Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was a syndicated television show that aired from 1984 to 1995, featuring celebrities flashing their expensive houses, cars, and belongings. Towards the end of the show’s running, many saw what they believed was Robin Leach’s true colors being revealed as the host faced legal trouble and beyond. Here’s what happened.
Your Host: Robin Leach
Leach and actress/model Monique Benevento. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Robin Leach was an English entertainment reporter who began his career as Britain’s youngest “Page One” reporter at The Daily Mail when he was 18. Soon after, he moved to the United States where he wrote for big name publications such as New York Daily News, People, and numerous others. He then launched Go Magazine and became the show business editor of The Star. After working on Entertainment Tonight, he ended up hosting the hit show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous where he became famous for his signing of catch phrase, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” For over a decade the audience tuned in, but when his personal life was scrutinized more closely, things took a dip for Leach.
Leach’s Legal Trouble
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In 1993, Robin Leach had a palimony action filed against him by his live-in lover of four years. He ended up fighting the lawsuit at a personal cost of $250,000. In his opinion, he believed that the lawsuit was vindictive and that he was being targeted because he was a well-known man that happens to have a lot of money. He stated, “Soley because I am a public figure with a lot of money; I became a victim and a target. If I’m Joe Blow at the corner auto mechanic shop, it never happens, and that’s discrimination, pal.”
And then, this happened…
The Tabloids Reveal Leach’s True Character
Not long after the lawsuit, scandalous pictures of Robin Leach with a group of women disappeared from his house and found their way onto the front pages of the tabloids. As if he already wasn’t annoyed enough by the lawsuit, this scandal sent him over the edge.
He did not deny the legitimacy of the photos but instead stated, “These were personal photographs, and I’m a red-blooded male who does things that probably every man dreams of doing, but that’s my business. It doesn’t belong on the front page of newspapers.” His comments exhibit a darker side of the T.V. host, who appeared to be living his own personal life of the rich and famous.
Leach ended up spending a great deal of time defending himself.
Leach with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Essentially, Leach spent most of his career, especially on the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, trying to make celebrities look good. He was fighting against those who attempted to spread rumors and make them look bad in the public eye. He wanted to tell their story and show that they were real people that worked hard to make it big in America.
Ironically, after his lawsuit and the tabloid scandal, the exact opposite was happening to him. He was being referred to as a sleaze-meister and was receiving negative attention. See what his employees revealed about him next.
Leach: Not The Nicest Boss
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By 1987, Leach was logging in over 200,000 miles of travel each year, and racking up around $45,000 a month on his American Express bill. Leach was only on set for around half of the on-location shoots, yet everyone on staff still knew who the boss was.
Employees recall him “not being easy to work for” and said that he would yell at you about other people, then it was your job to tell that person he was mad at them. Although he was critical, his employees said that they admired him because he was good at what he did, but he was bad at putting up with people that weren’t.
Leach’s Relationship With Donald Trump
In 1994, Donald Trump and then-wife Marla Maples were on an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. During the episode, Leach asked Trump what characteristics Trump’s daughter Tiffany had of his and what characteristics she had of her mother’s. “Well, she’s got Marla’s legs,” he said. Then, while motioning to his chest, said, “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet.”
Naturally, people were outraged. As of recently, Robin Leach defended Trump’s comment, saying it was innocent, blown out of proportion, unfair, and that Trump is nothing but a proud father. Leach has also mentioned that he admires Donald for “shaking up the status quo” and that he’s all for him ending the status quo established in the U.S. Since Leach is English, he cannot vote, but he said he wouldn’t have voted for Hillary and that Donald just wants to get the job done.
Leach Makes An Embarrassing Appearance At WrestleMania 4
In 1988, Robert Leach made an appearance at WrestleMania 4, noted to be one of the worst guest appearances in WWE history. He was brought in to read the rules, but instead said a bunch of nonsense, forcing the commentators to say the rules as he continued blabbering. Of course, at the end, he finished with his saying, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Later in the show, he came out again to present the championship belt in the final fight. Apparently, he was noticeably drunk and unprepared, making this his potentially worst performance on television.
The Famous Catchphrase
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One of the most recognizable and timeless pieces of the show was Robin Leach’s catch phrase, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” at the end of each episode. However, there is a story behind this famous closing line. Leach describes a relatively drunken night in which they had ran out of all the wine and beer, so he opened up a bottle of Krug champagne when it dawned on him. They had the champagne and caviar, and their show was about dreams and wishes…the rest as they say, is history.
When Lifestyles was on air, the majority of the of the areas they visited and filmed were ideal vacation locations. When touring these areas and visiting the houses and vacation homes of those featured on the show, Leach was known to make references to specific resorts and tourist attractions as a form of subtle advertising. This advertising went even further in depth by David Greenspan or “David Perry,” the off-screen narrator, who discussed these locations in more detail when Leach was off-camera.
