May 27, 2010

On board S/Y Bushido off St. Tropez. My book party’s best line was Claus von Bulow’s, as told to Antony Beevor, Piers Paul Read, Paul Johnson, and Sir V.S. Naipaul, among the literary worthies who took the time to attend the poor little Greek boy’s launch at Brooks’s. “The last book party I attended,” said Claus, “was that of Leni Riefenstall’s about fifteen years ago. I had with me an Israeli friend, Ronald Fuhrer, who eventually got into a spot of trouble and had to flee England overnight. Ronnie went up to Leni, told her what a great admirer he was and asked her to sign his book. ‘How do you spell your name?’ asked the author, abjuring the Hitler connection to the bitter end.”

I particularly enjoyed the attention of all the pretty girls, especially those invited by my daughter, but then my editor, Liz Anderson, gave me the bad news: My betrothed, the deputy Speccie editor, had chosen to immolate herself rather than go through the gruesome wedding ceremony awaiting her on the nearby Ritz. So I did the next best thing and got completely drunk at my dinner party following the launch. The great Paul Johnson, always looking at the bright side of things because of his Christian faith, said that she might not have done it on purpose. I know better. Even more humiliating than being left at the altar: there was a young, good-looking man wandering into the room and looking nonchalantly around. “Who are you?” I asked. “Oh, nobody in particular, my name is Fraser Nelson.” “Leave the room at once,” I told him, “you’re much too young, you’re showing me up.” Then I bent down and kissed his right shoe. I was then comforted by Lady Naipaul, the kind Nadira, who told me I could still be a contender at age 73. She made me feel well enough that I even managed to sign 100 books for Hatchard’s, something my Quartet Books publisher, Naim Attallah, really appreciated: “How wonderful it is that a man so inebriated can still sign his name.”

“If Papa Hemingway was around he’d describe today’s Riviera as a place that has been bad longer than it was good. Forty years of building ugly houses along her coast has made the south of France into a Las Vegas sur-mer. Hence where better for Naomi Campbell’s fortieth birthday party?”

More humiliations were in store on the Riviera once I was flown down in Tim Hoare’s private jet. This was Pug’s Club grand regatta weekend, with four boats competing for the silver cup donated last year by Commodore Hoare. The great favorite was Bob Miller’s magnificent trans-Atlantic record holder Marie-Cha, which left Roger Taylor’s Tiger Lily, Hoare’s Alexa, and my Bushido fighting like tigers for second place. The committee boat was Mark Getty’s classic, clipper-bowed, two-funneled 180-foot 1929 cruiser Talitha, which shadowed the racers, ensuring no monkey business. For Bushido, the close-hauled point to wind leg was our finest hour. And for close to an hour the Alexa kept charging us, at times a few feet away off starboard, but we held fast, resisting her—Leopold Bismarck, Heinrich von Furstenberg, and I dressed impeccably in white ducks and blazers, showering her crew and owner with insults and hand gestures not found in any sailing manuals. Pug’s president, Nick Scott, was also staying on Bushido, but he chose to dress in an all-white uniform with a Nelson-like plumed hat that made him look like John Gielgud in the film The Charge of the Light Brigade. Our great Thermopylae-like stand ended with the downwind run, which saw the Alexa take off like the proverbial bat out of hell. After close to four hours Alexa beat Tiger Lily for second place, Bushido, yet again, coming in last. The Marie-Cha, with the owner’s son-in-law, Prince Pavlos of Greece, crewing like mad had won easily, despite a handicap that would have crippled a supersonic jet. The prize giving followed and everyone got totally plastered that night on board Talitha.

If Papa Hemingway was around he’d describe today’s Riviera as a place that has been bad longer than it was good. Forty years of building ugly houses along her coast has made the south of France into a Las Vegas sur-mer. Hence where better for Naomi Campbell’s fortieth birthday party at the Hotel du Cap, once frequented by Scott Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Errol Flynn, and a young Taki, now bursting at the seams with Hollywood types, Russian oligarchs, and their hookers. After giving DNA samples, finger prints, and our passports, we sauntered into the hotel grounds where Naomi’s billionaire boyfriend,  Vlad—the impaler—Doronin, had reputedly spent five million Euros in her honor. An enormous tent below the tennis courts where I had spent my youth hitting endless backhands had been erected, and after taking a picture of the 400 guests we all sauntered in for an incredible evening of entertainment with Grace Jones and the Black Eyed Peas.

Stone panther statues covered with Swarovski crystals (black panther, get it?) were everywhere, the top table which rotated and stood two feet higher than the rest of us slobs—being in the middle with Jonathan Livingstone seagulls circulating above it. Debonnaire Bismarck had all of Pug’s invited so I shall be kind. I saw “old friends” like Mark Rich, Philip Green, Richard Caring, and other such old Etonians, but despite them I had a very good time getting back on Bushido at 6.30 a.m. (The mother of my children refused to attend once she heard what the party was costing.) Ladies of tempestuous—or was it professional libido—abounded, yet what the blast lacked in dignity, it made up with magnificent narcissism. Naomi was friendly and gracious and I thank her for having Pug’s members en masse. We are, after all, 17. Now on to London for some badly needed R&R. 


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