They sat in comfortable chairs in an office borrowed from a psychologist and told why they had given up 3 hours on a Thursday night, as well as $30, to hear a lecture entitled "How to Live Like a Millionaire Before Becoming One."
"I would like to get out of the rat race, but I'd like a couple of homes," said Beverly, an assistant director of finance for a company. "I'd like to do some traveling, but I want to do it first class."
"I'm pretty well off right now, but I want to be very well off," said Rich, an investment broker who was the only man in the group.
"I'm like everyone else," said a woman named Jennifer. "I want it all. I've done traveling, and I want to do more. I want a home in West Virginia; I want a penthouse in New York, in Manhattan, and I'd sort of like to have a home in the Far East somewhere."
In other words, your typical Orange County crowd.
Although a few of the 11 women and one man who showed up to hear Betty Porter's talk in the Santa Ana psychologist's office swore they were there only "for fun," most appeared to take the goings-on very seriously indeed.
Porter, on the other hand, had her tongue firmly in her cheek for much of the evening.
Her presentation "pokes fun at the wealthy a little bit, which makes it more real," she said in an interview before the 3-hour class. She promised to talk about relationships and love "and all those good things which money can't buy."
"It's not just frivolous. Though it's frivolous enough."
Tip No. 1 on "How to Live Like a Millionaire (etc.)" was to always be suntanned. Worried about cancer? Fake the suntan with makeup.
Also: Wear white deck shoes often, especially with the tennis whites you'll be wearing while taking tennis lessons at the club you just joined--or at the public courts. Prance around in jodhpurs to give the illusion of belonging to the horsy set. Wear jewelry--fake if necessary but stuff so close to the real thing that only a jeweler would know the difference.
Buy clothes at discount: There's a Cooper Building outlet in Santa Ana, and there are thrift shops around the county--all listed on the photocopy from the Yellow Pages that Porter thoughtfully distributed to her "students."
Live on the ocean or the beach. OK, maybe not really an option in Orange County if you're not a millionaire yet. Unless. . . . Unless you track down a mobile home smack dab on a beach somewhere. Porter said they can be purchased for $16,000 or so, plus a hefty monthly land rental charge near the $1,000 mark--or past it.
Can't afford to eat at Chez Cary or the Ritz? Hey, drop in for the free hors d'oeuvres, "but please order at least an iced tea."
Don't have the money for the Golden Door weight-loss spa? Read the book "Secrets of the Golden Door," written by the man who developed the spa and available at your local library. Or look into a group such as Weight Watchers. It's cheaper than the $3,500-per-week charge levied at the Golden Door (though that does include meals).
Don't want to spend whatever ungodly sum they're charging for "Joy" perfume nowadays? Prowl the fragrance sections of the tonier department stores and see if there's a "Joy" demonstration going on. If so, spray yourself for free.
Carrying that a step further, wait for a store such as Nordstrom or Neiman-Marcus to have a free demonstration of makeup and graciously allow their oh-so-caring salespeople to work lovingly on your face. Next week try another store. The week after that, try another. Porter said there should be enough around so you don't have to hit the same store twice for, oh, say 4 or 5 weeks.
Porter, 62, has worked in Washington as a writer for various federal government agencies in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, has lived and worked as a newspaper columnist in Taiwan while her husband was stationed in Japan in the Marines, has written society columns for local newspapers in Orange County and runs an importing business as well as working the lecture circuit.
She also teaches a course on importing, telling people how to see glamorous places and make it pay off in their business. Her talk to the "millionaire wannabe" class was sprinkled with the names of the people she has interviewed, ranging from Geoffrey Beene to Barbara Bush, and included phrases such as: "I covered (Ronald Reagan's) second inauguration. I've seen the White House and Blair House and I've traveled twice around the world," Porter told her class. "That's not to boast. It's almost like I still can't believe it."
After a break--from which the sole man in attendance and one of the women did not return--Porter switched gears, telling her listeners that "it's not a sin to be poor. And it's not a sin to be rich. But it is a sin to not be concerned about those less fortunate." And she said it is a tragedy that there are thousands of homeless people in Orange County, "one of the wealthiest counties in the world."
Still, one of her listeners pressed her for detailed lists of where to buy things cheaply, where to get good deals, exactly what stores to shop at in Hong Kong for bargains. Although one woman complained that she wanted "more inside information" on how to live like a millionaire, Porter said she wasn't mentioning specific store names because she wasn't anyone's shill.
After the lecture Porter said she was surprised that everyone gave the talk "rave reviews" because she thought some of the people had been unhappy.
The class was the first one she had given on how to live like a millionaire, she said, and the next one, Feb. 23 at the Learning Activity in Anaheim, will go a little differently. "I realize now they don't want to hear as much about attitude," she said. They want specifics. Yet, "I think we shouldn't envy things people have, rich people, but their ability to be creative, to take risks and develop whatever they need to get rich."