The rich are coming out of hiding
These are the men who make their money fast and spend it faster: They’ll pay a million for a private plane, blow a party of friends to a week in London just to watch a horse race, or fly a Chinese meal from Montreal to Miami. A new look at the new rich
HERBERT C. MANNING
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, although thousands of Canadians could barely get by on Depression earnings, public relief or the help of kind relatives, scores of others — more fortunate or clever — still lived in opulence and splendor. They took care, however, to conceal or camouflage their wealth and talked about it, if at all, behind their hands, to close friends. Ostentatious money, when so many had so little, was unfashionable. All this is changing in a dramatic way that must cause such impeccable rich as the McLaughlins and Eatons to blush behind their jeweled fans.
Remember the Flush Years? Well, they don't compare with today. In Montreal, Leo Dandurand. the owner of the quietly elegant Café Martin and one of the country's best-qualified commentators on the rich, can recall only two truly big spenders of the Thirties and early Forties. Both were Latin-American émigrés. One was General Gerardo Machado,
a former president of Cuba who fled with his family, a handful of followers and fifty million dollars looted from the Cuban treasury to three fifty-dollar-a-day Montreal hotel suites and an almost steady round of banquets he threw himself. The other was Simón Patino, who is said to have made four hundred million dollars out of Bolivian tin mines and who, Dandurand remembers, tipped the policeman in front of Café Martin fifty dollars and a waiter a hundred dollars every time he dined there.
"There were a couple of others who were wealthy and not reluctant to show it," says Dandurand, "But you could not compare that with today’s spending. Now almost everyone who comes through the door seems to have a lot of money.”
Dandurand's Mountain Street café,
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dedicated for three generations to gratifying the selective appetites of Montreal's more discriminating rich as well as the exacting tastes of world visitors, has never had it so good. His private credit system, vhich estimates the capacity of his upperbracket clientele to pay with the accuracy of a Dun & Bradstreet rating, includes three thousand names. Revealing this glowing symptom of success, he said recently: "It makes one think the rich have come out of hiding.”
In some ways, right across Canada, they have. But it w'ould be wrong to say that the basic behavior of the really rich has changed. It hasn’t. The established iristocracy of wealth — the so-called old families — still live more decorously than dangerously. A new resort in Jamaica, Frenchman’s Cove, operated by Grainger Weston, eldest son of the multi-millionaire merchant Garfield Weston, offers peace and privacy to “eminent millionaires” at two thousand dollars a week for man and w'ife. Grainger’s big pitch is quiet and concealment. "We don’t offer dancing girls,” he says. There are no bars, radios or TV. This retreat is populated largely by the long-wealthy folk of Canada.
Fifteen times as many as in 1935
What has changed drastically, however, is the ranks of the rich. Never in the history of this country have there been so many nouveaux riches and almost-rich. Never have so many Canadians succeeded in such a hurry, and never have they spent money so willingly and wantonly. In contrast to the thousand people who reported incomes of more than twenty-five thousand dollars a year to the Department of National Revenue in 1935, fifteen thousand said last year they’d earned that much and considerably more. That was double the number of ten years ago and six times that of 1941. The figure is going up every day. The average income of these suddenly-rich last year was fifty thousand dollars.
This new horde of nouveaux riches has kicked out of its plate-glass picture windows most previous notions on how the wealthy should get rid of their money. It was a minor scandal among the very well-to-do in the 1920s when Commander J. K. L. Ross, the Montreal sportsman, bankrolled two racing stables in Canada and the U. S. and freighted his flamboyant friends in a private railway car to Saratoga, Pimlico and Churchill Downs to watch them run. "Vulgar display,” was the popular reaction of his companion tycoons.
Today, such shenanigans no longer raise an eyebrow anywhere. Last year Max Bell, the Calgary oil and publishing millionaire, flew a party of his friends to London to watch one of his horses, Blue Sail, perform in the Derby at Epsom. The fact that Bell picked up the bill for the trip, for a week’s stay at the Ritz, for the Rolls-Royces that transported his friends to any place their whim dictated, passed almost unnoticed. If the junket attracted any attention at all, it was because Johnny Longden, who has ridden more winners than any other jockey in
history, went along to ride Blue Sail and finished tenth.
In the era of Ross, half a dozen Canadians had their own private railway cars and traveled hitched to the rear of regularly scheduled trains. They were known as the notorious rich, but by today’s standard they might well be going by pushcart. Scores of Canadians today travel in their own planes, costing up to a million dollars and piloted by crews whose combined salaries might cause Commander Ross to sell off half his horses. At Dorval. outside Montreal, Timmins Aircraft is a booming industry devoted entirely to servicing and flying such private planes. The cost: $150 an hour to operate, and they land and take off almost every minute.
