I fully intend to win the lottery one day. I know you all think you're going to win too, but I know the secret, and it's foolproof. I don't have a system per se, and I don't even play the same numbers every week, despite the fact that Dave points out quite logically that playing the same numbers at least narrows your chances by a little each week. However, I don't need these mathematical schemes, which is a good thing because I'm not really mathematically inclined. The fact is that I have the real trick to winning the big bucks right up my sleeve and now I'm going to share it with you, faithful readers, as a reward for putting up with my ramblings. You deserve it!
The secret to winning the lottery and claiming prizes beyond your wildest hopes and dreams is... buy the winning ticket.
Don't thank me yet, because I'll tell you, it's harder to remember to buy the winning ticket than you think. I keep forgetting to specify, and look where it's gotten me. Every week I'm staring at a little square of paper, cursing, and wondering how I once again failed to match even a single number. Then I remember that when I bought the ticket, I forgot to say, "And I'd like the winning numbers, if you please, my good gas station attendant!"
One of these days, though, I'll remember, and after I've won I intend to be one of those people whose vast new riches do not substantially change life as they previously knew it. Other than the lovely French Colonial home with expansive kitchen and whirlpool bathtub (not in the same room), an Audi A4 for Dave, and never again having to step foot into work, I'll be fairly unchanged, I think. We'll travel a lot, I'm sure, and maybe I'll finagle ways to bring the dog along instead of leaving him with my parents (mostly because I'd love to see people at the Ritz fawning all over my dopey golden retriever. "Hon, could you ask the butler to throw Rhett's squeaky toy for a few minutes? I'm getting my nails done!"), but all in all, I don't expect I would go all nuts with my newfound millions, mainly because I'm careful with money no matter how much or little I have at any given moment. I budget, I balance my checkbook, I project, I save. It's how I was raised, which I'm thankful for. I'm not exactly cheap, but you wouldn't have to worry about me coming home and announcing that I'd bought a Lear jet, either.
It's this cautious nature that makes the stories about L. Dennis Kozlowski absolutely unfathomable to me. L. Dennis (or "L" as he's known to his friends) is the ex-Tyco CEO who is under federal indictment for massive fraud and misappropriation of company funds for his personal use. Millions and millions of dollars were "loaned" to this clown so that he could purchase homes, go on vacations, throw lavish parties and buy an array of items that I simply cannot wrap my mind around. I know we're suffering as a culture from massive delusion regarding what we're entitled to, but that doesn't even begin to explain how anyone could feel entitled to some of the crap this guy bought.
In a news story about the 40th birthday party Kozlowski threw for his wife in Italy, a memo written by a Tyco employee is quoted. This memo details some of the outrageous expenditures witnessed at this fête - and I have to wonder what was left out. Apparently the party included an "...ice sculpture of [Michelangelo's] David, lots of shellfish and caviar at his feet. A waiter is pouring Stoli vodka into [the statue's] back so it comes out [its] penis into a crystal glass."
Damn. Now that's classy.
The memo also details the presence an Elvis impersonator. Yes, it appears that there was an Italian Elvis impersonator at this shindig. Elvisio Presletini, I guess. And um, you know how much I love the kitsch factor, right? I mean, I live for it. But an Elvis impersonator, no matter what his original nationality, is going way too far even for me, and it's definitely out of bounds if you're a multi-gazillionaire. It's just so... tacky.
Wait. Did I just say that? I momentarily forgot about the vodka-peeing ice sculpture. Moving on...
After the singing of Happy Birthday, the memo continues, "a huge cake is brought out with the waiters in togas singing and holding the cake up for all to see. The [breasts] explode, [and] Elvis kicks it in full throttle."
The breasts? What breasts? Of the cake? That's either a poorly written memo or an extremely bizarre Elvis impersonator.
