By Sir Taki Theodoracopulos
“Why, oh why, do the wrong people travel?” sang Noel Coward back in the ’30s. Lucky Sir Noel, he never met the present bunch. Just like the Bolsheviks deemed the aristocracy and the intelligentsia as enemies of the people back in 1917, good manners and conservative dress today are viewed—at least in the Bagel—as false and affected. But I’m getting away from the subject at hand. I just bought Masquerade, a doorstop biography of Sir Noel, but I remember the song from way back, before the one time I met him. It was June 21, 1969, in Vevey, Switzerland, and Charlie Chaplin’s daughter Josephine was getting married to a Greek friend of mine, Nicky Sistovaris. I was the only journalist invited and allowed to take pictures for Paris Match. Chaplin was gracious and eager to talk, whereas Oona, his wife, was very guarded. After the wedding Noel Coward arrived and we were introduced. “I’m no paparazzo,” I ventured. “I can see the Via Veneto rising up behind you,” answered the great one.
Needless to say, it’s good to be back in London again. Two encounters took place, both totally unexpected. I took an early flight from the Bagel, checked into the hotel, and went to Sloane Square for a bite to eat. As bad luck would have it, I drank a bottle of red on an empty stomach—when flying, the trick is never to eat—and when I walked out for a cigarette, my head was spinning and I had to lean against the wall in order not to look even more ridiculous. That is when a young man approached me. “Oh, oh,” I thought, “he probably thinks the old boy is easy pickings.” It shows how good a judge I am of human nature. The polite and handsome young man’s name is Anthony and he’s in banking—and has been reading Takimag all his life. “Please keep writing,” he said and disappeared into the night. “If I keep this up it’s going to be curtains,” I said to no one in particular.
What is it about good things coming in pairs? The next day, outside Sandoe’s bookstore, another young man stopped me and asked if I was who I am. His name? Jack Gallagher, and he’s a reader of you-know-what. However silly all this sounds, I am not only flattered but also amazed. I don’t use social media, so how does anyone recognize an old man hanging around Belgravia and its environs? Perhaps it is the bump on my forehead thanks to the last karate session in the Bagel.
Never mind. The difference coming from New York to a sunny London is the women. In the Bagel they’re loud and brash, in London they’re demure, prettier, younger, and much more feminine. Actually Londoners are much friendlier than Bagelites, but that’s a cliché, like saying some sports team is owned by Saudi Arabia. Mind you, London might one day belong outright to the Saudis, or the Qataris, but I don’t see it becoming third-world like New York has, and that’s because of the people. Londoners will never flee like Bagelites have in order to escape high taxes, out-of-control crime, and a homeless population that is violent and ubiquitous.
As the beautiful, talented, and allergic-to-Greek-charms British editor of The Spectator Mary Wakefield wrote, “It takes a Brit to enter into the inner life and social standing of a floorboard.” But I prefer the Brit contemplating a floorboard to a black American chewing on a triple-decker hamburger and announcing to the rest of us how good and tasty it is. Mary very kindly had paid a bill I owed in London as I had no checkbook with me in America, so early in the morning I stuffed the moola into an envelope and arrived at her office, planning to give it to her and announce that it was for services rendered. But I’ve been in America too long. A joke can land you in the clink over there. So I meekly gave it to the beautiful Mary, whom I first met at her house on Camden Hill Road when her father Sir Humphrey had me to lunch. That was around 1994 or -5, and—as she correctly wrote—like many little girls, she was a tomboy. Tomboys now are encouraged to change sex, which means in the future there will be no more women in America.
Never mind. Simon, Tinus, and Fasie are three wonderful white South Africans, and the latter took us out to dinner at Robin Birley’s Hertford Street. The subject of conversation was women and the tragedy of South Africa. All four of us are happily married but with a roving you-know-what. They roved, alright, but that’s about all. Next day, under a brilliant sun, it was down to Seymour Walk, in a country house right in the middle of London, where Richard Northcott had all his buddies celebrating his son George’s birthday. Fine rosé wine and champagne, beautiful women in their summer dresses, no two guesses necessary: Greek boy very drunk and in love with Vanessa, who has not had a drink in twenty years. In the middle of all this I thought of the difference between a Bagel party and this one: There were no transactions taking place here, at least not business ones.
The high point of the day was when an old friend addressed a crowd of youngsters and told them that if they read Takimag they would all get lucky in the evening. The garden emptied out as they all raced for their computers trying to read the best website this side of paradise.