High life | 1 October 2015

She beat Lady McCartney and Naomi Campbell to the job

High life | 1 October 2015
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If cheating is the cancer of sport, losing has to be its halitosis. I stunk out the joint in Amsterdam last week, and even managed to be thrown (a first) for my troubles. Winners, for some strange reason, never have an excuse. Losers tend to. Mine is that my opponent was born after the war, whereas I was in an age group that was born before it. The rules are that one fights opponents within five years of one’s birthday, either way. My opponents were double that, but I should have registered an objection before the matches began. Some did and stayed out. I did not. I arrogantly thought I could win, and suffered the consequences. End of story and of my career in judo tournaments. It’s sad but normal. Sportsmen don’t always go out on top. They leave after being humiliated. Goodbye judo, hello tiddlywinks.

My only solace — Amsterdam is a depressing place, full of tourists — was Tom Holland’s diary in the Speccie, Jeremy’s use of the word anthropophagism, and Melissa Kite’s search for a 1956-era cottage. Oh, yes — I almost forgot: Freddy Gray’s Lebedev story had me dying for more revelations, but I could feel the libel lawyers’ hot breath on our deputy editor’s shoulders. My unsolicited advice to this Russian social climber is to strip naked, put on a pink jockstrap and shove a few feathers up his bum, and then go and join the gay and lesbian parade in Greenwich Village, an event that is now more celebrated than the opening of parliament or a Papal visit. He will be a transatlantic star in no time.

The irony about this Lebedev father–son combo is the double standard that is applied where Nazism is concerned as opposed to communism. The fact that Stalin and Mao murdered ten times the amount that Hitler did does not make them any nicer, but they do come off far less badly than the Führer. Lebedev senior worked for the KGB in London. Had, say, an ex-Gestapo man come to London in 1970 and proceeded to buy newspapers, would people like Stephen Fry and Piers Morgan kiss his ass as deeply and fervently as they do Lebedev’s? I’m not so sure.

And speaking of oligarchs, what about the story of the two returned Picassos, and the accusations by the artist’s step-daughter that the paintings had been stolen from her? They were later sold to a Russian, the king of shit, who has gallantly returned them to her. The king of fertiliser is Dmitry Rybolovlev, and I had the bad luck to live next to the mansion he was renovating in the Big Bagel. He is reputed to be worth $8 billion, and he also owns the old Onassis private island in Greece, a bulletproof chalet in Gstaad, and Monaco’s football team. He’s known as a very taciturn man, which doesn’t surprise me as he speaks no known language except Russian and communicates through sign language or via interpreters.

Rybolovlev got on my bad side when he offered close to 100 million big ones for an arts centre in Gstaad. But what we need in Gstaad is less art, better manners and longer family pedigrees. Nevertheless Rybolovlev went big time into art, buying $2 billion worth of paintings, often using a Swiss called Bouvier (already a dodgy name) as his dealer. Bouvier is known as the ‘king of the freeports’, high-tech warehouses in Geneva, Luxembourg and Singapore, where he stashes the art of collectors who trade privately with tax advantages. Bouvier sold two Picassos, owned by the artist’s step-daughter, to the Russian. The step-daughter was allegedly not in on the deal. The Russian personally returned them to her, but she never bothered to turn up. This I find very strange. Even stranger is Bouvier speaking to the media and calling himself a gentleman. (Er, an Everest-like hyperbole.) All I know is that if Ali Baba was in the art business he would have gone broke long ago. He was much too honest and so were his 40 thieves.

And now for some good news. Pugs club finally has a Mistress of Chamber, the honorary title whose appointment is extremely prestigious, and one that both Lady McCartney and Naomi Campbell aspired to. The honour went to Demi Moore, who was delighted to accept. That pleased our president, Nick Scott, but he was not so pleased about the semi-nude Demi at Bob Geldof’s wedding blast of last week. I missed the shindig after Sir Bob accused me of using his wedding as an excuse not to fight in Amsterdam due to an injured thumb.

But now Pugs finally has a mistress and a beautiful one at that. The four original members are all going to Seville this weekend, for a friend’s 60th. Commodore Tim Hoare, President Gimlet, head of admissions Count Bismarck and yours truly will be attending bullfights and other such amusements come Saturday. A bullfight beats watching two artsy-fartsy types feuding over Picassos any day of the week. Ole!