By Hand and Foot
Once Almost Extinct, Butlers are Making a Comeback in the Homes of Wealthy Americans
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
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"There are so many contradictions like that with these people," sighs Spencer, shaking his head. "They go to extremes. But we must always do what the employer wants."
Since 1986, Spencer, who plans to open a full-fledged butler school in America within three years, has conducted an immensely popular satellite initiation for novice employers-to-be. Many self-made millionaires haven't a clue as to how to interact with a butler and are anxious to get the form down pat.
The two-day initiation begins when Madame and Sir check into a hotel suite, don pajamas and get into bed. The butler they have hired arrives with the morning tray, and from thereon a series of domestic rituals are acted out, with Spencer coaching from the sidelines. It's all very clinical, and many questions are asked. During one session, the woman commented to her husband, "I think we tip him after every meal." To which he replied, "No, you don't do that, darling. You only tip him at night." Spencer promptly intervened and politely suggested that an annual bonus would do.
The Gielgudian butler of yore would have fired a withering glance at anyone who committed the smallest faux pas. He was every inch the snob. His successor, by stark contrast, is forbidden any outward display of arrogance. While formality is still de rigueur, hoity-toity is out.
"We don't abide pomposity," sniffs Spencer at the close of a daylong session with his students. "Any sign of that and you'll be shot down."
Jolee Edmondson is a freelance writer based in Savannah, Georgia.
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