Commentary

Robb Report

As a freelance writer, I earn gobs and gobs of money. I throw out my sheets (the thread counts of which surge well into seven digits) after sleeping on them once. In the bathroom, I have a 68-inch plasma screen TV positioned across from the toilet and a 42-inch model in the shower. I keep two bodyguards on the payroll, even though I only leave the apartment twice a month, and then only in search of Cheetos.

So when the May issue of Robb Report teased a story about test-driving a new Porsche in the Dubai desert--which is how I spent my college spring breaks, except for the one devoted to poaching elephant ivory--I ordered my handlers to procure me a copy posthaste. When it finally found its way into my hands (on a satin pillow held aloft by two swimsuit models, who arrived via Brink's truck), I gave the staff the afternoon off and settled into my buttery armchair for some posh reading.

My first thought upon opening the May issue was that my platinum-embossed coffee table might not be able to withstand the impact of its 236 meaty pages, not to mention the 140 additional ones that arrived in the form of real estate/home design pub The Robb Report Collection. As a fellow who appreciates a well-maintained brand--and no publication brand defines itself as precisely or consistently as does Robb Report--I decided not to worry about the skeleto-muscular ramifications of toting the 72-pound mag from cotillion to gallery opening to inaugural ball.

Given that Robb Report has many a stylish high-roller to impress (was that Tony Soprano I saw paging through a copy a few episodes ago?), design plays a larger role here than it does in more lowbrow titles. Smartly, the mag eschews sidebar-crazed clutter for old-school elegance, with photos that plainly yet gracefully capture the luxuriousness of their subjects (two sparkling baubles set against a reddish-brown backdrop, the aforementioned Porsche kicking up a cloud of dust).

Some homogeneity of design exists, however, especially in the front-of-book "Robb Gallery." The section features 17 straight single-page stories, each positioned on the left-hand side of the mag and each boasting almost the exact same layout. The features come across as similarly blocky, with only the "Top 100 Luxury Resorts" story providing much in the way of graphic variation... and it should be noted that said story has been borrowed from the premiere issue of Robb Report Luxury Resorts. Multi-purposing is bad enough on the Web, but in a magazine company's flagship title?

While this caused quite the stir among the kitchen-appliance heirs in my private yacht club, we liked most everything else we saw. The cover story on the Spyker C8 Laviolette transcends the usual luxe-auto fluff ("the noise blends Pavarotti with NASCAR, and adds a touch of angry rottweiler"), while the "New Frontiers" features on gambling in Macao and Libyan history favor sharp observation over dry traveler FYIs.

Robb Report's language goes way overboard from time to time, especially when its writers attempt to convey the essence of experiences that don't lend themselves to easy description ("the butterlike lamb danced a mouthwatering duet with the wine"). That said, they mostly avoid the stuffy pomposity associated with luxury mags, even flashing understated wit from time to time ("'We have some of the best bitches in the world,' he said matter-of-factly... 'Only 15 minutes from here is Es Trenc, the famous white-sand bitch.' 'Ah, the beaches,' I said").

Yet as a man of grand and discerning taste, I wish Robb Report would offer a bit more in the way of critical thought. I don't ask the writers to descend into vulgarities like "this sucks ass, dude," but a few more pointed critiques would be appreciated as I attempt to blow my monthly allowance on tchotchke and trinket alike.

It's hard to write over the feral roar of my Lear jet, so let me wrap things up by saying that Robb Report gives me and my fellow captains of industry everything we could possibly need, and then some. Might the unwashed masses find it just a teensy bit over the top? Maybe. Might the hoi polloi blink uncomprehendingly at the very notion of a $4,015-per-night hotel suite? I guess. If so, let them eat cake--or, barring that, read People.

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