Having been raised a Catholic, I feel the need to come clean here and acknowledge a prejudice I’ve harbored for decades. I confess that growing up I was prejudiced against rich people.
Like most bigotry, this prejudice was passed on to me by a parent. My father grew up in a wealthy neighborhood and saw a great deal of unhappiness in the rich families he knew–especially after the stock market crashed. He made certain that he didn’t become rich and raised nine children.
Dad wasn’t the only person who gave me a negative view of the rich. My Catholic schoolteachers taught that a rich guy had to ride a camel through the eye of a needle to get into heaven. I myself planned to get in by avoiding wealth and making a really good deathbed confession.
I didn’t have contact with wealthy people in my neighborhood, until I became a cab driver. I often received the smallest tips from the fares that I drove to the biggest houses. Later, my wife and I lived in a coach house behind one of these huge houses. Our wealthy landlord was nice but our well-to-do next-door neighbor tried to get us evicted.
So we moved to Forest Park, which appeared to be a rich-people-free zone. Though, we still socialized with wealthy people when we traveled out west to my sister’s mansion. Her neighbors were the least-friendly people I ever met, so my prejudice was only reinforced.
They say to overcome bigotry you have to put yourselves in the other person’s shoes. So, from time to time, my wife and I would pretend to be rich. We’d order $10 drinks in swanky hotels, but even pretending for one evening was too expensive.
So, I began impersonating rich men for house walks in the area. The River Forest guy I portrayed seemed likable: a self-made man who lost one fortune but earned another. Then I portrayed a wealthy Oak Parker and greeted visitors in my billiard room.
Some of the lines in my script made me cringe-like when I said I was “kind to my inferiors.” Nor did I like saying that my rich friends and I enjoyed cigars and brandy, while the women “caught up on their gossip.” It was also said that my second wife was a trophy wife. This portrayal was not helping me overcome my negative view of the upper classes.
For my next impersonation I’m playing a down-to-earth Oak Parker for the upcoming cemetery tour on Oct. 15. I’m a member of a fraternal organization, the Knight Templars. I not only wear a plumed hat but I have a sword to play with.
I’m hopeful that taking a break from playing millionaires might help me overcome my unreasonable attitude toward the wealthy. Not liking someone because they have money is just as bad as not liking them for their skin color. Besides, with the way home values are going up in Forest Park, I may have to get along with rich neighbors again.