The friend who had a nanny for her dog


‘Way up on the Upper East Side’

One of the many things I enjoy about living in New York City is the, well, mix of people. Where I grew up in the Midwest — at least when I grew up there — a brunette was pretty darned exotic.

But here you get to rub elbows (and sometimes much much more) with a wide variety of folks. Some of whom live on a scale that can take some getting used to. Like, one day The Child came home from nursery school with this to say: “Mommy, Helen’s mommy has a couch in her bathroom!” Me: “How nice for Helen’s mommy!”

And I once shared Safety Patrol duty with a very congenial fellow mommy who, it turned out, had the same last name as a whole wing of the Metropolitan Museum. (No, she wasn’t named after it; it was named after her.)

My mommy friend’s namesake

And you may recall (from my story “Three, and You’re Under the Host”) that when The Child was attending that Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School, we were invited to some pretty swell parties. (All the parents, not just us, were invited to these parties. But still.)

This Mingling-with-the-One-Percent also happened at work. Back then, Ogilvy had a decidedly Country-Club flair. Maybe it was because David was, well, David. (He lived in a castle in France, for starters. If you want, you can read about His Ogilvyness here.)

David liked to surround himself with other “Gentlemen with Brains”. (Yes, that was a phrase he coined.) So there was the Account Guy Who Was a Whitney. And the Creative Guy Who Was a Delano. (Which is a flavor of Roosevelt.)

As close as I’ll ever get to a Roosevelt

Yup, the Social Register was amply represented. I remember there was this one assistant account executive who just disappeared one afternoon. His office was empty, his jacket was draped over his chair. But he was — poof! — gone. Turned out he’d gotten a phone call telling him he’d come into his inheritance.

Among these People Who Really Didn’t Have to Work was a  producer on the Dove team. As you may recall, I was a copywriter. So I was responsible, with my art director partner, for coming up with the ideas for TV commercials. The producer was in charge of getting them made. At the time, Dove was in the midst of its “Seven-Day Test” campaign, which, if you are as long in the tooth as I, you may remember. In case you don’t, here’s an example:

I never really understood what Lucille (not her real name) was doing working at Ogilvy — or working anywhere, for that matter. She was married to a Money Guy (my term for anyone in “finance”), lived in a palatial apartment on Fifth Avenue, and had staff.

She had a maid, and a driver, and a cook. In fact, she told me once that she had never been in her kitchen. 

Meet our cook. Yup, I even do the grilling chez nous

Now don’t get me wrong. Lucille may have been one of the One Percent, but she was sweet and kind and generous to a fault. We once worked on a Dove commercial in Chicago in the middle of winter, where we were shooting, for some insane reason, outdoors, and it was Chicago-in-the-middle-of-winter cold. So Lucille kindly loaned me “one of her old fur coats”.

Even after she stopped working at Ogilvy (or anywhere else) she would call up out of the blue to, say, offer us house seats to “Hairspray”. Or invite us to some trendy restaurant. Once we were eating at this nouvelle cuisine hotspot, and I ordered the “lobster ravioli”. A huge white plate decorated with swirls of sauce was placed before me. On it was exactly one “lobster ravioli”. Stephen, her husband (not his real name either), upon finishing his meal, asked “Who else wants to go for pizza?”

Lucille (of course) got her clothes in Paris. Or at this boutique on Park Avenue called “Martha”. (Speaking of Park Avenue, the picture at the top of this post shows me the closest I’ll get to an apartment there.)

Once I mentioned to Lucille that I’d seen her “on First Avenue the other day” and she said that it couldn’t have been her because “I never go to First Avenue.” (For those of you who are not New Yorkers, First Avenue, at least on the Upper East Side, is where the hardware stores, locksmiths, and vacuum-cleaner-repair places are.)

But. Back to staff. Besides the maid, the driver, and the cook, Lucille had a nanny. For her dog. She had this standard poodle named Gerard (yes, that was his Real Name; that dog was smart, but I don’t think he can read), after Gerard Depardieu.

Gerard (the dog Gerard, not the French movie actor Gerard) had not only his own Bear (a stuffed Steiff) to play with, but his own Person too. When you said to Gerard “Go get your bear! Go get your bear!” off he’d go, and come back with his bear in his mouth. Not sure how he fetched his nanny.

Pictured here is the nanny for our cat. Poor Tuna didn’t have her own bear — but she did have this nice Child to play with

Anyway. I’m not sure whatever happened to Lucille. Maybe she’s one of my readers. (Hello out there, Lucille! Thanks again for loaning me your Old Fur!) At any rate, I often think of her fondly when I’m walking up First Avenue on my way to the hardware store.

