Over at the Washington City Paper, "Rich People Things" author Chris Lehmann goes questing after rumors that post-crash tchotchkes from the House of Lehman Brothers are on the auction block in Tysons Corner, Va.
The search doesn't yield the hoped-for, grail-like items ("no Dick Fuld helicopter gear"), but the swag on display -- eye-confounding paintings, tacky jewelry -- nevertheless conjures up that crash-era nostalgia. The pièce de résistance, a "cheap Fender knockoff" whose nominal value derived from an assortment of autographs from a "random battery of rock eminences," is a fitting tribute to the excess that led to the 2008 crisis -- subprime asset, but check out the counterparties!
Once inside, alas, I realize that I'll be cruelly deprived of artifacts from the high housing-bubble era that I'd been hoping for. There's no Dick Fuld helicopter gear, no obvious selections from the bungalow-sized shoe closet that belonged to the wife of Lehman equity-shop boss Joe Gregory. The collection on display turns out to be a fairly random jumble of tasteless corporate pecuniary display. When I ask a woman behind the jewelry table how much of the stuff in her cases came from the Lehman bankruptcy -- and whether the Lehman shop in question was the Wall Street mothership, or the bank's erstwhile satellite operation in the (real) McLean, she can't help. "I just work for the auction house," she says.
Still, once I let go of my fond reveries of a strictly Lehman-themed, San Simeon-style road show, I realize that the contents of Ballroom A -- which, as another docent explained, originate from "liquidations, U.S. customs, estates, and a variety of different sources" -- furnish plenty of edifying glimpses into the lifestyles of the 1 percent.
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