As Jacob Rees-Mogg said in a different context, a happy birthday at my age is a terminological inexactitude. I needed the birthday I had last week like a hole in the head, to coin a brand new expression. Mind you, the miasma of misinformation that deals with maturity never fails to depress. The ancient Greeks did respect old age, but they got old in their late twenties. An 80-year-old in old Athens would be a 250-year-old in today’s world. There is nothing better than youth, and it’s certainly not wasted on the young, Lord Henry. Everything works, injuries disappear after a night’s sleep, a broken heart mends at the sight of someone new, one’s too busy to notice the stupidity of others, too intolerant of weakness to acknowledge one’s own. Talk about looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. Most important of all is that youth lacks a timetable. Tomorrow really never comes.
I was once madly in love with an actress married to Tyrone Power, and she spent my money quicker than Usain Bolt used to run the 100. My father was appalled and refused further funds. So I went to a Mafia guy in New York and borrowed $2,000 and signed a note that I would pay back $4,000 in one week’s time. A week back then — I was 18 — was like ten years today. Anything could happen: nuclear war, a natural catastrophe, maybe an asteroid would hit the Bagel. So Linda and I flew to Paris and had a pretty good time, and then I cut the holiday short by one day and like an absconding party-crasher flew to Athens when a sudden desire to see my parents overcame me. Or perhaps the moolah had run out. The first person I met as I came into my house was a New Yorker whose face looked familiar. I owed him 4,000 greenbacks. Dad was very understanding. He paid the Mafioso, praised me in front of him for my business acumen, and then dispatched me to the Sudan to work in his textile factory, fully air-conditioned, I might add.
See what I mean about youth? One doesn’t give a damn, one fears nothing, not even the Mafia, and one never worries about tomorrow. And Khartoum wasn’t such a bad place back then. I hung out and hit balls with the great tennis player Gottfried von Cramm, socialised with Alfried Krupp at the Gordon nightclub, and was in love with Grace, the greatest beauty of her time and of that place. Plus I had a driver, Zacki, and a personal servant Abdu, whereas before my punishment/banishment I had neither. Ah youth! Faust was no fool.
But back to reality. No heroin addict can look as desperate for a fix as our machine-enslaved youth while searching frantically for a wall socket. When I see that vacuous opaque look of today’s young starring at their mobiles I am almost — I said almost — happy to be old. On the night of my birthday old and good friends arrived on time, as did my daughter all the way from Spain, and we began the celebrations right off the bat, as they say in the good old US of A. Peter Livanos, who has forgotten more about shipping and business than the rest of the ship owners and Wall Street types will ever know, summed things up in a manner that would have made Oscar Wilde envious. Perhaps if Peter had been around when I was young I could have been somebody, I could have been a contender. Never mind. There’s always the next life, or so they tell me.
Incidentally, I did not see a television program about Raine Spencer, but read in the Telegraph some horrid things said about her by her stepchildren. All I can say is that when I met her in Paris in 1962, she oozed in the manner Englishwomen tend to upon seeing macho Argentine polo players. She invited my teammate Carlos Miguens to London, and he accepted only if number 3 and 4, Henrique Brown and Taki, could also come along. She gave a party at 40 Hill Street in our honour where the Argies were insulted non-stop by the then Duke of Marlborough, Bert, but young Taki got a pass because Sunny Blandford had just married Tina Livanos Onassis, and a new roof was being installed at you know where. Raine could not have been nicer, defending my teammates against charges of womanising and lechery by old Bert, a womanising lecher if there ever was one. I never saw Raine again, but know and like her son, William Dartmouth, and the talking heads that called her a social climber should know. They’ve been climbing since birth.
So there you have it, dear readers. From now on I will write a very serious column about serious subjects to be read only by serious people. No more frivolity, no more jokes, and no more mention of sex. Instead it will be on how to borrow money and never have to pay it back and stuff like that. OK, I’ll give you a hint. Get a rich father who will forgive you anything and then borrow to your heart’s content. Get it?