Becoming a Socialite 

How do you get on the elusive Social Register?

click to enlarge news34_social_register_100.jpg

Grove had questioned whether Richmond-born Tinsley Mercer Mortimer's status as a New York socialite was deserved. Her daddy, George Mercer, came to the rescue last month in Grove's column. If anything, Mercer wrote to Grove, his daughter had "married down" by wedding Standard Oil heir Topper Mortimer. Ouch.

In defending Tinsley's bloodline, George Mercer referenced the family's listing in the New York-based Social Register.

Which begs the question: How does one make it onto the register, which lists about 25,000 of the oldest and wealthiest families in the United States?

First, being filthy rich isn't enough. The application process, like the organization itself, is elusive. To be considered for membership, you must be recommended by five families already on the register. Then an anonymous review board reportedly selects the top 10 percent of applications. (Not even Paris Hilton is in this year.)

Besides having good references, it doesn't hurt to be descendants of old money — or, say, be related to Thomas Jefferson, like Tinsley Mortimer.

Once you're in, you're in. Unless you screw up royally — say, you talk to some greasy tabloid columnist in New York, or you "marry down" into a family not on the register. Play it safe, darling, and you're likely to stay for a few years.

Style Weekly obtained a copy of the register from a source who asked to remain anonymous — it's not for public consumption, we were warned — and searched the listings for Richmond entries.

We dial a few local numbers to get the skinny.

First up, Mrs. Richard S. Reynolds. We ask about her place on the Social Register.

"The one in New York?" she asks.

Yes, that one.

"Well, I don't know anything about it," she replies.

She is quick to add that she's been listed on the register "for 70 years."

She asks us to call back. When we do, the answering machine picks up.

Next up, Mrs. William D. Cabell. We ask similar questions: How long has she been on it? What does she know?

"I don't know," she says. "I've been in there for a long time."

She suggests there isn't much to tell about the elite list. It's really just a kind of phone book and directory. She wonders why we're interested in the Register for an article: "I wonder … what in the world you could talk about."

Then we dial the woman herself, Tinsley Mercer Mortimer. Her answering-machine message is personable: "You've reached Topper and Tinsley. … Leave a message, Thanks."

We do. She hasn't called back. S

Born and Bred

Style scanned the Winter 2006 edition of the 1,006-page Social Register to see which familiar names made it. Here's a sampling:

Who's on

Mrs. Richard S. Reynolds

Mrs. William D. Cabell

Mr. R Emmett Robertson III

Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Reed Jr.

Mrs. Dale Tatum Mercer

Miss A. Carter Marsh

Miss Jenna Bush

Mr. Henry C. Hager

Who's not

Mr. William H. Goodwin

Mr. Eugene P. Trani

The Gottwalds

The Robins Family

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder

The Ukrop Family

Mr. J. Stewart Bryan III

Gov. Jim Gilmore


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