Damian Lewis talks about the current perception of billionaires and their wealth in an interview with Prestige Online:
“I think there’s a greater suspicion about billionaires and about wealth and accumulation of wealth. People are asking for the first time, “Excuse me, how did you become a billionaire exactly, because I just lost my house?” So I think it’s an interesting transitional point.
Having said that, I think there will always remain a certain rock ’n’ roll element to the guy with the money and the fast car.”
So yeah we did know a thing or two about this rock ‘n’ roll element before Billions arrived in our lives. We know that those in the very top of the income distribution have multiple luxury cars, a private jet (or two), a chopper, a yacht, a mansion in the suburbs, an oceanfront property, a city apartment, and a country home. They sometimes own a vineyard as a hobby or buy professional sports teams as an investment. They put their names on buildings and hold honorary degrees from universities in return for the money they give to these institutions. They send their kids to the most exclusive private schools, have private gyms in their homes complete with personal trainers and they can jet to Europe for dinner.
But then it turns out, and we find thanks to Billions always keeping it current, there is even more rock ‘n’ roll hidden in the incredible details of the world of the rich and famous… and here is a FUN tour of things I never knew existed before Billions. Let me know if I am missing anything worth being added to the list. Cheers!
We all knew about online dating before Billions. I personally have had no experience on dating sites since I have been off the dating market for the last 23 years; however, I have family and friends who met their significant others through online dating sites. The kind of information these sites collect from applicants help them efficiently match people with similar goals and interests in life and is absolutely convenient for today’s busy lives where it is pretty hard to meet someone randomly.
We find Wags desperately trying to get into Raya, an exlusive dating app, in Season 2 Episode 1 Risk Management. He is desperate enough to try to have the Axe Capital tech guy hack Raya for him. And he is lucky enough to have Stephanie, a current Raya member, who eventually helps him to get in.
There was a bit of Tinder talk in Billions Season 1 where Kate warned a new employee against using it in the office where as Ira was already an active Tinder user where he met girls half his age who knew how to have fun. I did not know about Tinder until I heard about it on the show, but it did not look very different from other dating sites other than the “swipe left, swipe right” option.
A quote from a Raya member comparing Tinder and Raya speaks volumes:
“Tinder has become the dating pool equivalent of riding the city bus.”
Raya is a completely different animal. The service calls itself “an exclusive dating and networking platform for people in creative industries.” It is a dating application that makes use of celebrity and status to cultivate an image of exclusivity which means you cannot just go and register for their services. Membership seems to be determined by two factors: your overall Instagram influence and the vote of an anonymous committee who consider a combination of factors including your Instagram popularity before making their decision. And, of course, whom you know is extremely important. The more Raya members recommend you or follow you on Instagram, it is more likely they will admit you to the club.
Now, who else is dying to see Wags’ Instagram? 😀 And given that we had the privilege to “meet” Wags’ Raya girl friend Prianca in Episode 3 Optimal Play, I cannot help wonder which “creative industry” she works in.
Wags, as he leaves the Alpha Cup poker tournament early with his Raya girlfriend Prianca and a bottle of Michter’s Celebration for the road, gives Lara a brilliant business idea which she has been looking for since she had to close down her Michelin-starred restaurant after Axe’s 9/11 deals were made public.
I laughed out loud when Lara and Mo showed up at Axe Capital the day after the tournament, to provide the employees, starting with Wags, a medical cocktail of vitamins and anti-oxidants to help them get rid of their hangover!
And I laughed out even louder when I found out that hangover service was not Wags’ imagination but it is a competitive real-life service sector where you can stop by an office or have a registered nurse come to your home to have your hangover fix!
Well, do you have a hangover right now? You can book online here. And given that Lara and Mo are doing house calls for $1K a drip, this one seems to be a bargain 😀 Hilarious!
While everyone asks the question “where the f*** is Donnie?” I ask “what the f*** is that?” when I see Axe wearing a cap, a mask and sunglasses under a shower-looking thing that I know is not one! Massive thanks go to him for explaining to Wags as he leaves his three minutes in a cryotherapy chamber:
“180 seconds and it restores energy at a cellular level.”
Good for you, Mr Axelrod.
It seems the manufacturers market their product with some remarkable claims such as freezing your body helps you to lose weight, tighten skin, relieve any muscle pain, boost your immune system, and even improve you quality of sleep. But, hey, until we have serious research showing these claims are true, I am with Wags on this one:
“Never seen a 65 years old look so fresh!”
