Will you be having the steak or the vegetarian option ce soir, madame?" The steak, of course, and yes sir, you can refill my glass, but considering the level of luxury I'd been subject to for the past three days in Paris, this was one of those rare moments when even the vegetarian option seemed appealing. As one of two journalists invited to observe international real estate high rollers in action during the launch of the Dubai Pearl project in Paris, I took the opportunity to enjoy hotels, restaurants and modes of transportation I would never be able to afford myself.
So after the official announcement of this multi-billion-dollar development project, held in none other than the five-star Four Seasons George V, the group - consisting of investors, potential investors and the ever-charming Dubai Pearl sales team - spilt into the dining hall, in the centre of which was a crystal chandelier, big and heavy enough to crush at least a handful of the fat cats sitting beneath it.
As the most underdressed person in attendance, I was by no means disturbed by my placement at the table in the back corner. The immaculately dressed woman next to me leant in and whispers loudly, "Did anyone tell you who the entertainment was tonight?" With the PR team having kept me on a strict need-to-know basis (in which I seemed to need to know nothing), I replied, "No", excusing myself to the ladies room.
Upon my return, I pulled open the door to the dining hall to the sounds of Elton John's Your Song, and the sight of the one and only himself, sitting at a piano, comfortable in his signature sunglasses and suit. The man's become a parody of himself, I thought. How much he must have been paid became the question of the night. The performance itself wasn't bad - it included a 10-minute version of Rocket Man and such classics as Daniel, Tiny Dancer and I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues - and he had the advantage of playing to a crowd for whom he could clearly do no wrong. (It isn't easy to get a 150kg man in a suit out of his padded chair and up dancing like he hasn't since the 1970s.)
Dubai Pearl needed to impress. And with Elton, they did. Yet with a net worth estimated at roughly $500 million (Dh1.8 billion), does the Rocket Man just do it for the money? Surely the cheque from Dubai Pearl was just another drop in the bucket. After his performance, applause lasted for about 20 minutes, though Elton John still couldn't be bothered to slither out for an encore. Either way, it doesn't matter. Decades later, Elton is still loved. His fans forgive him for his outfits, his rude behaviour, his involvement in Disney films. We could all feel the love that night.