memories of the ’80s – Hart to Hart

In the early 1980s, a wealthy couple decides they want to help others as they investigate crimes in the series Hart to Hart.

Starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, the duo were created by author Sidney Sheldon, who worked with producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg.

Spelling and Goldberg had heard of the Sheldon script which was focused on a couple who were both spies. Turning the idea over to writer Tom Mankiewicz, the storyline was modernized to become Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, two Los Angeles based jetsetters who with the help of their sidekick Max, use their amateur detective status to catch the bad guys.

Debuting in August 1979 on ABC, the charm of Robert Wagner and the funny warmth of Stefanie Powers soon drew in viewers.

The Harts find themselves at the beginning of each episode in their Gulf Stream private jet, and are soon helping friends and aquaintances with crimes like blackmail, murder, theft, assassination, drug-running and slavery.

Each episode showed off the lavish lifestyle of the wealthy, from Rolls Royces and Mercedes Benz to yachts, summer homes, ski chalets, mountain lodges, big city apartments and plenty of accessories from jewellery to clothing to the latest gadgets.

Within an hour viewers were treated to a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and famous as well as the Harts figuring out the crime and whodunnit. By season three, Hart to Hart had millions of fans, but in its fifth season, ABC cancelled the series due to low ratings.

As someone who liked a bit of the glamour of the show, I appreciated seeing all the lavish trappings of the so-called A list life, even if the storylines weren’t always as intricate and easily figured out.

memories of the ’80s – Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

During the excess of the 1980s, one television program illuminated the holdings of the 1% – with a distinct voice over – Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Debuting in 1984, the syndicated show was created by Al Masini, well-known for his successful entertainment shows including Solid Gold, Entertainment Tonight and Star Search.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous focused on the elite lives of the wealthy, showing their massive homes, outrageous numbers of cars and boats, as well as letting the common man behind the high gates and into the exclusive VIP areas around the globe where the billionaires went to play.

Each hour showed off the trappings of rich – from the private islands to the grand estates – from old money to new millionaires. And for all of us viewing the show, it was like looking at a catalogue of how to be rich, without the means to be able to buy anything, yet we wanted to see.

Hosted by Robin Leach, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous became the accepted standard of how the wealthy must live – with gold-plated items, access to the world’s luxury brands and a permanent red carpet rolled out for this exclusive group.

And each episode ended with his signature send-off – “wishing you champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

I remember watching this show with my Mum, and we both would be amazed, intrigued and sometimes disgusted at the opulence shown. It didn’t matter how wealthy you thought someone might be, there was always someone else with another far-out view of how to spend their endless amount of cash.

For a decade labelled excessive, this program illuminated all the materialism that was celebrated so openly.

memories of the ’70s – Grey Gardens

The wealthy are not always happy and living the high life as well depicted in the documentary Grey Gardens.

Produced in 1975 by Albert and David Maysles, Grey Gardens got its name from the residence of two elderly women living in the wealthy neighbourhood of Georgia Pond in East Hampton of New York State.

The “stars” of the film were Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), a mother and daughter, who where the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, the widower of US President John F. Kennedy.

Despite their rich connections, the two lived with little money and in squalor in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States.

The documentary showed the aftermath of how these women had been pushed to the brink – thanks to flea infestations, invasions by raccoons and cats, a lack of running water, endless garbage, and then a cover story in New York Magazine, after numerous visits by the Suffolk County Health Department.

The women claimed they were raided by the health department, but the reality was these women were living in conditions unfit for humans. As a result Onassis and her sister, Lee Radziwill provided funds to bring the house back up to codes.

The Maysles let the mother and daughter tell their story in the documentary, in the style now known as direct cinema, revealing their history, memories, hopes and dreams as they detailed the past 50 years of their lives.

The film debuted at the New York Film Festival in September 1975 and in mid 1976, the documentary was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France, after going into general release in the United States.

For those fascinated with the wealthy, this documentary illuminated their view of the world, but also the reality of how that view can trap someone. The documentary was the first to be adapted for a Broadway musical play, as well as became a feature film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.

I was lucky enough to see this documentary decades later at an art house theatre, and was fascinated by the stories of these two women, who had entree into the world of the rich and famous. Grey Gardens let the two women tell their story, giving the audience an understanding of their circumstances living an oddly reclusive life in the Hamptons.