Now I knew that the rich put their names on buildings through huge donations to the organization that the building houses. What I did not know was that, firstly, someone can come along and have his name on an already named building by paying to the organization that owns the building as well as to the family whose name has been on the building so far! And that is exactly what Bobby Axelrod does in Billions Season 1 Episode 2 Naming Rights to have his name on Ellis Eads Hall (the real-life National Museum of American Indian in New York).
And, guess what, this happens in real life, too! To give a recent example, the former Avery Fisher Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic, saw its name changed to David Geffen Hall after Geffen gave $100M to Lincoln Center for renovations and Lincoln Center wrote a $15M check to the Fisher family for naming rights to be transferred to Geffen. Even though the story is obviously not as dramatic and juicy as in Billions, it is still dramatic and juicy. You can read it here.
For your information, it turns out some naming rights have sunset provisions meaning that the building can be renamed, say, 50 years later, with the family holding current naming rights having the first right of refusal. But we all know what Bobby Axelrod would say about that.
“It’s Axelrod Hall. Or Go F*** Yourself Hall.”
Enough said! 🙂
Ultra Fancy NYC Rental Apartments
In Season 2 Episode 10 With or Without You, while Bryan believes he can turn Taylor because they donated to Urban Justice Center and were active in Occupy Wall Street while in college, Taylor is checking out a fancy rental apartment in New York. The real estate agent needs a quick decision because once the listing goes online, the apartment will go by lunch time. A 26K a month apartment in Manhattan does not even stay for a day on MLS. Right!
While I find Bryan quite naive about turning Taylor against Axe, I find him spot on about city apartments: I have never lived in a NYC apartment where heat pipes did not bang, either!
St. Venus Theater
Well, this is where you end up when you “fire walk” with Wags! Over dinner at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Wags finds the bankers undercutting Spartan-Ives by 10% over the next two years promising but they should let him “fire walk” them to St Venus Theater for his kind of evening.
I do not know if they shot the episode at Saint Venus Theater but it is a real place with its mission described as follows on the website:
“Our mission is to create something special, something positive and progressive in a world that is dominated by female exploitation and dissatisfaction. We seek to do the opposite. We celebrate the feminine in erotic themes. Our greatest desire is to give the Venus Effect its greatest tribute.
We are many things but we are not a strip club, a burlesque revival show, a swingers event, or a fetish party. We want to excite one’s heart, mind, soul and libido, not just the libido. We have a wide variety of erotic performances that are always a tribute to woman and female sexuality.
We also feature the most erotic and physically transformative lap dance you are likely to have ever known.”
And this is how a female author on Thrillist describes it:
“…a speakeasy-style gentlemen’s club that moves from place to place along with a roster of “normal” girls who look more like the hot chick you walked past in the laundromat and less like someone who has 13 pairs of clear heels. It’s the type of spot that can only be found if you know a guy who knows a guy… and if you are actually a guy.”
You can read about her experience at St Venus here and fire walk at your own risk, if you can 😀
Here comes the birthday boy! Like every other middle-aged mortal, Axe reflects on what he wants from life on his birthday in Season 2 Episode 9 Sic Transit Imperium and finally decides to turn down the special birthday gift Wags gives him: a $360K downpayment for a spot in a “luxury survival bunker” called The Arc so Axe can enjoy the end times in style.
Now, believe it or not, these luxury bunkers exist. It turns out this is how the billionaires get ready for the apocalypse and that the demand for these luxury “doomsday bunkers” is constantly growing.
Here is an excerpt from a CNN report on the billionaire bunkers:
“Many of the world’s elite, including hedge fund managers, sports stars and tech executives (Bill Gates is rumored to have bunkers at all his properties) have chosen to design their own secret shelters to house their families and staff.
Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S Company, says 2016 sales for their custom high-end underground bunkers grew 700% compared to 2015, while overall sales have grown 300% since the November US presidential election alone.
The company’s plate steel bunkers, which are designed to last for generations, can hold a minimum of one year’s worth of food per resident and withstand earthquakes.”
I still giggle as I recall Axelrods’ conversation about the Arc turning serious when Lara gets offended Axe does not want her family to stay with them in the bunker and that he offers to buy them a separate one! Well, isn’t it a relief to know some problems are universal? 😀
Bobby Axelrod returns the “Sic Transit Imperium” (“Thus passes the Empire”) coin securing a spot for him at The Ark because he does not want to play it safe. But it seems a lot of real-life billionaires do not agree with him. You can read a GREAT New Yorker article “Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich” here.