December 14, 2009 / 9:23 PM / 9 years ago

"Nanny Returns" to New York's now troubled elite

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Dad has gone off with a Hollywood star, Mom is faking cancer, the kids are sexting, drinking and making mischief on social networking sites, and an elite New York school is opening a helicopter pad on the roof.

But never fear, nanny is coming to the rescue. Again.

Seven years after their international best-seller “The Nanny Diaries”, authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus are revisiting Manhattan’s super-rich and horrifically dysfunctional families in “Nanny Returns,” which hits bookstores on Tuesday.

The satirical but poignant sequel could hardly be more timely as the designer-perfect life of the X family — still passing their children around like discarded gift bags — disintegrates with a Madoff-like financial meltdown and a brutal divorce.

“Nanny Returns” finds Nan getting reluctantly sucked back into the lives of Grayer, the 4-year-old she was once under-paid to care for and who is now a messed up 16 year-old, and his younger (surrogate) brother Stilton, 7, the product of both egg and sperm donors.

The first book — which was made into a 2007 movie starring Scarlett Johansson — was a hilarious account of the lives of pampered socialites who neither eat, work, cook, clean or show affection to their kids.

Former nannies Kraus and McLaughlin said the equally hair-raising sequel was inspired by their experiences working in New York’s elite private schools and by the recent court case over the fortune of late socialite and multi-millionaire Brooke Astor.

“Brooke Astor had been very public about how mothering was of no interest to her. But whatever wounds had been inflicted on her son, he clearly had not been able to salvage his relationship with his own son, who turned him over to police for embezzling money from Astor,” Kraus told Reuters.

Astor’s only son Anthony Marshall, 85, was convicted in October of looting his mother’s estate while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is due to be sentenced this week.

“The idea of how dysfunction manifests over generations was really interesting to us and got us thinking about the X family we had created all those years ago,” Kraus said.

Topical themes of teens sending sexually-charged text messages (known as sexting), and cyber-bullying friends and teachers on web sites like MySpace and Facebook also make their way into the book’s picture of life at a $50,000 a year school in New York’s edgy Meatpacking district.

The school opens a helipad on the roof so that limousine drivers won’t have to take their young charges on lengthy journeys through questionable neighborhoods.

“Unfortunately, there are elements of what we portray that are really not a stretch from anything we have heard happening, and how this is impacting the classroom,” said McLaughlin, who has worked in several New Yorks schools.

Mr X, who has left his Botoxed society wife for a younger, actress model, is having hedge fund problems that echo the collapse in 2008 of the $65 billion Ponzi scheme run by imprisoned swindler Bernard Madoff.

“The Nanny Diaries” sold more than two million copies in 32 countries. The authors are hoping the sequel will have the same wide appeal, despite being firmly rooted in Manhattan’s elite.

“We were shocked that, even doing interviews elsewhere in the U.S. or overseas, everyone felt they knew Mrs X. whether it was their neighbor, their sister or their boss.

“As much as we would like to think that being a self-involved jerk is exclusive to a certain neighborhood, it seems everyone wants to think that Mrs X is them,” McLaughlin said.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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