Hollywood, fist-fights and getting cancelled: Joan Collins and Taki in conversation

Introductions Scene: a drawing room in London. When the recording starts, Taki is already mid-anecdote… Taki: … I was sent out to Monte Carlo to speak to Roger Moore. The Spectator offered to pay all my expenses. I said thank you, I’ll pay my own. I went and had a terrific drunken dinner with Roger who really spilled the beans, cos we were buddies. I came back. The tape was empty because I’d never turned the recorder on. Joan: I’d known Roger since I was 15, because my father was a big agent in London and I came back from school — oh, 14 actually, because I left school at

Letters | 21 September 2017

Christians betrayed Sir: Michael Karam’s article (Ya Allah!, 16 September) is timely. Many Westerners seem to be unaware that there is such a person as a Christian Arab (a Christian who speaks Arabic as their first language), yet there are millions. At the time of the Crusades, Christians were a majority in the Near East. In 1914 about 25 per cent of the Near and Middle East was still Christian. The percentage is now much lower because events have forced massive Christian emigration, especially to North America. The serious consequences of this ignorance were not only felt by the Christian Iraqi removed from a flight after another passenger heard him

The Spectator’s Notes | 2 February 2017

As he left the editorship of The Spectator in March 1984, Alexander Chancellor wrote in this space: ‘When I joined the paper as editor in 1975, people were in the habit of asking me what my “policy” was going to be… How desperately uneasy this question made me. If there was a lavatory in the vicinity, I would lock myself inside it. I was sure I ought to have a “policy”… but I most certainly hadn’t got one.’ As his assistant editor, I witnessed the dismay on the faces of proprietors, advertisers and various big shots at Alexander’s answers to this sort of question. He would say, ‘Well, we should

The Spectator’s Notes | 29 September 2016

Mathias Döpfner, the extremely tall, extremely intelligent head of Axel Springer, is unusual in the generally conformist German business elite because he is not an unqualified believer in the German economic model. I have known him slightly for about 20 years and have always been interested by his questing, speculative mind. We have had conversations about the freer, Anglosphere model of economic life which he admires. Although he is not anti-EU — that is still almost against the law in Germany — he is sceptical of its direction. Now he has blasphemed in the EU’s main church in Britain — the Financial Times — by telling the paper that within

Low life | 29 September 2016

I stood in front of the mirror in the £61-a-night hotel room in Paddington, buttoned my polyester dinner jacket and straightened my bow tie. The last time I’d worn a dinner jacket was nearly three years earlier, I remembered, at the Cigar Smoker of the Year. What a night that was. I dug through the pockets in case there was any MDMA still hanging about. I found a dog-end and a 100mg tablet of Indian-made Viagra. I took a selfie in the mirror, picked up the gift-wrapped birthday present and card, switched off the studio-quality strip light, and closed the door behind me. As I tripped down the front steps

The Spectator summer party, in pictures | 6 July 2016

In recent weeks, Westminster politicians have found themselves compared to the characters of House of Cards and Game of Thrones over their post-referendum antics. Happily, parliamentarians were able to put such differences aside on Wednesday night as they took a well-deserved break from work at The Spectator summer party. As Labour’s Rachel Reeves and Liz Kendall caught up with Liz Truss, Laurence Fox — the Lewis actor — put on a passionate display for the cameras with his male companion for the evening. Meanwhile with a Tory leadership contest underway, Theresa May made sure to do the rounds and rally support for her campaign at the champagne-fuelled bash. Her efforts did not go unrewarded, with Fox confiding to

Letters | 12 November 2015

The C of E should apologise Sir: Peter Hitchens’s article on the allegations against the late Bishop Bell is a welcome intervention in a sorry affair (‘Justice for Bishop Bell’, 7 November). If the best evidence against Bishop Bell was sufficient only to merit his arrest (were he alive), then the recent statements concerning him issued by the church authorities should be withdrawn; if they have better evidence, then that should be published. It should not be forgotten that this is not the first time this year that senior figures in the Church of England have made dubious accusations of child abuse against the dead. Earlier this year the Bishop

Low life | 17 September 2015

The staples of my daily alcohol consumption on the cruise were champagne, gin, red wine and Polish vodka. One morning I woke up in my cabin more hungover than usual, also depressed. Turning my head to the side and looking through the gap in the curtains I saw that we were no longer at sea but docked in yet another Mediterranean island port with barren sun-bleached hills above and beyond. Reaching for my daily news-sheet, delivered to the cabin the night before, I read that what I was looking at this morning was Heraklion in Crete. Further reading informed me that if I returned to the ship from the shore

What really happened on the Spectator cruise

Ok, so first things first. Jeremy Clarke didn’t fall overboard after all. He did, though, dance all night every night (almost), have everyone in stitches and host a rip-roaring High Life vs Low Life pub quiz. He even wore a fez with unexpected aplomb. Taki forwent the delights of his own High Life to join ours. He was exceedingly generous to his dining companions with his wine choices, and had us enthralled with his insider tales of Spectator days gone by and libel actions lost (mainly) and won (occasionally). And as for Martin Vander Weyer, well, he simply charmed the pants off everyone, not only with his self-deprecating wit and

Low life | 10 September 2015

There is something repulsive about the sea, especially when seen from the altitude of the upper decks of a monstrous floating pleasure palace where all intimacy with it, including the sound and the smell, is lost. On the inaugural Spectator Mediterranean cruise I paid attention to the sea but rarely, and usually when speed walking along one of the upper decks in a dinner jacket and bow tie, and late for something, and wondering where the hell I was supposed to be going. Then my stare would stray over the guard rail to the barren wastes of glacial blue flecked with white stretching away as far as the eye could

