Old-Fashioned Luxury, With Simple Ingredients
With Stissing House, Clare de Boer brings her fresh, unfussy food to Pine Plains,...
EXT. THE CURVING SARDINIAN ROADS LEADING TO THE BILLIONAIRE CLUB—NIGHT
A warm, clear evening on the Italian island. It is early August, so every night is warm and clear, almost changeless, because that is how the rich people have ordered them. A dorky silver minivan, driven by JOHN and JANE SMITH, navigates the windy passes above the crashing Mediterranean and cruises past a row of identical fancy clubs. The minivan approaches the driveway to the Billionaire Club. Opened in 1998, it is the preeminent rich-Euro hangout on the Mediterranean coastline. Sure, it’s not in Ibiza, but it’s called the Billionaire Club, for God’s sake, and it is home to more Russian billionaires and French models and former Italian prime ministers and vacationing Hollywood celebrities and scheming sociopathic imposters than any other club in the world. (For the record, JOHN and JANE had ordered a fine convertible coupe, but the inept rental people had only this stupid van available when they arrived. They swear.) A TAN TEENAGE VALET with skinny sideburns and oily hair approaches the minivan.
TAN TEENAGE VALET (in Italian)
Welcome to the Billionaire Club. Do you have a reservation?
(in a weird combination of Spanish and Italian. Come on, he’s trying his best.)
Sí. I mean, yes. Dov’è está—um, it’s under Mr. JOHN Smith.
TAN TEENAGE VALET checks his clipboard. Then he radios to someone up the long and winding driveway. The Billionaire Club sits atop a bluff, winking and glimmering in the soft Mediterranean night. TAN TEENAGE VALET’s headset chirps back.
TAN TEENAGE VALET(in a thick Italian accent)
My sorry, no. You cannot exist. I am being very apology. Allora, the parking on this club is fulling up. You are parking over there. (gives vague hand gesture toward the bottom of the hill)
What if I did this? (JOHN undoes the top button of his shirt to reveal what he hopes is a moneyed Italian amount of chest hair.) Does this help?
TAN TEENAGE VALET is unimpressed.
Perhaps it’s under the name “Paris Hilton’s boyfriend”?
TAN TEENAGE VALET
I thank you to make a move away from me, sir.
Executing a ten-point turn, JOHN maneuvers the enormous minivan past the cute little Italian cars that have lined up behind him and drives to the bottom of the hill.
Cut to JOHN and JANE walking briskly up the hill, the club’s twinkling lights in the distance.
Cut to ten minutes later: JOHN and JANE are still walking up the hill. JOHN is panting and lags behind.
Cut to another ten minutes later: JOHN, jacket wrapped around his waist, is bent over, huffing, with his hands on his knees. JANE waits for him at the door.
EXT. PARKING LOT AT THE BILLIONAIRE CLUB
JANE stands in the middle of a near-empty parking lot, confused. Several Ferraris, Mercedes, and Porsches glisten in the moonlight next to dozens of empty parking spaces, more than enough room to park a dorky minivan. Queued up at the entrance behind a velvet rope is a line of overly tan, overly blonde, and barely dressed Italian women. And one man. Who happens to be costumed as an overly tan, overly blond, and barely dressed (and very, very tall) Italian woman. He looks like the star of a Pedro Almodóvar movie.
Maybe if they’d rented us a Maserati minivan, we would have been allowed to park.
Cut to JOHN and JANE strolling through the club toward the bar, having somehow made it past the suited bodyguards. Above them is a giant poster of Flavio Briatore, the owner of the club and the former head of Benetton’s American arm. He’s also, naturally, a Formula One team boss and, even more naturally, the father of one of Heidi Klum’s children.
I hear Briatore is dating a Wonderbra model. I could see that. Except that I’m not really sure Wonderbras still even exist.
Walking through this place is like being inside a Hello! magazine photo shoot. I should have brushed up on my knowledge of British soccer wives. Or the Yemenesian monarchy. Where’s Tina Brown when you need her?
I read in Hello! that Bruce Willis got kicked out of here the other night because he wouldn’t take a picture with Briatore’s girlfriend.
JOHN and JANE approach the bar.
(In Italian. Seriously. He read an Italian phrase book for the entire flight from Rome to Olbia, which, if you didn’t know, is the city you fly into when you’re going to Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda. And if you didn’t know that, well, then good luck getting into the Billionaire Club. JOHN has to scream over the techno music thumping from every speaker.)
Vorrei un Peroni per favore!
(turns around and returns with a bottle of beer; he has to scream, too)
That will be 50 euros.
Sorry? Non posso hear you!
That will be 50 euros!!
Fifteen euros? That’s, like, 20 bucks for one beer!
I said 50 euros. Seventy-five dollars for one beer.
JOHN stares, incredulous, momentarily paralyzed. JANE rifles through her wallet, rolls her eyes at JOHN, and pays for the beer. She grabs JOHN, still slack-jawed, and they walk through the many rooms of the club. Each one has a slightly different vibe, from an imam’s living room to a French Riviera bungalow. They step out onto the main patio, which is laid over with Oriental rugs, making it look like some kind of Italian playboy’s fantasy of Morocco, and ringed by tall blinking plastic towers that seem to be landing lights for a seventies spaceship.
I wish I’d brought a 12-pack. I could sell them in the bathroom for half of what they charge and I’d make $450.
It reminds me of Vegas, where you have to pretend you’re cool with losing $350 in 12 seconds or you feel like everyone’s going to laugh at you. What I should have said was, “Fifty euros? Is that all? Don’t make me laugh. Here’s an extra thousand-euro tip.”
I didn’t realize the name was literal. It’s like, “What? You can’t afford a $75 beer? Uh, sorry, the Millionaire Club is the hovel down the road. Here we are as conspicuous as possible with our consumption.” It costs $3,000 to reserve a table. Without food. Not that we should be talking like that. (Looking around and speaking loudly) Money is no object for us! You hear that? No object!
I always thought you tip a dollar a drink at a bar and a couple extra at a fancy place. What do you tip on a $75 beer?
JOHN and JANE make their way through the throng and back to the bar. The crowd is made up mostly of fake-breasted, rail-thin models teetering on stilettos, and their heavyset, sweaty boyfriends. The BARTENDER sees JOHN and JANE and starts to walk away.
Wait! Just a quick question! It’s for the betterment of all Americans! Help us understand! Are we supposed to tip? Are we supposed to tip a lot? Or are we just supposed to sit in the corner and feel bad about ourselves?
Truthfully, many people don’t tip at all—tipping is really an American thing. But some people give me five or ten euros. And then you have the people who are either really rich or just want to seem that way. I’ve been tipped 500 euros on one glass of Champagne.
(To JANE) That must have been Berlusconi. (And then to BARTENDER) That was Berlusconi, right? You can tell us.
Hardly. Last time he was here he gave my friend ten euros.
JOHN and JANE continue to wander. A woman in a gold mesh top passes. A tan woman in a beanie walks by, surrounded by two other women in beanies. It’s a fashion show of tan Italian women in beanies and men in dark blazers and pink French-cuff shirts, with watches big enough to anchor Paul Allen’s yacht (which, as it happens, is just off the coast).
I need a tan. Ten years of avoiding the sun and worrying about melanoma, and after 20 minutes at the Billionaire Club I want to be as bronzed as the bathroom fixtures.
But my lifelong fantasy that the planet will be invaded by an alien army of tall tan women in beanies has become a reality!
And they said it would never happen.
Just look at what money can buy.
Billionaire Club, Porto Cervo, Sardinia; 39-078/994-192; billionaireclub.it