OK, folks. We’ve had enough of Hollande and his rather silly antics, although I do understand the man. Ever younger is not a bad policy, in sport as well as in sexual matters, but it does give off a certain bad smell (it’s called a Saatchi) and is something real men actually never get caught doing. Seducers have been the whipping boys in books, plays, poems and in films from time immemorial, starting with Paris of Troy. Someone called it the most ‘unspeakable type of masculinity’, a bit harsh, I agree, but there are some chaps out there whose only goals are conquest and belt notches. Although highly ridiculous — and it was funny hearing Hollande called ridiculous by another slightly comical figure, Sarkozy — a reptilian smoothie Hollande is not. Although Dante put the seducer in the eighth circle of hell, I think the Florentine great does seducers a disservice. Cold, calculating sexual profiteers all seducers are not. Some are even nice guys who love women and do not seek their destruction. Take the case of Casanova, for example.
He not only admired and respected women, he also made their happiness his life’s work. ‘He undressed them as if they were his superiors,’ wrote one of his biographers. If Hollande put on some 40lbs and grew his hair to his shoulders, he could pose as the real Casanova, because Giacomo was no looker. He never ruined a woman and if anything he was a fool for love. Dado Ruspoli, another great seducer, but the best-looking man in Rome, treated his numerous mistresses with respect and courtesy, and like another Roman noble, Roffredo Gaetani, could love deeply. Both Dado and Roffredo were great friends of mine, and I never saw them once abuse or speak ill of a woman. (Mind you, they might have been cowardly because they never grabbed a woman by the throat like some heroic types tend to do.)
So, am I here to defend seducers and include the clownish Hollande among them? Well, yes and no. Not all great seducers I have known were Errol Flynn-like lookers. Willy Rizzo, a photographer I hung out with in Paris during the Fifties, who recently died, was very short, squinted non-stop, and looked like a defrocked priest, but outscored some awfully good-looking men friends of his who were far more glamorous and rich. He used to come to the polo, where heartless, philandering Argentine rogues lurked about in their boots and blazers, and get the better of them. Put a man in a polo outfit, or a Wehrmacht uniform, for that matter, and the Hollandes and Sarkozys of this world look glam. But Willy won out. My old mentor Porfirio Rubirosa, of course, was both good-looking and a great seducer. He was the ultimate charmer, but his charm was authentic, not oily, and women went mad for him, mostly for sexual reasons as he preferred his men friends when talking turkey.
Another irony about seducers is that the greatest of them all, Don Giovanni, a mythical figure who had 1,003 women in Spain alone, was partly created by a seducer who didn’t look at all like the Don, Lorenzo Da Ponte, a Venetian Jew who was eventually exiled by the Inquisitors for loose morals, i.e., seducing women left and right, and that continued once he met Mozart in Vienna and wrote the libretto of Don Giovanni. Incredibly, he ended up in Brooklyn of all places, giving Italian lessons to upper-class New York women.
There is a way to treat women, and some men have it and others don’t. Take the case of Giscard, an ex-French president about whom Charles Moore wrote last week. Giscard fancied himself a seducer but he was as much a seducer as he was an aristocrat, which he pretended to be. He was served dinner before Margaret Thatcher at the Elysée Palace, and excused it by saying that he as president was a cut above Maggie as prime minister. Yes, but once, at a dinner in a private house, my then teenage wife and I were forced to walk into the dining room before the then president of France, Georges Pompidou, because ‘la jeunesse d’abord’. Giscard should have waived the waiters away and ordered them to serve a lady first. It would have accomplished more than a dozen expensive diplomatic dinners. That’s what a real aristocrat would have done.
Which brings me to someone who has never been accused of even resembling a gent, Charles Saatchi. This individual has written a letter via the Speccie to me, regarding my attack on his person last week in defence of his ex-wife Nigella. He writes that Nigella thinks of me as a vile person, and he addresses me as a woman. He goes on to say that my martial arts are for Nancy-boys, that he is a black belt and that he fights inside cages, with no rules and that everything goes. He calls me a geriatric and a soppy one at that, and says that the idea of fighting with me got him laughing rather hard. What he does NOT do is issue a challenge. He writes how tough he is and how weak I am but does NOT go any further. So, as a soppy geriatric, here’s my answer: I am 77 years old, 5ft 9in, and weigh 185lbs. I am willing to face him any time under cage-fighting non-rules, which will be a first for me. I need three days’ notice.