Billionaire best buddies

Looking for some new billionaire friends this summer? Perhaps you’d like to join the super-yacht wet set or lunch with remodelled Hollywood wives? Andy Round searches the world’s continents for inspiration.

Asia

Tania Chung likes to stay loyal to her manicurist. With colours as vibrant as her collection of Fendi beaded bags, who would want to change anyway? Still, colour-coordinated nails are hardly as exciting as nipping over the Hong Kong border in the Rolls with friends to haggle and giggle over this season’s fake Diors or Chanels in a grubby Shenzhen Province warehouse.

It’s not as if Chung can’t afford the real thing (the fakes are fun for the servants) it’s just that, well, things got a little super-rich surreal after marrying Thomas. She’d always liked him since the polo club days, but when he snapped up that Loewe Senda bag for US$10,000 in the Tatler charity auction, he bought her heart as well. That was that. Another classic Thomas Chung deal sealed.

Not that Chung sees Thomas much. He’s busy buying and selling small countries or something. In the meantime, she’s busy being busy, busy. There’s Chung’s ‘distance healing hot stone network classes’, her new book to launch featuring essays on why puppies are sooo delicious and those weekly Tiffany flower arranging classes.

Of course it’s not all fun. Keeping Hong Kong’s retail economy booming can be so exhausting. It’s all very well Giorgio and Miuccia being in town all the time, but, really, there are only so many hours in a day and parking in Central is such a bore.

Parking is not the only aspect of life that’s starting to irritate Tania. The lunches are becoming a drag especially since the paparazzi seem to have disappeared and as for the evening, well, the embossed invitations seem to be arriving on cheaper vellum these days. In her darkest moments, Tania imagines she’s losing her popularity. Inevitably, she’ll have to discuss the issue with her manicurist.

Subcontinent

Meenaskhi still gets a glow of contentment when people ask her name. For years she pretended to be Mary at a shabby Bombay call centre selling European medical tourists two-week holidays to the Taj Mahal with cut-price liposuction thrown in.

After her dear father managed to sell his internet-technology outsourcing business everything changed including her name. Now Meenaskhi lives in the newly constructed Kew Garden View Towers and has a boyfriend at Harvard who doesn’t find the name pretentious, especially when he knows the building cost the price of a Manhattan condo.

There may be 18 million people in the city, but Meenaskhi knows the chic bhangra bars that let in only a select few. Last night it was a reception for Tom Cruise who had signed the US rights to adapt a Bollywood blockbuster. Meenaskhi was naturally invited and it gave her the opportunity to compare personal shoppers with actress Aishwarya Rai. It also made her change her holiday plans completely. This summer she will go to the same plush lodge in Malaysia where Aish danced across veils and almost kissed Khan. “Darling it was simply gorgeous.”

Tonight the nightclub is awash with Tatas, Ambanis and Godrejs. There must more inherited wealth in this one room than in Warren Buffet’s charity fund, thinks Meenashki. The 26-year-old is glowing again and, more importantly, being chatted up by a Bombay analyst who examines equities for Wall Street. Now that would have never happened when she was Mary.

Europe

It really doesn’t matter which plage, playa or spiaggia José Tarazona is enjoying this summer, in many respects everything remains the same. It’s the same holiday just a different super (as in yacht or model).

Roman was so accommodating to let him use the yacht for a week this year. After cutting a couple of property tower deals in Dubai and selling those granny farm residential developments in the south of Spain, it was definitely time to cut loose.

And Tarrazona should be having a super time, but he’s not. Somewhere past the glare of the sun is the beach and that’s the problem. For the life of him Tarazona can’t remember to which country it’s attached. It shouldn’t matter really as the yacht’s too big to moor anywhere anyway but our hero is troubled. He can’t remember which Ferrari, Bentley or Lamborghini has which European number plates in which country. It’s a dilemma.

Roasting nearby on the sleek pine decking is the sun-roasted gazelle-like body that launched a million new lines of Victoria’s Secrets. Tarazona feels a stirring in his Vilebrequin bathing shorts. Thank god for roaming BlackBerries. He presses receive. “Bentley, sir, Monte Carlo plates, helicopter’s on its way.” Suddenly José’s world is a better place.

