February 15, 2009

At Easter 1215, a young Tuscan married woman innocently flirted in public with a man not her husband. He flirted back just as innocently, and then things got out of hand. A vendetta was declared between Guelf and Gibel, two rival brothers of Pistoia, that resulted in extreme violence, the splitting of Guelf factions into Whites and Blacks with ensuing massacres, 1,400 houses in the middle of Florence burnt, and a feud that brought out every long-simmering antagonism from politics, to money, to envy which lasted far longer than if the flirtation had not been as innocent as it was.

Guelfs and Ghibellines came to mind as the historian walked into my chalet accompanied by our chairman Andrew Neil, and two other beauties, Charlotte and Naomi. But I had eyes only for Lisa, with love being too weak a word to describe how I felt the moment I laid eyes on her. One thing is for sure. If Andrew Roberts lays a hand on her during the next five years I will squash him like a gnat, or better yet shorten him by a foot or two with an ‘empi’ (elbow strike) which will cut him down to Napoleonic size. (Andrew is writing an opus on Napoleon, and Lisa, author of a biography of Madame de Montespan among others, is assisting him.)

Gstaad is now starting ‘la grande saison’, which means those who passionately believe that money is the cornerstone of life have arrived to enjoy après skiing. This year we’ve had the best snow conditions in 50 years, not that we did much skiing over the weekend. It all went quickly, mind you, a blur of alcoholic haze and ‘glibido’—all talk and no action. What impressed my guests the most were the women around here. They had faces they can afford. We lost Charlotte after the first evening to a…lemon, and Lisa after the second night to her hubby, a composer. But Naomi stuck it out till the bitter end, as did the chairman. I have taken to my bed to recover, hoping to start skiing again some time next March.

But, before that, news of Pug’s, the world’s most exclusive club. As everyone knows, Pug’s main business is the blackball. And I am very pleased to report that never have there been more people blackballed than this year, which is only six weeks old. I have already listed some of the bold-faced names blackballed by members who should have known better than to propose them. People like Elton John, Paul McCartney, Henry Kravis, Salman Rushdie, Bernie Madoff (long before he was proved a crook and a depraved blood-sucker), Jeffrey Epstein (friend of Prince Andrew now doing time in a Palm Beach jail for employing underage prostitutes), Dick Cheney, Peter Mandelson, Oleg Deripaska, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Bernie Ecclestone, Geordie Greig, Hugh Grant and others less known but with deeper pockets. The most embarrassing moment came when Trevor Phillips, head of race relations, was put up and a member white-balled him.

The first volume of the history of Pug’s is now out, written and illustrated by Professor Gimlet, one third of the troika of Count Leopold Bismarck and yours truly who founded the club off Porto Heli in the summer of 2006. The fourth Pug was Timothy James Douro Hoare, and it’s been uphill—or downstream—ever since. At a memorable AGM in St Moritz in the spring of 2007, and in the absence of anything of substance, three new Pugs were elected: HRH Prince Pavlos of Greece, Prince Heinrich von Fürstenberg and Arpad Busson. There followed HH The Maharaja of Jodhpur, Christopher Lee CBE (the member we’re most proud of, England’s most successful-ever-movie star, with five films to his credit this year alone, and a man who at the age of 86 wears his Pug’s club tie everywhere, even in bed, according to his wife of 48 years), Sir Bob Geldof and Edward Hutley. In 2008 George Livanos, Bob Miller and Roger Taylor completed the club’s membership at 14. At present, Lord Rayleigh, the milk tycoon and Leopold Bismarck’s brother-in-law, is up for election by the committee which is composed of Taki Theodoracopulos (sometime president), Professor Gimlet (acting president), Count Bismarck and George Livanos (president of the wine committee).

A fine label was donated to the club by Bob Geldof for Pug’s wine, the label bearing the words ‘Ch”teau le Pug, lift a leg with us’. Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece donated the ties, white with a diagonal blue stripe and a small pug at the end. The midnight rule came into effect as of 1 January 2009, and it is the following. Any candidate being proposed after midnight to be withdrawn from the candidates book, incurring a fine of one thousand round English pounds to the proposer. Too many of the members get legless and propose people totally unsuitable for Pug’s—money lenders, hedge fund managers, high-class pimps, politicians, recent members of the House of Lords, Cypriot shipowners, and one even had the gall to propose the buffoon Muamar Qaddafi.

Some time next week I have to get out of bed and travel to St Moritz for another AGM. But my mind is not with the club. I am thinking of what Andrew Roberts might be up to, and for the first time in my life I am worried. Ah, the delusion of love, the whisper of a sweet unending yes.


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