Anyone See "Born Rich" on HBO?

Fascinating, kept me way up past my bedtime. It’s a documentary by 21-year-old Jamie Johnson, of Johnson & Johnson, where he interviews ten of his ludicrously rich friends.

It’s hard to pin their behavior on being born rich, though—if I interviewed ten of my childhood friends, you’d also come up with a huge variety of personalities. Some of them (Ivanka Trump, surprisingly, Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter, and a rather twitchy, self-aware Whitney heir) come off as smart and grounded and eager to do something with their lives. Another confessed he is constantly terrified of being cut off, because he realizes he’d be helpless without his billions.

The most fun were the Rich You Love to Hate: one blonde heiress who said she was going to give all her money to the homeless, then laughed, “I’m kidding! I’d get some houses, and a plane . . .” There was the obnoxious grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm, and another Euro-type who felt his life was worthwhile because he didn’t just buy suits off-the-rack, but had them tailored, “so at least I am accomplishing something. I mean, having the lapels cut too low is just vulgar.”

Try to catch it in rerun—Johnson will really be an accomplished filmmaker if he keeps this up.

I also liked the irony of the euro-guy who was appalled to discover that the first or second question Americans ask is “What do you do for a living?” Clearly he’s never hung out or met people who actually work for a living.

Oh, I loved that, too—he took it as such a huge insult and always answers nastily. Never occurs to him that people may be making polite conversation. If I ever meet him, my opening sally will be, “So, how would you like a good poke in the beezer, you little piss-ant?”

The European boys were a couple of pretentious buffoons. One of them says “when I’m reading a book, I’m thinking about py and when I get the py I’m thinking about a book, it’s a problem.” That’s not his biggest problem.

It’s quite interesting to see the difference between the kids that were raised more ‘normally’ and the kids who weren’t. The Vanderbilt/Whitney heir definitely seemed to be the best of the bunch.

I don’t know, I kind of had a flash of the Whitney guy standing over a bloody corpse, twitching and babbling, “Don’t you see? She drove me to it! She kept pushing and pushing!” I felt sorry for him. He seems a bit close to the edge.

Along the same vein, the snotty Euro guy with the phones is an Investigative Reports (hosted by Bill Curtis) waiting to happen.

I just got around to seeing it (taped it the other night) and thought it was very good.

Having worked in a private boarding school for wealthy kids in Switzerland, I can attest that this is pretty much accurate. Some of the kids have goals and ethics and morals, some you just want to whack with a two by four until they wake up and smell the truffles. There is no easy formula - old money, new money - doesn’t make any difference. Comes down to the individual kid’s upbringing.

I think that was best shown in Jamie Johnson’s case. His father didn’t seem thrilled that this film was being made, but you could see that he and his son had a relationship that made even this breach of social etiquitte OK. Dad was totally behind his son - even if it meant doing something he found personally distasteful.

I thought this was one of the most interesting parts, and really highlighted something I was thinking about the whole time I was watching the show, which is:

It’s not possible to be born rich. Everyone is born with the exact same amount of money ($0.00). Now, some people are born to rich families, and sometimes those families decide to give the kids some money, but if they families ever stop giving the kids money, then the kids will no longer be “rich.”

In other words, to me being rich means having a lot of money, not merely having relatives with a lot of money and the expectation that they will give at least some of that money to you. Now, some of these kids maybe were beneficiaries of trust funds, so they really were owners of money, but if a kid is worried that the money will stop coming in then that kid isn’t really rich in the first place.

I don’t think this is any great discovery or anything, and I’m not sure what the implications are, it’s just how I thought about the situation. I guess one implication is that if I ever become filthy rich and then have kids, I’m going to make sure they know that they’re not rich–their daddy is. Once they graduate college I’ll make sure they don’t starve to death or anything, and I may give them a bunch of money if I feel like they can handle it and they’re doing well in life, but they shouldn’t automatically expect to be able to do nothing but shop all day and hang out with their friends with me picking up the bill.