In any case, the party makes me wonder what other kind of stuff old L. Dennis shelled out for with the hundreds of millions he's being accused of stealing from Tyco. News reports list things like shower curtains and a dog shaped umbrella stand (this guy has great taste, no?) as specifics, and then more general items like multiple mansions, yachts, vacations, and on and on. I have a hard time believing he took as much money as he's being accused of taking because I'm not convinced it would be possible to spend that much money if you have this kind of taste.
What really irks me about the whole Kozlowski debacle isn't so much the fraud and deception, because it's already a given that the public is miffed about that. Telling me that a CEO misused millions of company dollars is too vague for me to get overly riled up about - I can't imagine $100 million. However, tell me he spent thousands on Elvis impersonators and that gets my attention. Explain to me that he spent $445 on a pincushion and now I'm pissed off. A $445 pincushion, people! Where do you shop to find a $445 pincushion!? My bet is that Pimp Daddy L doesn't even sew - I'd lay even money that his wife was the sewing maven of the Kozlowski clan. I don't sew either, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts I could identify a pincushion that cost more than four hundred bucks. And if, after we win the Big Spin, my husband comes home with a pincushion that isn't worth about ten bucks on the open market, the first thing I'm going to ask him is, "What the hell are you thinking!?" no matter how rich we are or how much I've taken to sewing. There are some extravagances that simply don't need to be extravagances regardless of the balance in your money market account.
And that's the part that disgusts me. This bozo never needed anywhere near the amount of money he stole, and he went through all the trouble to bury the evidence in limited audits or making the approval process for these "loans" lead straight to him, and then what did he do with the money? He hired Elvis impersonators! Damn it - I can afford an Elvis impersonator! He just went around collecting junk! If you're going to steal hundreds of millions of dollars, don't support the tchotchke industry with it!
Now please don't write to tell me that he got caught, finally, because he bought himself a million dollars worth of Monets and Renoirs but said they were for the company's offices in order to avoid sales tax. I know that. It doesn't prove anything about his cultural tastes, in my opinion. Monet and Renoir are names, known names. And I'm a huge fan of Monet - Saint-Lazare Train Station is probably my favorite painting of all time - but I don't honestly believe that Kozlowski bought the paintings because he respected and loved the art. I think he bought them because he thought he should. In the first place, he tried to avoid the sales tax. Not because he couldn't afford the sales tax (he had hundreds of millions of dollars, after all), but because the man is a cheat through and through and this was just another opportunity to prove how above the law he was. Furthermore, I don't for a second believe that this guy has been pining for original Monets all of his adult life. I believe the thought process went something like, "Well, rich guys buy art, right? I'm rich. I'm super rich. Who's a fancy-ass artist I could buy? Monet, right? People know him. And that Renoir guy. Everybody's heard of him. That'll impress the hell out of everybody!" It had nothing to do with the art itself and everything to do with image.
It seems to me that Kozlowski stole millions of Tyco dollars not to surround himself with wonderful stuff, but to surround himself with more stuff. His CEO salary wasn't enough to afford him everything he wanted, so he stole money from the company. Which is absolutely sickening even before you start to think about the actual stealing part of it. CEO's don't make pittances, folks. The guy was being well rewarded for his work without having to resort to thievery. And yet it wasn't enough, because no amount of money is enough to buy everything.
So now Tyco wants it's money back, and I can't say I blame them. But I do wonder a few things. Primarily, did Kozlowski keep his receipts? If not, he's going to have a hell of time getting refunds for the $15,000 umbrella stand, $6000 shower curtain, and $2200 waste basket he bought with company funds. I had to bring a door back to Home Depot once and they were damn surly because I didn't have a receipt. And I'll tell you, if he bought any of these items at Macy's and doesn't have the receipt, he's screwed, because I spent 20 minutes last week behind a couple who were trying to return this god-awful chip and dip bowl that wasn't on their registry and the clerk was absolutely helpless in the face of their lack of gift receipt.
Of course, the bowl was only worth twenty-five dollars.
- KNP, Sept. 29, 2002