“Mom and Dad Are Rich. You’re Broke.”

November 3, 2010

Everywhere you look today, there seem to be discussions of how we baby boomers so spoiled our children that many of them enter the world unprepared for the challenges of every day life.

Whenever I hear the word” spoiled” in reference to anyone else, I wince and duck for cover; hence, today’s blog excerpt from Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

“Mom and Dad Are Rich. You’re Broke.”

In a few ways anyway, being raised in Beverly Hills in the 1950s was just like being raised anywhere else.

I rode my bike to school every morning, we hung out and played sports after school, and we became the first generation of kids to watch television on a regular basis. The most popular television shows of the 1950s centered on family life. Problems were always solved by the end of each show and most every character was portrayed as being happy or at least relatively secure.

For me, whatever version of reality that was depicted on shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett, Father Knows Best, and Make Room for Daddy was a welcome glimpse into how I thought other families actually lived and was a lot more real than my own life.

Not much else about my early life had any connection to the real world.

Looking back, spoiled and out of touch with reality are descriptions that don’t even begin to explain how bizarre it was growing up in Beverly Hills. While I was living it, however, I took almost everything for granted and just assumed that I would always live that kind of life.

In a word, I felt entitled without really understanding what the word meant. I just felt that I would always have money and enjoy the same privileged and easy life that my parents enjoyed.

My stepfather and mother had a full-time chef, two live-in housekeepers, and a butler. Didn’t everyone?

I never had to do laundry, clean my room, or do a single household chore. Until I was a teenager, my allowance was whatever I asked for.

Even though “spoiled” is really too polite a word to describe both my lifestyle and my attitude, I was nevertheless convinced that I was untouched by all that extravagance. The only thing I learned about growing up, being responsible, and creating a strong work ethic was…nothing. I was young and my parents were rich, which I foolishly misinterpreted as meaning that I was rich, too.

Oprah Winfrey recently asked actor Will Smith about his kids and their relationship to money. Smith responded with an absolutely classic line that he had said to his son. “Yeah, we had that talk recently. And I said that yes, Mom and Dad are rich….but you’re broke!”

Unfortunately, I was blissfully unaware of that simple fact in my own family and was therefore setting myself up to walk the trapeze of life blindfolded and without the net that I had been so certain would always be there to catch me.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly Sparks Brickner November 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Stephen, I just ordered you book, can’t wait to read it, but I’d love to know if it was YOU who lived on Devon Avenue across the street from my family in Westwood. It was the Simon family for sure, but I think that I grew up with a David Simon….maybe a cousin? Mom died when I was 13 and we left “the Hood” but I’d love to know if you are related to David…or maybe I’m wrong! My older brother is Ty (by 8 years). He lives in Texas and I am in Sacramento. I hope to hear from you.

I went to Marymount with Tina (Sinatra) in 7th and 8th grade, and with Deena Martin as well, of course. AND Holly Hilton. All in the same class…..The Rat Pack Brat Pack!!
Dino, Desi and Billy played for our 8th grade graduation party, which was at Nancy Sinatra’s in Bel Air, and Holly’s grandmother at the time, Zza Zza Gabor, of course, married to her grandfather, came floating down the hill from their house above in a diaphanous caftan being dragged by her two glorious Afghan hounds….who really wanted to join the party!! So did she….she was very sweet, wishing us all the best as she tried, rather unsuccessfully, to keep her “little darlings” from eating all of the appetizers….

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Stephen Simon November 12, 2010 at 6:40 am

Hi Holly…no, that wasn’t us…but I do have a cousin named David Simon so my guess is that is was him…ah, Zsa Zsa…yes, i remember her and Eva quite well…what characters!….and of course Tina and “Little” Nancy…I hope you enjoy the book–i’m sure it will bring back some memories…please let me know when you finish it..Thanks and Welcome!..Stephen

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