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Date Created: 12/21/15
FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL The Butler Boom Wealth Explosion Sparks Labor Shortage; Starting Pay, $70,000 ByRobert Frank The Wall Street Journal PublishedJune 1, 2007 R obert Frank's book "Richistan" documents how the newly wealthy are rewriting the rules of what it means to be rich. In this chapter, he chronicles the revival of a faded profession. Denver Of all the skills taught here at Butler Boot Camp, none is more technically challenging than the Ballet of Service. The Ballet, used only for formal dinner parties, requires four butlers to glide into a dining room with their silver platters and serve the guests in perfect sync. The climaxof the performance is a move called the "crossover"--a plate-juggling pas de deuxin which the butlers slide one platter from their right to left hand with a quick body pivot, creating the illusion that the plate is suspended in midair while it's being transferred. When done right, the Ballet displays all the desired traits of a but-to-be --discipline, agility, poise and Raymond Champion, the lead drill sergeant at Butler intimate familiarity with tableware. Yet on a recent Boot Camp, is dismayed. Aformer marine, whose evening here in the mansion of the Starkey military specialties included martial arts, weapons International Institute for Household Management -- training and decorative baking, Mr. Champion is a betterknown as Butler Boot Camp --the butlers are stickler for detail. The next morning he addresses the botching their ballet. Dawn Carmichael, a chipper, class with a stern frown. "I'm disappointed," he says. blond, former Starbucks barista, begins her crossover before the three other servers, throwing off the whole"Very disappointed." routine. The other butlers freeze, before finally They practice for several more hours. And that night, at dispatching their platters and scurrying back into theanother dinner party, they perform the ballet in perfect kitchen. unison. "Congratulations," Mr. Champion says. "Now that was servie." "I lost the rhythm," Ms. Carmichael says. James Hopkins, a fres-faced college grad from Maine, Every year, more than 50 students from around the countryconverge for boot camp at Starkey. Their aim is is equally disappointed. "It felt awkward," he says. "to become masters at the care and feeding of the rich. looked like robots." For eight weeks, the students hole up inside the FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL mansion to cook, clean, polish, dust, wash and fold. They learn how to iron a pair of French cuffs in seconds flat. They learn how to clip a 1926 Pardona cigar, how to dust a de Kooning canvas and whether to pair an oaky chardonnay with roasted fre -reange game hen. They learn how long it takesot clean a 45,000- square-foot mansion (20 to 30 hours depending on the art and antiques), where to find 1,020 -thread-count sheets (Kreiss.com), and how to design a "stationery wardrobe" --envelopes and letterhead specially designed to reflect the owner'sealth and social standing. They will be taught that sable stoles should never be stored in a cedar closet (it dries them out), and that Bentleys should never, ever be run through the car wash. nearly a century. Over the past 10 years, the number of multimillionaire households has more than doubled. N everJudge the Employer As of 2004, there were more than 1.4 million U.S. households worth at least $5 million and more than Most of the students live in the Staky mansion during Boot Camp, following Starkey's strict rules. Everyone 530,000 worth more than $10 million, according to the has to wear the uniform of khakis, crisp white shirts, Federal Reserve. blue blazers and brown shoes. First names are banned; On the third floor of the Starkey Mansion, placement everyone is "Mr." or "Ms." to stress the importance of workers frantically answer phones from rich boundaries with their future employers. The students homeowners looking for help. Alarge white board lists are required to rise from their seats everytime a visitor enters the room. If there's a coffee cup that needs more than a dozen job offers. "We have too much filling, a spoon that needs polishing or a visitor who demand and not enough qualified graduates," says needs welcoming, the Starkey students must spring into Mary Starkey, Starkey's charismatic founder, whose business card reads "The First Lady of Service." Starkey action. The Starkeystudents are so wired for service received about 300 applications for its 50 slots this that when a class break is announced, they all pounce year, up from barely filling the slots five years ago. from their seats to fill each other's water glasses and coffee cups. Other butler-placemen t agencies are also swamped. Most importantly, they learn never to judge their rich EstateJobs.com, a placement service for household staff, had more than 100 job listings on its site just months future employers, whom they call "principals." If a after it launched in 2005. One ad read: This New York principal wants to feed her shih tzu braised beef City family needs someone extremely organized. They tenderloin every night, the butler should serve it up with a smile. If a principal in Palm Beach,a., wants to summer in the Hamptons and need someone to assist send his jet to New York to pick up a Chateau LaTour in running and staffing their new summer home.... from his Southampton cellar, the butler makes it They also need someone techieM - ac and BlackBerry savvy to set up systems in the new beach house and happen, no questions asked. facilitate entertaining, travel arrangements and coordinate with all appropriate vendors. Other duties Starkey students pay more than $12,000 for Boot Camp. While that may