We are all fascinated by the unconscionably rich. Relegated to our limited imaginations, we project our materialistic daydreams toward those high towers, $66.5 million and up. Most of us don’t know billionaires, so we dip our toes into shows and films and novels; into fictionalized extravagance of a world gated and removed. A new book from an anonymous employee (known only as “The Guy Who Knows”) claims to possess insider knowledge from the most socialite communities in the world – the billionaires living on the Upper East Side’s Madison Avenue.
When I called “Guy”, his phone was breaking up. I knew he would not reveal his name even before arranging our conversation. The strange alias paired with his spotty reception provoked in me images of a spy relaying urgent code from somewhere deep underground. To fix the problem, Guy said he would call me back if I promised to delete the phone number afterward. I agreed and when my phone rang, the number read “No Caller ID”. I found him easy to converse with and imagined bejeweled women at black tie cocktail parties sharing their deepest secrets with this trusted employee.
I asked Guy where he was from. After a brief hesitation he responded, “The Middle East,” but didn’t elaborate. Years ago, he immigrated to America and quickly found a job working at an establishment on the Upper East Side where he maintained close, professional, and personal relationships within a circle of billionaire socialite women. Alongside his work, he also attends their parties and social events. To this group of women, Guy’s amiable nature and (relatively) negligible social status is advantageous. It allows these wealthy women a safe sounding board for gossip at their parties. Or so they think. Over the past several years, “The Guy Who Knows” has collected these women’s gossip and compiled them into “The Untold Stories of Madison Avenue,” a book to be released March 2 of this year.
One chapter describes “Mary,” an eccentric and extraordinarily wealthy woman. Over the past decade, Mary has lived in a lavish Upper East Side hotel suite while awaiting her dream home’s completion. Guy describes her modest dwelling as a “three story suite built just for her family and their four dogs.” Her husband lives on another continent and Mary patrols Madison Ave every day, from 59th to 86th Street, shopping. Mary has four dogs but hides three because her husband only allows her to have one. But he’s hardly ever there and their hotel suite is large enough to hide three animals for years. While vacationing in the Hamptons, Mary met a cow. She adopted that cow. She pays $10,000 a month for that cow. That cow lives comfortably in the Hamptons with “fresh, green pasture and its own special caregiver.” It’s stories like this that make up much of Guy’s book.
But of course “Mary” and “Guy” are just names. To protect himself and those around him, “Guy” has “changed names, places and certain scenarios.” Who knows what Guy’s job is? Even his Middle Eastern background may fall under scrutiny while listening to his familiar-sounding accent. What remains is an exposé from a witness we don’t know, writing about altered events, and people whose names have been changed to maintain ambiguity. A work of fiction masquerading as truth. Without courage to reveal honest circumstances, a boundary segregating most people from the ultra-wealthy is reinforced. A guy climbs a tower, peers through a window at our collective obsessions, and returns too afraid to reveal what’s on the other side of an imagined barrier.
To learn more about the book (and the guy), visit guywhoknows.com.