You’ve seen this one before, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” story that tallies up the cost of all the bizarre gifts offered in the song. It’s a tale as old as time: Some guy gives his significant other a steady stream of trees, birds and leaping lords over nearly two weeks — an expensive proposition and almost certainly an unwelcome one. (That the gifts are so terrible and cumbersome makes us assume the giver is a man.)
It’s one way to think about life in America — and the evolving cost of life in America. But it falters in part because none of this is relatable. No one aspires to receive eight milkmaids, let alone 40. No one wants all those geese.
This is America. Let’s aim higher.
In 1953, Eartha Kitt recorded “Santa Baby,” a song that is a testament to the more capitalist tendencies the season can evoke. Over the course of a dozen sultry stanzas, Kitt asked for the sorts of gifts that any American could imagine: nice cars, luxurious homes and a few blank checks. Talk about true love.
So let’s figure out just how much fulfilling her Christmas wish list would cost.
“Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me . . .”
So a sable is a small weasel-like animal, as you may know, that mostly lives in Russia. Kitt is not requesting a pet. She wants its fur, fashioned into a coat.
We’ll start by noting that, in this analysis, we are not going to skimp. You could probably roll up to the Goodwill in Beverly Hills and stumble across a weathered sable that you could take home for $100 or so. But the point of this exercise is extravagance.
Sable coats are some of the most expensive furs you can buy — especially, we are told, when they come from elusive wild sables in Siberia’s Barguzin region, which can run into the six figures. The most expensive sable we found was a Russian sable short coat from Neiman Marcus, which will set you back $88,000.
One item off the checklist.
“Santa baby, a ’54 convertible, too, light blue . . .”
Convertible: $1.75 million
Kitt’s song was released in 1953. So we have a problem, as we are considering this in 2018: Is she asking specifically for a 1954 convertible or is she actually asking for the most recently available model?
No reason not to consider both.
For example, an extremely appealing 1954 Jaguar XK120 is available in the Netherlands, painted a very lovely shade of light blue. It can be yours for the low price of $157,950, including the $1,500 required for it to be shipped to New Jersey, helping Santa avoid fitting it on his sleigh.
If Kitt was looking for the most expensive convertible she can buy today, things get a lot more expensive awfully quickly.
The most expensive car one can buy appears to be a Rolls-Royce Sweptail, which sells for $13 million, but it isn’t a convertible. The Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet is, but it’s a concept car.
So let’s stick with something more practical like a Ferrari Monza. It retails for about $1.75 million, for which cost you get a very slick sports car but not a windshield. (Buy your own! How much could it be?)
The cars are sold out for 2019, but what good would Santa’s elves be if they couldn’t fulfill a Christmas wish?
“Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that’s not a lot . . .”
Yacht: $455 million
In concept, a yacht is what a layperson might call a sailboat. But we’re thinking luxury here, which means superyachts, those massive water wedges that look like a Carnival cruise ship’s little cousin.
The Azzam, for instance, is a 590-foot long vessel that costs $600 million to build.
But instead of picking that up from the president of the United Arab Emirates, let’s get a little more topical to the news. Let’s hook up Kitt with the Serene, a 439-foot boat that was formerly owned by a Russian vodka tycoon and now belongs to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
Its amenities include an indoor climbing wall, a children’s playroom, a spa, several swimming pools, an underwater viewing room, two helipads and a conference room, in case you need to have a business meeting in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Convenient.
Mohammed bought the vessel in 2015 for a reported $458 million. He (or someone) also ran it aground near Egypt last year, so let’s knock a few million off for that.
“Santa honey, one thing I really do need, the deed / To a platinum mine . . .”
Platinum mine: $461 million
One interesting aspect to compiling this list is you learn random things, such as the indigenous range of the sable and that most of the world’s platinum production is in South Africa. (The industry that has the most use for platinum? Car manufacturers.)
Platinum mines, like any other real estate, I suppose, do come up for sale on occasion. One did in South Africa a few years ago, a deal was finalized in the winter between Anglo American Platinum and Siyanda Resources. The cost? Siyanda paid 400 million South African rand up front and a stake in output for the next decade totaling no more than 6 billion rand.
