With my new job, I'm getting accustomed to working in wealthy people's houses. We see some very nice artwork and collectibles. (Just yesterday I hung a 25" wide B&W photo of Muhammad Ali clowning around with the Beatles, taken in the mid-sixties, based on their haircuts. It was signed by Ali.) I've hung pieces with frames that cost more than my lathe, a guitar signed by all the members of Guns N Roses, and even saw my first Picasso pieces a few days ago, although we didn't hang them...they were already in place. It's all become pretty standard fare.
But today, we hung about 25 family photos in the hallway and gym of a house in Beverly Hills that was over the top. I didn't really get to see much of the house, but I'm still trying to process the parts I did see and the guy who owns it all. Pardon me if this description is kind of rambling.
The owner of the house is a Lebanese Armenian guy who I'll call Ralph. (Name changed to protect his privacy.) He's a nice guy, although you can tell he's used to getting his way. Ralph apparently made his fortune in real estate development, among other things. I was told he owns casinos and racetracks, but haven't been able to confirm it. He used to own a famous theatre in London (again, nameless to protect privacy) but he sold it a few years ago for something like $110 million. Based on what Google tells me, Ralph's worth about $550 million, give or take a few. The house we were in is a modern ranch style home, probably less than 10,000 square feet (moderate size by Beverly Hills standards), all on a single level. The exterior of the house is polished Italian granite. The driveway was also some type of granite. The fence and automatic gate at the front of the property is mirror-polished stainless steel and brass, and the gate itself is curved, moving on a curved track. (The fence and gate alone probably cost more than most houses do.) The exterior entry doors matched the gate and fence in materials and design. The interior of the house could be described as ostentatious opulence. Marble floors in the bathrooms that match the marble vanities and sinks. (And of course, different marble in different bathrooms.) The carpets were sculptured unlike any I've ever seen. (Can't really describe it other than to say wow.) We entered through the garage, being careful not to brush our tool bags against either of the two Roll Royces or the Bentley. Any one of those three cars costs about $250,000. This is one of Ralph's spare houses. His main residence is in London, where he reportedly has a collection of over 60 cars, including more Rolls Royces and a Bugatti Veyron, the fastest (and most expensive) production car in the world. He got the Bugatti at a charity auction for $1.1 million, which is a great deal considering it normally sells for $2.6 million. He also owns a 208-foot yacht that's based in Monaco. According to Google, the yacht cost about $60 million. He commutes back and forth between London and LA in his private Boeing 737 business jet.
The male house staff (two or three butlers, as well as the chef) were dressed in white servant's jackets with gold braids and epaulets on the shoulders. The chauffeur was dressed in a black jacket, as one would expect from a chauffeur. The female maids were wearing typical maid uniforms like you'd see in a high-end hotel. The staff manager was in a suit and tie. And stereotypically, all of the staff was Filipino. One of the staff members was assigned to stay with us for the day, partly to get us whatever we needed, partly to pick up after us, and also I suspect to just keep an eye on us. The guy who was hanging out with us had the chef make lunch for us...a couple of ham and cheese wraps each (I brought one home as leftovers), served in the staff dining room. We were joined for lunch by Amanda, Ralph's personal assistant, who came here with him and his wife from London, as did the chauffeur and the servant who was with us all day. Looking at the phone number list on the wall in the staff dining room, I saw there are four staff bedrooms in the house...and five phones in the master suite alone, all with separate extension numbers. I'm guessing all told there were something like 25 to 30 extensions listed on the phone list. The photos we hung were fairly unremarkable B&W portraits of Ralph, his wife, and the kids, but according to the logo, they were taken at a studio in St. Tropez. Ralph apparently gets around.
My boss Perry has worked for Ralph for about 10 years, so he was pretty relaxed and joking around with us. I also got a kick out of the fact that Ralph was wearing a typical polo shirt and slacks, with black and white Converse high-top sneakers. I kind of doubt Ralph goes to the grocery store himself, but if he did, he'd just look like a typical guy wearing his weekend clothes.
All in all, it made for an interesting day. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, indeed.