Students Appeal to Anglophiles : At $15 an Hour, British Butlers Serve Panache

July 20, 1986|BOB WEBSTER | United Press International

The Eton Butler Co., fresh from the hallowed halls of England's aristocratic Eton College, is ready to serve the upper crust of Los Angeles with a touch of charm and a dash of panache.

"We basically do anything the customer desires. We do everything from breakfasts and teas to bar mitzvahs," David Hare, the company's co-founder, said recently before a small lunch party.

"Usually, all they ask us to do is stand around in our uniforms, serve drinks and make polite conversation," the 23-year-old butler said through an accent as crisp as the starched white shirts he wears on the job.

"Proper butlers wouldn't be presumptuous enough to talk to their guests," he added.

Like the other members of the Eton Butler Co., Hare hails from Eton College, where students study in the shadow of Windsor Castle and attend class wearing black dress jackets with tails.

"Eton is the only school to wear black tail coats. We're still technically in mourning for King George III who died about 250 years ago. I'm not really sure when," Hare said.

In addition to the tails, the rest of the butler's uniform consists of starched winged-collar white shirts, white bow tie, black trousers and waistcoats.

While other students scurried for summer jobs, Hare and his colleagues opted for a more adventurous endeavor--butlering, the honored profession of a gentleman's gentleman.

He formed Eton Butler Co. four years ago with another Eton student, James Deen, to finance a trip to the United States, or what some Brits still sniffingly refer to as the "Colonies," and to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Hare said he and his colleagues have worked at some of the more extremely posh Beverly Hills estates, as well as the Beverly Wilshire and Santa Barbara Biltmore hotels.

He said the butlers found steady work during their first visit to Los Angeles.

"I won't give you all the people we did parties for," he said. "I won't bore you with the names of all the people I could drop."

He hopes word-of-mouth advertising will spark an interest in having things typically British, such as butlers, around the house.

A brochure for the service promises the butlers will "bring to your social event the same charm, elegance and panache that is the style at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the great estates of the English aristocracy."

The company charges $15 per hour per butler for its services.

"As far as the money is concerned we're just making pocket money,' Hare said. "We're not actually here to make a fortune."

Hare graduated from Eton this spring after studying politics. He said he will return to England in September to look for a career in films. The three other butlers will return to their studies.

Hare said he and the other butlers are living together in a friend's "flat"--a Westwood apartment.

"I thought it would be a bit cheaper here," he said.

Hare said he and his colleagues differ from traditional "stiff-upper-lip" butlers.

Although they will serve guests drinks and food, he said, many clients just like the idea of having four witty Englishmen on tap for their social gatherings.

"Real butlers serve as the head of all servants. What he says goes," Hare explained. "The great English houses, maybe up to 50 years ago, all had butlers. We don't live in people's houses. We just come in, do a party and go."

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