This gets a bit tricky, since I’m not sure whether the “Santa Baby” recipient plans to mine the platinum to generate revenue or what. But let’s go with that 6 billion rand sale price, which makes it $461 million.
“Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex and checks . . .”
Duplex: $17.95 million
Kitt lived mostly in the New York City area, so we figured it made sense to find a nice duplex somewhere in Manhattan. (Unlike much of the country, where a duplex is a house that’s been split into two units, a Manhattan duplex is an apartment that spans two floors in a building.)
Such a home is available in the penthouse of a building on Central Park South, along 59th Street at the southern end of Central Park. Among its amenities are an onyx chandelier, a wood-burning fireplace, a terrace overlooking the park and a bathtub that does the same.
Penthouse 16 has “been featured in numerous films, TV shows, documentaries and photo shoots,” the Zillow listing indicates, “including NBC’s ‘30 Rock’ with Whoopi Goldberg (EGOT), Showtime’s ‘Billions,’ HBO series ‘Vinyl’ with Martin Scorsese [d]irecting on location, ABC movie ‘Madoff’ starring Richard Dreyfus, ‘Dreamgirls’ with Jennifer Hudson, Obama’s re-election campaign video featuring Ricky Martin and ‘Did You Hear about the Morgans’ starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant.”
Another thing you learn writing about the song “Santa Baby” is that Whoopi Goldberg has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT) awards.
As for the requested checks, this one seems fairly simple. Santa hands over some checks he got free from the bank.
Honestly, it’s not even clear that these checks would do much good. Does Santa have cash reserves? Does he need them? What would he spend money on? If your answer is “paying the elves,” well, I have some grim news for you. Pacific Standard did some analysis and determined those elves might be working as slave labor. It’s a rough gig, living at the North Pole, surrounded by reindeer, having to cobble together Italian sports cars using carpentry tools.
Anyway, that article also speculated Santa takes cookies from houses, repackages them and sells them online, so take all of it with a grain of salt.
“Come and trim my Christmas tree / With some decorations bought at Tiffany . . .”
Ornaments by Tiffany: $24,400
We all know what Kitt’s getting at here. She wants to see her Christmas tree shine with sparkling ornaments of the diamond and silver variety.
Well, unfortunately for Kitt, Tiffany has branched out since 1953 and now sells Christmas ornaments at its stores. There are 14 designs, from snowflakes to bells to a little sled, ranging in price from $65 to $300.
How many ornaments do we need? Let’s assume it’s going in our Manhattan duplex, where the walls look to be about 10 feet high. We’re told that a 10-foot tree can hold 120 to 160 ornaments.
So let’s just say we get 10 of each of the Tiffany ornament designs for a total of 140 ornaments.
“Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring . . .”
Ring: $71.2 million
Kitt’s last request is a simple one: A ring. So let’s go all out.
Meet the Pink Star, a 59.6-carat oval-shaped flawless pink diamond. At nearly half an ounce in weight, it’s one big rock to carry around on your finger.
It’s now known as the CTF Pink Star, having been purchased at auction in 2017 by the chairman of a jewelry company Chow Tai Fook. He called Sotheby’s and said something like, “I will pay $71.2 million for that diamond,” and Sotheby’s said, “You got it,” and that was the deal.
Now, Santa is going to buy it and give it to someone for Christmas.
That is the end of Kitt’s list. The rest of the song is exhortations for Santa to hurry up and come through with the goods.
So what’s the total? To fulfill Kitt’s requests would cost, by our estimate, just more than $1 billion. Most of that — more than $900 million — is the platinum mine and the yacht.
It’s a lot of money, certainly. But at the end of the day, which would you rather have, an apartment overlooking Central Park or 12 pear trees? If you get a sudden hankering for a bunch of drummers drumming, ask them if they’ve ever seen a climbing wall on a yacht.
How could they pass up an opportunity like that?