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29-year-old "socialite" Melissa Berkelhammer — who lives alone, is supported by her parents, and has no job or talents to speak of other than mugging for Patrick McMullan's camera and saying incredibly stupid things in the presence of an Observer reporter — sure is getting her money's worth out of publicist R. Couri Hay, who she pays a mere $2500/month to ensure her presence on the best guest lists and near the most eligible i-bankers. Yesterday, New York Social Diary grand captioneer David Patrick Columbia nobly came to Berkelhammer's defense, noting that social climbing has always been part of the game: the Rockefellers paid someone to keep their name in the papers and Brooke Astor was accused of marrying for money (as if the poor old thing hasn't been through enough, need we compare her to this girl?). Columbia argues:

In today's post-Feminist world, publicity can get a girl (or a guy) out and about. It's a networking device, par excellence. It also offers the age-old possibility of matchmaking. There are millions of men and women who share these objectives: being popular and being invited can even also possibly bring you fame and a career: Paris Hilton, anybody?

Melissa Berkelhammer is one of those girls, plain and simple — a young woman in New York who likes to get around, likes to go to parties, likes to dress up and likes to make friends, and who likes to be photographed. That last preference is one of the main perks in our society today. We are more image crazy then when George Eastman invented a camera for the masses a century ago. If a picture's worth a thousand words, why not go for it? For a young woman or a young man, if they can afford it, it is a ticket to a party, maybe a good time, and maybe, oh just maybe, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What's to object?

What's to object? A lot, certainly in terms of that whole "do something good with your money other than shopping at Jeffrey" thing. But the real fallout from women who want nothing more than to be popular, who resort to this sort of shameless society worship? Melissa can answer that in her own words: "My mom helps me get dressed sometimes."

Society's Darlings [NYSD]
Earlier: Melissa Berkelhammer: Embrace the Tardation?
Flacking for the 'Hammer