Such aircraft are among the new wealth symbols of this country, which are changing swiftly and replacing such old symbols as substantial homes, glossy cars and fancy yachts.
One of the foremost wealth symbols today is travel, and the knowledge that comes with it. This insistent clamor to see the world and explore little-known parts of it has created a mushrooming industry: the travel agency. Claire Wallace, a writer and radio commentator who pioneered an agency that arranged offbeat trips to hard-to-get-at places about five years ago, now has a staff of seven and is expanding further. “Canadians travel more than anyone,” she says. “They don’t ask how much it will cost. They just tell us where they want to go, when they want to leave and how long they’d like to keep going.”
As a symbol, the Cadillac’s passé
On a whim, three Toronto housewives each parted with $3,500 for a “Livingstone Safari" through darkest Africa. They asked to attend the wedding of Haile Selassie’s daughter in Ethiopia and they did. While Belgian whites struggled to get out of the Congo a few months ago, scores of wealthy Canadians were swamping travel agencies with requests to go there. “Last year, it was Russia and China,” says Miss Wallace. "Where there's trouble — that’s where they seem to want to go.”
The swimming pool has also usurped the Cadillac’s place as a symbol of wealth. Builders installed more than three thousand indoor and outdoor pools across the country last year and expect to build six thousand this year at prices up to $35,000. although average cost is under $10.000.
But today’s new rich are also inclined to be fancy — and often imaginative. Alphonse Gagnon, a Quebec dime-store magnate, built a home in the shape of a pillbox in Chicoutimi and then sank a nine-foot-deep aluminum “fish tank" in the basement so he could “snorkel." Around the pool edge he has pogo sticks and bicycles for additional exercise for himself and his friends.
A Toronto sound-equipment manufacturer, David Gilmour. has not one but two pools in his backyard — on a split level—not fifteen minutes from his office. A lighted fountain splashes in the centre of one and spills its waters into the other, to the strains of hi-fi music. Complete with Japanese teahouse, the pools, according to the contractor, cost more than $30,000, but they only just managed to keep pace with the creation of a Toronto lumber merchant. Miroslav Filio. Beside his swimming pool he's built a games room and steam baths, under one roof. He's steam-heating the whole establishment and plans to sweat and swim all winter.
Canadians like this pair seem to be losing the old Canadian fear of flair. That hair shirt the rich have endured for gen-
erations — “vulgar display of wealth” — still has to be worn, but it doesn't itch much any more.
Chiefly responsible for the change has been a new type of tycoon, who in most cases has accumulated his millions adventurously and suddenly. One arresting example is Adrien Miron, of Montreal, fiftyfive-year-old leader in a family of six brothers — Gerard. Raymond, Arthur, Vincent and Gilbert, who is youngest at thirty-five.
They inherited a modest construction business from their father Emile and force-fed it into a giant. They built munitions factories, textile mills, cement plants, roads. They launched their own supply firms. Suddenly, in July, Miron et Frères, by now one of the biggest business names in Quebec, sold out for fifty million dollars to an association of Belgian companies, although the brothers still control a dozen firms on the fringes of the heavy-construction industry.
The reason for the sale was not that Adrien and his tribe wanted to quit work and have fun. The price was simply too attractive and, anyway, they had never forgone the pleasures of the very rich. Far from it, their love of exciting and expensive living has become almost legendary in Montreal. Adrien disdains holidays in Florida or the Caribbean but often flies there on weekends in one of the family’s two private planes, a DC-3. (The other is a Canso flying boat.)
A gourmet with a strong appetite for Chinese dishes, he once ordered a favorite, wan ton, in a Miami restaurant. Unable to get it, he phoned Ruby Foo's. which he patronizes regularly in Montreal, and had his Chinese dinner flown to Miami and prepared and served — with wan ton — in his hotel suite.
A $50,000 trailer for the stables
Five years ago, Adrien began to take an avid interest in harness racing, a fastgrowing sport in Montreal. Characteristically, he had to be champ. He began to buy standardbreds. Today he has a stable of twenty-six, a breeding farm at St. Augustin, Que., and he owns a pacer. Tie Silk, and a trotter. Champ Volo. acknowledged to be among the best in their classes on the continent.
When his horses are running on New York tracks, Adrien often flies down in his private plane for an evening to watch them. He hangs around the stables in a $50,()()() trailer he had outfitted with TV. a bar and lounge, where he plays gin rummy and swaps lies and horse talk with other owners or his stable hands.
