For all our scheming and scheduling, life remains true to its origins:
it's a game of random chance.
Take, for instance, Bunky Bartlett, who works part time at Mystickal
Voyage, a New Age gift shop in White Marsh, Md., and makes his living
advising small businesses.
He just beat 1 in 176 million odds to win a piece of the powerball
lottery, pocketing about $49 million.
Bunky is a follower of Wicca, a belief that traces its origins to
witchcraft but whose modern followers worship nature.
Bunky said favor with pagan gods resulted in his win.
And while Bunky is a lucky guy, or blessed if you believe in Pagan Power,
he finishes second in the most fortunate catagory.
The winner is Leona Helmsley's dog, Trouble.
Leona, a billionaire hotel operator and real estate investor, died
recently, thereby depryving her fellow New Yorkers of someone to hate.
Dubbed the "Queen of Mean," she had a reputation for tyrannical behavior
that was underscored when she told a housekeeper that "We don't pay taxes.
Only the little people pay taxes."
True to her philosophy, she was convicted of federal income tax evasion
and other crimes in 1989 and served 19 months in prison.
When it came time to read Leona's will, it became clear that she intended
to maintain her crusty reputation from beyond the grave. Her chauffeur got
$100,000, two of her grandchildren got zip.
But she left $12 million to Trouble.
Talk about wags to riches.
Trouble could have been your neighbor's pet or, perish the thought,
wasting away in a pound somewhere.
Instead, she ended up in Leona's lap. Talk about lucky dogs.
Leona has made sure that Trouble will continue to live in the style to
which she is accustomed.
According to Helmsley's former housekeeper, Zamfira Sfara, Trouble was
dressed in pricey outfits and sported a diamond collar. The dog's
chef-prepared meals - steamed vegetables and steamed or grilled chicken and
fish - arrived in porcelain bowls on a silver tray.
"The chef would have to leave all the [hotel] customers to make Trouble's
food," Sfara told the New York Daily News. "After it was mixed, I would have
to get down on my knees and feed the dog with my two fingers."
Trouble, apparently, didn't always appreciate the hired help.
"Everybody was bitten: bodyguards, the head of security, even customers
got bitten," said Sfara, who sued Helmsley in 2005 after, she said, Trouble
"You'd never know when she would bite you," she said. "One time when she
bit me, she was chewing on my fingers, and Leona said, 'Good for you,
Trouble, she deserved it.' "
Life can be hard on easy street.
While Trouble will spend the rest of her dog years in luxury, she won't be
the only pet enjoying creature comforts.
After being abandoned at a British dog pound, Jasper, a doberman-labrador
mix, caught the attention of heiress Diana Myburgh. She died shortly
afterwards, and left Jasper a fortune.
Jasper lives on an estate, travels in a chauffered stretch limo and eats
only sirloin steak, fresh mussels, and Dover sole. He also sports a collar
made of diamonds.
Gunther IV is a German Shepherd, which made headlines after he and his
sire, Gunther III, were allegedly left $124 million upon the death of their
owner, Countess Karlotta Liebenstein in 1992. Gunther IV is now reputed to
be worth a whopping $372 million. However, some suspect that Gunther is a
Kalu the chimp got $109 million after owner Patricia removed her husband
Frank O'Neill's name from her will. If that wasn't enough to anger her
husband, he said he started to hate Kalu when he caught her smoking his
cigarettes and drinking his liquor.
A 52-year-old tortoise named Big Tibby was left with $100,000 after his
millionaire owner died. An African parrot called Csoki also inherited
$100,000 from his owner.
The best explanation I've seen for all this largesse is from a guy named
Russ Alan Prince, who tracks the habits of the rich.
"For some wealthy people, the only true love they get is from their pets,"
Prince says. "They're estranged from their children, they are at war with
their business partners, but their pets are always there for them."
It pays to be man's best friend.