New York City. February 2018

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24 thoughts on “The friend who had a nanny for her dog

  1. Unbound Roots

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand what being one of the 1%. Not this Swedish, Lutheran, girl from the Midwest. I like my quiet time, my down time, and my privacy way too much to work my way up to the 1%. For that matter, I REALLY like doing things myself too. From taking care of my flower gardens, mowing the lawn, and harvesting my vegetables, to cooking, finishing our downstairs, and folding laundry (yes, I know I’m weird – who likes folding laundry?) – I enjoy it all. We see very few of the 1% here, but I’m sure it’s interesting. I’d be willing to try it for a day or two, but I don’t ever care to live that way. I’m already way too stuck in my ways 😉

      • Unbound Roots

        You’re right, I loved that post too. I can’t tell you how good a clean house feels! Honestly, I love just “being” in my clean house. With two young tornadoes – ahem, kids, it’s hard to come by, but I know this will last for only so long.

        As far as laundry goes, I think you are the only other person I have come across that enjoys folding laundry – it must be in our blood. 😉 A laundry-folding duel it is!

  2. I live in a fancier neighborhood, but it’s Boulder! I don’t know anyone close to being pampered like that. I would guess a friend of mine who lived across the street and moved to Cherry Creek in Denver might! I would guess a lot of people choose to work, especially if they were creative or intelligent. After my kids went to college, I had to reinvent myself. Now it includes tons of time writing books. I hardly have any free time! It’s weird when I see people out enjoying the day. I put in at least eight hours. Today, I’m working on first edits for a new thriller. Now, if I could just land an agent… I would love that more than a maid, butler, dog walker, AND cook! *fingers crossed*

  3. Such an interesting world. It truly is as if people in the 1% live in an alternative universe, and yet it’s perfectly normal and natural for them. I’m sure she is a lovely person just as you describe. But, I even find myself in a bubble. It’s funny that she can lend you an old coat, but it’s distressing to think how far she is (and I am) to truly understanding what an “old coat” really is.
    Sorry for the downer comment– but as much as I loved and laughed at your post I do have the difference between the haves and have-nots on my mind a lot lately. Lots of questions, few solutions.

    • Oh my! Don’t be sorry; you’re never a downer. And yes, I do take the haves/have nots seriously. Living in NYC means daily contact with both. Writing about it — even ‘funnily’, if that’s a word — helps me cope. Sort of (!)

  4. josypheen

    I honestly wouldn’t mind having a nanny to play with the cat…or a sofa in my bathroom (we’d need more space though! I don’t think there is room for a sofa and a bath!!)

    It all sounds awesome until you have to pay for it…

    • Yes! And the Other Thing That Amazes Me is that most of the couch-in-the-bathroom set never ever even THINKS about what it all costs. It’s all just sort of THERE. Until (and this kind of thing happened in the last Crash) — it’s NOT.

      • josypheen

        Plus, when do you EVER want to sit on a couch in the bathroom!? I mean to chat while someone else is in the bath…or on the loo!?

  5. drallisonbrown

    Your first paragraph reminded me of a comment my hubby made a few days ago, while grocery shopping – I’m not sure what’s funnier…the people who shop at WalMart or the people who work there. Sort of tells you about my place on the social ladder, eh? (place cry-laughing emoji here)

    • I actually love going to WalMart. Even though it sort of destroyed the small-towniness of my hometown. I love people-watching there. In fact, you just reminded me (thank you!) that I’ve been meaning to write a post about WalMart. Stay tuned. And thanks (even more than usual) for your comment!

  6. A fun account and I would say cities like NY give that experience of various kinds. That’s also the beauty of learning from others and seeing things how we may have not 🙂

  7. Deborah

    We were friends with the ex-husband of a Lucille type, he died a couple of years ago. Oh the stories we did hear from him, this Lucille had serious, serious money, hospitals named after her family etc. They had three kids together and their youngest wrote a scandalous book about her life. The father was very happy he wasn’t in the book, he was a good guy.

  8. I so love reading your stories of cavorting with the 1%! I, too, have these tales – and I was just a few offices/floors away! They’re in my thesis aka memoir aka half-book that, when I get my hand cast off (fingerless opera glove), I shall finish. With the proliferation of Dogs As People, I am sure that dogs in this milieu now have their own flats in London! Keep these fabulous stories coming!

    • Love love love your reference to your ‘fingerless opera glove’, tho of course hate the fact you have to wear it. Since that means I must wait for your memoir! Thank you for reading, dear Fellow Fab Ogilvyite xoxo

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