“In my dreams, I have a plan,” sang Andy Bell, flouncing onstage in a sequined jumpsuit, “If I got me a wealthy man, I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball.”
The Erasure frontman dropped these lyrics as an intro to another ABBA song, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” creating a soundtrack to a gay fantasia based on an essential truth: having a man after midnight is good but having a rich man after midnight is better.
For virtually any gay boy under the age of 30 (and a few delusional ones under 40), the dream of finding a sugar daddy is a potent one but it’s hard to imagine the role of being an older man’s arm candy being all that fulfilling. In a culture that praises the self-made man, the lone warrior, the individual hero, why does the idea of being a kept boy still fascinate?
“I loved it,” says Dan Renzi, editor of gay newspaper The South Florida Blade and former reality TV castmate on The Real World: Miami. “I loved standing next to him checking into a hotel, I loved answering the door in my underwear when room service would come with a bottle of champagne. It was all a bit scandalous and I had so much fun.”
Renzi got some sugar after writing a story on the Gay Millionaires Club, an internet-based dating service for rich gays and the boys who love them. “It looked like a big scam so I thought I could expose it as the prostitution ring that it was but honest to God, I had the time of my life,” he says, having met and dated a few men through the site.
Sadly, repeated calls to the Gay Millionaire’s Club went unanswered but the club’s website continues to boast that “all Gay Millionaires Club clients are high achievers and are successful at whatever they do: physicians, attorneys, CEO’s, entertainment industry professionals and investors. They are decision makers, leaders in their fields, philanthropic, civic-minded gay men.” Is it that hard for men like this to date?
As a patron of Toronto’s 519 Community Centre and the head of Cineplex Media, Salah Bachir is probably Toronto’s best-known gay millionaire but he’s never heard of the site, nor does he have any interest. “For one, I’m already partnered,” he says then asks, “Why would you even want to write about this?”
Vong Sundara, comedian and self-appointed “official spokesperson for young, gay, super-cute Asians,” also wonders why gay millionaires would need a matchmaking service: “Even if you’re ugly, people will sleep with you if you’re a millionaire so this guy would have to have an extra layer of ugly.”
“That’s unfair,” counters Renzi who is happy to speak on behalf of elusive gay millionaires everywhere: “People hire personal trainers, therapists, nutritionists… so why not get assistance with their romantic life? People who are successful in business are very driven and they don’t know how to slow down. When you’re over 40 and a workaholic, how are you supposed to meet someone?”
Sundara happened to meet rich guys through gay sports leagues. “There’s at least two or three I know are millionaires and several others that are close to it,” he says adding, “I dated an oil executive while I lived in Calgary. You’re there, you might as well.”
He jokes that “if you’re Asian and in your twenties, you have a magical power over old white guys over 40. They just flock to you with their money and they seem to like having someone to take care of.”
Renzi says being a kept boy is harder than it first seems: “It’s a lot of work. It’s not easy living someone else’s life, no matter how fantastic you think you are, it won’t matter because you are not equal.”
Understanding that is the key, he says, to dating above your pay grade. “There’s a certain knack — you have to be witty and charming without being a show-off. It’s not about you… you’re just the date.”
Sundara found that being a comedian and being strongly opinionated kept his gay millionaire relationships short. “They just want you to look pretty and open your ass up when they need it,” he laughs. “I didn’t really provide either of those so it didn’t last too long but it was definitely fun while it lasted.”
“You don’t suffer that much, let’s be honest,” laughs Renzi, “but it does get hard… it gets lonely. Whenever I was involved with these people, my friendships would suffer. One guy’s assistant would call and say, ‘So-and-so wants to go to Paris this weekend,’ so you have to cancel your movie plans with friends.”
Ultimately, he says, the problem with inter-class dating is that “sometimes they fail to understand that the extraordinary life they’re offering you may not be what you want.”
Sundara left his oil executive to focus on comedy in Toronto. “You don’t want to look back and say, ‘I could’ve been something but I threw it away to go out with somebody who ended up dumping me anyway.’”
Renzi dated millionaires to escape for a while. “I lived in LA and was sick of dating these unemployed actors and having these self-indulgent conversations about how poor they are. It was nice to date these other guys, not because of the money, but because they have a future.”
Looking back on his relationship with someone so much wealthier, Renzi says, “For the record, I never accepted a cent. It wasn’t the money that made him attractive, it was the power. I loved watching him command a room, I revelled being in his shadow, it was the most powerful aphrodisiac.”
It’s true that there’s just something about a guy in a suit. From James Bond to Anderson Cooper, the look of wealth and power is an eternal lure. Designers like Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani have celebrated it, photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe and Joe Oppedisano have subverted it, but the essential sexiness of a well-dressed successful mature man never fades.
“People say it’s what’s on the inside that’s important but what you look like is just as much a part of who you are, along with what you do all day,” says Renzi. “Their status in life is part of what makes them attractive.”
In the classic film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe puts it best, “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?”