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Students' guide to gold-digging

IT IS the carol-singing season, but if you walked through Pasadena, a Los Angeles suburb, recently you might hear a very different theme rising above the hum of traffic. There were voices. 'I want to be rich,' they chanted, 'I deserve to be rich. I am rich. I was born to be rich]'

The source of the chorus was a small classroom where 20 adults, mostly women, rehearsed their secular creed. These were students of an evening class - mostly professional people - who had each paid dollars 39 in the hope of reaping a fortune. The seminar was called 'How to Marry Money'.

The lecturer was Brenda Blackman, a small, confident, woman in her forties. She hit on the 'marry-money' idea several months ago, knowing that Californians have few inhibitions about the pursuit of wealth. The class is now one of her most popular.

She likes her students to run over the chant three or four times a session. She believes this helps them with their self-esteem. This way they can be more convincing when approach a millionaire in a golf club and start weaving their way into his (or her) affections, en route to the bank account.

No holds are barred. Her students take copious notes, as she gives out the telephone numbers of country clubs, golf schools and tennis associations where the seriously rich can be found. She advises her class to guard against fraudsters by conducting in-depth research on their targets, including examining chequebook stubs.

Her students learn how to address a chauffeur ('Use his last name'), what to wear at a croquet match ('Don't dress up too much') and what to drink on a private plane ('Nothing that might stain your dress when the aircraft tips over'). They should read the Wall Street Journal so they can talk about finance. And they should never drink beer.

Most important of all, they must avoid a low socio-economic walk - that is walking with a slouch, a rolling gait, or with your hands dangling in front of you - all symptoms of a miserable bank balance. According to Ms Blackman, the truly rich walk with ramrod straight backs, arms at their side and hands cupped slightly.

She says the wealthy fall into three types: old money (Rockefellers, the Queen); new money; and 'money minions' (lawyers, estate agents and others who have made their cash by servicing old money). The last two categories are a relative push-over.

So far, Ms Blackman has yet to see a student snap up one of California's millionaires. But she is confident of success. 'There are two or three people in the class that are really going to marry money. One woman told me that if a man doesn't make more than dollars 100,000 a year she simply won't go out with him.'