I’m amused by all this talk about uninvited White House guests: the polo-playing vintner and his blonde, sari-clad wife who crashed the State Dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
Party crashing and social climbing are old traditions in D.C., a city where the celebrated can be so empty headed that there isn’t always that much difference between them and the poseurs. The superficiality of so many Washington relationships just aggravates matters.
The ultimate D.C.-related work on this topic, in recent decades, anyway, may be Jerzy Kosinski’s satirical Being There, the inspiration for a Peter Sellers film by the same name. Chance the Gardener makes it to the talk show circuit as a respected political pundit—without even intending to Climb.
Social climbing also shows up in The Solomon Scandals, a suspense novel that is really a novel of manners in disguise. For example, Chapter 37 begins:
“What’s ‘The Capital Connection’?” I asked, intrigued by the slug line on the story Wendy was tapping out.
“Classes for social climbers,” she said. “I really can’t see the harm, dear. It’s only nine dollars to enroll. It’s right next door to a dance studio.”
“How do you Climb?”
“Party-crashing, of course. Just hold a glass and pretend you’re on your fifth Scotch. Then back in the door, and they’ll think you’ve been there all evening.”
“I suppose the students practice before a special row of doors and mirrors.”
“Or you can sneak past the doorman saying you have some earth-shaking news for the ambassador.”
“Sounds like a bargain for nine dollars.”
“Of course, dear. It’s even taught by a PR woman from Cincinnati.” I wondered how the PR lady accommodated students who wished to befriend the president. Did she give poker lessons so they could crash the most exclusive party-parties in the Free World?…
The weird thing is that the above isn’t entirely invented. In the past at least, similar classes actually have existed.
The real key to serious social climbing is to do it sustainably. The late builder Charles Smith, not the real Sy Solomon but in some ways similar, was able to cozy up to certain members of the Wasp elite by offering them something in return—namely, good returns from government-leased office buildings and other real estate. Money is always a better tool to use than, say, a fashionably coiffed blonde wife in a red sari.