NEW YORK: Are society wives (like Nancy Silverman and Marie Douglas David) really just female gigolos?

I was aghast when an acquaintance declared that people like Nancy Silverman, Marie Douglas David and Slavica Ecclestone, are nothing but a bunch of “female gigolos.” All three are in the midst of high profile divorces from their very wealthy husbands. None of these women seemed to earn as much as their husbands do. In fact, they all seem to be totally supported financially by these men. Does that make them gigolos?
I had never even heard the term attributed to a woman. What exactly is a gigolo anyway? I mean, I know Richard Gere acted in a movie called American Gigolo (never saw it) and so, I do have a basic sense of what it is to be a gigolo, but what is the real definition of the word? And can the term gigolo ever truly be attributed to a woman? Does it have the same impact?
I looked up the word “gigolo” in Websters Dictionary. And it states: “a man kept by a woman as a lover and supported financially.” Hme….So, strictly speaking, since all of these women were married to the men who supported them, they are exempt from this description. But even assuming a looser interpretation of the word is used, can anyone really call Nancy Silverman a gigolo? I read her bio on New York Social Diary and she sounds very accomplished, articulate, and business savvy. She does not fit the profile of a gigolo.
Sixty-something Nancy is said to have helped her husband Henry Silverman build his businesses which include Avis, Cendant Corp, and a bunch of real estate businesses that include various Real Estate Investment trusts (“REITS”), among other businesses. These were not doofusses (I know that is not spelled correctly, but you get my drift). Not that gigolos are doofusses. But you can’t really equate a woman who’s been married to the same man for 30 years and who assisted her husband with building a billion dollar business conglomerate, and various foundations including the Nancy and Henry Silverman Foundation, with a gigolo. That is insulting.

As for fifty-something Slavica Ecclestone, she has been married to her husband for about 24 years as well. I don’t know that she assisted  with building the business, but he sure trusted her enough that he put all his $2.7 billion in assets in offshore trusts in her name. I wonder why he did that? They say it was to avoid taxes, but could he be going soft in the head, perhaps? I mean, that’s just straight up insane.
Finally, can 36 year old Countess Marie Douglas David  who was married for six years to UTC chairman and former CEO George David, be called a gigolo? Well, this is not for me to say. Marie was 30 years younger than her husband. I see no indication that she tried to help him run the business. It wasn’t his business, really, he was an employee. So she was in a different position than the other two wives. She can’t tell her husband how to do his job. But, yes, all the stereotypes were present. She was young, blond, hot, leggy and every bit the trophy wife. She bore no children for this man. He didn’t even trust her enough to give her the jewelry he bought her outright. He let her wear them to the galas. But he kept title. Very telling. He spent big bucks to keep her happy. In her recent pendente lite application to the Superior Court of Hartford Connecticut, she asked for over $50,000 per week in support. She told the court she is penniless and jobless.
She’s definitely a beauty and that obviously factored into Mr. David’s decision to marry her. He liked to show her off in all the jewelry he bought for himself but allowed her to wear. He liked to spend money making her look nice. She got over $1000 every week just for her face. And this guy wasn’t even a billionaire! Compared to, say, Bernie Ecclestone, or even Henry Silverman, George David was destitute!!! But he spent a lot of money to make Marie look good and feel happy. His financial support was plenary. She quit her job at Lazard when they hooked up, and he has provided all her financial needs since then.
But does that make Marie a gigolo? I don’t know. I don’t think it is appropriate to call a wife a gigolo. I mean, I think if they never married and he was spending that kind of money to keep her, then she would be a “gigolo.” But she was his wife.  I don’t see how a wife can be a gigolo. Sure, some folks in the hoi polloi who can’t afford to live the way the Davids do, and certainly could never ask for $53,000 in weekly spousal support, may conclude that Countess Marie is a gigolo. But to me, she was just a wife like any other, who just happened to be married to a man with some cash.
Originally published Deceber 29, 2009