Have you ever seen those interviews where they ask lottery winners what they intend to do with their millions, and their answer is something like, "I'm gonna get the air conditioner in my trailer fixed!" because they don't fully grasp the terrible power that is now in their hands?
You know who does grasp it? Billionaires. Having long gotten bored with buying normal shit, these people know how to take it to the next, awful level ...
Howard Hughes was the guy who tried to see how far he could push the concept of "wealthy eccentric" into the realm of straight-up mental illness. The answer is "very, very far." Seriously, the guy actually really needed help, and he never got it because, well, rich guys are just weird like that, right?
Example: One of his greatest loves was watching movies, and in standard Howard Hughes style, he indulged this hobby by spending months at a time in his private cinema, never leaving, peeing into bottles whenever he needed to go (you can use your imagination when it comes to how he was shitting). Who the hell was going to stop him?
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Well, in his later years, Hughes moved to Las Vegas and rented a penthouse suite to live in, only to find there was just never anything good on TV. So, Hughes solved this problem in the only way he knew how. He bought a local TV station and forced it to cater exclusively to one very niche demographic: Howard Hughes.
Hughes dictated the programming schedule of the network, insisted on being given a thorough synopsis of everything that was scheduled to be broadcast, and made them change anything he didn't like. Should he ever be distracted and miss a TV show or movie or even a scene, he would call the studio and demand that they replay it.
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According to Vegas entertainers of the day, a surefire way to know that Hughes was in town was if you switched on the TV and saw that Ice Station Zebra -- his favorite movie -- was playing. It would broadcast almost every night, sometimes on a loop until the early hours of the morning. And you would just know that Hughes was up there somewhere, pooping into an empty can of beans.
Here's a question: Do rich dogs even know they're rich? You could try to ask this one, but already she doesn't look particularly interested in her stack of brand-new iPhone 7s:
That's Coco, and she's owned by Wang Sicong, the son of one of China's richest men, Wang Jianlin. And yes, the phones do allegedly "belong" to the dog. Wang Junior bought his Alaskan malamute eight iPhone 7s the week they came out and posted pics to social media, along with pictures of the dog wearing two Apple watches at the same time.
Of course, Wang is probably smart enough to know that dogs cannot use Apple products even if they wanted to, so the most likely explanation here is that he's just a massive asshole. But it's far from the only example of obscenely rich people doting on their dogs in ways that are clear cases of psychological projection.
Take Paris Hilton, who had a whole house built for her dogs, because of course she did, she's Paris Hilton.
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It's a two-story villa with expensive furniture and crown moldings, which everyone knows are a must for dogs. There's a chandelier in what Hilton calls "The Doggy Mansion," because money can't buy you an imagination. And yes, it's air conditioned.
Here's the difference between you and the average billionaire: You will go out in nature and say, "these trees are beautiful!" The billionaire will follow that up with, "Now scoop 'em all up and mail that shit to my house!"
Take Bidzina Ivanishvili, the wealthy former Prime Minister of Georgia (the country, in case you're wondering when U.S. states started electing Prime Ministers), who likes to collect giant, ancient trees. So, he'll see one, and then crews will have to dig them up and float them upright, King Kong-style, along the coast to his private villa which already includes his own waterfall and menagerie of exotic animals.
This is much, much harder than we just made it sound. In 2016, Ivanishvili paid to have a 135-year-old tulip tree barged to his property, though it was so heavy that it almost caused the boat to sink, so they tried to build a road instead, which kept collapsing. In the end, it took almost a week to drag the massive tree just 40 kilometers and plonk it down in his cartoonish trophy forest.
He does insist that he will grow new trees to fill the space of the ones he's taken, and that his acquisition of these historic trees is actually saving them (it's like an animal sanctuary, but for trees!), which so far hasn't done much to quell the tide of criticism. But what are they going to do? They can't vote him out again. Checkmate, assholes!
A billionaire getting a $150 speeding ticket is like the cops fining you exactly one quarter of the lint that's currently in your front pocket. The only deterrent is the knowledge that they'll have to suppress their smirk for the duration of the traffic stop -- such laws are but minor inconveniences.
For example, Bill Gates has an affinity for Porsches, the jewel of his collection being a Porsche 959, one of the rarest and most sought-after cars in the world. But there was a problem: He wasn't allowed to bring it to the United States, because it didn't pass EPA standards. Gates raised an eyebrow and said, "This law displeases me. Change it."
Thus, his people lobbied the government to pass the so-called "Show And Display Law," which basically just exists to allow really rich people to import illegal cars if they promise they're only doing it because they're really rich. Now Gates can drive around all he likes in his environmentally unsound car, simply because he has a building full of lawyers that can bend legal reality to his will.
Meanwhile, Bill's longtime frenemy Steve Jobs engaged in his own loophole-exploiting shenanigans for the sake of avoiding the troublesome laws the rest of us must obey. Jobs absolutely refused to drive a car with a license plate, for reasons not known to anyone but him (it may have been just one of his myriad eccentricities, which also included soaking his feet in the toilet and eating only carrots and apples).
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Lucky for Jobs, there was a law in California that gave new car owners a six-month grace period before they needed to get a license plate. So, rather than face the DMV and the pedestrian drudgery of filling out some paperwork, Jobs would simply trade in his Mercedes for a new one every six months. The loophole has since been closed, but it won't go into effect until 2019, which means that Jobs is probably cackling in Rich Man's Heaven about having gamed the system until the day he died.
As we said, being mega-rich just totally changes your concept of what can and cannot be purchased. It's not just the rare trees we mentioned earlier -- it's kind of anything. When industrialist Henry Ford would go visit some historic site, he'd say, "I want it! Throw it on the truck!" When he'd visit, say, the house where the Wright Brothers built their first plane, or the lab where Edison came up with his inventions, Ford would pay to have the whole damn thing moved to a museum he called Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, which still exists today.
And he didn't take "no" for an answer.
At one point, Ford became enamored with songwriter Stephen Foster who wrote "Way Down Upon The Swanee River," "Oh! Susanna," and many other public domain songs you were forced to play on your recorder in first grade.
He paid to have Foster's childhood home relocated from Pittsburgh to Dearborn, but the mayor of Pittsburgh interjected and told him he bought the wrong house. This notion was seconded by Foster's biographer, John Tasker Howard, who concluded that while Foster's father had owned the land where the house stood, there was no evidence that Foster had actually lived there, or even seen it before.
Ford travelled to Pittsburgh to make up his own mind, and apparently decided that the opinions of a few locals trumped the professional findings of historians, because he quickly declared the house to be the real deal, had it shipped to Greenfield Village, and stuck a sign out the front that read "Birthplace of Stephen Foster."
One of Foster's nieces, Evelyn Foster Morneweck, published a pamphlet that publically reamed Ford for ignoring overwhelming evidence that his Foster house was a fraud. Nevertheless, Ford decided to keep the home and continue to declare it historically accurate until his death, forever cementing the idea that when you're a billionaire, the truth is what you decide it is, damn it.
You can't put a price on the interesting facts Markos posts daily here. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Orrin R,K. is a freelance journalist and pop culture writer, his site can be found here and will do the following for your money.
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