What does it mean to grow up spoiled in Beverly Hills? If you're Patsy Klein, it means being chauffeur-driven to school as a child, not sharing a nanny with your sister because you have your own--and then being asked to write a book about it all.
The book is out and aptly titled "Growing Up Spoiled in Beverly Hills." But it's about more than chauffeurs and nannies, says Klein. She describes it as an "insider's guide" to life in the land of conspicuous consumption, one that touches on everything from plastic surgery techniques and trends to shopping, dining, country clubs, divorce and real estate.
Klein and her family (her grandfather founded the Chicago-based Klein department stores) crop up in the book only intermittently, so it's not a full confession of life in the lap of luxury.
Not Just About Her
"I find it very difficult to talk about myself or write about myself," said Klein, who worked briefly as an actress before turning to writing. She wrote for Newsweek and Los Angeles magazine and is at work on a novel.
"I disappeared at certain points during the book because Beverly Hills is in the forefront--the restaurants, the boutiques, the plastic surgeons, the progeny of celebrities. It's like a day in the life of someone who lives in Beverly Hills," she said.
Klein still lives in Beverly Hills, not far from where she and sister Kay, a real estate agent, grew up.
"It's just simple," she said of her house as she led a tour through yellow and white rooms to the pool out back and into the guest house. Waddling around the house was her white fluff ball of a pet named Maximillian von Dog, who is, the author proclaims, very spoiled.
"I think Beverly Hills has a certain cachet," Klein said. She was wearing a yellow strapless pantsuit and sitting at a wet bar laden with Brie, pate, champagne and popcorn. "When you travel and say you come from Beverly Hills, people are terribly interested. They want to know all kinds of things. It seems to have an elan, like the south of France.
"I've lived the life, so the book really wrote itself," she continued. "There are certain things that come to you: the tremendous preoccupation with the physical being, the progeny of celebrities. It's a funny, amusing town. There are a lot of marvelous people and there are also some very trivial people. And there are some people for whom the only help is the belief in reincarnation--do you know what I mean?"
Klein readily admits that publisher Lyle Stuart came up with the idea for the book while listening to her at a party as she told wild tales of her youth. The only problem, Klein said, was that Stuart wanted a raunchy, tell-all book chronicling the nastier doings and indiscretions of some of Beverly Hills' more prominent citizens, and she wanted to keep it "light."
They eventually reached a compromise: She kept the stories clean and most of the names out, but he had her include chapters on diet and exercise and plastic surgery. (According to Stuart, the world has an insatiable appetite for books about the rich and famous, even if they're not rampant with scandal.)
She doesn't deny that the book reinforces certain stereotypes about Beverly Hills.
"Quite honestly, some of it was what Beverly Hills is about. I think it's very much about money, about excess. Of course it reinforces the fallacy, but the fallacy happens to be reality in a lot of instances.
"I look at Beverly Hills in an irreverent sense because one cannot quarrel with the values that prevail in some sections of this town--because there are no values," Klein said. "Here, appearances constitute reality. What you see is what you get.
"Someone asked me, 'What do you need to survive in this town?' It's an easy question--you need flash, dash and cash. If a woman is five pounds overweight on Rodeo Drive she's arrested. It's absurd to a certain extent--that's an aspect I don't like."
Klein, who gives her age as "somewhere between 30 and death," admits to a three-year bout with anorexia as a young girl, but she thinks she's turned out all right for one so spoiled.
She and her sister, Kay, were once flown to Las Vegas, courtesy of multimillionaire Kirk Kerkorian, just to gamble and see a show. Even when Klein was making $100 a week working at Newsweek, she lived at New York's Regency Hotel on Park Avenue. And when Kay decided to quit finishing school, Patsy picked her up in a limo and the two made a last-minute decision to fly to Paris.
'I'm Not Jaded'
"I guess we were spoiled," Klein said, "but not in the crucial ways. I'm not jaded, I still have enthusiasm for life and I care about people. Maybe in the superficial ways I'm still spoiled; I have no sense of direction, my car knows the way to Saks and the Beverly Hills Tennis Club and I. Magnin."
At 13, she became somewhat disgusted with the excess around her.
"What first became really distasteful to me," she recalled, "was that one girl had 200 cashmere sweaters. I liked clothes, but I thought that was excessive."
Beverly Hills parents are notorious for spoiling their children, says Klein, sometimes to the point of no return.
"I wonder if sometimes this indicates that they're giving their children things instead of attention," she said. "It could also mean that they may not have had the same things when they were children.
"I don't understand the wild, extravagant expenditures, but I don't have children so I'm not one to judge. My dog is as spoiled as they come, so think what I would have done with a child. But I think there is a limit, really. You can probably destroy them for life. There's nothing wrong with being spoiled and having things, but to have no enthusiasm for life is very sad."