There is a striking contrast between this new tycoon, who pampers his impulses and displays his successes, and the old tycoons like Sir Herbert Holt. T his giant, the richest Canadian of all, lived for decades in murky obscurity in a Montreal mansion, shunning pomp. He walked to work or was driven in a vintage Rolls-Royce. He never owned a private plane or a yacht. Today, he is becoming more and more a mildewed image of wealth.
Today the rich are apt to have less and throw it around more, like Toronto businessman David Rush, a millionaire at 38.
In his brief career Rush has controlled eighteen manufacturing or business concerns. He lias sold most of them and is currently buying more. Getting rich quick, he has backed prize fights and TV performers. He built a $125,000 beach cottage on Lake Simcoe, an hour's drive from Toronto, “because my wife hates mice.” The former “cottage” on the site was old and a mouse ran in one day. frightening Mrs. Rush. The new place has foundations two feet thick that go eight
A $50,000 sable coat for an oilman’s wife, and ermine for the racetrack
feet down. “Mice couldn't get in with pneumatic drills,’’ says Rush.
He planned to move to California after disposing of his business holdings in Canada, but his son, Gary, decided against the University of California and in favor of Queen's University at Kingston. Ont., for his studies. Rush scrapped plans for a villa in California and is building a $250,000 “colonial mansion" in Toronto’s swank Bay view area.
Nor is flamboyant spending any longer the prerogative of a fortunate few. Nowhere is this spelled out more clearly than in the women's fashion industry, which in this country has climbed from nowhere in money-making to the stratum of millions. One Montreal fashion authority, Marion Foltz of Holt Renfrew, says there are perhaps twenty-five women in Canada who replace an entire wardrobe of Paris and London originals twice a year at an annual cost of up to $40,000.
The number is apparently on the rise. Holt Renfrew, which distributes Dior designs and is sometimes considered to be the nation's No. I luiute couture establishment, moved only five years ago into a new building on Toronto’s fashionable Bloor Street. Today the firm is spilling over into a fourteen-story building next door. Although a snowstorm hogtied traffic, more than a thousand paid five dollars apiece to see a showing of Dior, Balenciaga. Balmain. Givenchy and other imported originals in Toronto's Royal York Hotel last March.
High-fashion houses like Holt Renfrew guard the identity of their well-to-do clients much as the RCMP guards Igor Gouzenko’s but are not at all reticent about prices, such as the $50,000 tag on a Russian sable coat recently sold to the wife of a Calgary oilman. The women themselves are far less inhibited. When one young and wealthy matron received an ermine coat as a gift from her husband she phoned Lillian Foster, a Toronto Telegram fashion columnist, to report the good news.
"Where can I wear it" she asked.
“Wear it to the racetrack,” Miss Foster replied, with intended malice. She was shocked next day to find the lady had taken her advice.
Perhaps nowhere have the rich come out of hiding with greater alacrity and impact than in the preparation for and performance of marriage rites. Weddings are a vital and profitable commercial enterprise. After love sets in. bridal consultants such as Claire Dreier, who in thirty-two years has stage-managed more than forty thousand weddings for the T. Eaton Company, take over, with the help of florists, caterers, decorators, vintners, the clergy and local members of the International Beverage Dispensers & Bartenders Union.
The last man in this lineup is the bride's father who, to avoid being called a cheapskate if he’s well-to-do, pays a standard five thousand dollars for the works. But five-thousand-dollar weddings today are run-of-the-mill, according to Miss Dreier and the consultants for other leading merchants. Now the sky’s the limit.
Samuel Bronfman, multi - millionaire distiller and one of Canada's richest men. took the lid off in 1949 when his daughter Phyllis married Jean Lambert of Paris in Montreal, and made a fortune for Ontario florists. The Bronfman home was festooned with fifteen thousand lilac blooms plucked by fourteen men the day before and transported by chartered TCA plane from Windsor. At the ceremony, two growing lilac trees framed the bridal
couple. Bronfman’s bill for everything was reported to be a hundred thousand dollars.
No one in Canada since has matched the Bronfman effort, but medals for valor could have been pinned last June on four Toronto fathers who tried. Within a week millionaires M. J. Boylen (mining), James F. Crothers (machinery). William Jay Gutterson (pharmaceuticals) and Isadore Rosenthal (electronics) gave away their tul led and bejeweled progeny and. by (he time the IBM machines had stopped clicking the total damage was estimated at $250,000.
