The fall from grace of the Princeton, Harvard ivy league law graduate masks an endemic condition of omnipresent ‘playing’ at airs in NYC. Airs that so many aspirational New Yorkers find themselves playing at in the hopes of living the dream (what is the dream anyway?) and climbing up the social ladder and by tacit admission up the career ladder and the good catch of a well to do connected life partner.
For most of us that is just an illusion. For most of us, excelling at work and social status takes damn work and lots of it and even then one can never be sure. But at least in a city like NYC, unlike many other cities (isn’t that why you are here?) steeped in who do you know attitude, if one arrives here with a dream, determination and the willingness to stick it out they might just make it.
In recent years we had the likes of the ill fated reality show, High Society, starring a catty and bratty Devorah Rose, Tinsley Mortimer, and the oafish Jules Kirby. All individuals who had money up the wazoo, courtesy of their family to play at airs, to turn up at society bashes and be eagerly photographed by the likes of PMC or GoG and announce just like that they were the it people.
If only life was just like that.
Since High Society came and went (and how) we haven’t heard from the show’s stars, Paul Johnson Calderon became an embarrassment and rejected by those he aspired to emulate, Devorah Rose a despited Hamptons maybe/maybe not socialite and Mortimer, somewhere peddling her creative handbags. And why not?
Others like Olivia Palermo, Whitney Port who came from out of no where came to be more fortunate.
Palermo photoed well, was able to get herself a starring reality show and become invited to be a regular in the gilded society market and whereby she cleverly latched on to opportunities and went from heights to heights. Good for her.
But it didn’t have to happen that way, it could have gone horribly wrong for her or like most of us she may have just had to accept that the tabloids weren’t going to curry her a ‘star’ and had to trudge along with the daily reality of a modest salary as a hard working professional.
One can never be sure why Melissa Berkelhammer, an apparent insider came to fall off the social aspirational train?
Offered Melissa Berkelhammer by way of the Observer once: ‘My parents enable me to live the lifestyle that I do. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that,’
‘I am grateful that I have the luxury to follow my dreams, which, of course, I am still trying to figure out what they are, and not work at some job that I hate because I need to support myself. Because, as everyone knows, even to live in a dump, the rents nowadays are just ridiculous!’
For a while her well to do psychiatrist father, Edward Berkelhammer, whilst he was still alive and before being subjected to legal quandaries after the dubious deaths of patients at his hands was able to front his daughters aspirations to the gilded set by paying a pr retainer to make sure his daughter (like many families do, until so many of you just learned to ‘crash’) came to be invited to the right party.
But then he died and the money eventually disappeared and maybe Ms Berkelhammer sunk in deep depression as evidenced by her suicidal note on Facebook (her cry for help) and an inability to move forward?
A plea for help and attention that some of us may have taken seriously had she not been so mean and arrogant and condescending to those whose help she sought.
A state of mind the self entitled diva and ivy leaguer continued to maintain whilst illicitly taking over the house of a friend of hers, actress Julianne Michelle who at one point was willing and able to help. Until she too realized that Ms Berkelhammer (and her mother to boot) didn’t really want help but a free ride.
It’s natural, we sink to depression, are hit with life’s adversities (Berkelhammer came to have both her legs broken in a car accident) become convinced that all those photos of us in society journals actually mean something (sorry they mean absolutely nothing and shame on you if you stupidly think so) and are forced to wake up post champagne stupor that if one is to excel one has to overcome their ego, their sense of entitlement, their inertia, their fears, their medications and the reality that life is often so very unfair and that hard work is very necessary.
Yes (and I won’t name them) there are those in ‘high society’ who are fortunate to have access to good jobs because of family connections, or the ability to fund ideas because of family money or a living arrangements that are cheap and very hard to come by and thus allowing them the leverage to leap jump the daily slog so many are forced to contend with to excel in NYC.
And then there are those of you, and you know whom you are, who don’t even bother to work who are able to live off the graces of your family’s fortune and connections and run around the city, dizzy on the blow and champs and the constant photo ops you’re able to buy your way into…and the delusion and illusion of being something, or someone productive.
And now Melissa Berkelhammer, an ivy leaguer will have to work as a hostess/waitress at a restaurant. But there is no shame in that. It is wise. A reality the fallen socialite came to realize when she was shamed for asking a $65k dole out from friends on Facebook.
She does’t need to prove anything except to herself and from there win the admiration and support of those who have noticed she is willing to make amends and move on. But she ought not rely on it. She must like all of us, come to rely on oneself and be ever determined to accept that one can not always buy oneself in or get invited to every charity bash or elite outing.
Said in the interim to be living in a hotel (at whose expense is not known) and where she will go from there is not necessarily understood.
In the age of reason and self determination, one must rely on themselves and be at peace with that, even pretty young girls who so often use their looks eventually come to realize that, if we are to believe in the idea of equal opportunity for both sexes.
Yes life in NYC is hard and yes the pictures and the stories on page 6 are all so tempting and dare we wish we could all be the chosen dolls that walk around thinking they’re it.
But stick to the facts: work hard, be disciplined and always have self respect and you might just get somewhere because New Yorkers will always give you their attention and admiration when you show the world you have got guts and the tenacity to ride the turf out and not hung up about the self delusion of a society world that exists for a few gilded very fortunate few. Not that they would have you anyway …
Above image courtesy of gog