Africa

“It’s so annoying that Gates got to Africa first,” groans billionaire fund manager Hank E Williams. “A bunch of Rockefeller philanthropy and all I get is a couple of minutes on CNN.” His wife, nursing a traumatised war orphan is horrified, manages to contain her anger. “Don’t. You. Know. There. Are. People. Dying. Here.”

It is a critical tipping point in their relationship. Cynthia at that moment decides a simple divorce is too good for Hank. Of course she will leave him, but more importantly she will take every dollar she can from his Savile Row-tailored pockets and build a whole country of orphanages.

Cynthia had been working tirelessly in Africa long before celebrity babies in Namibia. Her shrewd direction and Hank’s money had saved more lives than she could have ever imagined and although Cynthia had been invited to be an ambassador of so many charitable trusts she had acronym blindness, she decided long ago that her real home was where the trouble was. And that meant Africa.

But what added to the woes of an already troubled continent was Hanks’ insistence on now joining her “because all the big guys are getting in on the Africa act”. Cynthia wipes the child’s mouth and watches her husband’s disappointed face as the camera crews disappeared into the desert dust. “Darling, we need to talk about something important,” she begins.

Americas

Ashley Valletta knows that she is teetering on the edge because she’s read Hollywood Wives cover to cover. Twice. In big print. Jackie Collins was just so right. Being married to a big film producer is nothing like starring in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Still, Valletta manages to keep her composure to issue the day’s orders to her army of maternity nurses, night-nannies, day nannies, au pairs and ‘school runners’. Her commanding voice never loses its tempo for a minute as the gardeners, drivers, cooks, cleaners and handy men leap to attention and scatter to miscellaneous wings of the Vallettas’ US$30 million mansion.

If it wasn’t for Tony Valletta’s job none of this would exist (does anything exist outside of Hollywood?). But Mrs Valletta is starting to feel the pressure of all those Chateau Marmont brunches, Aspen winters, Malibu summers, stylists banging down her walnut door with armfuls of Balenciaga, Prada and Chanel as well as those annoying monthly dinners Tony arranges with ‘grabby’ Jack Nicholson.

It wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t busy enough with dermabrasion sessions, weekly cellulite pummelling, daily personalised morning workouts and an hour with her Kabbalah sponsor every afternoon. “Whatever! They’re not getting me any closer to looking like Eva Longoria are they?”

Now Tony’s gone off to ‘another’ film festival. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Here’s Amber fighting of the physical (and spiritual) ravages of time and her career-breaking husband is surrounded by starlet Scarlett Johansson look-alikes without her.

“Well it’s no use moaning and groaning,” she tells the empty (but sumptuously furnished) ‘Oval Office’ lounge. “Time for action.” She scrolls down to the number of her publicist and dials. His words of wisdom soon resonate comfortingly around the vacuum between her Tiffany earrings. “Look darling in Hollywood even breakdowns are glamorous… “

Oceania

Western Australian billionaire Bill ‘Tucker’ Smarts likes to tell guests on the veranda of his Margaret River vineyard ‘down south’ that he still surfs every morning at the age of 68. It’s a charmng story that always goes down well with a lunch-time 2005 Sauvignon.

‘Tucks’ deserves to be indulged, he got out of the iron ore business in the ’80s, got into Perth property in the ’90s and bought the vineyard as a 2001 present to himself. He now names each crop after his grandchildren. The 2006 Kylie Cabernet is expected to be particularly fruity.

Still, ‘Tucko’ misses the cut and thrust of the good old days when Perth was the Wild West of Australia with more millionaires per head than any other city in the world and everyone was up for a ‘bloody’ good deal.

Tonight, however, he’s brought the big money down to him (“just a few hundred close friends”) to watch Dame Kiri Te Kanawa perform Handel’s Let The Bright Seraphim. In a way the Gulfstream-packed private airfield of guests is more for his wife Tricia than him, still he’s looking forward to sharing a few cool ones with the old faces.

As the sun slips behind the towering kerri trees, ‘T’ calls security to check the ’roos are not marauding through his immaculate vineyards or about to gatecrash his charity concert. Satisfied he struggles into his white shirt, bow tie and tux top, pulls on his Quiksilver Neptune jeans (with ‘camo’ patch reinforcement), tussles what’s left of his hair and heads out into the fly-filled air.

Later as the sun slips behind the towering kerri trees, Tucks’ voice bulldozes through the fly-filled air. “Time for a barbie,” he announces. “Anyone here know how to slice onions?”

Ends


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