Commentary: That's Rich | KERA News

Commentary: That's Rich

Dallas, TX –

F. Scott Fitzgerald said of the rich; they're "not like you or me". He's right. And from what I know, that's neither a blessing nor a curse.

Don't get me wrong; I've never actually been rich. But my mother's family was. Her stepfather ran a 400,000 acre ranch; which, where I come from, sounds sizable. But Mother was disinherited for eloping with my father the morning after she spotted him on a bandstand at Dallas' Adolphus Hotel. In other words; that family money became, shall we say, history.

However, sometimes people who know people with money have almost as much fun as those who have it. Or so I thought growing up around mother's eccentric idle rich friend Gwynne whose father was an old-money oil tycoon. Gwynne and her chauffeur Ozello would pick Mother up after I left for school, (Mother's idea of being a "stay-at-home" mom), and using Gwynne's daddy's "anything-you-want-sugar" credit, they'd shop all day, then drink all afternoon until I was available to decide which of them looked better in whatever Norman Norrell dresses they raked in like croupiers at Neiman Marcus that day. This was excellent training for the 1980s, when I dressed the Dallas TV series each summer on location; I already knew how good looking intoxicated restless fun loving oil women like Sue Ellen dressed. They dressed like Mother and Gwynne.

I've always liked people with money if they knew how to spend it. Trouble is, far too many don't. Anyone who says that "Money can't buy happiness" has no idea how to shop. I prefer the maxim "if money can't buy happiness, you're not spending it right". Beatle Paul McCartney made enough money singing "Money can't buy you love" to buy his farm in Scotland. And he loves it. So there!

Me? I'm blessed with friends with nothing and others with millions, the latter falling into two camps; the always rushed and weary (meaning lazy alcoholic) and those having a ball being extravagant and generous. Cases in point; One woman is flying a few dozen friends to Los Angeles for her daughter's 21st MasterCard birthday. Cost of a private jet? $60 grand. Look on your champagne-smashed passengers upon arrival? Priceless.

Conversely, a give-till-it-hurts male friend is flying an Argentine worker's mother here from Buenos Aires to reunite after 13 years; rushed to Switzerland from Machu Picchu, Peru to hold a friend's hand as he died from AIDS; sends a once-wealthy woman first class to Aspen for Christmas after giving a $30,000 gold watch to a friend whose company canned him before retirement.

Meanwhile, back in the more-dollars-than-sense jungle, one couple drops a million on a Bat Mitzvah while another spends millions to make a new house look ancient, another tens of thousands to clone her feline friend despite Dallas having half a million homeless cats.

Bottom line? Despite living life in a hot air balloon, these people embody legendary Texas financier Clint Murchison's mantra chanted long ago: "Money is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good, but if you pile it up in one place, it stinks like hell."

Now that's rich!

Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.

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