Thank you for being frank, sir [Born into money edition]

The title of this post contains no word-play so as to make up for the terrible slant-pun title of the article I now wish to quote from: “Kaiser Roll” (subtitled: “Downturn doesn’t ding Brahmin broker A. Laurance Kaiser IV–‘The Sukarnos are very close friends of mine’“).

Kaiser Roll? Actually come to think of it this is a Slovach (meaningless sound-association of “Kaiser” and “roll”) on top of a slant (what exactly is the relationship between a wealthy,  up-market realtor and a variety of sandwich bread?). Points to the author for boldfaced nonsense, I suppose.

Anyhow, I happened upon this tres humorous article in the print edition of a July New York Observer. The circumstances are too boring to divulge. The article has many “rich” quotes and, depending on your schedule, may be worth reading in whole. Now, let me step aside and allow the Kaiser the stage:

“For the past 15 generations, nobody in my family has had to work,” said A. Laurance “Larry” Kaiser IV, the high-end Upper East Side real estate broker. “You work because you have to contribute to society.”

Mr. Kaiser, 66, was sitting upright in his small Madison Avenue office last month. A day earlier, two top executives at Lehman Brothers had lost their jobs and the Federal Reserve released a grim economic report: Manhattan real estate is “down sharply … inventories of unsold units have risen.”

Has Mr. Kaiser, a broker since 1968, been anxious? “Not in the past 40 years,” he said. “Why would I be worried? I have no problems whatsoever. And I constantly get calls from every broker, ‘Where do you get your customers?’ I was born with them. I went to school with them. They know exactly who I am.”

School was Harrow in England; then Switzerland’s Le Rosey, where Flavian Kasavubu, the son of the Republic of Congo’s first president, was a roommate. The sons of William Woodward Jr., the legendary banking heir killed by his socialite wife, were “my dearest friends.” And there was Princie Baroda, the son of the Maharaja of Baroda, “who was wonderful. We went on tiger shoots there, 500 elephants-and a thousand bearers.

“I went to school with people who are loyal years later. I mean I had many, many, many Arab customers before anybody did because I went to school with Saudi Arabian boys and the boys from Lebanon,” he said. “And I know them and I go to Marbella.”

At his office, one of Mr. Kaiser’s clients, the seller of the eight-room, hugely terraced Central Park South penthouse he’s listing for $16 million-who, according to an Observer article, is the arts philanthropist Iris Cantor-phoned twice. Two days later, Mr. Kaiser was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, treating Ms. Cantor, whose late husband co-founded the investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, and three friends, including Walter Annenberg’s stepdaughter Elizabeth Kabler, to lunch.

He wore a light pink polo shirt, a light blue Domenico Vacca sweater around his shoulders, black Valentino jeans and black loafers; he ate a Cobb salad, without chicken, and shared an apple pancake with blueberry sauce and whipped cream for dessert.

He wasn’t the Woodstock type. “But why would I want to be in the counterculture? We had cars and drivers and planes and racehorses,” he said, “and I went all over the world and I knew everybody.” So after Fordham, he went to work for Meshulam Riklis, one of the first corporate raiders, or what Mr. Kaiser calls the conglomerateurs: “I was very highly paid and had a chef and chauffeur and whatever else.”

Though I must say a few things give me pause and I faintly suspect the Kaiser of being a charlatan if not a fraud. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is an improper understanding of noblesse oblige:

 He left Mr. Riklis in 1968, which is when a friend, a Lehman heiress and future countess, happened to ask for his help house-hunting. (Mr. Kaiser still has copies of the Social Register, though they’re not quite as important these days: “People who would be better off scraping fish are becoming noblesse oblige,” he said. “Makes me laugh.”)

Or maybe that’s the “proper understanding” and the joke – the rich are obliged to help no one!

Serfs up, dude!

The Kaiser "Roll"

The Kaiser


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