One’s unpopularity on account of calling it a night diminishes in direct proportion to the severity of the next morning’s hangover. I was literally booed by Geoffrey Moore and co. for asking the wife of a friend to drive me 200 yards to my chalet. Co., not Geoffrey, had other plans for the lady, and I will give you, the readers, two guesses what those plans were. It was 5.30 a.m., the friend’s wife did look awfully charming — desirable is closer to the truth — and co. was getting touchy-feely, so I opened my big mouth and asked her to drive me home. The next day, all sorts of people thanked me rather profusely for ending the party. Starting with her hubbie, who was home babysitting. (Fool.) All the Mother of My Children had to say was that even our three dogs thought me ridiculous coming home at such an hour, ‘and at your age’.
Well, if it weren’t for the hangovers, I’d be out every night and twice on Sunday. The older I get, the less time I’ve got, as I’m rudely reminded by an inner voice just as night is falling. But the hangover is not the hang-up I pretend it to be. It’s the women, young women at that. For some strange reason they feel that 80 is too old for them, and for an equally strange reason I refuse to lie about my age. My friend Michael Mailer is always telling me not to admit to the awful truth, 80, but I get rather a kick out of the horror in the eyes of a young woman when I say it.
On Saturday night, the MoMC and I had dinner at the house of a friend, who opened a magnum of Pomerol Château Certan 1986. Need I go on? Another guest was on the wagon but his glass was regularly empty and being refilled by the loyal (to me) Portuguese butler. The result was predictable. The MoMC went home after she had dropped me off at the Palace Hotel. In the middle of the lobby, a Hungarian orchestra was doing its thing: waltzes, tangos, the stuff of light operetta. I love everything Hungarian, starting with Viktor Orban, and everything Polish, beginning with Lady Belhaven and Stenton, whose hubbie Robin will be 90 this month. (More about that later in the year.) Hungarian music, lotsa vodka and some pretty young women made me forget my promise to the MoMC that I would be back by 2 a.m. Well, I told you the rest at the beginning of this rather pathetic column. The only trouble was that I had a lunch with my friends Rosemary and Wafic Saïd the next day (though after what has taken place in his native Syria, my host Wafic wasn’t surprised to see yet one more wreck).
Then came the big one. Like a fragile consumptive in a Verdi or Puccini opera, I swore to myself I would stay just one hour, wish him happy birthday, drink only water and then come home in order to watch Homeland, whose heroine Claire Danes I’m in love with and almost had a wet dream about. Well, things don’t always turn out the way we hope they would. The birthday was Prince Victor Emmanuel’s 80th, and the heir to the Italian throne — in fact, the pretender to the throne — and I have been boozing it up together since the late Fifties. We once ran into each other in Hong Kong and after a drink or two decided to go to a whorehouse. Silly old us. There were no whorehouses in Hong Kong back in 1967, although all the women were available. Then Victor and I were arrested in Greece for a driving offence, but a telephone call from the royal palace fixed that. They let him go and kept me.
On Sunday night my old friend John Sutin arrived and the moment I saw him I knew that Homeland and Claire would have to take a raincheck. The cake arrived and Marina of Savoy, Victor’s wife, gave a wonderful speech about their dream marriage of 50 years. Then she pointed at me and announced that 55 years ago I had locked her in a room after she had refused my advances. I thought it was a joke and asked her why she had made that up. No, no, it’s absolutely true, she said, don’t you remember? I stayed locked up for close to two days. I tried to tell people that it was a joke, but then the MoMC announced that I had done the same thing to her 50 years ago. This was too much. ‘What the hell are you trying to do to me?’ I asked no one in particular. ‘I’ve never mistreated a woman in my life…’ Well, you did lock me up once, said the MoMC, and Marina doesn’t lie.
So, as I write this I am suffering not only from a howling hangover but also from the doubt, engendered by these two ladies, that a long time ago I went around locking women up. But for what purpose? What’s so good about a woman locked up? Actually, I don’t believe a word. I think Marina of Savoy and the MoMC got together, decided that I was a bit of a shit, and made this story up. Still, I’m never going near a keyhole again.