By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Their words are heartbreaking: "Credit is my middle name," one laments, and "the only girls I can't get are the good ones that see through my façade." Another describes "meeting friends for drinks and watching half of them bail for the bathroom or taking a call when the check comes to the table."
With my notebook poised, I become his dutiful student, drinking in years of close study and accumulated knowledge.
"Dallas is the Los Angeles of the South," Gormley lectures, the kind of place where "we drive everywhere to get anywhere." Unlike Los Angeles, however, "there are only two things to do: dine out and shop." With little local history other than the dubious honor of being the site of the Kennedy assassination, Dallas doesn't have the cultural draw of cities such as Chicago or New York or the geographical features that make Miami and Denver destinations. "There's not a family somewhere sitting around a table, holding hands, saying, 'Honey, it's Dallas or San Francisco for vacation this year, where do you want to go?'" Gormley says. (Naysayers who cite Dallas' art museum and gallery culture in order to contradict Gormley are addressed in $30,000 Millionaires directly: In the deserted arts district, a character says, "you could shoot someone in broad daylight and never spend a day in jail.")
The result is a city full of wannabes. There are enough real moneyed folk—North ranks sixth in the nation in number of millionaires—tooling around in Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to drive the image-obsessed to financial extremes to fit in. The recent openings of luxury hotels such as the W and the Ritz-Carlton only further Dallasites' reputation as connoisseurs of pre-fabricated symbols of wealth. Our culture is no culture, or, our culture is shiny objects.
The No. 1 thing to look out for, Gormley tells me, is the car. "A BMW 3 series." The cheapest luxury lease you could get. "It's always a 3 series."
As I prepare to enter the field, however, Gormley gives me a dark bit of advice: "The guys who are $30,000 millionaires," he warns, "don't know that they're $30,000 millionaires."
I am intrigued and undeterred. Bigfoot may not know he is Bigfoot, but that doesn't mean he won't leave tracks in the woods.
Time: 1:15 a.m. Friday
Location: The W Hotel's Living Room Bar
Research team members: Jay Gormley, John Venable, self
Target: Gormley spots four potential Homo sapiens douchebagus drinking vodka tonics in button-down shirts and whisker-washed jeans
Suspicious behavior: Unnecessary amounts of hair gel.
I approach confidently, unknowingly exuding threatening levels of sass. I peek my head into their circle and muster up all the sugary-sweetness I have. "Hey, guys, can I ask you a question?"
The alpha male, sunglasses perched on his forehead, sizes me up. "What's up, babe?"
"Have you guys ever heard the term '$30,000 millionaire'?"
I watch as the guys catch each others' eyes.
"Yeah, man, they're all over this place!" the one in the striped shirt says.
"This place is packed with them," another assures me, leaning in and assaulting my olfactory nerves with cologne.
"Do you guys know any?" I ask, looking from the loafers to button-down to hair gel on each one.
The alpha male simply shakes his head.
Results: Inconclusive. Subjects familiar with species. Possible specimens based on attire, over-application of artificial scent and use of term "babe" for an unfamiliar female. Reluctance to continue conversation could be construed as an admission of guilt or merely as plain dislike for this researcher. Does Homo sapiens douchebagus fear sass?
When Dian Fossey first set up camp in the African wilderness, hoping the surrounding mountain gorillas would eventually become habituated to her presence, she made one key mistake. The first behavior she set out to imitate in an attempt to integrate into the gorilla culture was chest beating. Fossey worked hard to imitate the animals' rhythmic signals by pounding on her own thighs. Eventually, she got it down, but the gorillas didn't warm to her. Finally, the answer came: Chest beating is a sign of alarm, not friendship.
I made a similar mistake, and my faux pas also involved a chest—my own. I wanted something that would introduce the subject of $30,000 millionaires subtly. My first overzealous tracking expedition, to the Ghostbar atop the W and the Living Room Bar on the hotel's main floor, had revealed little other than the fact that the Ghostbar's guest list is still a joke. Unless, that is, your idea of a swanky, exclusive club involves middle-aged women in mom jeans juggling cosmopolitans and Brighton purses, plus a whole lot of dudes in pleated Dockers.
Just as valets and velvet ropes attract Homo sapiens douchebagus, there are certain things guaranteed to repel them. Pleated Dockers and middle-aged women are on this list. What would catch the $30,000 millionaire's attention? What would make him laugh? What would get the conversation started? Why, a sexy tank top with "I $30k Millionaires" splashed across the front, of course. I would turn myself into live bait.
I visited Armhole, the perennially trendy T-shirt boutique in the Mondrian building on Blackburn Street, right in the center of the $30,000 millionaire breeding grounds. In less than an hour, I had both an enlightening conversation with the shop owner and a tight, cheeky tank top.