Scrooge got it right

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

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New York

Boy, oh boy! The Christmas double-issues come quickly now. Once upon a time the run-up to the holidays was unending, with non-stop parties up to the final explosion on New Year’s Eve. No longer. Now Christmases come and go quicker than you can say tempus fugit, which in a way is better for Mankind’s fallen condition. Just last week I read that a mob of shoppers had trampled the first woman in line for a DVD sale and knocked her unconscious. The woman’s sister said that the crazed shoppers had ‘walked over her like a herd of elephants’. But, as one Washington pundit noted, ‘elephants do not behave that way to others of their species, even when they’re stampeding...’ Oh well, elephants, thank God, trample on DVDs, rather than on each other, which proves that human nature is regressing, and fast. Mind you, I haven’t the foggiest what a DVD is, but I suspect it’s something useless some greedy clown has invented in order to put more people in hock. Who would have thought that Ebenezer Scrooge got it right all along. Christmas nowadays is one long orgy of shopping by brain-dead plebs eager to show they’ve arrived. Better to be raped by a hundred Transylvanian lepers than get caught in a post-Christmas sale at a large department store in London or Noo Yawk.

Mind you, I don’t know what’s worse. Pleb shopping or the pleb obsession with celebrity. The latter has gone ballistic in the Bagel. Celebrity-watching in America is being compared to some sort of inbred version of Britain’s royal-watching. I’ll take the latter any day, not that I find what Prince Andrew, say, does all day very exciting (watch videos, hit golf balls and say stupid things), but simply because he’s less unpleasant to look at than the mutants who pass for celebrities today. Just think, dear readers, that there are people in this world, mostly in England and America, who screech and holler and go weak at the knees when they see an old and extremely ugly hag like Barbra Streisand, or a satyromaniac like Michael Jackson. (The freak’s car was swarmed by starstruck fans as he was going into court in handcuffs.) Talk about a culture gone wrong. This one’s gone so far into the sewer it’s gonna be The China Syndrome soon. The deification of Hollywood slobs, rock stars, and moronic non-achievers known for shedding their clothes in public was formulated by television and magazine editors greedy for a buck who were certain not to fail by never underestimating the public’s taste. They can be short-waisted and shapeless, knock-kneed and Concorde-nosed, pock-marked and unkempt, imbecilic and grotesque, if they’re known as celebrities, the red carpet follows. If Rip Van Winkle woke up in front of a nightclub today, he’d head for the nearest drug store and swallow a bottle of barbiturates quicker than you can say get me outa here. Such are the joys of celebrating the vapid in living colour. And on the front page.

And speaking of celebrities, I’ve just finished an unputdownable opus on Benito Mussolini, by Nicholas Farrell, who along with the sainted editor almost brought down the Italian government a couple of months or so ago. I’ve read lots of books on old Benito, but this one is by far the best. I believe I’ve met Farrell once or twice, and I wasn’t mad about him. (I think he stitched me up by writing about one of my parties. But I could be wrong.) His book, however, is a real joy. It’s history the way it should be written. It flows, it soars, it’s a constant delight. It’s got details that bring the story alive, like Donna Rachele screaming insults at Claretta Petacci, the good-looking SS officer gently trying to diffuse the situation. Farrell is very brave where the Jews and the Pope are concerned, and shows how hard the Duce tried to protect Italian Jewry from the Nazis.

Musso comes out even better where Greece is concerned. Upon landing in Athens, he sees the starving population and complains to Hitler about it. The latter does not want to know. When Hitler attacks the Soviet Union, Benito goes ballistic, and tells Ciano that he’s hoping the F