Losing Is For Poor People?
While filming an episode of Lifestyles, Robin Leach was touring the house of an “unnamed” man. The man asked Leach if he wanted to play a game of table tennis and Leach agreed. Leach was leading with a score of 17-11 when a voice whispered for him to purposefully lose the game because the house owner had never lost before. Leach refused and won. After the game, the man congratulated him and said that he’d never lost before. Leach didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’d only ever won because his staff let him.
The Mastermind: Alfred Michael “Al” Masini
Although Robin Leach was the face of the show, Alfred “Al” Masini was the creator. Masini is known for his organization of Operation Prime Time, which was a group of independent American television stations geared towards creating high-quality prime-time television for local, independent stations.
The Operation Prime Time specials that aired had many Emmy nominees, as well as some Emmy winners. Masini also produced numerous syndicated shows and made-for-television films in which 35 of them won Grammy’s. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was one of them.
While Robin Leach was working on Entertainment Tonight, the show got a new producer who wanted to create a series that went deep into the careers of celebrities in show business.
While Leach agreed that people wanted to learn more about celebrities, he persisted that they didn’t want to learn about their careers—they want to see them drinking champagne while taking a bubble bath so everyone could see how rich and successful they were. So essentially the idea for the show was based on how they were going to cover celebrities on Entertainment Tonight.
What Made It Successful
Surely not everyone cares to take the time out of their day to sit and watch the 1% boast about their material possessions, real estate, and favorite vacation destinations, right? Call it a guilty pleasure, but a lot of people tuned in, which is what made the show so successful during its time. But why?
In an interview with Leach, he mentioned tha “We had come out of the depressing ’70s and the Reagan’s had transformed the White House into a place of glamour, gowns and elegance, rather than peanut-tractor clothing.” This had opened a new door in America where being gaudy and ultra-rich was in, and the more toys you had the better.
A Truly Extravagant Episode
On February 23, 1985, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous did an exclusive hour-long segment on Adnan Khashoggi, the richest man in the world at the time. In the episode, they toured his $50 million private airplane, his overly luxurious apartment in New York City, his $70 million yacht, and even his private vacation retreat in Kenya. Khashoggi was so rich that it took over three months to film everything he owned for an hour-long episode. Leach also mentioned that this was his favorite episode he ever hosted on the show.
“Nice” Reality T.V.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was one of television’s original reality T.V. shows. What separated it from what we consider reality T.V today, is that it focused on the person’s success, instead of highlighting their troubles and imperfections. Current reality T.V. shows exemplify all of the baggage that comes along with that kind of wealth and status. Very rarely do you hear someone say they wish they had the life of someone on the Real Housewives of Orange County.
Lifestyles Visits the Vatican
Believe it or not, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous also did a half hour special on Vatican City and the Pope at the time. This was the first time in television history that a camera crew was allowed to film the treasures of the Vatican with the Pope alongside them. This is surprising, because it seems odd that the Catholic Church would willing be featured in a show titled about the lifestyles of the rich and famous for the whole public to see.
Spin-Off: Runaway With The Rich And Famous
Runaway with the Rich and Famous was a syndicated spin-off of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that aired from 1986 to 1994. Once again, it was hosted by Robin Leach, yet the subject matter was a little different. In this series, the focus was on the vacations that the rich and famous go on when they leave their luxurious homes. The crew followed them to their exotic getaways in places such as Monaco and Italy to show the audience how they live while on a vacation from their terribly difficult lives.
The Fabulous Life Of…
Yet another show came about from the original Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Apparently, people can’t get enough of rich famous people, so, in 2003, The Fabulous Life of… aired on VH1 with a special about Britney Spears. Although it is not a complete knockoff of the original show Lifestyles, most of the content is lightly based off it. However, in this show, Robin Leach is no longer the host, instead there is a narrator named Christopher Flockton. A few years after its debut, in 2005, The Fabulous Life of the Women of Desperate Housewives was aired because of the success of Desperate Housewives show on ABC.
Really Rich Real Estate
Soon after The Fabulous Life of…came the spin-off show The Fabulous Life Presents: Really Rich Real Estate. This program focused on the real estate business who deal with the rich and famous and specifically the Westside Estate Agency. The show aired in 2006, and instead of focusing on the celebrities themselves, they focused on the real estate business and how they helped celebrities find their own home according to their style. The houses that were featured in the show are those that someone wanted to buy or sell them with the Westside Agency.
A Revival of Lifestyles
In 2014, The Hollywood Reporter announced that NBC will be shooting a new pilot for a revival of the old Lifestyles show with Nick Cannon as the host. It has been said that NBC will handle the show a little bit differently than the original, and will heavily be focused around Nick Cannon and his profiles on the star’s personalities, hobbies and quirks. With Nick Cannon as the host, this show is sure to be a comedy more than anything, and the audience will still get a taste of what it is like to be ultra-rich and famous in this day and age.