Back in April, I came across a nifty little article called “Instantly Improve Your Social Standing!” in one of those chic coffee table magazines my urologist seems so fond of.
According to the author, the uppermost of upper crust society neatly lines up engraved invitations to galas, weddings, private funerals and movie premieres along the mantel piece in their drawing rooms.
The idea being that when visitors drop by, there’s no need to brag—or even mention-- where you’ve been or where you’re going. That discreet parade of small, expensive ivory and white rectangular cards with the raised black ink tells the world you’re somebody.
The piece intimated you may be serving nothing more than dismally weak tea, moldy crumpets and stale gossip, but it doesn’t matter in the least: your guests’ eyes will be riveted on those high class invites. The hottest summons of all--a White-Tie State dinner at The White House—especially when the Queen of England has been invited—is so mesmerizing in fact, that even if you were wearing nothing but a silver sequined g-string while you pole-danced around the legs of the sofa, your visitors would stare at that 3 by 4 inch smidgen of vellum as if they’d just seen a genie miniaturizing the entire District of Columbia and plunking the resultant ceramic landscape right on the shelf over your fireplace. Which, maybe, considering the current state of budget cuts and economic strictures could be happening.
Anyhow, the author very upbeat. There was no need to worry if your “fireplace” was a plug-in made from three pieces of “wood” veneer (glued together with the casualness used in selecting the nearest handy tree limb that typifies lynching parties). Or that the whole shabby contraption surmounted a pitiable heap of ceramic “logs,” that two-year olds find laughable. You have a fireplace, the article urged. You have a mantel just waiting for those high-quality engraved invitations.
I have a fireplace, I thought. I have a mantel just waiting to be graced with high quality invitations. And my social life (never mind my social standing) desperately needed improvement because, painful as it is to admit, I was regularly penciling in non-events on my calendar like Dry cleaning Ready! Lunch in the Office Cafeteria! and Shoprite Can-Can Sale!
I was on fire from the minute I got home. The mantle revamp was going to be hundred times more successful than that wild feng shui binge back in '97 which resulted in keeping the kitchen garbage pail in a corner of my bedroom and, being hit on the head by the mirror I hung over the front door at least once a month.
I ripped through the hall closet and pulled out all the knick-knacks on hiatus, the shopping bag with the last six months mail, the most recent Christmas gifts from my maiden aunts, and dragged the whole mess into the living room.
Two hours later, the mantel sported a selection of imitation Lalique, a crystal vase from the Home Shopping network and one small wooden box—all of it artfully arranged around my cache of invitations: A computer generated 4 by 6 sheet of lime green paper announcing a block party on June 10th, three hush-hush mentions about secret sales events from department stores, and a blue and pink card for a baby shower with a wooden teddy bear glued in the upper left hand corner.
I stood back to look at the effect. It was depressing. There wasn’t anything up there worth kicking to the curb for the Wednesday trash pick up.
Sterner measures were clearly called for.
You can buy invitations sent from The White House on e-bay; unfortunately the cost is almost as high as whatever you would have had to spend in order to do whatever it is you have to do to get yourself on the A-list and actually be invited. Sure, some of those people have donated millions, but don’t you feel in your bones that even the lesser luminaries rounding out the party--like Arnold Palmer or Itzhak Perlman--probably spent a fortune on golf clubs and violins (not to mention greens fees and music lessons) over the years?
I pay taxes, so I called The White House. (And, by the way, do you know they answer the phone “White House?”) It took a few minutes, I had to talk to what seemed like twenty different aides and confidantes, but I finally got hold of the First Lady’s press secretary.
“And you are?”
“Well, I’m awfully sorry Ms. Minelli—or may I call you Liza?—but you don’t seem to be on the list.
“Look," I told her, " I don't actually want to attend—I haven’t a thing to wear—not to mention I already have plans for May 7th, but couldn’t you just send me the invitation, anyhow? As a memento, a keepsake—you know?”
“The First Lady was very specific about Hollywood guests—”
“Do you mean to say you people think the guy who won the Kentucky Derby is going to provide more interesting dinner conversation than, say, Steven Spielberg?”
We went around like that for a while and then I said, “For God’s sake, the Queen can’t even vote here. I vote.”
She took down my address.
Last week a heavy white stock card arrived in the mail with raised lettering that said:
The White House
Thanks you for your Participation.
God Bless America.
I put it right up on the mantel, and I’ve already had three visitors gawking at it. I tell them, it’s unfortunate, but the dog ate the actual invitation to the State Dinner, and they all seem pretty impressed. Two of them have already asked me to Memorial Day barbecues on the strength of my White House connection alone.
I don’t know what the Obamas sent Liza Minelli.