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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The business of big money marriages

Left, casino billionaire Phillip Ruffin, 72, with bride Oleksandra Nikolayenko, 26, a former Miss Ukraine; below, pop star Billy Joel with third wife Katie Lee

An earlier post about Hugh Hefner mentioned his engagement to Crystal Harris. This is a classic May-December romance, (in this case, perhaps May -- December 28th): a rich older man and an attractive younger woman. But anyone with an even passing familiarity with human nature knows that beautiful women rarely marry poor men. (Are there no idealistic beauties?) And billionaires almost never marry plain women either.

It would take an awfully crass person to actually assign monetary values to different traits. Well, here goes:

The first general rule governing the marriage market seems to be that each million a man owns takes roughly one year off of his age. Thus, a forty-five year old with twenty million is effectively twenty-five. A famous man also commands a certain premium. (Strangely, this is even true of infamous men, as the inevitable groupies attracted to well-known serial killers demonstrate.)

At some point, added years become a plus. For 27-year-old Anna Nicole Smith, it was probably preferable that J. Howard Marshall, the oilman worth 500 million dollars whom she married in 1994, was 89, as opposed to, say, 79.

Enough money can even compensate for obvious personality defects. Twenty million can make a guy seem suddenly better-looking. A man may have a bad temper, but forty million pays for a lot of tantrums. Sixty million will even cure Aspergers.

As far as intelligence goes, the rough equation is that every million raises your IQ by about three points. So whether you're a dumb-and-sleazy Wall Street broker who got his money dishonestly or a professional athlete who barely graduated high school, enough cash is better than a Rhodes Scholarship.

Love doesn't make the world go round; money does.

For any but the richest woman, her biggest bargaining chip is her looks, which along with her age accounts for roughly 90% of her bargaining value. A girl can study hard in high school, keep her nose clean, get into a great college, make Phi Beta Kappa, join Amnesty, and become an All-American lacrosse player, and it all matters little. If she's plain, she won't snag a rich man.

The girls who get the centimillionaires tend to look like models. They may have dropped out of high school, slutted around, and developed a substance abuse problem along the way. But as long as they can hide their pasts, they are hot tickets. Even if they have baggage like embarrassing families, it's okay. (Men who know how to make money generally know how to avoid their in-laws anyway.)

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend; plastic surgery is.

One possible drawback to a woman, no matter how beautiful, is children from previous relationships. Unlike male lions coming into a new pride, men cannot just kill existing offspring (much as they'd like to); there are legal consequences to that. So women with existing children, no matter how cute, are at a disadvantage.

Age, of course, is a factor. Hollywood, that great bastion of liberalism and equal rights, is the cruelest place to women past child-bearing. Once an actress, no matter how big a star, hits forty-five, she simply disappears. What was the last big movie Michelle Pfeiffer starred in? Or Sharon Stone? Or any of the other great beauties of the 80's? The big money marriage market is slightly more forgiving, but evolutionary instincts still rule.

There are, of course, exceptions to all these rules, but they are just that.


Anonymous said...

John, Do other men envy older men who date and marry much younger women, or do they mock them? We all know it's about the money for the women (and for the men, I suppose, the sex with a a "trophy"_wife), and that these things almost never last. To me it seems rather embarrassing. Why are these men not embarrassed? What is my female brain missing here? Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
In all honesty, I think most men probably scoff at them at a certain level, knowing that they've only gotten these younger women because of their money, but they also envy them. Look at it this way: the guys who get these trophy wives are the ones who can afford them. If more guys had the kind of money it took to do this, more guys would do it.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why these otherwise smart and powerful men do this, when they know that there are overwhelming odds that they will be taken to the bank eventually...not to mention the high maintenance along the way.

When Price Charles announced his engagement to Lady Di, I wondered why more people didn't question the generation gap. Yes, there was the Camilla factor, but the age difference would have undoubtedly done them in eventually anyway. And do you think Billy Joel's latest wife really liked the same music he did??

Jumping to your other blog -- I too never "got" Lady Di as a true beauty. Attractive yes, but without her "crown," definitely not beautiful. Very overrated. Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
I suspect that most rich men who get married to substantially younger trophy wives get prenups.

Regarding Princess Di, my recollection of that situation was that she had wanted to marry him every since she was a young girl, before she ever met him, meaning that what she really wanted was to be a princess, regardless of who her prince was. And he married fairly late, but as the presumptive future King of England needed to produce some heirs, so married someone of the right age to produce those heirs.

And no question, Princess Di's "beauty" was primarily a function of artifice and position; just goes to show how besotted people are with royalty.