we all gulp in gasoline like alcohol, caffeine, or sugar – I chow down movies like ramen noodles!
And, wait up—let me remind one and all. Americans spend $36,000,000 every hour of every day – at Wal-Mart. This year alone, 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at a Wal-Mart store (Earth’s population is approximately 6.5 billion).
Okay, okay. Money changes everything. So the US government is spending approximately $60 billion a year in Iraq – so that we could teach the Iraqi people how to live their own lives.
Oh man, I am so confused forever! When it comes to money, sometimes it’s easier to understand Paulinho and Minnie The Rip.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN The Indie; Loved by the Buffalo Publications. 2006 (Asheville, North Carolina). Edited August 2010.

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