January 11, 2008
GSTAAD—Although I have to declare an interest, by far the most authentic comments about the Bhutto murder were those by Jemima Khan in the Sunday Telegraph. As Jemima pointed out, Benazir never repealed the Hudood Ordinances, Pakistan’s “heinous” laws that make no distinction between rape and adultery, failed to pass a single major law, and “kowtowed” to the mullahs and backed the Taliban, which illustrate to me the bankruptcy of America’s foreign policy. All style no substance. If Benazir represented democracy, I am Oprah Winfrey. And I further agree with Jemima when she wrote that if there has to be a Bhutto as successor to Benazir, it should be Fatima Bhutto. At least the name matches. What pisses me off is the manner in which everyone refers to Benazir’s son as Bilawal Bhutto. It’s Bilawal Zardari, or better yet, Mr. Ten Percent junior. If the kid enjoys the benefit of the alleged 1.5 billion his old man stole from the kitty, the least he can do is use his daddy’s name.
Which brings me to the awful habit by ghastly minor celebrities to use not their correct moniker but that of a better-known member of their family. For example: Lydia Shaw— whose mother, Patty Hearst Shaw, is known for having been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and, in turn, having robbed a bank at gun point—calls herself Lydia Hearst. The fact that her father and mother are married and it is proper to use one’s paternal name doesn’t seem to bother her a bit. Hearst is better known, and her father was, after all, just a bodyguard. Ditto one Paris Kasidokostas. He is always referred to as Paris Latsis, his maternal grandfather’s name, and to hell with his old dad, an ex-water-ski instructor who is mayor of a beachside resort east of Athens. Latsis was a billionaire, which I guess is taken more seriously than water skiing. Elena Ford, whose mother is Charlotte Ford, but whose father was Stavros Niarchos, uses the Ford name, and the N word never appears. I suppose being an automobile, Ford has its advantages, but not if the Ford Motor Company keeps going the way it is. There are also the Guerrand-Hermes. I knew them when they had the Hermes shop in Paris and their name was Guerrand. Now it’s Guerrand-Hermes, a bit like Richard Branson calling himself Sir Richard Branson-Virgin. (Not a bad idea if he ever thinks of it). I suppose it all began with Heinrich Thyssen when he took an obscure Hungarian title that his mother claimed, stuck it to his name, and overnight became Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemitsa.
What I’ve often wondered about is the hurt feelings of those whose inferior names have been chucked for more upmarket ones. If my son suddenly became Prince John-Taki Schoenburg-Hartenstein, I’d be awfully pissed off. In fact I’d cut him off and tell him to collect his allowance from the Schoenburgs. And speaking of upmarket marriages, I’ve received so many congratulatory messages and crates of wine from readers of the Spectator, I think it’s time to set the record straight. Perhaps it was the booze, or maybe it was the unlikelihood of it all, but Mary Wakefield and I are not getting hitched anytime soon. I played a joke on her, but the joke was on me, as Mary didn’t even bother to protest nor take out a full-page ad denying it. (The only one who overreacted was my first Spectator editor of 30 years ago, Alexander Chancellor, who rang up the magazine and asked if everyone there had gone quite mad). But I shall keep and drink the wine sent to me from some very nice Speccie readers, and the next time my cellar needs replenishing, I will once again announce my imminent wedding to the divine Mary.
And now it’s bad news time. I spent my youth being told by important types that the Russians were coming unless we remained vigilant and crushed any pro-communist voices quicker than you say tovarich. Long time readers of this infantile column must remember the war I waged against the Russkies during the bad old days of the Cold War. All for nought, I must say. We beat the evil system but lost the f——- war. The bloody Russians are here, and they are one hundred times worse than those nice guys who once upon a time gave us the Gulag. Now I finally understand what the great Graham Greene meant when he said he preferred the Gulag to Los Angeles. Greene had seen the future, and it certainly didn’t work. Russian oligarchs are like Gulag guards, but unlike the latter, they are out of Siberia and among us. They are crude, vicious, fat, vulgar, coarse, loud, as physically ugly as it’s possible to be, uncouth, uncultivated, boorish, and brutal, and that’s only from afar. They make rich Saudis sound fun. They’ve occupied and ruined Courchevel, St. Moritz, Val d’Isere, and are now laying siege to Verbier, which, in a way, might force out British oiks and improve the place. Gstaad is still holding out, a beautiful Byzantium surrounded by barbarians—and we all know how that one turned out.
So, I made a deal with the local newspaper. I will contribute a column each week as long as their editorial reminds the peasantry of the kleptocrat menace. Why oh why was I so dumb all these years. Cuddly commies tortured and shot their own kind. They never came to the Alps, never owned superyachts, football teams, or private jets, and their women were of age. Ah, for those good old days of fat Russian hookers with unshaved armpits.
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