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Columns

July 21, 2012

I wonder how it would feel to have all that money

"If I were a rich man,

Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum."

All right, so Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof," I'm not.

But that doesn't mean I can't wonder what it would be like to have Mitt Romney multimillionaire money.

Or better yet, Sheldon Adelson billionaire money.

Like you, I've heard all this talk about how much moolah Romney might have salted away in offshore accounts. Then, there's the $100 million or so that gambling magnate Adelson says he's going to take out of petty cash to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

Just imagine having all ... that ... money. Enough to run for president or at least have a big say in who's going to be the president.

And still have enough left over so you don't have to clip "buy-one-get-one-free" coupons out of the newspaper.

Sorta makes a fellow want to run right out and buy a lottery ticket, doesn't it?

There's a scene in the 1981 movie "Arthur," in which Dudley Moore's ultra-wealthy ("All I can tell you is, I wish I had a dime for every dime I have") title character is asked something by a florist played by the Yiddish-accented Lou Jacobi.

"How does it feel to have all that money?"

Arthur replies as he leaves the store: "It's great."

The florist nods and says to himself ruefully: "A dumb question."

Well, yeah, probably ... but maybe not.

All having an awful lot of money means is you don't have to worry about money. It won't bring back a lost loved one or allow you to be young again or make your dog any smarter.

If I had a ton of money, I would lavish most of it on wild bacchanals with women of questionable virtue, private jets to exotic gambling locales, and huge replicas of Mount Rushmore made entirely out of Swiss chocolate.

And the rest I would spend foolishly.

Nah, that's not me, darn it all.

I like to think I would pay off my kids' college loans, spread some dough around to other relatives and friends who have shown me kindness, and give generously to all kinds of worthy charities.

Oh, I suppose I'd get a decent car, but I'd rather live quietly in a modest house in the suburbs than be stuffed into some mansion where I'd have to have servants to take care of the joint and bodyguards to see that no one gets abducted.

One thing I'm certain about is I wouldn't want my money to permit me to be Mitt Romney or Sheldon Adelson.

The guy I'd really want to be is John Beresford Tipton.

OK, he's fictional, but so, for that matter, is all my money.

If you're younger than a half-century old, you probably don't know who I'm writing about. But if you remember the '50s and '60s, you know who I mean.

John Beresford Tipton was a character on the CBS television show "The Millionaire." Each week, an episode would begin with a calm voice explaining the wonderful premise of the program.

"My name is Michael Anthony. And until his death just a few years ago, I was the executive secretary to the late John Beresford Tipton, Jr.

"John Beresford Tipton, a fabulously wealthy and fascinating man, whose many hobbies included his habit of giving away $1 million, tax-free, each week -- to a total stranger ..."

You never saw Mr. Tipton's face, only his right hand passing off a check for a million bucks to Anthony, who would dutifully give it to that week's beneficiary.

I loved the tax-free part, and you've got to remember, a million dollars in 1955 was worth almost $9 million today.

There was always one catch. The recipient of the check could tell no one _ other than a spouse _ how he or she got the dough, under penalty of forfeiting whatever might be left.

Some folks thrived, but others found nothing but misery from their newfound bounty. And, I suppose, John Beresford Tipton's investigations into those people's lives would probably brand him as a stalker today.

Still, wouldn't it be wonderful to have the resources to anonymously give a million dollars to a hard-working waitress or a guy who stayed late at work when he didn't have to so you could buy your kid a last-minute present?

Or to anonymously take care of the car-repair bills of someone drowning in debt or see to it that a grandmother could be generous to her grandchildren and still be able to see a doctor when something hurts?

Why would anyone want to be president when he could be John Beresford Tipton?

Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.

Indeed.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.

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