Thanks, Downton: Now Everyone Wants a Butler

Whole class of nouveau riche suddenly need help getting dressed
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2014 1:21 PM CDT
Thanks, Downton: Now Everyone Wants a Butler
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson from the popular series "Downton Abbey."   (AP Photo/PBs, Josh Barratt)

Apparently enduring four seasons of 20th-century British gentry incapable of dressing or feeding themselves has inspired a desire among the world's richest dudes to get their very own Mr. Carson. In other words, as NPR reports, the business of being a butler is booming. "When you're talking about hiring a proper British butler—the guy in the uniform who obeys a certain protocol of service—what you're hiring is essentially a status symbol," says David Katz, who went through $2,700 "butler school" and wrote about the trend for GQ. And now everyone from Russian oligarchs to billionaires in Dubai and China "want an Anglo person that telegraphs to their other equally wealthy friends that they can afford to do this."

Katz runs through a few lessons of butler school—for example, if your kid is sick, your boss, aka your "principal," had better not ever know about it—as well as the cold hard cash involved; butlers can start at between $30,000 to $60,000, but many earn hundreds of thousands. But as with everything, things these days just ain't what they used to be: "They used to [stay put], and there's a certain pride in those that do, but because of the great demand—like with any great market—there's been a lot of jumping around lately," Katz says, which "bugs some of the older butlers." Katz's biggest problem? If, as he writes, "The gig is about fulfilling every whim of your employer, no questions asked, no excuses given," he couldn't quite check his own ego. "You know, you cannot resent the people that you are serving," he says. "You have to believe in service as something beautiful in itself." Click for his full piece, which is a fascinating read. (More Downton Abbey stories.)

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