Low life | 3 September 2015

Last Saturday afternoon, in Venice, 31 Spectator readers, plus Martin Vander Weyer, the great Taki and I came aboard the Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria for the inaugural Spectator Mediterranean cruise. The first chance we had to get to know one another was a pre-dinner drinks party in Hemispheres, the ship’s nightclub. I was late, and apprehensive about how things would go. The ship’s commodore, a lonely, courtly figure encased in a starched white uniform, was there in the Spectator readers’ midst offering his right hand to anyone who wanted it. I removed a flute of champagne from the offered silver tray and plunged in. The first reader I spoke

Letters | 20 August 2015

The morality of the A bomb Sir: In questioning whether we should celebrate VJ Day (Diary, 15 August), A.N. Wilson is confusing ‘why’ with ‘how’. The debate on the rights or wrongs of the nuclear attack will continue probably until long after the grandchildren of the last survivors have passed on. What should not be forgotten is the necessity to defeat the cruel, expansionist, militaristic regime that arose in Japan between the wars. Something happened to Japan during that period. The treatment of Allied prisoners of war and the atrocities in China during the second world war are well documented. What is less well known is the Japanese treatment of

Taki on Jeffrey Bernard – ‘Never a nice word about me’

Some years ago, Taki and Jeffrey Bernard each wrote the other’s obituary. When Jeffrey died on 4 September 1997, The Spectator published Taki’s version. Radio 4 are today broadcasting Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, and so it seemed a good time to revisit the piece:  In real life Jeffrey Bernard was much the same as he was in print. He was dyspeptic but almost always lightened the atmosphere with a flash of humour and the de rigueur four-letter word. He had a wintry smile and was a master of the unkind remark. People who are always trying to be funny rarely are. Jeff never gave the impression he was trying, and invariable always

Letters | 23 July 2015

Don’t write off Assad Sir: Ahmed Rashid refers to our ‘Arab allies’ supporting al-Qaeda (‘The plan to back al-Qaeda against Isis’, 18 July). Clearly they are no allies of ours, so thank you Mr Rashid for pointing this out. Apart from that, his perspective is peculiar. He starts off by accusing Assad of plunging Syria into a bloody civil war. Clearly that is not the case. The civil war was started by Assad’s opponents, encouraged by the ‘success’ of the Arab Spring elsewhere. Of course we now see that the ‘success’ was illusory. He also suggests that Assad is finished. Now that his ally Iran has come in from the

Low life | 2 July 2015

Rachel Johnson, in last week’s Spectator diary, says that her husband says she only writes a book in order to have a launch party. Me too. My thoughts are too disordered to write a book from scratch, but now and then someone offers to publish a collection of these columns and I, fantasising about a party with all my pals there, agree to it. Times must have changed for the publishing industry since Short Books put out the last Low life collection and gave me a terrific launch party, because the publisher of this latest collection stated with finality (once the book was done and dusted) that publishers no longer

Letters | 2 July 2015

How to fix Detroit Sir: When I last flew over my native Detroit five years ago, vast tracts of it still resembled Machu Picchu. From the ground, it was little better; in what had been a prosperous Italian-American neighbourhood when I lived there in 1964, there were only five houses left standing. Stephen Bayley (Arts, 27 June) marvels that ‘You could buy an entire house for $10,000’ — but in truth the taxes needed to support Detroit’s notoriously corrupt governments are so high that you can’t give them away unless they are in one of the few islands colonised by the middle classes. Indeed, the city filed for bankruptcy in

Letters | 18 June 2015

Growing congregations Sir: I would like to take issue with Damian Thompson (‘Crisis of faith’, 13 June) and his assertions that England’s churches are in deep trouble. Last Saturday 250 Christians ranging in age from zero to 80, from two independent and orthodox local churches in Lancaster and Morecambe, met in a school to sing, pray, and hear preaching about Jesus Christ — this as well as our normal Sunday services. We believe we are doing what the Bible tells us to: preaching the good news of Christ from the pages of the Bible — and our churches are growing. Indeed, we can testify to growth in many local churches

Letters | 7 May 2015

Bees vs Belgians Sir: To answer Rory Sutherland and Glen Weyl’s question: yes, everyone should vote and no, just because someone is more interested in politics, his opinion should not count more heavily (‘Plan Bee’, 2 May). Belgium has had compulsory voting for over a century. The troubles that follow every general election may seem to make it a strange example to follow, but those troubles are a consequence of the fragmented political landscape and not of the polling system. Compulsory voting motivates people to stay informed and care about what is happening to their country. It is, however, only compulsory to show up at the polling station, not to

Spectator letters: Why rural churches are so important, and the best use for them

The presence of a church Sir: The challenge for the Church of England and the wider community is to ensure that our village churches are a blessing and not a burden (‘It takes a village’, 21 February). The Church of England has approximately 16,000 churches, three-quarters of which are listed by English Heritage. Most of these church buildings are in rural areas. There are around 2,000 rural churches with weekly attendance lower than ten. It can be a significant responsibility for those small congregations to look after that church, and one has to recognise that this is a burden that falls on thriving parishes. There is no ‘one size fits

Toby Young and Taki reveal their strangest date

Toby Young Status anxiety columnist About 15 years ago, when I was single and living in New York, I acquired what I can only describe as a stalker. A woman took exception to a newspaper article I’d written and started bombarding me with emails. For about a year, she sent me three or four emails a day, demanding a reply. In one of these emails she claimed to be a columnist for a magazine called Chest Monthly, and that piqued my interest. So I invited her on a date. We agreed to meet in a café and she was quite difficult to spot because, contrary to my fevered imaginings, she