March 29, 2013

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan

A nice package arrived by post just as I was going to ring a friend in London and inquire how old and how good was a title whose bearer uses it more often than a footballer says the F-word. I will not name the bum because I did a few weeks back and he doesn’t need more publicity.

All I’ll say is thank God for the Almanach de Gotha, which arrived in brilliant cardinal red for 2012 and beautiful Byzantine yellow for the 2013 edition. I thank the publisher John Kennedy because the 189th edition of the Gotha comes in very handy. There are more phonies flitting about than there are blonde Russian hookers, and the Almanach is the ultimate judge of who is real.

The person I was ringing London about, incidentally, ain’t hardly up with the real oldies, but they made it through morganatic marriages and other such climbs. Your humble high-life correspondent is mentioned twice, both times through marriage, which makes me look like a gigolo, but what the hell, I’ll take it; I’m in the Ionian Isles Gold Book, which for some strange reason is not included in the Almanach.

“If I sometimes pay a compliment to a lady, I don’t expect to be called a pig for it.”

So women made me, according to the good book, which is only fair. I’ve spent the better part of my life thinking, yearning, lusting and chasing after them, so the least they could do is ennoble poor little me. Melanie McDonagh wrote in the March 9 Speccie on the 50 years of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. How I remember the dates of late March 1963, although back then if I heard the word Friedan I would have thought it had something to do with freedom in Sudan, a place from which I had recently escaped once the locals decided to nationalize my dad’s giant textile factory. (The 5,000 workers who toiled in air-conditioned comfort all lost their jobs and the factory was wrecked and burned to the ground after only two years of the Mahdi’s Africa-for-the-Africans nationalist government.)

Why do I remember the date so well? Easy. Already engaged to the French Cristina de Caraman, I arrived in New York and fell madly in love with an Anglo-American girl who later married the great James Toback, a director and screenwriter (Bugsy) and raconteur extraordinaire, and a man who would win a fortune in any sports quiz program, something he refuses to do as he deems it much too plebeian.

While tripping the light fantastic with the Anglo-American gal, I was also taking aim at an all-American girl who had spent time in Paris but could only answer “Daddy’s in Detroit” when someone said “Bonjour” to her. (No linguist she.) The all-American called me one night crying over the telephone that she had been attacked and that I better come over. I lived at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel gratis as my parents kept an apartment there all year, and the all-American was living at the Carlyle.


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