Wednesday, June 07, 2006
When bigger is not always better
In Monaco during the Grand Prix you learn one thing: there's being rich and then there's being RICH. Here, it's a whole other playing field where everything from cars, yachts and diamonds are bigger and -- some would argue -- better. This month, the Art of Life team flew to Monte Carlo to not necessarily cover the race itself, rather we were there to experience what goes on around the event. Everything from parties on yachts to black tie affairs.

Life in Monaco ceases to be normal when Formula One rolls into town. But normality to me is probably very different to what is considered normal to others. To those who
frequent Monaco for the Formula One race, what is considered normal are sights of Lamborghinis and Ferrari Enzos making their way through the tiny streets, and massive yachts docked right next to each other where your neighbor is Flavio Briatore or Philip Green, or even Roman Abramovich. Such is life on this seaside town.

Our first port of call was the Steinmetz yacht where we met with CEO Nir Livnat. Docked in a prime viewing spot for the race and the revelers (one would have to pay around $100,000 for the privilege to dock there), we talked about how the Grand Prix is a lucrative time for the diamond company, so much so that Steinmetz, in pa
rtnership with Sotheby's, showcased their glittering goods on the yacht for their valued clients. Surrounded by suited security guards, some of the world's most expensive diamonds are on display in a private cabin.

I not only held a rare pink diamond worth around $10 million, I also saw up close what a 108-carat diamond looks like. By the way, it is also worth around $10 million. Thing is, and if I'm honest about it all, the bigger the diamond doesn't necessarily mean the better. There is the ris
k (in my view) of it looking either fake or just plain gaudy. I understand that for some people it's a status symbol, but seriously, I know I wouldn't want to walk around with a 108-carat diamond around my neck. Not only would I be afraid of it being stolen (hence the need for a bodyguard to guard not me but the stone), but also I'm betting that only a trained eye would be able to see that it's actually the real thing. But again, that brings me back to what I was saying earlier about what I think is normal and what those that exist in the world of uber-riche think is normal. The pink diamond, now that's more my style. Anyone have $10 million lying around they can spot me?

All of that said, there were some pretty stunning pieces on board the yacht and while they wouldn't tell me how much it was all worth, for security reasons, the guards watching us like hawks gave us a good indication that this was not your average showroom. Steinmetz admits that not only is the Monaco Grand Prix good business for them and Sotheby's Diamonds, its collaboration with Formula One's McLaren Mercedes team gives all the players involved a different kind of edge for being associat
ed with each other. After all, it was only McLaren Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya that had their steering wheels emblazoned with diamonds. How very Monaco!

Also very Monaco: the parties. Right next to us on the Steinmetz yacht was Team Renault boss and ex-boyfriend of a few supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum) Flavio Briatore's big boat Force Blue. There was a lot of activity on the yacht in preparation for a party he was throwing for Formula One head honcho Bernie Ecclestone's wife. It was her birthday party. Rumor has it anyone who was anyone in Monaco during the Grand Prix was at that soiree. (Well apparently not everyone as Art of Life wasn't invited.)

We were, however, invited to the Dolce Vita Ball (that's me and Art of Life Associate Producer Dayna beforehand) -- a black-tie fundraising event in which celebs like Boris Becker and Petra Nemcova attended (apparently Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth stopped by around 1:30 a.m. but by then we were already at the after-party hosted by London's The Cuckoo Club). The highlight though, was getting to see former Fugee Wyclef Jean perform. He was there to raise money for his organization Yele Haiti whose goal is to bring about change and growth to the impoverished children of his native country. He told us that the Monaco Grand Prix was an ideal time to raise awareness and money for any charity or issue simply because of the celebrity association and also the fact that some of the wealthiest people in the world are there. Well it seemed to have paid off as in the end about $1 million was raised for Yele Haiti. But perhaps the icing on the cake was the surprise visit by U2 front man Bono who dropped by to perform a duet with Wyclef. Not too shabby if you were paying the $10,000 package that included tickets to the ball!

I got back to the hotel at around 3:30 a.m. and found that the after-after party at the famous Jimmy's club right next door was still pumping. Not only was there bumper-to-bumper traffic of Ferraris and Porsches waiting to get closer, there were throngs of hopefuls waiting outside. It may sound snobby of me to say but I refuse to wait in line to get into some club just so that I may possibly catch a glimpse of some celebrity. Not my scene.

So, did I have fun in Monaco during the Grand Prix? Yes. Was it an eye opener on how the less-than-one-percent of the world's population live? Oh yes. Have I become a Formula One fan? Despite the noise, absolutely. Was I gob smacked at the sights of helicopters taking off from massive yachts? God yes. Could I see myself in that parallel universe hobnobbing with rich and famous till the wee hours of the morning? Hmmm...I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, June 07, 2006
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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