Sexual imperative

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

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Back in London for a debate at the Intelligence Squared Forum on the motion that monogamy is bad for the soul. I am arguing against it, as well I should. Had I not wasted my life and time chasing women non-stop, I could have been a contender, a somebody. As the 20th century’s greatest philosopher, Groucho Marx, once said, ‘Some people claim that monogamous marriage interferes with romance. There’s no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere.’

Kidding aside, marriage does protect against feelings of loneliness. But that’s about all. Although I will argue for monogamy, I won’t believe a word I say. What I won’t dare say is that monogamy should apply only to women. The fairer sex avoids danger far more easily than the brutal sex. Most men, including the poor little Greek boy, crave beautiful women at all times. Ever since I can remember, I have been walking around in a frustrated daze having just seen a beautiful woman. Let’s face it, man’s sexual imperatives drive everything we do. At least in the case of most of the men I’ve been close to or admired. Alexander the Great was obviously polygamous, but did not waste his time chasing it. Nor did Napoleon, although his polygamy was annulled by Josephine’s fooling around. The moment he became monogamous, down he went. Both Hitler and Churchill were monogamous, whereas Stalin and Mao were not. Does this tell us anything? I doubt it. Talleyrand chased non-stop, whereas Castlereagh did not. Jimmy Goldsmith was like the former, and his best friend, John Aspinall, like the latter. Go figure. Gianni Agnelli was as polygamous as his brother Umberto was not. Ditto in my family. Monogamous men, however, can be terrible bores, especially when they extol the virtues of their wives.

Discretion, of course, is what polygamy is all about. Back in 1956 I began an affair in New York with a Greek shipowner’s wife, a French-born beauty. We were immediately discovered and I was dispatched to Paris by my father once her husband had filed for divorce and named me as correspondent. One year later, back in the Bagel, more problems. This time a society lady became pregnant and was demanding marriage. Back to Paris, all expenses paid. (The good news is she was pretending.) In both cases, and throughout the next 50 years, there were all sorts of complications with women. Some claimed to be expecting, others demanded moolah for the time they wasted with me, but not a single woman ever went to the gutter press. Was I lucky? Not at all. I have always chosen to go after a certain type of young woman, the type who would rather die than sing to a gossip columnist. Ergo, I’ve had a charmed life, including the greatest mother of children that it is possible to have.

I’ve stepped out with three rather famous film stars, but have never written about them nor — in the case of one who died — added to their biographies. When one so-called biographer came to see me, I denied having ever been intimate, and after he showed me something he had found in her letters which gave me away, I told him she was bragging falsely. (He thought I was the biggest shit he had ever met, and he had met many.) Screw him. Again, it’s nobody’s business.

Mind you, polygamy can get one into trouble in the afterlife. My greatest hero by far, Don Giovanni, ended up down below as some of you may have heard, but what the hell. He did enjoy himself while on the surface. And now a few words about the virtues of monogamy, words which I have jotted down for the debate: Western art and literature are replete with the passionate declarations of love of one person for one other. Dante and Beatrice, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Abelard and Heloise, Antony and Cleopatra, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, even Don Quixote and Dulcinea. Devotion to one woman is held to inspire men to rise above their baser natures, to demand sacrifice and courage on behalf of the woman. As the song says in Guys and Dolls, ‘When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky/ you can bet that he’s doing it for some doll.’

Alas, there is no literature celebrating love for the many. This is why I will win the debate tonight, but will go to my grave unknown and unlamented. Well, except by the mother of and her children by me.