lifestyles of the rich and famous

when you have enough money, you can do anything

“Ayo, ‘my best friend’s rich’ cheeeeeck.” That’s how the recycled TikTok sound starts, as acoustic guitar music plays.

A teenage girl sitting by a water feature spreads her arms wide as the camera pulls out and pans across the facade of a country estate. We cut to: two girls dancing around in a private bowling alley. Next, they scoop up and toss some water from a second water feature at the back of the mansion (the front has a large stone drive, this one is surrounded by grass). Briefly, we see them pretending to glug wine in a cavernous wine cellar. Next, they run down a long hallway. Next, they pose in an enormous walk-in closet that I initially thought was a kitchen because of the island in the middle. Finally, one of them climbs a vaguely futuristic spiral staircase two steps at a time.

I think it’s safe to say that this is not usually what I use social media to look at. I don’t follow the accounts of influencers or celebrities (other than Vin Diesel’s Vinbook) and I’m not scrolling through Instagram looking for travel ideas. (This was true even before stuff happened.) But there is a compelling roulette-like appeal to the “‘my best friend’s rich’ check” meme in that you never really know what you are going to get. Sometimes it’s actual, substantial wealth, as mentioned above; sometimes it’s people making a joke about their normal, non-ostentatious environments, playing on the expectations set up by that opening line. Sometimes it’s people who think they are wealthy but it’s just a McMansion. The sound clip that users recycle on TikTok applies to a single idea, but the execution and implementation varies wildly.

Other than seeing how different people define “rich,” the structure of many of these ‘rich checks’ entice multiple viewings. The clips flitted by quickly, each lasting maybe a second or two, before it’s on to the next expensive car or screening room. This requires you to watch a video more than once to catch things you might have not seen.

The large front drive, the facade, the bowling alley, the backyard water feature, the wine cellar, the long hallway, the walk-in closet, the spiral staircase. And then the clips start over and we see it all again with an experienced eye. The teenage girl — wearing a Balenciaga t-shirt. The large front drive — I count three cars now. The facade — well-maintained despite its clear antiquity. The bowling alley — the ceilings are so high! The back fountain – the grass is so green! The wine cellar — the hefty iron gate separating the camera from the duo is Amontillado-ish. The long hallway — gleaming lamps hang from the ceiling. The walk-in closet – an presumably expensive purse sits on a shelf. The spiral staircase – swooping around in smooth, modern way.

Then the clip starts again. “Ayo, ‘my best friend’s rich’ cheeeeeck.” The driveway, the fountain, the facade, the bowling alley–

HOLD UP

Zoom in and enhance.

Zoom out a smidge.

What the hell? I guess when you have all the money in the world, you can commission a local high schooler to paint an enormous Simpsons mural on your bowling alley wall? Well, now I have to know more.

~~~

This is the part of the blog where I do a bunch of googling that, in many contexts, would be described as “at least a little creepy.” I did some standard open-source intelligence gathering, but I’m not quite sure how much of the process to put here because, as far as I know, these are private citizens who have done nothing wrong.

The process involves doing scattershot googles of names and terms (“mansion england”, “british real estate”), cross-referencing friends lists and social media profile pictures, using cached views of old pages. It involves determining who is the tagged rich best friend, finding their last name, and then trying to figure out who their parents are. It involved getting at least a little jealous of these people who, after coronavirus hit, were able to decamp from their estate in Manchester, England to their property in the Bahamas.

Once I have a last name, and general location, I do some more scattershot googling and eventually come across business records for a house that is just called Toft Hall (which I feel fine disclosing because it’s a heritage site and has its own Wikpedia entry). The place not tough to find it on Google Maps, and a quick cross-reference with the opening shot of the TikTok confirms our location. Ladies and gentlemen, we got 'em.

Toft Hall was built in the late 17th century, and was substantially renovated in the 1800s. Here’s an antique lithograph from the year 1850. According to the Parks & Gardens database, “Toft Hall’s parkland and gardens were remodelled in 1809. The park was landscaped and a mere and island were constructed. Other features include an arched stone bridge, a ha-ha, a woodland garden and a cat house. There are also remains of a formal garden.” As we all know, a ha-ha is a recessed landscape design that prevents livestock from escaping.

Wikipedia tells me that “Ralph Leycester (1763–1835), MP for Shaftesbury (1821–1830), commissioned the London architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell to renovate the hall between 1810 and 1813.” During WWII, the property was also reportedly the site of a POW camp (Parks & Gardens says "evidence is limited.") Weirdly, the Wikipedia page does not tell me when or why the bowling alley and the Simpsons mural were added.

A growing sense of shame prevented me from messaging one of the owners of the house on Linkedin and asking them “Hey, what’s the deal with the Simpsons mural in the bowling alley that I saw on TikTok and then drilled down on to an absurd degree and now I know where your house is and the names of your children?” (The other thing preventing me from asking was a nagging obligation to send this out today, lest I get scooped.)

I tried to figure out how expensive this house is because, again, I just love the idea of an 17th-century manor with a bad Simpsons mural in the basement(?). This may or may not have resulted in me accidentally paying six pounds to Her Majesty’s Land Registry for the transaction records for a different property adjacent to the house that is still technically Toft Hall but not the manor house specifically (the manor house records have no financial info).

So I have no idea how much the house is worth but I feel comfortable saying: somewhere in the millions. It’s definitely too expensive to have a 15-foot-tall aggregation of Simpsons characters.


Elsewhere…

  • this was kinda a legendary week for guys going horny on main in ways simultaneously horrifying and a little funny. Jeffrey Toobin - horny. Fort Bragg — horny. Rudy Giuliani, in Borat 2 — horny. In the interest of not getting sued: all three have said that the displays of horniness were no such thing or unintentional. To which I say:


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