Mary Starkey NewYorkTimes Molding Loyal Pamperers

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Molding Loyal Pamperers
for the Newly Rich
By Blaine Harden
The New York Times

At butler boot camp, Lori Meyers, who wants to work
for a very rich family in a Fifth Avenue apartment with
a view of Central park, was singled out from her
classmates and scolded.

“You are a little too slick for this profession, Missy,”
said Mary Louise Starkey, founder of the Starkey
International Institute for Household Management, a
school in Denver that markets itself as the Harvard of
high-end household help. “The lady of the house will
get rid of you in 10 minutes.”                                                        The Starkey Mansion

A discerning household manager, which is the Starkey           University and an expert on wealth.
Institute’s gender-neutral term for butler, would never,
ever look more fetching than the lady of the house,            The increase in the number of people who can afford a
especially if that lady is one of those young “trophy”         butler has no precedent in the country’s history, except
wives, who tend toward insecurity and prickliness, Mrs.        perhaps in the boom years of the 1920’s, Dr. Wolff
Starkey said.                                                  said. He estimated that up to a fifth of those worth at
                                                               least $10 million - about 55,000 household - are in the
Ms. Meyers, a fit and attractive woman of 35, nodded           New York region.
compliantly. She conceded that she may have to retool
her appearance to land the $60,000-to-$120,000-a-year     There has likewise been an unparalleled swelling in the
salaries that household managers command in               size of the American house. When the Census Bureau
Manhattan. Having left her career as a chiropractor,      began measuring in 1984, only 7 percent of new houses
Ms. Meyers is paying about $7,200 for an eight-week       were larger than 3,000 square feet (often considered
course in the elegant care and feeding of the rich.       the size threshold for household help). By the second
                                                          quarter of this year, 17 percent of new houses were at
These are lucrative and stressful times in the annals of  least that big, and many were much, much bigger,
household help in the United States. Never before have according to the National Association of Home
there been so many wealthy Americans with so many         Builders.
big houses that need tending. Yet many of these new
rich need as much schooling in the art of living large as Its surveys show that the largest and most expensive of
the students in butler school, according to Mrs. Starkey these houses are concentrated in the Northeast.
and many others in the service trade.
                                                          These numbers scream for good help.
The number of American households worth $10
million or more has quadrupled in the last decade,             Mrs. Starkey’s 10-year-old school, based in a Georgian
jumping to 275,000 from 65,000, said Edward N.                 mansion near the Colorado Capitol dome, now
Wolff, a professor of economics at New York                    graduates about 60 certified household managers a
                                                               year. She plans to expand next year with a second
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training mansion in the Washington, D.C., area.

Carol Scudere, who owns Professional Domestics in
Columbus, Ohio, said, “ I wish I had more students
and more applicants because I could place them all.”
She is the director of training at the four-year-old
school, which competes with Mrs. Starkey’s.

In New York, Washington and Los Angeles, placement
agencies that specialize in servants for the rich say that
the demand for experienced household managers
exceeds the supply.                                             “We have learned not to include servants in family
                                                                functions.” said Mary Campbell, who grew up in a two-
Exactly how many household managers are working in              bedroom house and now lives in two large homes, in
the United States in not known. Until Mrs. Starkey’s            Boston and the Berkshires. Her husband is Lewis B.
school opened in Denver, most either had been trained           Campbell, chief executive of Textron Inc., which makes
in the great homes of the very rich or had emigrated            Cessna aircraft and Bell helicopters.
from England, where there are training schools and a
long tradition of butlers learning their craft as               “We have been burned through the years,” added Mrs.
underbutlers. After a long postwar slump for butlers            Campbell, who three months ago hired a household
in Europe (when the number of butlers in England                manager trained at the Starkey Institute. “People took
shrank to the hundreds from more than 18,000),                  advantage of our niceness. They took advantage of
demand there appears to be rising. The International            friendship. They lied about their hours. They told
Guild of Professional Butlers plans to open a school in         other people about our business.”
                                                                An experienced Manhattan butler says that working for
“People don’t want to deal with vendors, they don’t             the newly rich is almost always annoying.
want to cook, they don’t want to hear about bickering
and jealousy among the staff,” said Keith Greenhouse,           “Nouveau riches tell you the price of things,” the butler
president of the Pavillion Agency in Manhattan. “They           said with a sniff. “ I have worked for people who brag
want the butler to deal with it.”                               in front of their kids about how much their statuary art
                                                                costs; then their kids brag to their friends. Americans
There is, however, a persistent and sometimes                   also don’t know how to draw the line about being too
destabilizing undertow in this flood of big money, big          familiar.”
houses and big demand for grade-A help.
                                                                The butler, who was born in England, complained that
Many Americans new to wealth - and three out of four            many wealthy Americans do not even know basic table
households worth more than $10 million were minted              manners.
in the past decade - say they are uncertain about how to
manage their servants, how to pay them and even how             “They don’t know how to use silverware. People leave
to talk to them. Their parents, in many cases, were not         their knives and forks on table at all different angles
rich. They did not grow up with servants in the house.          instead of putting them together to show they are
They sometimes are too chummy with the servants or              finished.”
too demanding, or both.
                                                                To iron out wrinkles in wealthy households, Mrs.
Upstairs among the multimillionaires and downstairs             Starkey preaches professional management and
among their better-trained servants, there can be               personal boundaries. Her students are taught to
grumbling, miscommunication and resentment.                     trim their nose hairs, wax their eyebrows, use a

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                                                            lady of the house asks the household manager for
                                                            help in adhering to a strict low-fat diet? And what if
                                                            the household manager, while working in her
                                                            employer’s bedroom, finds an empty container of
                                                            double-chocolate ice cream?

