This week 50 years ago saw the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a man I met a couple of times in the presence of Aristotle Onassis, whom some Brit clown-writer once dubbed Bobby’s murderer. (Bad books need to sell, and what better hook than a conspiracy theory implicating a totally innocent man?) I once witnessed Bobby, at a Susan Stein party, asking Onassis for funds — the 1968 election was coming up — and Ari showing Bobby his two empty trouser pockets.
Bobby’s assassination did alter American politics. Violence, black anger and despair spilled out on to the streets of American cities. His death caused far more grief among black Americans than his brother’s murder had, especially coming so soon after the killing of Martin Luther King a couple of months earlier. African-American civic leaders have, alas, irresponsibly played the victim card ever since. Richard Nixon, a great president and a friend of mine, won the White House five months later and became the man the press loved to hate — until the present incumbent. Bobby was the media’s choice, but fate intervened and Nixon became the fourth estate’s hate object.
In their anger and frustration at the very liberal Bobby ending up dead, and the conservative Nixon in the White House, journalists decided that some ‘reader empowerment’ was needed. That is to say, not just the facts, ma’am, but the right facts, according to the culturally elitist, ideologically biased and entitled fourth estate. Straight news took second place to ‘higher goals’, ferocious opinions once reserved for the editorial pages. Then came Watergate. Nixon could easily have avoided it by letting those responsible carry the can, but his loyalty proved his undoing. The journalists who published documents leaked by a disgruntled FBI agent — deep throat — were fêted as heroes and liberators of an oppressed people.
One of the advantages of old age — the only one I can think of, actually — is that one has lived through things that youngsters have not. And experience counts. For example, the double standards of hacks and the selective glorification of their favourites. Anyone who has read about the Kennedy and Nixon years knows that the one figure who stands out is the Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. But Bradlee not only covered up JFK’s philandering (as well he should have); he also covered up Kennedy’s bungling in Cuba and in Vienna, not to mention JFK’s complicity in the murder of the Vietnamese President Nhu. Watergate made Bradlee a household name and movies were made about him. But to little me he was no better than a pimp. Bradlee pimped for JFK, and even pimped out his own wife (his second wife, now deceased, not the present widow) to the president, something Kennedy courtiers such as Arthur Schlesinger preferred to overlook.
I was invited to the White House by another Kennedy pimp, the fashion designer Oleg Cassini, but turned down the invitation because I knew what JFK needed from me, namely my then girlfriend. Throughout all the adulation and cheering, no hack has reported that Bradlee procured women for JFK and turned a blind eye when the randy Irish-American president took on Mrs Bradlee. Laying one’s wife to the prince’s bed might be a Victorian perversion, but Americans don’t do that sort of thing. Pimps are pretty low down in the bad-guy category.
Oh well, now we have Trump to kick around, and the media sure are kicking. Dubious accusations about conspiracies and criminal shenanigans are reported daily as facts, and they remind me so much of the 1973–74 climate when the press smelled blood and decided that Nixon had to go. Richard Nixon always said that an elitist cabal was working secretly to bring him down. The present cabal of the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and CNBC is doing exactly the same thing, but not so secretly. Steve Bannon, who just scored big in the land of pasta — President Mozzarella followed one order too many from Brussels for even the Italians — warned Trump about the deep state. Even I, the poor little Greek boy, had written about it before the Donald took the oath of office. Now we know. The deep state is the 25,000lb gorilla that the news media ignore while bringing you fake news daily.
Otherwise everything’s hunky dory. I’ve been hitting the hot spots with Michael Mailer and a few young beauties and getting insulted as a result. I announced my betrothal to Inga, who is 24, and a horrible unknown old woman at the next table yelled: ‘For God’s sake, don’t do it. Old men are disgusting.’ I didn’t dare open my mouth. There is a Spanish inquisition going on as a result of Harvey’s shenanigans — incidentally, Weinstein has as much chance of getting a fair trial as the #MeToo movement would have had in ancient Sparta — and old men like me out with younger women are on the sisterhood’s hit list.
Never mind. The big news is Pose, the transgender TV show that immerses itself in 1980s New York. All the transgender characters are played by transgender actors, and — surprise, surprise — the coverage has been ecstatic. One more week to go in the Bagel and then I’m off to the grandest wedding ever. In Austria, near Salzburg. Watch this space.