The Perks of Privilege

An Indian-themed affair, moonlit and majestic on a New York City rooftop. … An airplane hangar transformed into a mythically luxurious airline. … A 20th anniversary in Mexico bathed in alabaster.

How do the rich get to enjoy such pre-eminently privileged parties? Two words: Colin Cowie.

Cowie has been feting the fabulous for years, masterminding everything from destination and location, to food and drink, and from entertainment to fireworks. The results?

State-of-his-art-and-their-bank-account celebrations that cost the clients $6,000 to $50,000 per attendee.

He has planned parties all over the world. In fact, Cowie says 60 percent of his business is outside of the United States.

He is famously discreet about his clients, but Oprah Winfrey has long sung his praises.

"Oprah is, without a doubt, the most extraordinary person to plan parties with," Cowie said.

He has planned many celebrations with Winfrey, including her 50th birthday bash and her well-known Legends Ball.

The bottom line for Cowie? "If you can write that check, I'll make it happen."

And his sensationally satisfying parties help to remind billionaires why they bothered to make all that money in the first place.

Because sometimes, they need reminding.

It's not only the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy who could sigh, "Mo' money, mo' problems."

So many things -- jets, boats, estates, wine, watches, family, friends, and yet, so little opportunity to enjoy them.

Although the super-rich may try to avoid the grotesque displays of excess that made people despise disgraced mogul Dennis Kozlowski, many of them know there are things that money can't buy -- namely, the ability to select, manage and savor all the things that money can buy.

That's what privilege for the wealthy is all about -- seeking out the help that can get a rich guy past the perils and pitfalls of a big bank account.

And the rich do keep getting richer.

Over the last 20 years, the number of billionaires in America has reportedly jumped from 13 to more than 300.

Brett Anderson, editorial director of the Robb Report, says it's not as easy as you may think to be one of the super-rich.

According to Anderson, the average entrepreneur has made a ton of money and needs a lot of expert advice.

They need high-end concierge services like Quintessentially, which, for fees from $3,500 to $36,000 a year, will provide key advice on pricey purchases -- like expensive jewels.

Quintessentially even helps clients get into ultrahip parties and hot spots.

Founded by Ben Elliot, Quintessentially says its services are like having a well-connected best friend in every city.

From restaurant reservations and theater tickets to $10,000-a-night hotel bookings, Elliot says his company "prides itself in accessing the inaccessible."

But why would a millionaire need help getting into the hottest restaurant in town?

Anderson says, quite simply, "Because there are plenty of other people out there with $20 million who also want to get into the restaurant."

But for the well-to-do, there's no hassle like day-to-day life -- fraught as it is with vast domestic responsibilities they cannot manage alone.

That's why Mary Starkey's school is the answer to a plutocrat's prayers.

Since 1981, Starkey has run the Starkey International Institute for Household Management in Denver, where an eight-week program teaches students to become "HM" -- household managers.

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