Billionaires, Edwin Newman would have us believe, are just like you and me, only they have more money.
That's the only distinction between middle class and megabucks offered by NBC's special report on America's favorite fat cats, "Just Plain Folks -- The Billionaire Hunts," tonight at 10 on Channel 4.
There are no smoking guns in this Saturday night special, the latest dose of Hunt hype.
The offspring of the late and legendary H. L. Hunt, who was regularly ranked the richest man in America, managed to keep a low profile -- especially by billionaire standards -- until last year.
Then three of his boys tried to buy the world's largest stash of silver, overplayed their hand and wound up a billion bucks in debt, losers of the year and recipients (in the show's funniest scene) of the annual Bonehead Award from a Dallas club.
Hunts became hot copy -- last month's cover of Harper's, a new, unauthorized family biography by Harry Hurt (plugged on ABC's 20/20 Thursday night) and now an hour of their own.
The family foibles ought to make great television, what with old H. L. simultaneously spawning one family in Texas, another in Arkansas and then yet a third brood. Bastards fighting for their share of the oil wells should match the seamiest scenes at Southfork.
But on this program, redolent of "Real People" or "Dallas," all we see are apple-faced offspring sprouting on separate branches of the family tree. It's not easy to make bigamy boring or to gloss over the alleged improprieties of the silver-buying spree.
Better safe than sued, however, for as Newman reports, the Hunts have a propensity for slapping lawsuits on folks who cross them.
And enough money to buy NBC, or the whole RCA empire, and maybe the entire television industry.
The Hunts own so much silver, NBC calculates, that if the 1,000 ounce bars were stacked up, the pile would be 25 times taller than the 56-story First National Bank Building in Dallas where the Hunts have their headquarters.
Bunker Hunt's hobby -- horses -- brings in a couple of million a year and lets him win the kind of races where the trophies are passed out by someone Bunker calls "a nice lady" -- the queen of England.
Brother Lamar loves sports so much that he bought himself a football team and, when the National Football League wouldn't let his team play, started his own American Football League.
But the Hunts live in a house that is modest by Potomac standards. Bunker drives his own Oldsmobile and H. L.'s favorite song -- preserved in home movies that provide the theme for the show -- was "Just Plain Folks."
Just plain folks whose wealth, Newman notes exceeds the gross national product of several nations. Just plain folks who can truthfully tell a congressional committee, as Bunker does on film tonight, that he doesn't know how much he's worth because "people who know how much they're worth aren't worth too much."
The difference that kind of money makes even when it's not abused is lost on NBC, but was obvious to four federal agencies that studied the Hunt's silver trading and delivered a report to Congress yesterday: "It is the wealth of these traders and the scale of their operations that pose a problem, regardless of intent."