Ms. Johnson is a thirty-six-year old Johnson & Johnson heiress, a former debutante and graduate of Barnard College; she has been photographed for Vogue, and has created a line of her own jewelry. A distinguished horsewoman, Ms. Johnson has won in the Amateur Owner Hunter division at the top horse shows in the country. She currently manages her family estate, serves on the board of charitable foundations, is master of the Essex Fox Hounds, and has named her four dogs after alcoholic beverages. Jazz is an insider in that rarefied world fans of Gossip Girl and Downton Abbey dream about, and social climbers of all ages want to belong to.
Her fascination with the subject of Mountaineering was sparked at age seven when she asked her parents why her dashing billionaire grandfather, J. Seward Johnson Sr., former J & J executive, world-renowned yachtsman, philanthropist, and founder of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, was no longer married to her elegant and sophisticated Bostonian grandmother. The answer: Grandpa had met and married an incredibly gifted social climber who, besides being a penniless Polish immigrant forty-one years Grandpa’s junior, also happened to be the upstairs maid.
Dirk Wittenborn, is a novelist, screenwriter and the Emmy nominated producer of the HBO documentary, Born Rich. Unlike his niece, Dirk is an outsider by both birth and inclination. Early in his career via a brief connection to Saturday Night Live, the highlights of which were being filmed teaching cats to swim and appearing in a commercial parody with Gilda Radner about a perfume that gets you laid, Wittenborn picked up enough bad habits and celebrity friends to become a part of New York City’s downtown demimonde.
It was edifying to Wittenborn to watch how quickly some of Gotham’s most prominent young social climbers befriended him in the mistaken belief that he might know someone who could help them; even more enlightening was observing the grace with which those disappointed Mountaineers quickly dropped him. In his fiction Mr. Wittenborn has explored the interplay of class, money and self-loathing in the American Dream. His novel Fierce People, which compared the uber rich to an isolated and violent tribe of South American Indians was made into a movie starring Donald Sutherland, Diane Lane, Kristan Stewart, Chris Evans and Anton Yelchin. Like the anthropologist he portrayed in the film adaptation of his novel Mr. Wittenborn has devoted his life studying uncivilized behavior in the 21st Century.
In short, whereas Ms. Johnson belongs to the most exclusive clubs in the world, Mr. Wittenborn has been kicked out of them. Like those pioneering sex researchers of the sixties and seventies, Masters & Johnson, who dared to show the world that sex was nothing to be ashamed of, Wittenborn & Johnson have dared to offer an unbiased exploration of our present-day culture’s final taboo, the last form of social intercourse the world still refuses to be candid about—social climbing. Together Dirk Wittenborn and Jazz Johnson have researched the do’s and don’ts of climbing in the most obscure and refined levels of society.