Filthy Lucre – by Molly Crabapple
When you fly Virgin Upper Class out of Heathrow, you go through a separate set of airport security.
With a ticket that costs $4,000 round-trip, you swipe your boarding pass, go up a sleek private elevator, and pass through security and passport control that is delighted to see you. “Lovely suitcase,” they coo. You’re whisked away to the Virgin Clubhouse, with its free facials and single-malt scotch. Except briefly, you never interact with the airport’s general population.
Some months ago, I got to fly first-class from London. Until then, I’d never realized it wasn’t just a recliner in the plane and some cheap bubbly, but rather a separate sphere of being. In first-class, you weren’t groped or barked at or treated like a combination of a terrorist and a cow. Instead, paid servants pretended your presence was a gift.
After years of work trips crammed in coach, being forced to show my underwear to the TSA, I felt like a guttersnipe in a palace. I loved it, but it was also deeply strange. “These people don’t really like me,” I thought, no matter how skillfully they acted like they did.
Until you see it, you never realize how separate the sphere of the rich is from that of everyone else.
I came from a middle-class, divorced home. As is typical, the upper-middle-class end of the split went to my dad, and the lower-middle-class to my mom. Like most people trying to make it in an impractical profession, I spent years living in rat-infested tenements with roommates who threatened to kill me in my sleep.
Unlike most artists, I started to make money. Not 1 percent money, but more than my mom ever dreamed of. Once I did, I started to realize how broken the idea of American meritocracy was.
Meritocracy is America’s foundational myth. If you work hard, society tells us, you’ll earn your place in the middle class. But any strawberry picker knows hard work alone is a fast road to nowhere. Similarly, we place our faith in education. Study, and the upper-middle class will be yours. Except the average student graduates $35,000 in debt.
I Went to Art Basel and Tried to “Get” Art
A while ago, I wrote a thing about how I don’t “get” art. In the piece, I dared to suggest that maybe it was silly that a neon sign that says “my cunt is wet with fear” is worth $100,000. It got read by a lot of people, many of whom disagreed with me and got very very angry. After reading people’s feedback, I thought maybe I had been a little harsh, and decided to give art ONE MORE CHANCE.
So I headed to Art Basel in Miami. In case you don’t keep up with #art, Art Basel is the world’s largest art fair. A bunch of galleries from all around the world gather in a big exhibition center in Miami and show off their bestest bits of art (pictured above), and have some parties and stuff.
First thing I noticed while walking around the main exhibition was the INSANE amount of canvases-painted-one-color that were on display.
I mean, I get it. It’s “making us question what art REALLY is” or some shit. Which I guess would have beenkinda interesting the first time someone did it 100 years ago. But do we really need to keep doing it? It’s been pretty well established what art is by now.
What I don’t get, is who the fuck is buying this stuff? Is this really worth $20,000? I know that nothing is worth what you pay for it, that’s just how the world works. Like, the computer I’m typing this on probably cost the manufacturer about 1/50th of what I paid for it. But come the fuck on, man. A black square? That costs as much as an entire third-world school?
I know the term “laughing all the way to the bank” is overused, but I find it hard you wouldn’t at least chuckle while driving to Chase if you were the guy who just made a year’s rent by painting a $30 canvas black.
And how does an artist even decide this is what they’re gonna do with their life? It’s like when people become an acoustic singer/songwriter. There is not one single thing that you can add to to that world, so why bother?
I guess it’s probably “Blair Witch syndrome”—where someone sees another person making a ton of money doing something that they themselves could have done and it makes them temporarily lose their mind.
Maybe that’s just what the entire art world is. Like how the tech world is made up almost completely of people who wish they could have been Mark Zuckerberg, the art world is people who are bummed they didn’t think of someone else’s obvious idea first.
Like how Tracey Emin made a bunch of money writing completely assinine statements in neon lighting, and now there’s an entire artistic movement of it. Like what you see above. Which are just four examples of about 1000000 I saw at Basel of people taking nominally profound statements and then turning them into art 3D objects to be sold for more than I make in a year.
Weirdly, Pharrell is taken seriously by people in Miami. I saw him at a bunch of shows, and he wasn’t laughed out of the building a single time. He even did a talk about design which, unfortunately, I missed, as I’m sure it would have been fucking GOLD. Apparently Kanye showed up and they had a debate about modern aesthetics, hahahahaha. This is the same guy who once asked everyone to start calling him “Skateboard P,” right? The one who was “rhymin’ on the top of a cop car”? I didn’t imagine that? And people are paying to hear him give his opinions on design now? Got it.
