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Dan Dorfman

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Spending Money Like 1,000 Drunken Sailors

Posted: 04/24/10 01:30 PM ET

Call it money madness, financial follies, an absurd breakout in spendthrift-ista, or what have you. In any event, it looks to me like it's getting to the extreme. Ronald Reagan used to say we spend money like a drunken sailor. In the cases that follow, it's tantamount to spending money like a thousand drunken sailors.

One noteworthy example involves shelling out an annual fee of between $2,000 and $10,000 just for the privilege of being able to reach your doctor on a timely basis when and if you really need him.

Other conspicuous examples include such flagrant spending as a t-shirt that will cost you $935, an attache case that goes for $22,000, an unusual after-dinner drink, a single shot of cognac, for $800 (or about $50 a sip), and a West Coast home for $150 million.

First, if you feel ill, your first temptation is to ring up your doctor, but as is often the case, you just can't reach him, or even get a return call. It happens to all of us. But in a relatively new dimension to the medical practice -- let's hope it doesn't spread -- some doctors in Palm Beach, Fla., I'm told, have come up with a plan to alleviate this problem for you and rake in a good buck doing it. In brief, they're charging an annual fee -- in some cases as much as $10,000 -- which will give certain patients who pay it priority treatment when it comes to getting their doctor to return a phone call. That charge is separate and apart from the cost of visiting his office.

That fee, I'm told, will practically guarantee a prompt return call from your doctor; in other words, no longer will you have to keep bugging his nurse with a series of pleading phone calls to get him to call you back. Sounds too good to be true, but as it was explained to me by one Palm Beach resident who coughed up $5,000 when her doctor, a cardiologist, raised the idea of such a fee: "Sure it's a rip-off, maybe even blackmail, but how in the world are you going to say no to a doctor you have been seeing for years and who may be in a position someday to save your life?"

Another person I spoke to in PB, who pays a $2,000 a year fee to his internist and a crack diagnostician says he has no complaints. "For that $2,000, you can call the guy anytime you want, night or day, and he's always available." Supporting this, he notes that he once made such a call about 3 a.m. and he didn't get any complaint for calling at such an odd hour. "It may be," he said, "it'll turn out to be the best $2,000 I've ever paid for a service in my life."

Neither person would identify the doctor. One of the doctors, said to be internist Bruce Moskowitz, could not be reached for comment.

Hard to imagine, but a women's t-shirts, priced at $935 each, are actively selling at Bergdorf Goodman's Lanvin Boutique, a saleswoman told me. It's waist length, beaded and sports a daisy motif. "The item is doing so well we may have to order some more," she said.

If nearly $1,000 for a t-shirt seems stiff and you're looking to save a few bucks, the boutique also offers some "cheapies" between $300 and $400. If that's still too high, my wife, Harriet, tells me there are shops in Grand Central Station that sell t-shirts for just $3.99.

Speaking of big-time spending, what does your dinner tab run? How about $1,000 a person? If you're about to say, no one is going to spend that kind of money in this kind of economic environment, don't. Daniel, one of Manhattan's premier restaurants, held such a dinner last week, a charitable affair for Meals on Wheels, featuring a wine tasting of assorted burgundies and bordeauxs. The event -- tickets ran $1,000 each -- was a smash, raising $400,000, the restaurant tells me.

As restaurants go, there's growing use of a gimmick in New York City designed to cleverly hike your bill without your knowledge. And it could spread elsewhere. Here's how it works. After you've sat down and ordered a drink, a captain comes over and begins rattling off a broad number of specials, the majority of which are often not on the menu. No prices are ever mentioned by the captain and rarely does someone ask, some restaurateurs tell me, because the person paying the check doesn't want to come off looking like a cheapskate. Essentially, it's a way of pitching higher priced dishes without calling attention to the price. So if it happens to you and you're about to order an off-the-menu dish, ask the price, especially if you're dining at Il Postino, an Italian restaurant on Manhattan's East side, which will charge you $65 for dover sole, and $78 for bronzini.

That $22,000 attache case I mentioned earlier, alligator, of course, is being offered by a New York branch of Georgios of Palm Beach. There are just two left, one in cognac, the other in black. But the store is flexible, a manager told me, meaning the price could be reduced to $20,000, possibly a bit lower.

Speaking of cognac, one of the most expensive shots in New York City, $800, can be found at Tse Yang, an upscale Chinese restaurant on the East side. A blend of vintage cognacs dating back to the 1800s, the drink is not doing as well as it used to, but it does occasionally tempt some hedge fund managers. The bottle -- only 300 were produced -- cost the restaurant $4,000 and contains 14 shots.

Lastly, America's most expensive home, formerly owned by the late TV producer, Aaron Spelling, who produced Charlie's Angels, and now owned by his widow, Cindy, is on the block for $150 million. Located in Holmby Hills, Ca. and situated on five acres, the 57,000 square-foot house has 123 rooms. Included are a bowling alley, a beauty salon, a gift-wrapping room and a screening room. The expectations in some West coast real estate quarters is that the house will eventually fetch between $90 million and $120 million. If interested and you're a first-time home buyer, it's worth keeping in mind that the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers soon runs out.

What do you think? E-mail me at Dandordan@aol.com