Vive Le Castle: 'A Middle-Class Interloper Spends An Evening Hobnobbing With Billionaires'

Castle Dinner Fundraiser

In the spring of 2011, my wife and I were invited to attend a fundraiser for a well-known European castle. We hadn’t donated any money to the group ourselves—we didn’t even know that castles had fundraisers. But a well to do colleague had given some money—a lot of money, really—and he was unable to attend this very intimate dinner for the big donors. So he asked us to go in his place. The benefit was attended by about only about 25 people, among them various aristocrats, patrons of the arts, billionaires and us: a middle class couple from suburban New Jersey. It was, for lack of a better term, bananas.

Noah Rosenberg, founder and editor-in-chief or Narratively, and I speak about the evening in this recording.

Narratively is a digital publication devoted to original, true and in-depth stories. Each week they focus on a theme, and publish stories relating to that theme. This week's theme is The Upper Crust. Explore more stories on, like this great one

Edited by Matthew Petrillo

Illustration by Larry Buchanon

This originally appeared on


  1. Well, I enjoyed listening to this story well enough, but unless I missed something it didn’t seem to qualify as an “Oh Sh*t” story.  I’ve been to plenty of dinner parties where the hosts aren’t getting along.

    1. How did you know they all had lots of money?  How were they dressed?  What kinds of dinner table conversations do billionaires have?  Were they incredibly wasteful?  What kinds of cars did they drive?  Were there lots of craggy old rich guys with trophy wives?  How much money did you friend give to this foundation?  Did anyone ask you what you were doing there?

    2. Also, please don’t read this as a snarky complaint, I genuinely think there’s an interesting story here.  I certainly wouldn’t want one of my personal anecdotes presented to the Internet for criticism :-)

  2. I was expecting so much more than ‘some guy insults his wife’s cooking.’

    I’ve somehow managed to get myself involved in some super-wealthy goings-ons and it’s usually extremely zany.

  3. I was expecting orgies, prostitutes, drug use, and devil worship.

    I would have settled for a bunga bunga party.

    This was tuesday night with some friends going through a marital spat, but in a mansion.

  4. Having done non-profit work since I was in the sixth grade and been on the board of a few non-profits, I know several billionaires.  They’re quite normal.  The only difference was that I was making 7K a year and they were making more than that in interest every day.

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