When my trust fund imploded, I headed to Monte Carlo, where people still have money.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Feb. 12 2009 6:53 AM

The Meaning of Monaco

When one's trust fund implodes, there's no better place to run than a gathering of the still-rich in Monte Carlo.

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I confess to a sudden sense of excitement. For so long, the boring rich, so conventional and so predictable, have been the Mr. Rights of our time—I don't have a girlfriend whose mother hasn't urged her, all things being equal, to choose a hedge funder. (My own mother, in Atlanta, seems to have had only one thought since I arrived in New York.) But clearly, here I was now in a roomful of Mr. Wrongs. (A further confession: Bernie Madoff seems much more interesting to me as a crook than he appears to have been as a pillar of the community.)

The world was turning: Having lots of money, rather than being the natural state—something we've come to expect everyone to have or be able to get—is an unnatural one. If you've got it, there's something not too nice about you. Of course, that attracts some girls.

I let my hair down for the gala dinner that the prince was throwing for these new potential "investors" at the Hotel de Paris and wore a white chiffon dress. In Daphne Du Maurier's novel Rebecca, it was at the Hotel de Paris that the impoverished, young, paid companion stayed with her employer, Mrs. Van Hopper, before she met and married the wealthy and mysterious Maxim de Winter. In the lobby was the echo of Mrs. Van Hopper harrumphing, "Most girls would give their eyes for the chance to see Monte."

Before dinner, as we mingled in the ballroom waiting for the prince's arrival, I caught the attention of a smooth looker of unclear provenance who now resides in Dubai, who seemed, gratefully, to want to talk about anything other than money. When I went to sit down, I discovered that the place cards had been changed. I was no longer seated next to a man safely accompanied by his wife, but to the smoothie—dark, slippery, witty, and, no doubt, far from aboveboard—who, I felt deeply pleased, my mother would definitely not approve of.

By way of further intimacy, he ticked off the locations of his homes around the world, pointing out that now was not a time to be spread too thin or too expansively. It was a time, he said, to take one's profile down a notch or two. Didn't I agree? He was, he thought, going to consolidate in a property up in the hills. Had I ever seen To Catch a Thief? Well, right near where that was filmed, he was buying a place.

"Do you like to be treated well?" he asked, putting an arm around the back of my chair.

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"Yes, please."

Victoria Floethe is a freelance writer in New York City.

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