Mrs. Astor's Butler Takes the Stand

Yesterday was "Take Your Butler to Court" day over at the ongoing Astor trial, where 85-year old Anthony Marshall stands accused of bilking his Alzheimer's riddled mother, Brooke Astor, out of millions. Astor's butler, Chris Ely—who once worked for Queen Elizabeth (a coincidence Joanna Malloy has magically massaged into a strange column about the similarities between ne'er-do-well mamas' boys Marshall and Prince Charles)—testified, explaining, among other things, why you really don't want to be a butler: Being forced to go on emergency runs for "nighties, underwear and bedwetting pads."

The crux of Ely's testimony was a conversation he overheard while holding the phone up Mrs. Astor's ear (another reason not be a butler), about the sale of a Childe Hassam oil painting. Depending on how this chat gets interpreted, Marshall's either a thief, or just a law-abiding, highly spoiled, octogenarian rich kid. The Times relays the scintillating conversation as follows:

Mrs. Astor: It is sold. How much?
Marshall: Ten million.
A: Ten.
M: Yes.
A: Well, you take one and give one to your wife.
M: That won't be necessary.
A: Now can I go buy some dresses?
M: Yes

Besides the dripping money awesomeness of casually referring to a million dollars as "one" (No, really, take one!), the conversation is important because it raises all the relevant questions: Did Marshall have permission to take money from his mother? And, if so, was that undermined by the fact that he was keeping her out of dresses in order to get said money? Or was Mrs. Astor just kidding, because, please, she might have been almost 100 at the time, but no one keeps an Astor out of dresses.

Astor Wanted New Clothes, Butler Testifies [NYT]
LADY ASTOR'S SHARP TONGUE [NYP]
Loyal butler guarded Brooke Astor's honor [NYDN]