The VICE Guide to Dating Rich Girls
Rich girls are hot because their mums are hot. But they’re also insane because their dads are inbred sociopaths with Nazi fetishes. All of this makes dating one for a short period of time an excitingly weird mixture of prescription pills, naps, crazy arguments, depressing music, room service, therapists, tattoos that cost more than cars, jet lag, and guestlists. It’s gonna be fun!
They won’t stick around forever, however, as they’re genetically pre-disposed to breed among their own kind. But as long as you understand you’ll never be anything more than just a stopgap to them, you’re in with a shout.
This is all about timing. There’s a point in every rich girl’s life where they stop accepting daddy’s handouts and start nicking it from his wallet instead. This is when you strike. This is your brief window of opportunity.
The first step is identifying the bars/clubs that these girls frequent. One of a rich girl’s favorite activities is to go and look at other rich-people-who-are-pretending-to-be-poor playing in bands. A good way to find these is to check your local listings for who’s playing in your area, cross-reference band names with the internet, and look out for names like Charlie or Rupert or Frederick. That’s where you’ll find gold.
You have nothing to offer a rich girl other than being slightly less fortunate than they are, so wave your pedestrian lifestyle around as though it was an alternative lifestyle choice. You’ve gotta play it like Basquiat or Leo in Titanic; wear fingerless gloves, squint a lot, and say things like “Mister, I meet a lotta people with money, but whadda they got to show for it?” Obviously saying something like that while looking another human being in the eye with a straight face is gonna be pretty difficult, but you’ll get used to it. Just bear in mind her entire concept of rebellion will be gleaned from Dickens’s novels and James Franco’s Twitter.
The urban equivalent of this is equally potent: Get some lines in your eyebrows, claim to be a small-time coke dealer, wear a lot of Stone Island, and basically inhabit all of her parents’ nightmares. At the very worst, her dad will probably attempt to pay you off. If he does, shout, “I don’t need your money!” and then steal his iPod.
Yes, her flat isn’t shit. Get over it. The most important rule here is to never EVER ask how much her place is costing her. I know it’s fun to work out in your head how many times more expensive it is than your own rent, or to figure out how many hours you would have to work to pay the rent for just one month (approx 500, BTW) but don’t. a) Her parents are paying for it and she has no fucking idea, and b) Just fucking be cool. Act like you’re so accustomed to this kind of luxury that you haven’t even noticed she’s using a remote control to operate the curtains. Just shut up, sit back.
Unless you’re a horrible, horrible human being, dating a girl with a maid is gonna make you feel like the worst person on Earth; like the conscientious son of a plantation owner. Every ounce of your being is going to want to take your own plate over to the sink or say things like, “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”
But you know when a lion rips apart a gazelle in a nature documentary and Attenborough says something like “although horrifying to us, this is just par for the course in the wild”? Think about it like that. And if you’re still upset about it, just remember that the Filipino maid you feel so sorry for lives in a bigger house than you (the outhouse at your girlfriend’s).
Firstly, you’re gonna want to sleep with her mom because her mom is going to look THE EXACT OPPOSITE to your mom. She will smell like whatever frankincense smells like. However, she will understand what you are straight away; which is just “a phase.” She might even regale you both with a story about how she once dated a “punk rocker with a motorcycle” before “meeting daddy,” which is essentially a nice way of saying “Lily is marrying Sebastian, and your days are numbered, dickhead.”
The dad is worse. He understands all your disgusting urges because he lives on a diet of anal sex with Polish women that get delivered to his hotel. The other problem with dads is that rich girls and their fathers flirt to the point of obscenity. This may make you feel weird, but imagine how much it fucks up these two weirdos.
Two things. Number one: Compared to her school friends, your mates are gonna look like House of Pain. Number two: She won’t be hanging out with her school friends any more, she’ll be hanging out with a touring collective of models, drug dealers, guys who own guitars, guys who own clubs, alternative pop stars in their early teens, and really old guys who used to know Joe Strummer. You will hate them. Your own friends will try very, very hard to screw all the models, though.
Rich girls have been taking drugs since they were three. If you don’t think you can be outdrink, out Xanaxed, out coked, out speeded, out everythinged by a 16-year-old, you’re wrong. Heath Ledger, John Belushi, River Phoenix—I guarantee they all died trying to match rich girls. No normal person, raised on shit weed and wine, can compete with a person built from neurosis, privilege, pressure, and those slimming pills made from ground-up Chinese babies.
IMPORTANT! Remember, part of them WANTS to get caught. So when they’re racking up lines on a Subway sneeze guard and it seems like it would be funny to join in, don’t! They’re gonna get bailed. And you’re not.