February 28, 2014
GSTAAD—Walking into a dinner party for fifty chic and some not-so-chic people in a nearby village last week, I was confronted by a tall man with horn-rimmed glasses who called me his neighbor but then added, “No, you’re not my neighbor—what’s your name?”
No cunning linguist I, nor used to being barked at by nouveau-riche whippersnappers, I turned my back to him and told him to “Look it up in the Almanach de Gotha, asshole!” He wasn’t best pleased, especially as I also called him dickhead.
Now, please don’t think for a moment that I approve of my bad manners. But nor do I accept some hemorrhoid of a man half my age acting like a cop in a cheap gangster movie circa 1936. The name of the whippersnapper whom I don’t know nor want to know turned out to be Hunt, spelled with a “C.” His very rich American wife bought him the Wally Yacht company, one started by an Italian friend of mine that is now rumored to be in receivership or close to it. She’s a nice woman whose father was Mort Sackler, an inventor of some drug that made everyone happy and also made him a happy billionaire. What she should do is invest in a book of manners or tutorials on social graces—they would be much cheaper—and teach John Hunt to be less arrogant and less likely to be hit by an old-timer like me.
Mind you, Hunt’s manners made him seem possessed of plenipotential dignity when compared with a Spaniard whose name is Macaque, someone whose loud voice and showy mannerisms made him as inconspicuous as a fully dressed cardinal in a whorehouse. With an ego the size of a football field, he made it impossible for anyone to remain within hearing distance, so his table emptied quicker than you can say “monkey.”
So there you have it, dear readers—society at its best during the height of the Gstaad season 2014. There are exceptions, of course. A dinner party by Dino Goulandris for the ex-prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney (who attended with his wife Mila), was a wonderful evening. The premier gave a graceful speech ending with a Yeats poem and my host asking me to respond. My answer was that I might be plucky, but I am not stupid. To respond after such an articulate and charming speech was like going to bed with a woman who had just made love with Rubirosa; it makes a man feel small and rather clumsy. (Incidentally, Brian Mulroney spoke with great affection about Conrad Black and told us he was doing very well back in Canada.)
The next evening, Prince Pierre d’Arenberg and his beautiful wife Sylvia threw a hell of a bash for a hell of a lot of us, one that left me feeling that my nights were finite, but a good ski the next morning pumped me up enough to attend a great dinner given by Chaz Price and Jonathan Sieff and their wives, one that closed out the week that tripled the size of my liver but registered a minus as far as my years to come are concerned.
No matter. The Putin Olympics and the raspberry served to Western doomsayers and wishful thinkers have made me a happy man. Russia won the most medals and kudos from all honest people the world over. The closing ceremony was as brilliant as it gets. The only bad note was when the BBC speaker informed us philistines that Turgenev, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, etc. were “all Russians, you know.” Thank you. The two small nations of Norway and Switzerland also excelled—as well they should, being alpine countries—but Uncle Sam, alas, was full of excuses.