[New York Observer] From the article Paid Friends: Weary of Genuine Relationships, Rich New Yorkers Hire Stand-Ins.
Over the next few months, I broached the topic of paid friends with a broad swath of people, and it turned out to be more taboo than sex. While the subject evoked knowing guffaws from some, others froze in their tracks, acting like I had stumbled upon a clandestine affair. (Guilty, obviously.) Others shrugged it off as something that clearly existed but not in their own backyard. No one I spoke to was willing to cop to possessing or being a paid friend. (Having a dominatrix seemed more acceptable.)
But one evening, I found myself at a dinner party seated next to the glamorous ex-wife of one of New York’s most enigmatic commodities traders, noted for his custom suits and contraband supply of Cubans. Having received a lucrative divorce settlement, she was more than willing to open up about her ex-husband’s assortment of paid friends. In fact, after I artfully plied her with Avión and an orange twist, she couldn’t seem to talk about anything else.
“Everyone, and I mean everyone, was on the payroll.” She played with her chestnut-size South Sea pearls. “When we first started dating, I was annoyed that so many people were always around. But I learned that powerful men all have posses.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I think many really successful men don’t actually have time for real friends. Their old friends are either resentful or bitter or ask for money, and the new friends are often competitive. In my opinion, very rich men have paid friends as an expensive filter, because they can control them. They love to manipulate everyone.”
“Was that difficult?”
“It was actually more boring than anything, but I did see an ugly side to it—the laughing too hard at the bad jokes, the constant flattery, the jockeying for position, the tennis pro throwing the game.”
“Did he view them as real friends?” I asked.
“The way he spoke to them was quite abusive actually, especially the good-looking ones. And they all took it.”
“Did you keep up with any of them after divorce?”
“Please! They couldn’t wait to see me go,” she said, toying with her endive and walnut salad. “The division of assets was a lot more complicated than the division of friends.”
“There were a lot of assets and virtually no real friends. The people who pay get to keep the paid friends. No one was going to side with me when he was picking up the check,” she said, nibbling on a singular endive, then pushing the plate away as if she had consumed an entire plate of lasagna.
“I am so full!” she exclaimed. “Look, let’s be real. If he didn’t have any money, he’d be sitting all alone in his apartment with a container of Häagan-Dazs and a bottle of vodka.”
His Ex Wife: