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The rich and clumsy The rich and clumsy
by Asa Butcher
2006-10-26 10:09:10
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Upon hearing the news that Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wyn had pulled out of a deal to sell Picasso's Le Reve (The Dream) for a record $139m (£74m) after accidentally elbowing a coin-sized hole in the middle made a strange impression upon me. It somehow bought the world's billionaires back down to earth and re-established them as human.

Regularly the rich and famous crash their sports car, fail to pay their tax bill, shoplift from Beverley Hills' boutiques, cheat on their spouse and divorce in multi-million dollar lawsuits or even be on the receiving end of a custard pie in the face, but it is rare we hear about them experiencing the basic human condition known as clumsiness.

Crashing a high performance sports car is careless and reckless, but you can't really blame a car accident on 'butterfingers'. However, accidentally damaging a painting worth almost €140m is nothing short of priceless, if you excuse the pun and use of the Mastercard slogan. How many of us will have a moment of inelegance on that scale in life? It transforms the movie cliché of dropping a Ming vase into reality and pales our own transgressions into insignificance.

As children, we have all had accidents that cost our parents, relatives or family friends a valued knick-knack that was one-of-a-kind, purchased from a small shop in Atlantis, specially made by Jesus and was out-right irreplaceable. As adults, we are unable to halt our helpless trail of destruction as we knock over supermarket displays with our trolleys, spill drinks in restaurants, have coat pockets catch on door handles and poke partners in the eye as we gently caress their cheek.

There is a peculiar enjoyment at watching other people trip over their own feet and embarrass themselves in public, which explains the success of home video shows, but these moments are seemingly restricted to everyday man. There are the occasional goofs and slip-ups made by television presenters and newsreaders, but that is expected when the majority of your life is recorded.

Why can't we hear stories of Queen Elizabeth II accidentally lopping off an ear during a knighthood ceremony or a Tony Blair tripping over the front doorstep of 10 Downing Street? Where are the anecdotes of Tiger Woods tripping and landing in a bunker, Jamie Oliver burning toast or Bill Gates forgetting to back-up his hard drive before it crashed? Thankfully, the world has one high profile individual who guarantees clumsiness, but President Bush is such an easy target that almost choking on a pretzel and being violated by a turkey almost seem boring.

Aside from President Bush, many celebrities and millionaires are portrayed as larger than life and are individuals we aspire to be, yet it is reassuring to see them in moments of unsightly awkwardness and total gracelessness. It gives hope to the rest of us mere mortals as we stumble, trip, slip, spill, collide and crash our way through life, although I am particularly thankful it will never cost me $139m.

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Sand2006-10-25 10:27:11
Does that mean the square inch value of the painting goes up as the area decreases or does it go on sale in a fleamarket as damaged goods? Or perhaps the hole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Sand2006-10-27 06:39:00
Although the UN is infamous for being feeble it might be worthwhile for the many valuable objects in the world to be determined a world treasure and private ownership to be limited by proper maintenance and if the object is legally determined to be not properly cared for it could be seized by an international court and sent to an institution that can see to its proper care.

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