November 06, 2008
NEW YORK—Back in the summer of 1960, a married Hollywood actress and her friend, a Hollywood wife, came to the south of France and met a randy 23-year-old who showed them around the place. The actress was the sexy Janet Leigh, then married to Tony Curtis, and her beautiful friend was Jean Martin, whose hubby was Dean Martin, while the randy one was the poor little Greek boy. We had a very good time boating around the various beaches during the day, dancing in Monte Carlo in the evening, Monaco being not only Russian- and vulgarian-free back then, but also looking like Ruritania-sur-mer rather than Las Vegas-on-the-sea. Both ladies were guests of ambassador Joe Kennedy, whose son Jack would be elected President later that year. Kennedy was a regular visitor to Hotel du Cap d’Antibes throughout the postwar years, and although quite busy on the telephone all day and night — it took hours to get through to America and Joe Kennedy was a very impatient man — he nevertheless found time to scold both blondes for wasting their time with ‘that Greek tennis player who I gather is a fascist’.
Janet Leigh died some years ago, but I often see her old flicks and remember that wonderful summer week she and I spent together. Janet Martin and I also stayed in touch, writing to each other for the next 25 years, especially after she suffered the greatest tragedy of all, losing her son in an aeroplane accident. (Actually, it was the young man’s death that drove Dean Martin to drink himself to death.) I’m bringing all this up because last weekend I drove up to Connecticut and spent the weekend with my old friends Oscar and Annette de la Renta in their grand but cosy-as-hell house, and, like most people of our age, talked about the good old days and the fun we had before the Gulf Bedouins and the Russian mafia turned billionaires overnight. On Sunday Lee Radziwill came for lunch, Lee being Jackie Kennedy’s younger sister, and known as a better looker than her more famous sibling. Lee is now in her mid-seventies and lives in Paris, and she goaded me about the summer of 1960, ‘when everyone was so busy working for Jack while you were having threesomes on the Riviera…’ ‘I was for Nixon, and my room at the hotel du Cap was so small that there was no space for a threesome,’ answered poor little me.
Actually, I had just read a review of the autobiography of Tony Curtis and brought the subject up in order to compare it with that of my friend Roger Moore’s. Sir Roger’s autobio is a graceful story of an extremely good-looking man whose looks match his discretion. In a typically old-fashioned English manner he downplays his achievements by joking about everything — the way it should be. Self-publicists have a funny way of cutting their own throats, sooner or later, that is. Tony Curtis not only names the women he bedded, he also uses a baseball bat to beat us over the head for Hollywood’s anti-Semitism. This is a bit over the top. Doesn’t this man know that the reason he didn’t win an Oscar for his role in The Defiant Ones was not anti-Semitism but David Niven’s perfectly brilliant performance as a bogus major in Separate Tables.
I had asked his wife what Tony Curtis was like and she had told me he was a ‘wonderful man’. Hmm! Loyalty becomes a woman. I think that after 50 years of being a star, one should not name names and certainly not make a charge of anti-Semitism in Hollywood of all places. I suppose that’s the difference between Sir Roger and Tony. Both came from modest backgrounds, but Sir Roger only mentions it in order for readers not to think he’s trying to pull a Lily Safra or a Mercedes Bass. Tony whines about it, and whingers are bores, as they say in Bora Bora.
And speaking of movies, on Saturday night after a dinner fit for King Farouk, we watched an Indian film that left us unable to sleep. It is called Water, and it’s part of a trilogy. All I can say is that it’s among the best films I have ever seen. The little girl that stars in it, as well as her older female friend, are as beautiful as anything seen on screen, and the acting is superb. Why hadn’t I heard of it before? It’s been out for three to four years, apparently. I’ll tell you why. Because it’s beautifully made, wonderfully and sensitively acted, and expertly directed. I believe the director’s name is Mehta and if any of you out there like movies, make an effort to see Water. It beats politics and it beats Hollywood, which by the time you read this should be celebrating O’bama’s victory, the first black Irishman to win the White House. But government does not save people. It gets people into trouble. The Fed’s easy money and proclivity to lend to those who can’t pay back is the one and only reason why we’re in a mess. Prudence and fiscal responsibility are not the kind of policies leftist governments follow. Saving for a rainy day used to be what we conservatives preached. O’bama will give the store away and make things much worse, if that’s possible, that is.