Social climbing is one of America’s great traditions. For centuries, Jay Gatsby’s and Anna Nicole Smith’s have tried to glide up gilded ladders to infiltrate high society, some with more success than others.
Who better to explain how to skillfully penetrate the 1% bubble than two well-known 1%ers themselves? That’s why Jazz Johnson, former debutant and Johnson & Johnson heiress, and her uncle, novelist and screenwriter Dirk Wittenborn, just released a how-to book called “The Social Climber’s Bible.”
The tongue-in-cheek guide details how to break into the upper-crust one dinner party, Hampton’s golf club, and ignored billionaire wife at a time. Here are the top 7 “do’s and don’ts of upward mobility.”
1. Be generally unattractive
If you thought the key to gaining acceptance into the world of the rich and famous was beauty, you know nothing about the rich and famous. As Johnson and Wittenborn explain, the mega-rich are generally unattractive. As the authors say, “Paul Allen has the look of a mortician” and “Bill Gates resembles a snail out of his shell.”
Unattractive people, particularly wealthy ones, want to surround themselves with people who make them feel attractive by comparison and who envy them, they say.
2. Name drop the dead
According to Wittenborn and Johnson, claiming you were besties with someone cool or rich — and dead — is a sure-fire way to make living cool, rich people think you’re worth their time.
The book suggests casually dropping in conversation that Leonard Bernstein taught you to play “Chopsticks” or James Gandolfini taught you to make lobster Fra Diavolo.
Not only does this plant the fact that you were worthy of such talent paying attention to you, but it’s also nearly impossible to prove false, since the other party can’t refute it.
3. Get offline
This means no Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Christian Mingle — nothing. That may seem unbearable to anyone today, but entry into high society ain’t free.
As the book explains, “an old posting, a snapshot, for example, of you flashing your ta-tas back on spring break of ’10, admitting ‘liking’ Justin Bieber…could be as much a liability as those indiscreet friends and family you have already cut out of your new life.”
4. Go to AA meetings
The authors don’t condone alcoholism. Rather, what Johnson and Wittenborn suggest is turning up at meetings in the ritziest neighborhoods, taking note of “those in recovery who are accessorized with twenty-thousand-dollar Hermès Kelly bags and have not succumbed to hocking their Rolex watches…to buy crack.”
Befriend these people, who will be “grateful” to make a responsible new friend.
The same goes for funerals. Sure, it seems crass, but the book advises checking your local newspaper each day for memorial services of dead rich and famous people, who likely have living rich and famous friends attending. They’ll be too grief-stricken to ask too many questions and just sad enough to look for a friend.
5. Be a really good guest
If you’re skilled enough to score an invitation to a big-wig’s country home, it’s imperative you bring a perfect gift for your host. Because there’s no way you can afford something they would actually like, Wittenborn and Johnson suggest getting crafty.
They advise buying a dozen artisanal jelly jars and some Smuckers preserves on sale at Costco, pouring the latter into the former, handwriting a label and presenting it to your host as your “grandmother’s treasured recipe.”
6. Snag a prime seat at a dinner party
There’s no point in even attending an A-list dinner party if you’re not seated next to someone who can help you up the rungs. So what are you to do if your host seats you in Siberia or next to someone who matters less than you do?
Simply switch your place card with someone else, of course. While it’s a risky move, it could pay off in spades.
You’d be in good company. Johnson and Wittenborn write that Barbara Walters is allegedly a master of “surreptitiously improving her placement,” one time even switching the place card of the guest of honor with her own so she could sit next to Hillary Clinton.
7. Make it a family affair
Don’t think the burden lies squarely on you. In fact, your kids can really help when it comes to elevating your social status. If you can get them into the right schools, that is.
“The payoff of sending your children to one of the right private schools…is that you will have the opportunity to meet Big Fish parents who can speed your climb every single day of the school year.”
Another tip: Teach your kids the difference between a Degas, a Picasso and a Basquiat, so they can report back to you on what art was hanging on the wall of their friends’ houses. That way, you know which parents to cozy up to.