Stunned guests watched productions that film-maker King Vidor might have envied. The Toronto Star described the Rosenthal rites as "the wedding of the decade." An entire year's growth of 2,500 Lester Hibbard roses (pink-beige) from
the Hamilton premises of Harvey Sobel perfumed the Royal York's new Canadian Room. At more than thirteen dollars a plate, five hundred guests ate and drank for four hours with a fifteen-piece orchestra spurring them on. The bride's gown, a $1.500 creation by Toronto designer Artibello. was roses from the waist down: peonies covered the newel posts and gardenias grew live in the urns.
"Elaborate but tasteful," bridal consultant Claire Dreier informed newspaper reporters.
"Today’s rich want to be distinctive.” she commented later, and others rose to the challenge.
The signal thing about this carnival of romance was that no part of it was a manifestation of idle wealth. All four principals are working millionaires, though recent ones. James Boylen, al-
though he controls a score of mining companies, still refers to himself as a prospector and lists himself as such in Who’s Who in Canada and has a license to prospect.
James Crothers’ time is so crowded that he shuttles between his business assignments in one of the most expensive private planes in Canada, a million-dollar Gulfstream. whose three-man crew he employs full time.
All four arc characteristic of Canada’s new tycoon, whose tastes and impulses are opening new channels in the nation’s
spending habits and widening old ones. For one exotic example, the biggest foreign customer of a Chicago gourmet concern that turns out each year eight million dollars’ worth of chocolate-coated ants and oil-roasted grasshoppers is Canada. This country is considered such a fat field for food faddism that McCormick & Company, of Baltimore and San Francisco, which collects a variety of spices and herbs from the corners of the world, will soon begin releasing them from a plant in London, Ont.
Art has also been given a tremendous
boost by the investments of the new Canadian tycoon.
Edward Clcghorn, associate director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, estimates that there are now a hundred and fifteen “great collections” in this country where fifteen — such as the Van Horne assortment of Old Masters — existed at the turn of the century. In addition to this, there are at least five hundred “significant collections" by Canadians, he says. An aggregate value might run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Unlike the Rembrandt self-portrait recently
acquired by Samuel Bronfman at undisclosed cost, these paintings are not investments by the collector so much as his bet that what his eye is attracted to will prove of value.
In his beach cottage at Lake Simcoe and his home in Toronto, businessman David Rush has paintings by such masters as Constable and Turner, in addition to the works of other famous and obscure artists. No real art lover, he says simply. “They’re important.”
Some don't even care if their spending is charged off against income tax or not. The Ronald Grahams of Vancouver foot the bill unabashed for parties that bring a flush to the cheeks of thousands of guests a year. At one affair for the Red Cross, they had 3,000 people. Their most famous guest was Prince Philip, who skinned his Grecian nose on the bottom of their Olympic-size swimming pool, but their unceasing party schedule is usually topped by the annual birthday shindig for multi-millionaire Ronald.
This year it was Nippon Night.
Five hundred and fifty invitations were sent out, many of them to people the Grahams have met on their travels around the world. Four hundred and fifty came.
The food: The hors-d’œuvre were authentic Japanese tidbits served on the patios and terrace by Japanese girls in full costume. They were: yakitori (bar-
becued chicken); kamahoko (fishcakes) and ehi no tempura (fried shrimp). These were cooked on a Japanese grill called a konro. The chicken was served on bamboo sticks. The subcontract for this was handled by the Geisha Gardens, a local Japanese specialty restaurant. On hand to supervise was George Yoshimura, the Geisha Gardens’ manager, and four of his girls did the cooking and serving.
The dinner menu: curried crab legs and shrimp, turkey, ham, baked salmon, jellied salads, tossed salads, brioche fingers, fresh raspberry mousse, birthday cake, and coffee.
The quantities: three 20-pound decorated spring salmon; six 25-pound turkeys: four 15-pound hams; 60 pounds of crab legs and 30 pounds of shrimp.
The help: eight bartenders and ten women cooks and helpers were hired, apart from the four Japanese girls and the Japanese manager; two commissionaires were hired to direct traffic. That makes a total of twenty-five. In addition, there was the regular Graham staff of seven.
The party began at seven o’clock. Two Japanese girls met the guests at the door and each woman guest was given a Japanese fan that Mrs. Graham had brought from Japan.
All the guests came dressed in some sort of Japanese get-up. The most famous guest, jockey Johnny Longden, came as Lord High Executioner. The members of one family came dressed in baseball uniforms, called themselves the Japanese Mounties. ( Mounties is the name of Vancouver's Pacific Coast League team.)
Imagine Sir Herbert Holt in such a getup? He'd think the rich had gone clean out of their minds, -fa