My father died on 14 July, 1989, in an obvious if somewhat self-defeating gesture against the 200-year celebration of the French Revolution. I always think of my dad on the infamous day which is France’s national holiday, especially when I’m on the Riviera, a once magical place where he first took me as a boy in 1952. Those were great times. Very few people had boats, and even fewer people among the haves had bad manners. Everyone dressed for dinner, and fast women tried desperately to act like ladies, outside the sack, that is. Life was very cheap if one had dollars, a large suite at the Hotel du Cap costing something like 25 bucks per day. Two short Greek men would run around the Sporting casino of Monte Carlo and the summer one in Cannes yelling banco. They were the golden Greeks, Niarchos and Onassis, and the latter would become majority owner of the Société des Bains de Mer (which owned the casino and the major hotels of Monte Carlo) the next year.
The halcyon days of the Riviera lasted until the Arab invasion of 1975, exactly one year after the oil-price rise following the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Mind you, like Byzantium, the place had reeked of coming disaster for years. Gianni Agnelli had sold his magnificent villa La Leopolda in 1963; Niarchos kept Ch