Taki's Top Drawer

A War of Attrition

GSTAAD—Writing in the Spectator diary, Lady Antonia Fraser, widow of Harold Pinter, recounts how then vice president Lyndon Johnson stipulated at a Jamaican party that he would dance as long as no words were exchanged. Toward the end of her dance with Lyndon, Antonia noted how well Lady Bird looked, and LBJ simply walked off the dance floor. A later occupant of the White House, Jimmy Carter, was not as discourteous as the ...

Mozart family on tour: Leopold, Wolfgang, Nannerl; watercolour by Carmontelle, c. 1763

Goodbye, Wolfie

GSTAAD—This is the best news since the Bush-Blair duo saved us from the nuclear holocaust Saddam was about to unleash upon us. Half a million—perhaps even one million—dead Iraqis later, we were, nevertheless, saved with minutes to spare, so we should always believe official sources. Especially when Uncle Sam is involved. This time the good news is not nuclear but musical. The Mostly Mozart Festival has been canceled by ...

To Your Health

GSTAAD—Here’s a tip for you young whippersnappers: Don’t get old, but if you do, you can fool Father Time by training the smart way. By this I don’t mean you should follow all that bull that floats around online. I don’t use social media, but I’m told that a system exists that reaches millions across multiple platforms that spreads misinformation about health and then some. The wellness industry means big moola and ...

Paris, France

Paris Was Yesterday

GSTAAD—A reader’s inquiry as to why I think Paris was yesterday has me remembering times past. When did the party end? According to the point of view of many night owls, the party ended when the Queen of the Night, Regine, shut down “New Jimmy’s” and moved to London, where she flopped. Boring accountant types believe it was “les événements de soixante-huit,” the student-worker revolt against de Gaulle, that did ...

A Matter of Speaking

I am writing this dispatch from the birthplace of “oracy,” the art of public speaking first perfected by the Athenian Demosthenes, a speaker so eloquent and influential he managed to force the great Aristotle to move back to Macedonia, his birthplace. Demosthenes did not like nor trust northern Greeks like Aristotle and his pupil, one Alexander the Great, the same distrust that many American Southerners felt for the ...

Birthday With Sir Bob

CORONIS—Trafficking in enchantment, I sailed west to Coronis, the most perfect private isle on this planet. At times I think I’m in the realm of fantasy, such is the beauty of the place, the perfection of its function, yet a nouveaux riche—say, Bezos or Zuckerberg—would most likely find it not up to par because of its understatement. The island is greener than green, with olive trees and pines and vegetable gardens all ...

Spetses, Greece

Playing Ketch

On board Aello—she was built in 1921, a beautiful wooden ketch that is as graceful to look at as she’s uncomfortable for fat cats accustomed to gin palaces. I’ve sailed her throughout the years, the last time giving her to my children as I was in plaster having fallen from a balcony in Gstaad. This time it was worse. In fact it was the greatest no-show since Edward VIII skipped his coronation and showed up on the French ...

Warren G. Harding

A Tale of Two Presidents

ATHENS—With energy bordering on the demonic I strut around an ancient stadium trying to make up for the debauchery of the past two weeks in Patmos. Alexandra has flown back to Gstaad and I’m staying with my oldest friend, Aliki Goulandris, whose magnificent country house north of the capital brings back very pleasant memories. Just saying her name, which is Alice in English, makes me think of my youth and my two tiny ...

Patmos, Greece

Fire Islands

PATMOS—While green Rhodes and greener Corfu burn away, arid Patmos remains fireproof because rock and soil do not a bonfire make. The Almighty granted some islands plenty of water, and other ones no H2O whatsoever. Most of the Cycladic isles lug in drinking water from the mainland and do with treated unsalted seawater for planting. The Ionian Isles have springs and rivers and also fires, some of them started by firebugs that ...

Patmos, Greece

The Path to Patmos

PATMOS—A funny thing happened on my way to this beautiful place, an island without druggies, nightclub creeps, clip joints, or hookers. I stopped in Athens for about five hours in order to look over old haunts and just walk around places I’d known as a youth, when I noticed something incredible: None of the youngsters I encountered were texting, nor were they glued to their mobiles and bumping into people. Sure, some were ...

Victoria Azarenka

Whose Fault?

Now that Wimbledon is over, a few thoughts about youthful brains showing traces of horse tranquilizers, angel dust, and cannabis, the ingredients that spell “moron.” I mean those sporting idiots who booed Victoria Azarenka after she lost the tiebreak 11 to 9 in the third set to the charming Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Here’s Vica, a woman, a mother, a wonderful player, and through no fault of her own a Belarusian, being ...

It’s Just Not Cricket

A poor little Greek boy writing about cricket etiquette is like Harry and Meghan lecturing on discretion, but never mind. As everyone but Joe Biden knows by now, Jonny Bairstow was given out recently during the second test match at Lord’s. For any of you out in Baja, California, who might have missed it, the Brit ducked a bouncer and left his crease, thinking the ball was dead. The Aussie keeper threw the ball at the stumps ...

WOW Factor

GSTAAD—There are lurid rumors circulating around this alpine village that an international literature symposium has taken place, with some of the richest and more recent arrivals demanding the arch suspect behind the alleged outrage to deny it or else. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” screamed a nightclub freak to the suspect right on Main Street. The suspect’s name, incidentally, happens to be Thomas Gommes. Now, I am the ...

Piazza Venezia

Elegy From Rome

To the Eternal City for the saddest of occasions, the funeral of the mother of Taki, 17, and Maria, 15, two of my four grandchildren. Assia was of noble birth and met my son John Taki at the Rosey school in Switzerland, where they both studied skiing and other such useful pursuits. They had a grand wedding at her ancestral home near Rome and went off on their honeymoon on my boat with twelve of their friends. After the two ...

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Camelot Cronies

Now that Robert F. Kennedy has declared his candidacy for America’s highest office, I can spill some beans about his family, having known many of them since before JFK became president in 1960. The late president was the first Kennedy I met, at a party given by Alice Topping, recently divorced from Dan Topping, heir to a platinum fortune and then majority owner of the New York Yankees baseball team. Needless to say, Alice ...

Portrait of Francisco D'Andrade in the title role by Max Slevogt, 1912

Spectator Sports

“I was 12 when I first got laid.” “Where was that?” “In Middlesbrough.” “How the hell did you get lucky at 12 in Middlesbrough, when I only managed it at 15 and on my father’s boat off Cannes in 1952?” “It was a dark and stormy night.” This was no tortured confession by some doomed poet or a gender-confused feminist, just party banter between the great Rod Liddle—who went Bulwer-Lytton on me—and the ...


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