My very busy friends and colleagues and I often make wistful jokes about having a personal assistant or better yet, a butler. One day not too long ago, after a trip to the post office, tailor, office supply store, notary, pharmacy and then back to the office supply store for an item I had forgotten, I pined for a helper of any kind and may or may not have even indulged in some mental budgeting. It’s possible also in that moment I dreamed about said fictional butler or personal assistant — let’s call her Whitney — handing off a chilled bottle of bubbly, along with the freshly tailored garments, happy little tote bag of office and pharmacy goods and the notarized paperwork. Whitney is all about the details you see, so naturally she stopped at the wine store, as it was on her way from the post office, because she knew we were running low. Bravo, Whitney! A raise is coming your way at review time. But alas, I quickly snapped back to reality as I sat, frustrated and rather tired in the parking lot of the office supply store, grudgingly accepting that a Whitney is not in the cards for me, nor any staff for that matter.
In fact, household and personal staff is not in the cards for most people, even the very well heeled among us. Watching far too much Downton Abbey, Selfridges and other costume dramas featuring the British aristocracy and the American elite of a bygone era, lead me to think about this a few years ago, so I wrote a story about the intriguing life of butlers. While reporting on the story, my source mentioned that there are about 30,000 butlers worldwide. Approximately 15,000 are in the United States, with a decline in the numbers as a result of the Great Recession. This was in 2011. The following year, CNBC reported that salaries are down between five and 20 percent for butlers in the U.S., that applicants outnumber jobs and the demand for their services remains well low the peak from 2005 to 2007.
Resigned to this life of running my own errands, shining my own shoes and sewing back on the buttons that ceaselessly leap off of my clothing, I’ve come up with a list of the five most essential people to have in your life. If a committed bon vivant is ever going to have time to get around to the leisure activities essential to a happy existence — including but not limited to, entertaining friends and family, lounging on the sofa reading magazines, dining out, watching costume dramas, enjoying a delicious, frothy cappuccino with a friend at your favorite coffee purveyor or sitting in a rocking chair on the porch with a good book and sipping Champagne — find the following professional people, cherish them and tip them well:
1. Food people: As Kentuckians, we are duty bound to celebrate the Derby each year. So, as our first act of entertaining in New Orleans, on May 3, we hosted a Kentucky Derby Party with NOLA flair. It already was a busy week with work, the usual weekly errands and chores, party prep, the Whitney Zoo-To-Do the night before, and Jazz Fest plans for Sunday. So, I asked around the office about fabulous food people who might provide delicious gumbo and red beans and rice for our guests. My colleague, New Orleans Magazine and St. Charles Avenue Magazine managingeditor and Uptown Life blogger, Morgan Packard, recommended the Gumbo Shop. It turns out Pigéon Caterers provides menu items for the Gumbo Shop. I contacted Pigéon on Wednesday and picked up our ready to eat food at 1 p.m. before the party. For $48, we had enough delectable gumbo and red beans and rice to feed 15 people and didn’t have to lift a finger. Our guests complimented the food and the seeming effortlessness of the party. As much as I love to cook, I may never do so again for a party of more than six guests.
2. Hair people: Last month, during an event for New Orleans Bride, I met a fabulous blonde woman who happens to be the owner of a Maison de Cheveux salon in the Central Business District. Tactfully, she asked if I had found a hair person in New Orleans since moving from Houston. I say tactfully, because I was on the verge of hair crisis at this point and one step away from buying a new hat wardrobe and as a hair professional she knew it, but had the grace to spare my feelings. Within a few days, I was in the capable hands of Nicolle, the fabulous blonde and owner of the salon. She had my hair whipped back into shape with all of the grays colored and the rest of it looking bouncy and shiny. Crisis averted. Thankfully, New Orleans is chock full of fabulous hair professionals who work at a reasonable price. Find your favorite and hug him or her often! 
3. Spa people: For some, facials, massages, manis and pedis are luxuries and for others, just part of the weekly and monthly maintenance. Wherever these treatments fall on your schedule is up to you and your budget, but trained professionals are in order on special occasions or no occasion. I happened to have written a story about this very subject, so click on over for the full scoop
4. Shoe people: There are a few pairs of shoes in my wardrobe that are special either because I just love them or because they were a splurge. Rather than replace them when the heel caps fall off, the sole wears down or a strap breaks, I take them to the cobbler and let them fix, replace and shine those babies until they look like new. There are multiple shoe repair shops in my neighborhood, but it’s worth it to drive a few miles when you find a good one. This is what I call a win-win-win, because not only do you save your shoes and your money, but you also keep some junk out of the landfill.
5. Clothing people: As I mentioned earlier, the buttons on my jackets, pants and blouses refuse to stay put on any given garment. I can handle that particular sewing task, but am otherwise hopeless in the sewing arts, and not for lack of my grandmother’s efforts to teach me. A great tailor has made the difference more than once between an OK outfit and a spectacular one. A little taking in here or letting out there will make your ready-to-wear, off the rack clothing fit like it was made for you. Also, if you gain a little or shed a little, it can remain a secret between you and your clothing professional; and a truly masterful tailor can make it look like you’ve been hitting the gym, without all of that pesky perspiration.
There are of course other people it’s handy to have on speed dial, such as the flower people and the bakery people, but this is a great start or will at least hold you over until the budget line opens up for that butler or your very own personal assistant named Whitney. Until then, enjoy the newly freed up time made possible by your food, hair, spa, shoe and clothing people and enjoy a some bubbles and a book on the porch or dinner out on the town. Don’t be surprised when friends and acquaintances compliment you on how fabulous and well rested you look. Just thank them and say, “I have great people.”