September 08, 2010
Gstaad. “Had someone suggested that one day I’d be sleeping in Taki’s bed …….” the person writing this hints that he or she would have bet the farm against it. Funny he or she mentions it, but so would I, and yet it happened and I’m delighted it did. Now for some of you sports fans out there, who could this person be? Here’s a hint. He’s a man, and an openly gay man to boot. And he spent more than one night in my bed, four to be exact. And he’s a lord and until last May was the second most powerful man in Britain. But enough of this teasing. It’s Lord Mandelson, and he left a charming message on my guest book, and no, I wasn’t in bed with him nor was anyone else. He also left the nicest of thank you letters and his book, The Third Man, although he did not need to do either because he was a guest of a friend of mine on Bushido. I wish I could give more details but it would be indiscreet, in fact I’ve already said too much, but I simply could not resist the opening.
One thing is certain. Perception and reality sure are different, and we have the not so new peek-a-boo journalism of Rupert Murdoch to thank for it. The internet, of course, is the wild west of the Fourth Estate, but thank God I don’t know how to read it and even if I knew I wouldn’t. It is a dark new world. Slander for money, although no one really gets paid. Blogging, reading politically racy web sites, texting by cell phone, it’s all Latin to the poor little Greek boy. What it is is satisfying to the masses. Everyone now feels like a journalist, a profession my father warned me against, and even Charles Moore once admitted to me was one notch above that of child molesters. (He was kidding, but not too much.) But there’s a problem. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of new bloggers the world over are playing at being hacks, yet have not managed to trigger the slightest change in the way the world is run. Especially in Arab and Third World countries. Two lady friends of mine, Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown, run two very successful web sites, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast, reputed to be worth millions upon millions, yet I’m not sure anyone will pay, say, one million for either of them. It’s all still up in the air, as they say, and I include the greatest website of them all, Takimag.com, run by my own sweet little daughter Lolly.
What we do have is that now everyone feels they can have their say. If they’re not glued to their cell phones talking rubbish, they’re pounding away on their blogs, frenetically trying to have their opinions read by anyone, everyone, as long as their voices are heard, read, posted. Blackberrys, Kindles, iPods, everyone is opining about everything, but I’m content to read my Speccie, my Telegraph, my Chronicles, my books, couple of tabloids, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and John Burns in the New York Times. What else does a man need? Perhaps Rebecca Hall, the deputy editor of the Spectator, and Keira Knightley, but that’s altogether different. Forty years ago this week, during the Palestinian uprising in Jordan against King Hussein, I was approached by Genevieve Chauvel, a famous French beauty and photographer, to take a letter to the besieged King as I was driving down to Amman from Beirut with two Paris Match buddies. The telephone and telex lines had been cut, there was obviously no internet, so I became Mercury, the god to deliver her all-important letter to his majesty. (I think the epistle was quite pornographic, or so she told me.) But later rather than sooner we got picked up by a PLO company of fighters north of Amman. I was sure it was curtains because of what I had in my pocket and said so to my friends before we were told to shut up by our keeper. But the Greek boy is a survivor. Slowly and very discreetly I chewed and swallowed the letter, a second before an officer came into the room and told us we were free to go. Yet another opportunity to score an exclusive gone down you know what.
And speaking of Arabian adventures, during the first week of school in a Paris “banlieue”, a teacher reads out the names. Mustapha El Ekhzeri? Present. Achmed El Cabul? Present. Kadir Sel Ohlmi? Present. Mohammed Endahrha? Present. Ala In Ben Oit? Silence. He repeats, Ala In Ben Oit? No one in class answers. For the last time, says the teacher, Ala In Ben Oit? Suddenly a boy from the back of the class stands up and tells the prof, “It’s me, but my name is pronounced Alain Benoit.” It’s not one of my best but I got it sent to me via, yes, you guessed it, the dreaded internet. Apparently it is very popular with the French whose schools have been overrun by North Africans, but one can apply it to most European countries. Except for Greece, where the Albanians register with Greek names picked out of two old books written by a blind old crazy man with a harp. Go figure, as they say in Ithaca.