sound steep, a good Starkey involve shopping for presents. graduate can start at $70,000 to $120,000 a year, not to mention free room and board. And butlering has The butler boom is part of the story of how wealth has changed in America. Today's rich, with their high -tech become one of the fastes-tgrowing occupations in the estates, globe-trotting schedules and complicated lives, United States after more than a ha-lfentury of decline, don't want traditinal butlers. They want a hand-on driven by the greatest surge in American wealth in FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL manager, a kind of chief operating officer for My Life Yet just as new butlers need training, so do the New Inc. So Jeeves, with his white gloves, British accent Rich. Since most of today's wealthy grew up middle and impeccable manners, hasbeen replaced by Jeeves class, many are uncomfortable with the stuffy 2.0 --now known as the household manager. formalities that often come with household staff. While Jeevesfetched the slippers and served tea, the Take the case of Bob, areal-estate tycoon and ranch household manager oversees dozens of "vendors-"- owner in the Far West who asked that his last name from the pool cleaner and arborist to the home - not be used. Bob, his wife and two kids live on 800 theater installer and dog groomer. The household acres with 10,000 square feet of living space. manager is part accountant, managing multimillion - Describing his middle-class upbringing as "like the dollar budgets, and part techie, keeping shopping 'Wonder Years,'" he sayshe never had experience lists on spreadsheets and networking computers for with household staff growing up. "It's bizarre," he three vacation homes. The acronym CHM, for says. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds to have a Certified Household Manager, can now be found on house staff. You have all these people touching business cards. everything from your underwear to your medicine. It's not really our preferen." "We don't use the word 'servant' anymore," Ms. Starkey says. "Bing a household manager is a real The reason he hired help was to give him and his profession." wife more time with their kids. Since they run their own business, they're not home much and wanted to Today's butlers are more likely to be younger women spend all their free time with their two sons, rather than older men. Most have experience in hotels, than cooking, cleaning or mowing the lawn. resorts, major companies or the military. Ms. Carmichael's class included three militarypersonnel, YetBob quickly discovered that managing a house a formerfoundation director, a college graduate who staff has its own headaches. "Suddenly there's all this had majored in hospitality, and a be-dand-breakfast funky politics going on in your house. Like the owner from upstate New York. housekeeper might be nice to us, but she's threatening to the other employees. So we had to get One student, Kevin Stafford, had his life transformed rid of that housekeeper." by butlering. A48-year-old Floridian with a bushyred mustache, thick glasses and earnest demeanor, Mr. His first household manager was a nightmare. An Stafford worked for years as a bartender in Coco exacting woman who specialized in formal Beach. One day he met a wealthy couple who had entertainment, she aspired to throw lavish parties for just moved to town and got to know them over the prominent guests. Instead, she got Bob and his years. When they decided to move into an 11,000- family, whose idea of a big Friday night is a square-foot penthouse on the beach, they turned to mountain-bike ride followed by a big salad. The Mr. Stafford to be the household manager. They not household manager was deeply disappointed. "We only paid his tuition to Starkey, but also bought him weren't the rich, famous people she was hoping for," a new truck, renovated his house and hired his wife. Bob says. "I'm so grateful," Mr. Stafford says after class one day, tears welling up in his eyes. "It's like a dream." FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL T he Mouse in the House Shetried to convert them anyway. Every Friday night, she presented a formal dinner. Bob, his wife and two sons would sit down at the dining table and the household manager would serve them from silver platters. She even bought an expensive steam press to form the napkins into perfect triangles. "During one of these dinners my wife and I turned to each other and said, 'What's the deal?Does she think this is how we're supposed to live?'" Eventually, Bob got fed up and hired a new household manager, this one from Starkey. Aformer bank worker, the household manager runs the house the way Bob likes it--like a business. And Bob pays him accordingly, at $80,000 a year. "He keeps everything on an Excel spreadsheet, including our Adapted from "Richistan: A Journey Through the shopping list and our pool temperatures," he says. American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich" by Robert Frank. Copyright © 2007 by Robert Still, Bob still has moments when he wonders how Frank. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing, a division of Random House Inc. his life got so complicated, with a home that's more like a company. "The other day we saw a mouse in the house. Before, I would have just gotten a broom and gotten rid of the thing. But now it's different. I emailed the household manager. He called the vendor, a pest- control firm, and the pest-control firm caught the mouse. Then the household manager directed two other staff members to dispose of the mouse. That's five people to catch a mouse. It all seemed normal at the time. But then I thought about it,nId wondered, how did our lives get like this?"
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