Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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Flaunt it if you want to

Q: How hard is it to stay grounded when you've had as much success as Oprah? Kitty Kelley's new biography discusses her charitable giving and her big-time indulgences. Should anyone begrudge her $500 mink eyelashes or $365,000 Bentley? And why do we love reading about the foibles of the rich and famous?

Those who honestly and through hard work achieve great wealth can flaunt it or hide it. Let them decide.

There are as many ways of coping with the "embarrassment of riches" as there are personalities. Some are more flamboyent than others -- like Oprah and her mink eyelashes. But sometimes this extravagance is almost necessary. When a famous person attends an event, it can be far more advantageous to be seen stepping out of a $365,000 Bentley than a $40,000 Lincoln Town Car.

I am not an expert on the super-wealthy, but I try to spend as much time with them as I can, since I am in the business of raising money for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and our latest project, the Education Center at The Wall (www.buildthecenter.org). I have met people with more money than you can imagine who drive cars that have some rust and live in modest homes. Some even fly coach, although in my opinion, the great advantage of wealth would be to have access to your own private jet!

Our society has always been fascinated by the foibles of the rich and famous. We want to know more about the privates lives of Oprah and Donald Trump, as well as the latest movie stars and singers and media personalities. This interest goes back centuries, to when the Astors and Rockefellers ruled society.

I actually met Oprah and spent some time with her before she was a superstar. It was about 1984, and she and I were two of the "Ten Outstanding Young Marylanders." She was a reporter in Baltimore at the time, and I had just led the effort to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We were sitting in a limo, and she was showing everyone her new boots, which she got in an upscale shoe store that barely fit into her budget. She was beaming mightily, as I recall.

I wonder if any of her extravagant purchases these days make her half as happy as those boots did.

By Jan Scruggs  |  April 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The lush life Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Thank you. Yours was the most interesting perspective. I could easily believe that she does not get half the pleasure from a Bentley that she got from the boots.

Posted by: Couvade | April 25, 2010 2:30 PM
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