Gstaad—They have busy eyes, and the set of their mouths is that of a hungry carnivore, their hands always working, stroking, exaggerating, guiding sharp elbows to the last. They’re salesmen to the rich and famous and fob them trinkets and pictures and dresses—and at times even people. They gush like no Hollywood agent ever did, and once upon a time I used to feel very sorry for them. That was when they used to try to sell antiques to Saudis, who called the priceless, classic stuff secondhand furniture, early Eisenhower Hilton Hotel style being the gold standard for camel drivers back then. It still is.
Yep, this alpine village gets them all—salespeople, that is—and at times I still feel sorry for them. A Christie’s man brought a Chinese individual up to the club and the Chinese man was dressed in pink and looking awfully silly. I told the Christie’s man no money was worth the humiliation of being an escort to such a ridiculous sight, and the Christie’s man said it was easy for me to pass judgment: “You don’t have to work for a living.” That shut me up for the rest of the day—week, rather—but now I see clearly why digging ditches is as honorable a profession as one can aspire to. (And a hell of a lot healthier, to boot.)
So you’ve got Dior and Pucci, Ralph Lauren and Gucci, Hermès and Prada and Cartier and the two biggies, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, all aiming at a few fat people with very fat bank accounts, and it’s a bit like Britain and Germany and Russia trying to elbow one another in the Balkans prior to World War I. Very little meat left on the carcass for the hovering vultures. But now the vultures are the ones that are being picked. See what I mean when I tell you that it’s all upside down? No one knows who the good guys are any longer. Except for me. When I see whom they’re targeting, I’m on the side of those selling.
One great success story of Gstaad salesmanship is that of the American woman Tracey Amon. She first landed a Saudi and took him for a lot of camels, then latched on to a friend of mine, Maurice Amon, a Swiss who prints money by producing the ink that goes on the paper. This time she went to town with him. When she got a flat next to my old chalet for two of her Saudi children, I moved immediately. I find living in proximity to a Saudi profane, so now I have a mountain to myself with divine cows as my only living neighbors. The predatory Tracey got houses and paintings and chalets and all sorts of toys, but she wants more cash than the pittance of a couple of millions per annum. Gstaad is what Compiegne was for surrenders, be it physical or financial—it all starts and ends up here. The commune should have a beautiful train car resembling the one that the surrender of France was signed in back in 1940, when men could sign away their fortunes in salubrious surroundings. It would be more civilized than traipsing all over Monaco and New York like the Amons are doing while Tracey is digging for the gold she does not deserve.
Never mind, the older I get, the more I learn. For example: Most people with real money are never rude; it is those who want people to think they have real moola who act rudely. At a dinner party chez moi last week, Mick Flick and Michael Chandris, two very good friends with real money, had an interesting conversation about the primacy of style over matter, or something close to it. I was too drunk to keep notes—a Mercedes car heir and a shipping tycoon, very interesting if one’s sober. I’ve always been on the side of style, the latter being the opposite of pretense. Style is also intense conviction, and God knows we all could use more of the latter, as could the British prime minister, for example. Style is the most abused word in the English language. It is usually attributed to fashionable people by those not in the know. For example, that ghastly woman Anna Wintour, who has allowed Teen Vogue to promote child transsexuals, looked awfully unstylish to me next to the Queen. Wintour comes from a hack family and is a hack herself, but how would the present bunch ever know these useless facts that I’m giving you?
Style is of an abstract nature; one either has it or one doesn’t. Harpo and Groucho Marx had style, whereas Karl Marx’s sayings, none at all. Those who don’t make a conscious effort at being authentic usually have style, the Tracey Amons of this world do not. But give them an A for trying. Gstaad, after all, is a microcosm of the bigger picture, where you have the rich and the less rich, and those who don’t try but want what the rich have. They’re known as Corbynistas and have less style than the Traceys of this world. But we have none of the former and too much of the latter.