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With a member list that includes rock bands, Hollywood actresses and directors, British and Middle Eastern royals and other insiders' insiders, Quintessentially specializes in extreme service, everything from the élite to the impossible. For a yearly fee ($5,000 to $40,000), club members receive access to highly knowledgeable personal assistants in 35 cities around the world. When one member found a coveted pair of stilettos in Miami but her size could be found only in Los Angeles, the shoes were flown to her via private jet in time for a party that night. A London member who was seeking a last-minute gift asked that a Picasso be found; it was. "There are a lot of people with a lot of needs or desires or whims," Rosenthal says. "We're able to facilitate that for them." Recent whims have included that two Indian blue peacocks be sent to Scotland for a wife on Christmas; a request for blueberries harvested in Patagonia; and that a rare case of Petrus Pomero 1961 wine ($163,000) be tracked down. Members have even had wines found and delivered to them on their yachts in the Mediterranean.
Another favorite prize is the Gulfstream, the private jet of choice, with the latest model, the G550 ($47 million), the most coveted. It flies anywhere in the world nonstop, lands at large and small airports, connects wirelessly at 50,000 ft. (15,240 m) and receives 100% fresh air every 90 seconds. "Plus you know your luggage is there. People consider these incredible benefits," says Gulfstream's Robert Baugniet. The current waiting list, however, stretches to late 2011. Boeing's much anticipated and technologically advanced 787 Dreamliner ($148 million to $188 million) clocks in a close second, with nine in the works for vip use. With the larger model measuring 2,762 sq. ft. (260 sq m), "it's like a small house," says Boeing Business Jet's Charles Colburn. However, "we're selling so far out that people just can't wait." It requires a wait until 2015. So the prosperous and impatient have sought alternatives in retrofitted commercial planes, which are more prevalent than ever. In the entire airline industry, there are 25 in the works for vip use, according to Lufthansa Technik, including 767s, 757s and 747s, like the one Google multibillionaires Sergey Brin and Larry Page recently retrofitted ($18 million to $26 million), with hammocks hanging from the ceiling and California king beds.
Other owners' jet accessories are equally personal. One requested a custom cigar humidor with his tail number silk-screened onto it; another asked for Versace china, Christofle silverware, Lalique crystal and Frette linens, not to mention all-over alligator trim, including the toilet seat. The most popular plane garnishes, however, involve technology. "Today everyone wants at least two, sometimes four or five lcd monitors," says Eric Roth, president of International Jet Interiors. "They want the ability to watch three or four movies at once. And iPod players have almost become custom."
Extreme means often beget extreme impulse buys. According to Richistan's Frank, one man, after playing another's 18-hole golf course that abutted a sprawling estate, handed him a check for $400 million, saying, "I want it." (His offer was declined). Another, apparently also in need of a fix, walked into a dealership and came out with a Bentley convertible ($250,000). And as for what passes as practicality in this other land, "That's my restaurant car," the Bentley man said of his two-tone Rolls-Royce Phantom. "You get a better parking space [from valets]." In fact, both of those cars are being edged out today by the new convertible Rolls-Royce EX101 Coupe ($430,000). However, the waiting list is so long, nobody can get their hands on one, according to Frank, not even one man who is a Rolls owner 15 times over. Mercedes-Benz, in response, is rumored to have a convertible "Rolls Killer" in the wings.
Yachts are getting super-sized. And the more decked out, the better. The largest to date is in the works. At an estimated 500 ft.-plus (150 m, for $300 million–plus), the Eclipse is being built by 40-year-old Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Rest assured there are several builders around the globe feverishly at work on lengths that will top it. Some common and not-so-common megayacht accessories include basketball courts, helipads and -ports (and sometimes one for a guest), music studios and submarines.
"People are more interested in collecting experiences than products, which is why yachting is popular in the first place," explains Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute, which tracks the trends and tastes of the top 10% of the population. Indeed, this new crew is keen on living and doing rather than just having, on being enriched, not merely rich. "They want to be participants, not just spectators," Pedraza says. "They're looking for that completely different experience, that one-of-a-kind thing."
A Renaissance-era apartment occupying the noble floor of a building in Florence designed by Michelangelo is the type of one-of-a-kind travel experience offered by Solstice. The exclusive club was founded by a real estate developer and his designer wife, who hand-select and beautifully decorate each of 13 homes, all in the $6.5 million range, and a yacht. And so, for a yearly fee ($535,000 to $1.75 million), members can stay in the homesa Napa Valley estate with 150-year-old stone salvaged from the Pony Express; a sun-drenched artistic estate in St. Barth's with custom furniture by Christian Liaigreas often as they like.
Many highly sought experiences have a philanthropic, sometimes spiritual bent. The vacation club Exclusive Resorts arranges rare, and until recently forbidden, journeys into the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, allowing members to convene with monks, explore the Himalayan culture and perhaps help revitalize a temple. And a Rwanda trip includes cultural immersion and treks with endangered mountain gorillas, with a percentage of profits going toward conservation and preservation. In fact, philanthropy and charitable giving have increased to more than $260 billion in the U.S., which is twice the figure in 1995. "It's one of the biggest things we're seeing," market researcher Pedraza says. "A status symbol that people don't notice: giving your money away."