Growing up in the 80s, I was all about those tongue-in-cheek how-to books. My friends and I spent hours dog-earing the pages of our Official Preppy Handbook, alternating between astonishment and wonder. Just how many of these tips could we realistically aspire to? Should we wear collars up or down? How do we behave at the yacht club? What are the best qualities in a preppy boyfriend?
Now there’s a new guidebook on the block. It’s just right for our Get Famous on Reality TV world and it’s called The Social Climber’s Bible: A Book of Manners, Practical Tips, and Spiritual Advice for the Upwardly Mobile. Penned by Johnson & Johnson heir Jazz and society crasher Dirk Wittenborn, this book is seriously whacked — but in only the best possible ways.
HOW TO BE A SOCIAL CLIMBER
To help us achieve our dreams of social importance, the experts shared Six Top Tips on How to Be a Social Climber. Ready to climb? Here they are:
1. Attend, weep and make up nostalgic personal stories at memorial services for deceased celebrities and statesmen.
2. Wear a tuxedo or ball gown in a way that implies you’re on your way somewhere that’s fancier, better and more socially promising.
3. Never ring the bell or knock when entering a party or you’ll look like you aren’t sure you are wanted.
4. Tweet from fabulous events you didn’t attend.
5. When introduced to strangers say ‘So nice to see you again!’ to give the illusion that you already know them.
6. Avoid claiming you are a Rockefeller because you will be inundated with business proposals and requests for loans.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL CLIMBING
1. Why is there so much discomfort with social climbing?
“Social climber” is an expression snobs invented to make people with less of everything feel ashamed for wanting more.
2. Are you criticizing social climbing or embracing it?
We wrote the book for people who love social climbers as well as those who loathe them. Since social climbing is Democracy in action, not to embrace it isn’t just hypocritical, it’s un-American. Anyone who claims they’ve never tried to improve their position in the world by making friends with someone who can help them isn’t being honest.
3. How did the two of you come to collaborate on a book and why this topic?
Since one of us belongs to some of the most exclusive clubs and the other has been kicked out of some of them, we figured we were in a perfect position to look at social climbing from both ends of the game. Plus, we’re related and needed a good excuse to escape boring family functions.
4. How long has social climbing been around and how is it different today than ever before?
Social climbing played a key role in human evolution. If you became new best friends with the caveman/cavewoman with the sharpest teeth and lethal hunting skills, you had a better chance of not becoming their next meal, and as anyone who lives in New York knows, not much has changed.
5. Why are we entering a Renaissance of social climbing today?
In these economic hard times, social climbing, aka networking, is a no-brainer. It’s the fastest, surest way for you to get a job only you know you’re not qualified for.
6. Is social climbing a uniquely American pastime? Why?
Social climbing is an art practiced in all cultures, but only America is founded on an individual’s God-given right to climb the ladder. The Declaration of Independence guarantees “the pursuit of happiness.” What better expression to describe social climbing?
7. Is social climbing confined to the halls of society power in New York’s Upper East Side, Hollywood, Washington, and The Hamptons or is it a universal instinct among all of us? Who doesn’t want to get ahead?
Every town in America has someone who throws the best parties and has the most social clout, even if they live in a trailer.
8. Beyond the humor, is there a serious point to the book?
Social climbing or “networking” is not only rampant but it is a key ingredient to any success story.
9. Are you yourselves social climbers, targets of social climbers, critics of social climbers, fans of social climbers, or something in between or entirely different? How so? In what ways do you encounter social climbing in your lives?
We are proud to say that some of our best friends are social climbers, but to point out the obvious, if we were really great social climbers ourselves, we would be on a Russian billionaire’s mega-yacht in the Maldives right now instead of doing interviews like this one. Just as a sports writer doesn’t have to be a great athlete to be a keen critic of the game, one doesn’t have to be an accomplished social climber to understand and appreciate the strategies, techniques and drive of the great mountaineer.
10. Which celebrities have proven themselves to be the savviest social climbers?
The greatest living social climbers are those who are never suspected of being social climbers. To mention them by name would impede their climb and undoubtedly get us un-invited to their next party. Without a doubt one of the most successful is Kate Middleton. But judging mountaineers can be confusing. For instance, When Taylor Swift was dating Conor Kennedy, we have to wonder who is mountaineering whom?
11. Was it sincere grief or social climbing that inspired so many people during Fashion Week to regale stories and post Facebook pictures of the good times they shared with Joan Rivers? Does it matter?
It’s always safest to claim you are best friends with a celebrity after he or she has passed away. They are no longer in a position to say they didn’t like you, or worse, that they never met you. For the record, we both met Joan Rivers and the world will be a less amusing place without her in it.
12. What is Friend-Shui and how should we best practice it?
Friend Shui is the ancient Chinese art of harmonizing and re-orienting your social life, i.e. clearing your address book of friends and family who are social liabilities.
13. What is a Velcro-Climber?
These are tireless networkers who refuse to take hints to get lost and are impossible to ditch. By relentlessly inflicting their presence on people who are more successful, famous and talented than themselves, at the end of the night, it’s less exhausting for important somebodies of the world to accept their friendship with Velcro Climbers rather than run from them.
14. What are the most important three brief tips that every social climber should know to climb their way to the top of the social mountain?
1. Flattery will get you everywhere.
2. Never forget to kiss all four of your hosts’ cheeks.
3. Honesty is rarely the best policy.
Johnson & Johnson heiress Jazz Johnson is a lifelong insider in that rarefied world that fans of both Downton Abbey and Gossip Girl dream about. Raconteur Dirk Wittenborn is old enough to remember when sex was safe and cocaine wasn’t addictive. In short, Jazz belongs to some of the most exclusive clubs in the world, whereas Dirk has been kicked out of them.