Every week brings yet another Internet IPO and a raft of Silicon Alley employees who suddenly find themselves awash in a sea of mizuma. But the paper moguls are still a conservative lot; flaunting it generally means shelling out for a new Palm VII. The heavy-duty product placement hasn't really started yet, as any significant liquidation by principal shareholders would make the next CNBC newscast. And not knowing whether the company stock will be in the shredder a year from now is a powerful argument for diversifying, say, into a two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope or Star Wars memorabilia instead of a redesigned Porsche.
So who's spending all the big money in New York? Wall Street money still skulks behind every act of in-your-face shopping in this town, whether it be that sunken tennis court in Georgica (to muffle the sound of bouncing Slazengers) or a membership at Westchester's new Hudson National Golf Club in Croton-on-Hudson (initiation fee: $317,000). Throwing money around is becoming a new sort of performance art, and economists have coined a word to describe the genre: hyperconsumption.
Just what would possess a sane person to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a Hamptons rental (sans cable), or install an underground garage for 200 cars in this same neck of the woods (as Ira Rennert is doing at this very moment, spurring others to dig their own)? "This is a classic case of discomfort anxiety," says psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, president of the Albert Ellis Institute, a facility celebrated for its pioneering cognitive-behavior therapy. "Wall Streeters think that if they're deprived of anything, they'll be too uncomfortable. They cannot tolerate any type of deprivation. It's all ego anxiety to impress others. What we're talking about here is a bunch of 200-pound babies."
Jets Host the Giants
Last year's needful appliance was the Gulfstream V. Priced at $38 million, the GV is still limited to the certifiably filthy rich, Fortune 500 guys. But today's flush hedge-fund managers are having REM visions of their very own Boeing Business Jet kissing the tarmac at JFK. Known among tail-number groupies simply as the BBJ, this executive jet is redefining the high life.
What, exactly, sets the BBJ apart from the GV? The BBJ is big. Make that huge. It's essentially a customized Boeing 737 whose design has been tweaked for better performance (tell-tale winglets distinguish it from its commercial counterpart). The BBJ's cabin is nearly three times the size of the GV's, a palatial 807 square feet versus a puny 210. Not only can the BBJ cruise at Mach .82, but it can also transport an entire office party from New York to Beijing without refueling. Cost: $35.25 million, minus the amenities inside like a master-bedroom suite, a conference room, a lounge area, and a media room tricked out with DirecTV and 42-inch plasma flat-screen monitors, which typically add another $10 million to the sticker price. (Note to the thrifty: Any interior that sets you back less than $10 mil is considered "very vanilla" by the boys at Raytheon, the conversion center that snares the lion's share of BBJ business.)
Boeing optimistically projected five orders this first year of availability. Instead, as of today, 46 BBJs were on order, the first of which will be delivered with its Raytheon-outfitted interior in mid-July to General Electric CEO Jack Welch. As weight restrictions prohibit BBJs from landing at East Hampton Airport, those who summer on the South Fork will have to touch down at Westhampton's Gabreski Airport (not necessarily a bad thing, considering this is where Air Force One is cleared for landing if the Clintons do Shelter Island this summer). Have the Sikorsky copter gassed and waiting for the second leg.
"Wall Streeters are partial to big California wines, things like Opus One '95, $175 and Joseph Phelps Insignia '94, $210," says Mauro Maccioni, son of Sirio and co-owner of Circo, an upscale Tuscan restaurant in midtown. "Unless they're with a girlfriend they want to impress. Then they order French. Usually a first growth, something really expensive, like a Latour '85, $600 or an Haut Brion '85, $625."