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High life

My four great loves were unrequited (though I had a chance with Ginger Rogers)

Betty Grable I never met, Ava Gardner asked me if I was gay, Cyd Charisse told me to drop dead — and I blew it with Ginger

24 January 2015

9:00 AM

24 January 2015

9:00 AM

I had a short chat with BBC radio concerning the actor Jack Nicholson, whom I knew slightly during the Seventies and Eighties. Alas, it had to do with age, his and mine, 77 and 78 respectively. No, the man on the other end of the telephone did not ask me anything embarrassing. All he wanted to know was if women still come on to an oldie, or are they, as Jack Nicholson claims, a thing of the past.

Well, for starters I do not believe that Nicholson is telling the truth, that he’s now alone and fears he will die alone because women have abandoned a sinking ship. He has a sense of decorum and knows how ridiculous a man our age sounds when talking about women, especially younger women, something Jack and Taki have in common. Jack Nicholson has been chasing beautiful women all his life and will continue to do so until the moment the man in the white suit pays him a visit. And that goes for me too, except that his fame and celebrity status give him an unfair advantage over the poor little unknown Greek boy.

Never mind. I was born behind the eight ball, so I’ll take it like a man, a man whose four great loves — Ava Gardner, Betty Grable, Cyd Charisse and Ginger Rogers — were unrequited. In fact, it was worse than that. They never knew of my existence, except for a brief intro to Ava in Spain. She asked me if I was gay when I told her I was a tennis player and not in the bullfight business. That was in 1957, and later that year I had a chance with Ginger, and also blew it. Then, years later, I went swimming with Cyd off the Cap d’Antibes, came on too strong, and was told to drop dead — or rather drown. Betty I never met. That is the story of my miserable life. The title of my autobiography is Le Misérable.


What I could have told the BBC interviewer is that Jack Nicholson should consider himself lucky that he never seduced Feng Lung, the Chinese lady who found compromising emails on her mobile from her husband to his lover, chopped off his penis, and, after the poor man had had it reattached by medics, sneaked into his hospital room, chopped it off again, and threw it out the window. Police and doctors were unable to find it and believed it had been taken by a stray dog or cat. Ouch! No, old Jack, whom I hardly know, is telling a cock and bull story because he’s a gent. And this despite the fact he grew up thinking his grandmother was his mother, something quite normal for trailer-park people, I am told. Nicholson stuck by Roman Polanski when the pocket Pole was toxic, and also stuck by Eddie Dodson, the most prolific of bank robbers, who made Willie Sutton look like an amateur. (When asked by a judge why he robbed banks, Sutton earned a place in Bartlett’s by telling him, ‘Because that’s where the money is, judge.’ Dodson was given a job by Jack after he got out of the pokey until it emerged that he had robbed 65 banks in one year, a crime that put him away for good and ended his employment by a major Hollywood star.

And speaking of Hollywood, the number one producer in the world swept through Gstaad like a tsunami, and I took him up to the Eagle Club where he was a big hit. Harvey Weinstein produces the only films that are watchable nowadays. No science fiction, no flesh-eating robots, no creatures from other planets that enter earthly bodies; none of that crap. He arrived with his very pretty and well-mannered English fashion-designer wife, five children, and his mother-in-law, Caroline. Harvey previewed The Imitation Game for us, a wonderful movie that has seen both its stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, nominated for Oscars and has been nominated in a host of other categories too. I hope it wins both best actor and director because it truly deserves it.

Poor Alan Turing. He most likely won the war for the Allies singlehandedly by breaking the German codes, then got thrown into jail for being homosexual and committed suicide later on. Now the Queen has awarded him a pardon, which is very big of her, most likely because the very powerful gay lobby demanded it. The poor man should never have been hounded or jailed. He should have been ennobled for his wartime actions. I know, it was the law back then. But while the British fuzz has always turned a blind eye to chic homosexuals, like, well, don’t get me started, a real hero like Turing was thrown to the dogs.

Not to worry, though. Cecil B De Sharpton, the race hustler, is demanding more Oscar nominations for African Americans. So Selma, about Martin Luther King, will win. Last year it was a cartoon movie, 12 Years a Slave, that won; this year a film about a real person, Dr King, will win. It’s the way of the world.

My revenge came easily, however. I watched five black-and-white Fred and Ginger movies in a row while a snowstorm hit the Swiss village. All five films were made in the Thirties, and all feature white tie and tails for Fred Astaire and beautiful long gowns for Ginger Rogers. The music and dancing were to die for, the sex subliminal, the clothes out of this world. The films of Fred and Ginger — featuring such great lines as ‘and that pout that wrinkles your nose’ — separated the fine from the base and the beautiful from the ugly. Harvey should make a film of their films.


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