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Van Gordon Sauter

Getting By on $80,000 a Month

July 15, 1987|Van Gordon Sauter | Van Gordon Sauter is a print and broadcast journalist who lives in Los Angeles

It was a marriage made in. . .well, the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. He, described as a "former rock star" from Sweden, a country not noted for rock stars, dressed in an outrageous kind of high school-prom white tuxedo. She, the actress, the sinister Alexis from "Dynasty," wearing a white tunic and flashing one of her warmest TV smiles.

Peter Holm and Joan Collins. What could go wrong?

Well, just about everything. Less than two years later, there are

voluminous divorce papers, snarling attorneys, claims of petty harassment and one staggering question: Can a man dashed by the anguish of divorce find happiness and a gracious life style in Los Angeles on alimony of $18,423.85 a week?

Not so fast with that answer, men! Before a rush to judgment, look at the facts.

Holm, in seeking $80,000 a month alimony from Collins, lists as part of his very specific cash requirements: $16,500 for rent; $7,000 for household salaries; $12,000 for clothing and accessories, $7,295 for car expenses and $4,000 for travel.

We set out to discover what that will buy in today's market.

Rent--First of all, a Beverly Hills doyen said a 40ish bachelor in that income category must live in proximity to either the Bel-Air or Beverly Hills hotels. Any other location, with the exception of Malibu, would be unthinkable. With that mandate, Joyce Rey of Rodeo Realty-Merrill Lynch found for us a fascinating aerie on Angelo Drive, above Beverly Hills.

Seven years ago, a Dutchman sliced 100,000 square yards of earth from a peak and placed there an estate appropriate for the most discriminating burgher, gray and white with blue trim, it is a reproduction of a Dutch mansion . . . perfect for a shipping magnate from Rotterdam, only with stunning views of Los Angeles. It is furnished with Dutch antiques and furniture of the mid-1800s.

There is also a wall clock from 1720, with only an hour hand. Life was more gracious then, and since only one meeting was scheduled an hour, there was no need for a minute hand. The house, with its pool and tennis court and graceful rooms, is available for $16,500 a month. The imposing gate house, however, is not included at that price. An additional, budget-busting $9,000 is required for that.

Clothing and Accessories--Mohsen Vossough of Mr. Bijan granted us an appointment (the only way to enter the establishment on Rodeo Drive) to do some sample shopping. For basics, he recommends a two-button, silk herringbone suit for $2,200.

"It never wrinkles and will always stay in perfect shape," he said (not a minor attribute considering the cost of dry cleaning these days). He matches the suit

with a dazzling cotton cream-colored shirt with burgundy stripes ($550). The appropriate tie and pocket handkerchief are $150 and $30, respectively. A smashing crocodile belt is $550. For shoes, one should select kangaroo ("that's the softest leather you can get") slip-ons with gold chains ($650).

To round out the ensemble there is a By Appointment watch ($5,800) and matching cuff links, gold with sapphires ($4,500).

Ooops! There goes the budget. Put the watch on layaway for August, and substitute a six-ounce flask of Mr. Bijan's men's perfume for $3,000. And close it out with a $400 night stick (the swirl design of the silver head matches the design on the flask, which was created by Mr. Bijan and executed by Baccarat).

Household Help--Perfect budgeting. Robert French of the Sandra Taylor Agency says that figure will accommodate an inside couple and an outside couple. The outside male can do the pool and tennis courts and some light yardwork. The outside wife can do the cleaning. The inside man will be the butler and driver. The inside wife will do gourmet cooking. French says the most frequent request these days is for nannies who do light housekeeping, but Mr. and Mrs. Outside and Mr. and Mrs. Inside are available.

Car Expenses--We're talking Rolls here. Corniche! Fred Robin, president of the Classic Leasing Co., said the cost of a two-year lease on a luxury car is about 3% of the value. As a Corniche has a sticker price (if they had stickers, that is) of about $168,000, the monthly cost over 24 months is about $5,000. A four-year lease would be about 40% lower, but then any car grows a bit predictable after two years. For a backup car, one can choose between the three hot models on the leasing market: the Mercedes SEL coupe ($2,000), the '88 BMW 735i ($1,500) or the BMW 323i convertible ($1,000). And as one would hardly want Mr. and Mrs. Inside, let alone Mr. and Mrs. Outside, tooling down to Gelsen's in the Corniche or the backup, it is still possible to shoehorn in a third car, say, a Volvo station wagon ($600). Happy motoring.

Travel--And now the bad news. Even though an annual travel budget of $48,000 seems a lot of money, a few elegant vacations will chew through that in no time. Judy Walraven of Let's Travel can book two people, first-class, on a spectacular tour of East Africa for $14,000. A few months later, a trip to the Orient seems logical. Two people can enjoy a week in Hong Kong, with a one-bedroom suite at the Regent overlooking the harbor, for $11,000. And then a week in Paris for two, with a suite at Hotel de Crillon is $17,000 (the Concorde is mandatory). That leaves a modest annual balance for weekend jaunts to Laguna Beach or Solvang (where the smorgasbords are everywhere).

That pocket change certainly disappears fast here in the Los Angeles area, where the most recent figures (1983) indicate that the average per capita job income was $17,256 a year.

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