At an art shindig on Park Avenue, I spotted Baz Luhrmann, the director of the latest and very noisy version of The Great Gatsby. A charming man, I was told, just before I was shocked — shocked à la Captain Renault — to hear the dwarfish mayor of the Big Bagel suggest an honorary American citizenship for — you’ll never guess — that Russian son-of-a-bitch Roman Abramovich. Too bad I didn’t have my American passport with me, because I would have thrown it at him and told him to keep it. I can understand why some broken-down English toffs need to kiss the Abramovich behind because they mistakenly think it beats working, but the grotesque Bloomberg is a billionaire many times over, and need not genuflect in front of an ex-plastic duck salesman.
The ex-duck salesman parked his monstrous floating stinkpot downtown and came to Park Avenue with his floozy, la Zhukova, both posing as art connoisseurs. If any of you reading this feels like puking, do go ahead. I’m amazed that I didn’t, and I actually was close enough to touch them. Yuck! Then I thought of poor old Scott Fitzgerald. He invented Gatsby, sold only 28,000 copies, died dead broke and very much in debt, and now his masterpiece sells 500,000 in paperback every year, the novel has been turned into a movie five times, and the latest version cost close to $100 million. How’s that for irony? I’d say worse than Bloomberg and the duck salesman posing as gentlemen.
And while I’m at it, the actor playing Nick Carraway, Tobey Maguire, who’s as tall as Bloomberg at 5ft 4ins, when asked whether he had loved the book answered, ‘But I read the script, of course.’ No Fitzgerald expert he. The movie, reviewed by Deborah Ross on page 55, is exactly what I predicted a couple of months ago: pearls, cloche hats, dropped waists, lots of fireworks, a tumultuous work that has about as much style as the fictional Gatsby parties. Still, it’s a far better film than the Robert Redford version of 1974, the wooden Redford as believable as Gatsby as Rupert Everett playing General Patton. For some strange reason, the Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim is played by a very good Indian actor, a first for me: Jews played by Indians in order to avoid charges of anti-Semitism. The subtlety of the novel is, of course, non-existent in the film, and here’s a tip: forget the book, its subtlety and tenderness, and just watch the movie as entertainment. And enjoy the girl who plays Jordan, who should have been cast as Daisy, but more about casting next week when I will be filing from Cannes and walking the red carpet for the première of the greatest movie since Gone with the Wind, starring Alec Baldwin, Taki and a cast of thousands. It is directed by the great James Toback, a man so talented that Orson Welles tried to poison him in a jealous rage but thankfully failed.
Otherwise everything is hunky-dory. I had a great Greek Easter dinner with my old friends George and Lita Livanos, and then hit the downtown scene, which at present is the answer to the Roaring Twenties of Gatsby fame. What crap. If only there were the slightest resemblance. Sure, one notices the bored hauteur pose of tall Russian model-hookers, and the insolence of dwarfish, totally phony nouveaux-riches, and asks oneself whether the Twenties could have been as bad, and the answer is a resounding NO.
First of all, the Wasps, who were masters of the universe back then, were morally suspect only as far as polo, tennis and golf were concerned. Tom Buchanan is a terrible shit in the Gatsby book, but at least he knows how to behave in polite company. Nowadays, the bums with the moolah do not. And they don’t play polo, nor golf, nor tennis, they just stare at a little machine all day. The over-the-top dissipation of the rich has always been glamorised, but the cheap satisfaction we feel at their fall has not. I have been lucky never to suffer from schadenfreude, but I admit this might soon change, especially where Gulf Arabs and post-Soviet Union types are concerned.
An American woman recently wrote a very stupid article about how she would give 1,000 Fitzgeralds for one Austen. She bases her argument on the fact that Scott Fitzgerald wrote against the rich but aspired to the good life himself. My, how nasty American women can sound, especially when they’re being sanctimonious. Who the hell doesn’t want to live the good life? I live the very good life yet I hate the pigs and slobs I run into every day, especially in places like New York, Cannes, London and Gstaad. So what the hell am I supposed to do? Move to a Greek monastery in Aghio Oros?
Our culture nowadays is dominated by the conspicuous vulgarity of new and ill-gotten wealth, and manners and morals are non-existent. Young people act as if autistic. They simply cannot communicate because the machines they stare at all day and night have made interaction impossible. Our language has even changed, with people using acronyms instead of normal speech — when they use English, that is. In the Bagel, English is spoken by only a minority. The most blatant degeneracy is the constant use of the F-word and the way the slobs dress. Last week, at a Broadway play, I was one of the very few to be wearing a suit and tie. Soon people wearing neckties will be profiled, their picture appearing in police stations. See you in Cannes.