Ironically, Gstaad during the horrible 1960s was an arts colony of sorts. We had the two great violinists, Yehudi Menuhin and Nathan Millstein, living here. We had William F. Buckley and Ken Galbraith, David Niven and Sir Roger Moore, and even little old Taki, scribbling away in National Review. The incomparable Vladimir Nabokov and his opera-singing son Dimitri visited regularly, as did New Yorker scribe Natasha Stewart. The idle rich played bridge, while the town whore, now long dead, was a Russian countess named Vera. That was then.
Now the place is crawling with hookers, but they pretend to be amateurs doing it for love of sport. The local peasantry back then was quiescent. They tilled their farms, operated the ski lifts, and taught the nouveaux how to slide down the slopes in the correct manner. It was paradise on Earth; now it’s hell on skis, but only during the high season. Sometime during the late 1970s a few peasants got together and decided to emulate the tourists. The quickest way to a fortune was to buy out the dumb ones and build glitzy chalets. Their scheme worked. For a few bucks local people sold their shops, only to see them replaced by expensive boutiques and Xanadus which would make Kublai Khan himself green with envy.
There you have it, dear readers. Lesson number one: When approached by sharpies offering moolah for your humble shop, point them toward Libya and slam the door in their face. Then check if the doorknob is still there. Lesson number two: Never underestimate the local peasantry and never show off in front of them. High living is more contagious than cholera, and it tends to give people ideas. Final lesson: When someone mentions art projects, disconnect his or her car’s brakes, preferably when parked up a steep hill. (If you’re not mechanically inclined, I will provide a mechanic.)
We have a beautiful old church where the Menuhin Festival has been held for the last 54 years. We have hotels with great rooms for conferences and the like. Plus we have outdoor spaces galore where tents for specific events can be erected. The last thing we need is a traffic jam where hundreds of buses clog the narrow single road leading to Gstaad and unload artsy-fartsy phonies looking to get a glimpse of sixth-division celebrities.
It could be worse. If not for NATO, we could be looking forward to seeing the Gaddafi swine this coming winter. We already have plenty of the latter, and I don’t mean those wonderful porkies that I cross each day on my way up the mountain.
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