November 14, 2011
I spent my youth at the Hotel du Cap, having first gone there in 1952 with my parents when it was still owned by the family that had put up with Scott and Zelda’s shenanigans during the Roaring Twenties. For the next 30 years I spent every summer at the hotel and its famed Eden Roc clubhouse. They were probably my happiest years ever, as the hotel was THE place to be back before the nouveau riche scum from the Middle East and the old Soviet Union polluted the place beyond repair or redemption. Visit it and weep. I was there exactly 17 months ago for Naomi Campbell’s fortieth birthday party, thrown by her Russian boyfriend to the tune of a couple million euros. Among 400 guests there were five gentlemen: Leopold Bismarck, Tim Hoare, Nick Scott, Heinrich Fürstenberg, and yours truly. And three ladies: Countess Bismarck, Princess Fürstenberg, and Princess Hanover. (My wife refused to go although my boat was anchored below the hotel.)
Never have I seen so many gangsters and hookers, which is the type the hotel caters to nowadays. The Sella family sold the hotel about 30 years ago to a German group which decided to improve the bottom line. The result was predictable. Nice people cannot afford the hotel’s over-the-top prices. Even if they could, who wants to lie next to disgustingly behaved Russians in the first place? Although the hotel has not changed physically—its neoclassical façade is still surrounded by pined woodland and tennis courts that lead down to the sea—the people have changed, and that’s what makes all the difference. There are no more Dukes of Windsors, Gianni Agnellis, Noel Cowards, Rita Hayworths, Jack Warners, Aly Khans, King Farouks, Joe Kennedys, Gary Coopers, King Alberts of Belgium, Marlene Dietrichs, or Scott Fitzgeralds any more. Not even a Taki.
On a typical day back in the fabulous fifties, I’d wake up around nine, breakfast in the grand terrace facing the sea, then go to the tennis courts for a long hit and good sweat to get rid of the alcohol from the night before. Then it was down to the cabanas, screened by shrubbery from the gaze of upstanding folk who might not approve of monkey business before or immediately after a liquid lunch on the clubhouse terrace. After a long swim in the afternoon and more tennis, there were pre-dinner drinks at the hotel terrace. Then it was time to once again go hunting for women, a popular sport among Riviera regulars. It may sound like an empty life, but it sure was fun. Thanks for nothing, Kiki.