CAT SCRATCH FEVER

There’s a series of jewel robberies happening at home and also, in Paris at the decade’s biggest international fundraiser gala, as seen in this excerpt from Lance Avery Morgan’s The Society Chronicles book about the in’s and out’s High Society,

You have to be very rich or very poor to live without a trade.

Albert Camus

Cat burglary is the newest, illicit fad amongst High Society, and not just among the teen kids of the rich and famous, either. It seems like the pleasure is well worth the risk.

“Lifting” has been making a comeback in Europe. I guess those skinny Swiss boarding school girls brought the sport home during the holidays, the newest thrill for sticky-fingered American rich kids who have grown up disconnected from real life. They think the guys on the Grand Theft Auto video games are hot and have all have practiced stealing pharmaceuticals from their folks. What’s the diff, really? They keep score, just like with the video game, and rack up points depending on the level of security breech needed to help themselves to handfuls of Cartier and Prada that they steal from people they know.

Yet, they are rank amateurs compared to the pros in Paris, where the more sophisticated cat burglar plies his trade amongst the very wealthy, especially those drunk, drugged, elderly or otherwise deaf or dead-to-the-world in sleep. Then there’s the bigger fish, which are simply wrapped up in a social whirlwind, like Sabrina’s triumphant weekend, when no one could be more distracted by all that glitters than its ridiculously rich partygoers.

Then there was Sabrina, in a kitty klepto class all by herself.

The Dow was up almost 1200 points in just a week, after a year of plunges and rollercoaster stock trades. Naysayers aside, people love to think “bull” market and that the beast will keep surging ahead. The strong financial news made for especially spirited guests and even more intense merrymaking, and a positive outlook. Why wouldn’t it be after so many of their assets have declined so substantially? Even though the holiday season is several months away, the tycoons are now on a buying spree… for good art, antiques, and of course, shiny objects to keep their wives and their mistresses happy.

There’s something to be said for buying jewelry at retail. Most of the Dazzle magazine-loving moguls are self-made or grew up in moneyed families that were as penny-pinching as their WASPy and Jewish generations before them. Same difference when it comes to money… getting a good deal no matter what. Although most will never admit this, they bought their wives’ engagement rings from either brokers or cut-rate Second Avenue jewelers, if you can call them that. Many of the second or third-tier jewelers could easily replace a diamond solitaire when its brought in for cleaning, with a much cheaper grade one that somewhat replicates it. Going to a diamond broker that is trustworthy is crucial.

Now that they’ve made it in the world at a high level, the moguls want to be seen and they want fellow Sociables to gawk about the sizes of the jewels and their price tags. That leaves out the option of going to royal jewelry designer Prince Salvatore to whip up a new creation. No, it has to come in a black velvet presentation case in a red, blue or gold box. Discretion is so 2012.

“I can’t find it anywhere,” exclaimed Alexandra Medford about a missing Schlumberger cuff that will set the insurance company back at least six figures to replace it. “I left it on the bathroom sink near the catering kitchen.”

“My mother’s platinum Verdura broach must be at the cleaners on the Dolce & Gabbana suit. Surely it’ll turn up,” said Francesca Russell to herself just last week, about the precious piece made of Uruguayan amethysts.

“Darling, I went to the fake Madame Bovary in the study downstairs to get my Boucheron necklace and it wasn’t there. I wanted to have the pearl drop re-set. Do you have any idea where it is?” asked tireless fundraiser Evie Brighton of her husband Tatum.

“Nope, haven’t seen it Evie. Maybe it’s with that new housekeeper. Where is she from, anyway?”

Something was awry on the Upper East Side and heads were being scratched, albeit in silence, to figure out why some of the most important pieces of jewelry, outside of the Wish Diamond, did not turn up. Someone in the inner circle was “borrowing” these jewels from their homes. Even Sabrina Goodfriend’s prized locket she was given as a child from her parents, that she had reset with pave diamonds and a platinum chain, couldn’t be located over the last few weeks, according to her loud proclamation at Le Mistral over lunch. But who was behind the rash of jewel robberies? An insider who could never be caught, we all wondered? Hmmm.

Behind private gates and security systems, the rich are just like those anywhere, and often leave an invaluable object next to the toothbrush before staggering off to bed in a stupor. Inside their compounds they rarely locked their bedroom doors, as if the hired help was completely incapable of malice and forethought. Who really looks at the staff, anyway? One imported maid is pretty much like another, they mostly thought, and it would be easy to pinch a piece of jewelry and pawned over in Bedford Stuyvesant within an hour.

That diamond locket, which Sabrina clung to as if it was the Holy Grail, had a story that almost no one remembers, but one that replayed in Sabrina’s mind almost daily now. She’d told me about it one boozy night at Little Nell’s in Aspen years ago and it was now all coming back to me. She was drunk and I was not.

Sabrina recalled Cambridge McCarson, her best friend and next-door neighbor when she was five, had received a gold locket for her birthday. Their bond was so strong that little red-haired Cambridge gave Sabrina the locket as a pledge of her loyalty.

Come one, come all, the Westchester Girls standing tall. I wish I may, I wish I might, our friendship is now airtight was what Sabrina and Cambridge chanted to each other in between jumping rope and playing four square with chalked sections. They also made pastry masterpieces in their matching avocado green Easy Bake ovens, with only two 100-watt light bulbs for power. Yummy.

They then did a pinkie swear in their No Boys Allowed clubhouse to seal the deal until Mrs. McCarson, Cambridge’s mother, noticed that the locket was missing.

“Shhh, Sabrina. Don’t tell Mommy about the locket. I want you to have it. It will be our secret. Just us girls.”

When questioned, Cambridge said that she lost it, fearing her mother would punish her. When Mrs. Cambridge saw it on Sabrina’s little neck because she had mistakenly worn it in plain sight, Cambridge let her bestest friend be the fall guy.

Mrs. McCarson confronted Sabrina’s grandmother Amanda Miller, accusing little Sabrina of stealing the locket directly off her daughter’s neck. Cambridge said nothing and Sabrina kept her vow of silence to protect Cambridge but she made things infinitely worse by lying to the ladies in charge.

“I found it in the yard, over there,” said the kindergartener, pointing to the place between the houses, still fully protecting the ruse her best pal created. “It’s mine!” she cried. She refused to give it up. Sabrina remained accused of stealing and knew that they thought she was guilty, so it was almost the same as if she had swiped it anyway. That was the moment she learned the power of words and jewelry, and mixed it all up with love and loyalty. It was that childish incident that would start a lifetime of Sabrina’s insatiable kleptomania, and even I didn’t learn her modern day secret until it was almost too late.

The Millers, like many highbrow families in the 1970’s, believed that sparing the rod spoiled the child, and Sabrina was slapped, smacked and spanked for the juvenile crime – and worse, for humiliating the family. Alone in her room with an icepack to her swollen cheek, she vowed that no one would ever take anything away from her again. That included jewelry, money, and you name it.

Instead, she would be the taker. This childhood trauma fueled her crazy closeted kleptomania, whether it was stealing a man from another woman, copying an idea for an exaggeratedly produced party, or literally taking valuable objects from clueless friends and acquaintances and squirreling them away like sparkly nuts, almost until her bitter end.