The death of David Bowie — how is it that Stephen Glover always gets it right about our over-reaction and hysteria when a pop star goes the way of all of us? — triggered a memory of something that happened long ago with Iman, his still beautiful widow. It was exactly 30 years ago, on a rainy and cold night in New York. But first, a brief background to the story.
In the winter of 1985 the mother of my children had taken them to Paris, to her mother’s, as a warning to me that my constant womanising would no longer be tolerated. At the same time, an English friend of mine in London had run off with yet another friend, a male, thus making it obvious that I was about to lose both a wife and a mistress. Even more catastrophically, an English woman in New York was dropping hints about having a child, about as welcome at that point in my life as some North Africans are in Cologne nowadays.
Needing to be alone to think, I went for dinner at Mortimer’s, a chic watering hole, now defunct, three blocks from my house on the Upper East Side. I had had a couple of bottles of wine and was starting to relax when André Leon Talley, a very tall and talented African American who works for Vogue — known to us as the African Queen — came into the place accompanied by a beautiful, and almost as tall, black lady. The place was jammed so I waved them over and they sat down to dinner with lonely old me. Her name was Iman, and she had recently arrived in the States having been discovered in deepest Africa by my good buddy Peter Beard, the photographer.
To call it a convivial dinner would be an understatement. I was in my cups and my guests were laughing at my predicament. I invited them over to my house for a drink but André had to work early and begged off. Iman agreed to one drink. We walked over to my house and when we got there I realised, to my horror, that I had not taken my keys out with me. Worse, I had told the live-in help to take the night off as I had not planned to go out. The terror mounted after I failed to break the door down by kicking it hard on the lock. As I became more and more desperate, Iman started to get scared. I found a crowbar nearby and began to chop away at the damn door whereupon she ran off and jumped into a passing taxi. Just then the door gave in. There I was with a door I could not shut — the crime rate was still very high in the Bagel — and Iman had fled the scene. On top of all my other problems. The poor little Greek boy never had it so bad.
The African Queen and I have laughed about this many times. Iman I never met again, but the producer Michael White once brought David Bowie to the Eagle club and I sat with them on the terrace. I think I told the story and Bowie could not have been more polite when he heard it. But a genius, as the ghastly Tony Blair called him? I doubt it. The gushing after his death would have made a true genius blush, but such are the joys of living in a world in which pop stars outweigh writers, and businessmen who shuffle money around outrank scientists who invent life-saving processes.
And speaking of businessmen, but one who creates jobs, what about good old Rupert Murdoch, and his future bride Jerry Hall, a Texan I met long ago, when she was Bryan Ferry’s squeeze. Rupert came to mind when I read that the 100-year-old New Republic was up for sale again. I’ll be brief: TNR is a leftie weekly that was bought by a young billionaire partner of Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook infamy. Chris Hughes, who is a married to another man, is the American co-founder of Facebook. He is an effete leftie type who announced that his billions would transform TNR into a digital giant. Yes, and Iman and I had a long night of passion in New York 30 years ago. What bullshit.
Hughes tried to get his husband elected to Congress, failed, then lost 20 million greenbacks in one year trying to make The New Republic relevant. Twenty million is peanuts in the newspaper business. It should also be peanuts to a 32-year-old with sudden riches from what is, as far as I am concerned, a dubious invention that was most likely borrowed from two naive Wasps at Harvard. So he threw in the towel and TNR is up for sale. This is where Rupert Murdoch, the 84-year-old future blushing groom, comes in.
The Australian may at times play dirty but he’s lost double that amount in each of the 40 or so years he’s been keeping the best New York newspaper alive. That’s what billionaires should be doing, keeping great papers like The New York Post — founded by Alexander Hamilton — going. And that’s the difference between a Rupert Murdoch and a Chris Hughes. One’s a tough Aussie who creates, the other is an effete American who bought a toy that he broke. Give me the Australian any day.
My only hope now lies with Iman. Will she give me a second chance before I die? One thing is for sure: this time I will have my keys with me.