Vanity Fake

Today, bloggers would have us believe, celebrities by association are not looking for a direct handout. Instead, they want entrée into the corporate and commercial institutions that not only make Americans rich, but keep them rich. By associating with real celebrities, they want both star power and brand power to rub off on them.

Women seem to be far better at this than men. The one-time husbands of Elizabeth Taylor, Halley Berry and Cher had their photos in the tabloids for a while, but have otherwise been lost to history. If they are remembered for anything, it is for being kept men. And, of course, there is Kevin Federline, the prince of kept men, who has tried, unsuccessfully, to parlay his marriage to pop singer Britney Spears into a singing and acting career. The country watched as Federline slowly got his just desserts.

But as Federline pouts, Ivana Trump has parlayed her name -- a brand synonymous with wealth -- into a home shopping empire. Soon after her divorce to real-estate mogul Donald Trump in the early 1990s, the former Czech olympian signed a deal with the William Morris Agency to develop a line of fashion accessories and cosmetics she hawks on television.

But if there is one line of work social climbers love, it's designing handbags.

Georgina Chapman, girlfriend of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, got a job designing purses for Marchesa. Lance Armstrong was so taken by a Vanity Fair profile of handbag designer Tory Burch, that he called her for a date. Burch, a wealthy divorcee who comes from a middle class Jewish family, has raised the ire of many bloggers for what they feel is rank social climbing.

Even Monica Lewinsky, the most infamous example of a celebrity by association, and a courtesan by any definition, has her own line of handbags.

No one says "courtesan" anymore, and if it were up to David Patrick Columbia, founder of New York Social Diary, no one would say "social climber," either.

"Social climber," he said, "is an outdated word. It's a cheap word thrown at people you don't like."

More to the point, he says, just because the blogosphere has recently realized there is a relationship between commerce and high society, doesn't mean it is anything new.

"Women of society," he said, "have always been used to sell commercial products. In the 1930s, they promoted Pond's hand cream and Chesterfield cigarettes. It's only now that they can really strike out on their own."

All this talk of mooching, social climbing and dating in an effort to franchise your boyfriend's name into a pocketbook line is, of course, totally cynical. The one element the celebrity press rarely talks about is real, honest-to-goodness, true love.

J. Courtney Sullivan, author of "Dating Up: Dump the Schlump and Find a Quality Man," says it has to start with love.

"In general," she said, "a relationship is about finding love, support and understanding in your life ... There can't be some crafty element as to why you're really there ... When women do marry for the name or the prestige, it just doesn't work."

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