                                                            “Throw it in the trash and keep it to yourself,” said
                                                            Jenny Hookey, a former household manager for
                                                            Gov. John M. Engler of Michigan and an instructor
                                                            at the school. “ You are not supposed to be your
                                                            employer’s conscience.”

                                                            Mrs. Hookey rose from her chair in a basement
                                                            classroom of the mansion-cum-school and wrote
                                                            these initials on the blackboard: YBYJ.

                                                            “You bet your job if you cross a boundary,” Mrs.
                                                            Hookey said, explaining what is perhaps the most
                                                            dismal fact of life in the service trade. Servants have
                                                            almost no job security. If an employer does not like
                                                            your look, your attitude or your work, you are out,
                                                            no matter how well trained or highly paid you may
yardstick to space plates at the dinner table and            In a class on “personal style,” taught by Mrs.
always call their employers by their surnames and           Starkey, students were asked to describe the
use the proper courtesy titles.                             character of the wealthy people for whom they hope
                                                            to work. The class volunteered these words: selfish,
Mrs Starkey also drills her clients. During home            intelligent, aggressive, rushed, motivated, stuck-up,
inspections, she advises prospective employers to tell      philanthropic and judgmental.
their household managers many details about their
personal lives, from how they like their coffee             Why would you want to work for people like that?
in the morning, to favorite television shows, to            Mrs. Starkey asked her class.
which child is related to which ex-spouse. Mrs.
Starkey repeatedly alerts clients to the insidious          The answer, gleaned from separate interviews with
dangers of familiarity.                                     all eight students in the class, seems to be as follows:
                                                            Those who aspire to the butler trade are middle-aged
“You have chosen the profession of service,”                people in postmarriage, post-child-bearing phase of
Mrs. Starkey told Ms. Meyers and seven other                their lives. Ms. Meyers was the exception, and she
aspiring household managers at the Starkey                  has been advised to compensate for her relative
Institute. “You are about to be propelled into a            youth. A beautician who consults for the Starkey
world many of us never                                      Institute told her: Trim the blond, highlighted hair.
see, a world of plenty, of power and of indulgence.         Lose the showy earrings. Lay off the dark red
Remember, you are going to be paid as a                     lipliner.
                                                            Most of the students said they enjoyed taking care of
The morning course in “boundaries” at the Starkey           expensive things. Many have worked for restaurants
Institute raised these sticky questions: What if the
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or in catering, luxury sales or property mangement.          The butler, Stevens, resolutely refuses throughout
They are intrigued by the idea of working for a very         the film to judge the character of his employer, Lord
rich family with many houses and jetting around the          Darlington, even as he makes a national fool of
world.                                                       himself by appeasing the Nazis in the days before
                                                             World War II.
One student, Chief Petty Officer Samuel Sutton, 39,
has worked for several generals and admirals in              Near the end of the film, the butler is asked how he
Washington as a chef and a senior household                  could endure working for such a despicable man.
manager, and he was hoping to go to work soon in             “I was his butler,” Steven replies. “I was there to
the White House. He said he went to the Starkey              serve him, not to agree or disagree.”
Institute to polish his skills and prepare for 2003,
when he will leave the Navy and look for a                   Although the students laughed during parts of the
household manager job that will double his military          film, especially when servants ironed The Times of
pay of about $40,000.                                        London, it struck most of them as profoundly sad.

A more typical student was Ingrid Lawrence, 56,              The next day in class, however, Mrs. Starkey said
who is divorced with no children. In “personal               that Stevens had had it exactly right.
image awareness” class, Ms. Lawrence, a tall
German-born woman with ramrod posture and an                 “If you start judging your employers,” she said, “your
expensive but understated wardrobe, was judged to            days are numbered.”
have a near perfect look for service: tasteful, elegant
and simple.

“I am kind of fussy,” said Ms. Lawrence, who
recently quit her job at Neiman Marcus in San
Diego, where she sold china, crystal and silver. “I
love housework. I love to be surrounded by beautiful
things. It will give me pleasure to take care of these
beautiful things in a private house.”

Ms. Lawrence explained that in her own house in
San Diego, she used only fresh linen napkins, never
paper. She kept her linens damp in plastic bags in
her refrigerator, she said, so that she could iron
them as needed, obtaining the crispest and most
wrinkle-free napkins possible.

In ironing class at the Starkey Institute, when a
teacher mentioned the linen-in-the refrigerator
trick, Ms. Lawrence smiled knowingly.

At the end of a grueling 12-hour day at the Starkey
manison, all the students gathered in the basement
over dinner to watch “The Remains of the Day,” the
1993 film in which Anthony Hopkins plays an
emotionally remote English butler.

                                                                                       Copyright © 1999, The New York Times
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Description: Various Starkey International Documents Detailing Numerous Institute Training Programs and Interviews About the Luxury Service Industry, Designed By Mary Starkey and Her Staff.