NYTimes.com Article: Can a Kid Squeeze by on $320,000 a Month?

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It's a hard-knock life, sing along! --RK


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Can a Kid Squeeze by on $320,000 a Month?

January 20, 2002 



THE tale of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the 36- year-old former
tennis pro who is demanding $320,000 a month in child
support from her former husband, the 84-year-old
billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, has caused a stir among
hard-working Americans. 

Mrs. Kerkorian, who was married to Mr. Kerkorian for one
month in 1998, filed court papers on Jan. 7 seeking support
for their daughter, Kira, 3. Among other things, she wants
$14,000 a month for parties and play dates; $5,900 for
eating out; $4,300 for eating in; $2,500 for movies and
other outings; $7,000 for charitable donations; $1,400 for
laundry and cleaning; $1,000 for toys, books and videos;
$436 for the care of Kira's bunny rabbit and other pets;
and $144,000 for travel on private jets. 

Sure, that sounds like a lot of Taco Bell for a 3-
year-old, but Mrs. Kerkorian will need every penny. Doesn't
Mr. Kerkorian realize how much it costs to raise a child in
Los Angeles? 

The list of required child-rearing items and services grows
every year, Hollywood parents said last week. First of all,
the moms and dads all get nervous about whose children's
party is bigger and splashier. The Hotel Bel-Air was the
site last year of a tea party for a 2-year-old, and all the
toddlers got full tea sets upon departing, complete with
decaf Darjeeling. Who cares if they knew what Darjeeling
was? Or, for that matter, if they could even say "Daddy" or
"Mercedes-Benz" yet? 

And there was the Hollywood mom who hired dancers from
Cirque du Soleil for her child's birthday party, spending
$30,000, according to one guest. Mrs. Kerkorian herself
gave a $70,000 party for Kira's second birthday at the
Hotel Bel-Air in 1999. 

"It all got out of control when Peter Guber hired an
elephant for rides at his kid's birthday party about six
years ago," said one anxious Hollywood parent, who could
afford only the guy who dresses up as Woody from "Toy
Story" at his child's party. 

How can Mr. Kerkorian, who controls MGM and the Bellagio
hotel in Las Vegas, among many other things, expect his
daughter to develop into a responsible, caring, intelligent
human being without a $70,000 birthday party every year?
After all, just clothing the kids is hard enough in a city
like Los Angeles. At Fred Segal in Santa Monica, children
cry if they don't get sequined and embroidered Replay
sweatshirts at $74 a pop. (Watch the P.B. 'n' J., little
buddy!) Another big seller is the full-length leather coat
by Quincy, at $800 for 6-year-olds. 

At the Neiman Marcus children's department in Beverly
Hills, the Burberry pram is a brisk seller for new mothers,
at $4,250, but you have to get the Loro Piana cashmere
throw ($525) and socks ($325) to go with it. 

How can Mr. Kerkorian, who is trying to sell his 81 percent
stake in MGM, ask his child to go without $325 cashmere
socks? And how will Mrs. Kerkorian pay for the SAT prep
classes (long-term programs in reading and math begin at
age 4) at Score! in Beverly Hills on the $75,000 a month
Mr. Kerkorian was shelling out until last September? A
woman can barely get a set of acrylic nail tips for that in
Los Angeles. 

West Lost Angeles is one of the most competitive areas in
the country for private schools. It is typical, one father
said, for an 8-year-old to have taken prep courses for the
Independent School Entrance Examination, given to children
of grade school age who want to attend private school. 

Getting around isn't cheap, either, for children in the
Benedict Canyon set. Though only a tot, Kira has flown 35
times on private jets to places like New York and France.
For the $144,000 her mother has requested, she can probably
get to France and back on a chartered jet only four times a

A Hollywood screenwriter said that a classmate of his son
at the Brentwood School, an elite school in Los Angeles,
reported that students were talking one day about travel
plans. "One of them said to the other, `Flying commercial
is so bogus, dude,' " he said. He added that he took his
11-year-old to a birthday party two years ago, and another
child walked into the house and said loudly: "Oh my God,
how can anyone live in this place? It's so tiny." 

Newspapers have been flooded with indignant letters
accusing Mrs. Kerkorian of avarice and of having an outsize
sense of entitlement. One reader of The Los Angeles Times
compared her lifestyle to "an orgy of consumption that
rivals France in 1789." 

But if anybody prepared Mrs. Kerkorian for a life of
consumption, it was Mr. Kerkorian - and his $6 billion or
so. The couple met in 1986, playing tennis, when she was 20
and he 68, according to her court declaration. They became
tennis partners, then lovers five years later when her
first marriage fell apart. He spent lots of money on her.
She quit working. He took her to Hawaii. She wanted to
marry. He didn't. He took her to Europe. He still wouldn't
marry her. She even became pregnant, but still no nups. 

Finally, five months after Kira was born, Ms. Bonder and
Mr. Kerkorian were married, to confer "dignity and respect"
on the child, she said in her court papers. The marriage
came with strings. Mr. Kerkorian stipulated that they
divorce a month later, and Mrs. Kerkorian waived her right
to spousal support. Child support was set at $35,000 a
month, but under California law, she was free to negotiate
for more. 

Mr. Kerkorian had to see that coming. He and Mrs.
Kerkorian, his third wife, had met at the magical
crossroads of beauty, youth, sex and money, in a city where
good looks are considered hard currency and more
dependable, when invested properly, than Treasury bills.
"Money was never a limitation, or even a consideration,
when Kirk wanted to either construct, acquire, own,
charter, hire or pay for such desires as homes, airplanes,
yachts, hotels, cars, staff or entertainment," Mrs.
Kerkorian said in her court papers. "Essentially, whatever
Kirk wanted, Kirk got." 

What Mrs. Kerkorian wanted, at least until a few days ago,
was $320,000 a month. But her lawyer, Stephen A. Kolodny,
now says that is not enough. "We forgot the category for
major yacht charters," he said.


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