One-click on a fascinator, readers, because there’s a mega-wedding in the offing. Congratulations to Mr Jeff Bezos, Amazon kajillionaire, and Ms Lauren Sanchez, bralette-wearing philanthropist/immense force of nature. Although news of the couple’s engagement seeped out this week after Lauren was spotted wearing a diamond ring in the south of France, Jeff has yet to release a formal announcement. So let’s just draft one for him: “Ladies and gents, she said Proceed to Checkout.”
Now look, you already know Jeff. World’s third-richest man. Went to space. Looks like he should be appearing above a daytime TV caption reading “I make £40 a month as a Vin Diesel escort and my fiancee loves it!” But are you fully across Lauren? I’ll be honest: we haven’t met. But from the outside looking in, my nose pressed against the glass of Google Images, I simply cannot get enough of this Nietzschean superwoman, the final form of the East German silicon-doping programme, who has missile-titted her way into my consciousness and now captivates me twice weekly with her insouciance, her outfits, and her observations on just how difficult philanthropy is to do. Seriously: no one has ever thought harder about how to help poors while mooching round a Grand Prix enclosure with some kind of You Could Never Access All My Areas lanyard dangling from her belt loop. In some ways I don’t think I’ve felt this amused by a picaresque heroine since I saw a photo of Jennifer Arcuri biting the head off a fondant-icing Boris Johnson figurine, from a Boris Johnson cake she’d had made. Yes, customers who liked Jennifer also liked Lauren. Not so much a gal-about-town as a gal-about-planet.
Anyway, the now-affianced Bezos and Sanchez are currently touring Europe on Jeff’s new yacht, Koru, a 417ft three-master/three-peniser that is the largest such vessel ever built. To put things into perspective, this yacht is so big it has its own yacht – a 246ft “support vessel”, which lugs around boring little things like the helicopter pad and reportedly some kind of personal submarine. And this week, for the first time, we saw Koru’s figurehead. Ships’ figureheads have traditionally come in various forms, of course: mermaids, Neptunes, angels – and now, Fox-News-anchor-in-transparent-singlet-with-erect-nipples. Suck on it, history! Our century is so the best. The Bezos yacht figurehead is fingering a large pendant necklace, and appears to be about to say something. “Draw me like one of your French girls”? Either way, the vast boat it adorns only recently left the shipyard, hopefully while some urchin child on the dock cackled: “Yeah but you’ll never be cool, will you, Bezos – YOU’LL NEVER BE COOL!”
But will the Amazon boss ever, really, even be a genuine philanthropist? We do seem to be at the stage of human intellectual decay where anyone who is a multibillionaire is also automatically described as a “philanthropist”, when in many cases “misanthropist” would be more supported by the evidence. For instance, I’m forever seeing Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed described as a philanthropist. Is he the one who has at least two of his children missing/kidnapped at any given moment? Honestly, so what if he’s built a sanitation programme? I should hope so.
Back to Lauren, though, who last year declared: “I’m immersing myself in philanthropy and strategic giving.” Which sounds a lot more fun than Amazon warehouse workers immersing themselves in strategic peeing-in-bottles. Yet it turns out this stuff is hard. “You want to give money away,” claimed Lauren. “You want to know that it’s helping people and it’s going to continue to help people, and that it’s going to the right places. You could give it not-strategically. You can just give it away! But, we take it seriously.” Mm. It feels like they’ve thought of everything except Amazon paying tax like normal businesses.
The question of quite how much Bezos does truly want to give away is a thorny one, given he once said: “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.” Or as Lauren puts it: “Jeff has always told me, since I’ve known him, that he’s going to give the majority of his money away to philanthropy.” I hope you love the phoned-in generality of that “to philanthropy”.
Even so, maybe “I’m going to give the majority of my money away to philanthropy” is the kind of thing you say to get laid in the early stages of a relationship. I’m suddenly reminded of Anne Hathaway’s former boyfriend, who told the movie star he was “the chief financial officer of the Vatican”. “My boyfriend is incredible,” Anne duly told the world. “But when it comes to his charity … one of the most untouted aphrodisiacs in the world is charity work. Seriously, you want a girl to be impressed, vaccinate some kids, build a house.” Anne’s boyfriend would go on to serve a four-and-a-half-year jail term for fraud, with probably my favourite detail in the FBI files being that he had fake monsignor robes hanging in his and Anne’s wardrobe at their $37,500-a-month Trump Tower penthouse.
But look, it’s all a journey. And we’re so, so lucky that Jeff’s still in the pretending-to-give-a-toss stage of things with Lauren, taking a veeeeery long run-up to a minuscule percentage of “strategic giving” on his half-a-billion-dollar boat. These fauxlanthropists may not give the world their taxes – but they do at least give us a few laughs. Strategically, or otherwise.