Secrets and lies | 9 February 2008

Taki lives the High Life

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In the good old days of the Cold War, Athenian hacks used to say that there were only two countries where secrets were safe: China and Greece. In the former nobody talked. In the latter everyone did, hence no one believed a word. I thought of the saying during a chic Gstaad dinner party when people were heard to complain about an article that had appeared in Tatler. ‘How can they get it so wrong?’ was the gist of it. ‘Who has ever heard of these people?’

So out I went and bought a copy of the magazine and read the offending piece. Written by a nice woman, Vassi Chamberlain, it is in the breathless, eager-to-please, hyperbolic Tatler style. Vassi got to the right people all right, but to a person all refused to be named or interviewed. Like in Cold War China. So the poor girl did the next best thing — she wrote about social wannabes and nouveaux-riches vulgarians who were eager to give her access and to drop names. This is a very old story. When the right people won’t talk to you, the wrong ones will. But, as in Cold War Greece, don’t believe a word of it because it’s all BS. (The Rosey an exclusive boarding school? Yes, for the sons and daughters of Russian hoodlums; and the Eagle the hardest club in the world to get into? Now that’s a real belly laugh.) Still, Vassi did as good a job as could be done under the circumstances, but identifying the Graham Bournes as leading figures of the Gstaad social scene is a bit like referring to  Ken Livingstone as a gentleman.

And speaking of getting it wrong, Ephraim Hardcastle, Peter McKay in real life, has had another go at the poor little Greek boy, calling me odious and a few other choice epithets. I suppose if one dishes it out one should be able to take it, and I do, but McKay, a jolly roly-poly Scot, should check his facts better. I won’t bore you with the facts, but when I complained on behalf of the locals who cannot afford a drink in the chic watering places of this alpine village, he made it look as if I were complaining for myself. Never mind, McKay is funny and wicked, and when I once asked him for a favour to help a lady friend whose underage daughter had been abused and driven to her grave by a grotesque pervert, he immediately gave it and was great about it. My one bone with him is calling the astral  Keira Knightley skeletal. If she’s skeletal, I’ll gladly spend the rest of my life rattling around in her bed.

What made me laugh like Turks tend to do while torturing Armenians was the phoney Rothschild story. Baron Alexander-Marc de Rothschild, the conman’s nom de plume, could not pass as a Jew even if he had dressed all in black and presented himself to a German police station in 1944 calling for the downfall of the Führer. The stupidity of people has, of course, no bounds. How can a baron de Rothschild look Malayan, for heaven’s sake? I also liked the fact that he used yet another friend’s name when in a tight spot. He called himself Count Alex de Lesseps; so when I told this to the real Alex de Lesseps, descendant of the Canal de Suez man, he lost his Gallic temper and threatened to sue. ‘You’ve got to find him first,’ I told Alex Furioso, who is now busy checking his credit cards for fraud.

My Liechtenstein stay was a bore but it brought results. I can now ski, practise judo and karate, and walk with just a little bit of pain. But one needs to stretch, and stretch painfully, 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 at night. The times I got too drunk to do the stretches made me feel like the old times the next day. Extremely uncomfortable. Still, it’s better than having an operation which may or may not help. Tony and his son Tino Mathis are the world’s greatest back experts, and they are employed by Formula 1 teams to fix drivers’ backs, which obviously take a pounding. I was amazed at the difference in back treatment between the Austrians and the Americans, who actually do very little but use a contraption to sort of stroke your back. 

As I write, the temperature is rising and it feels a bit like Palm Beach. The temperature has also risen after I complained about the Russians’ non-existent manners and the greed of those Swiss who have let the slobs in. An Englishman who has lived here a long time even wrote me a letter defending the hordes, saying that both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were great collectors of art. He is obviously confused or just plain dumb. I didn’t complain about people like the ones he mentioned, but the kind he (the letter writer) sells art to. So I pulled an Alan Clark. I answered him saying that as I am not in the art business I am more of an objective observer than he is. Then I apologised for having inherited my art collection and hence being useless to him. I have not heard back.