Juliette Gréco’s recent death in her 90s brought back some melodramatic memories. Back in 1957 Gréco was one of France’s premier chanteuses of torch songs, a very sexy young woman all dressed in black with auburn hair and very white skin, who sang of doomed love and romantic longing. Darryl F. Zanuck, the legendary ex-head of 20th Century Fox, had fallen rather hard when he saw her perform in a Parisian Left Bank bistro and decided to make her a film star. While casting The Roots of Heaven, the movie that would be her introduction, Zanuck and La Gréco had moved to the French Riviera, where Zanuck gambled very large sums at the chemmy table every night at the Cannes summer casino. Juliette sat next to him and played every hand heRead More »
Articles by Taki Theodoracopulos
GSTAAD—I’ve been wrestling all week with indecision, the kind that tests one’s soul, and the uncertainty is killing me. It’s like having to choose between Keira Knightley and Jennifer Lawrence, when it’s normal to want both. No, I’m not being greedy, and it’s not even my fault, but that of my esteemed colleague Douglas Murray, author of The Madness of Crowds and a fellow columnist at The Spectator. Two weeks ago, and at his most serious, he proposed that I be put in charge of either the BBC or the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Yippee, hooray!
Douglas was annoyed when certain Tory wets did not defend the appointment of a past Australian prime minister as a U.K. trade adviser. Instead of telling a left-wing female hack
GSTAAD—I’m not usually nonplussed, but this is very strange: The memoirs of Barbara Black, the wife of my good friend Lord Black, simply do not make sense where certain people she writes about are concerned, persons whom I happen to know well. The list is not long, and I’ll start with David Graham, her third and extremely rich husband, who was the biggest bore I have ever met, and believe you me, I’ve met a few in my long life. With kindness in mind, she fails to mention what a terrific bore he was, and also the cheapest man I’ve ever come across. (He’d be dead before the credits in a cowboy film, being so slow on the draw.) He was such a rube that one time in Saint-Tropez I finally told him, “Never, but never speak to me again,Read More »
GSTAAD—It snowed during the last two days of August up here, and why not? We’ve traded freedom of speech for “freedom from speech,” so on an upside-down planet, snow in the Alps in August is the new normal. The world is suddenly a grim place, a sick prank when you think of it, a kamikaze fantasy with the bad guys winning and being cheered on by the left and the media. The virus is now a metaphor, religion having been cast aside by the global elite who follow only their interests and think of the rest of us as cannon fodder.
Reading the papers a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that only Daniel Hannan in The Sunday Telegraph brought up that 100 years ago Jozef Pilsudski, in the Miracle of the Vistula, saved the Western world from
GSTAAD—I experienced my first Zoom conference last week, and didn’t think much of it. As the great Yogi Berra once remarked, “You can observe a lot just by watching,” but in my case I observed very little and heard quite a lot. I suppose one day in the future every meeting will be Zoom-style, but I bet my bottom dollar they’ll never be as preposterous as was the annual Pugs Club get-together.
As everyone knows, Pugs is the world’s most exclusive club, by a long shot. Pugs had 21 members at one point, but we lost Christopher Lee, and then our president Nick Scott and our commodore Tim Hoare. Pugs has neither a purpose nor a motto, and was an invention of Nick Scott’s while recuperating from a massive hangover on my boat off a
GSTAAD—Birthdays at my age are for the birds, but always a good excuse for a party. Messages of good wishes began early on, with loyal Speccie reader Arnold Taylor ringing from South Africa, and Rosemary and Wafic Said texting from the English countryside. (They wished me a happy 39th. I accepted.) My great buddy Michael Mailer, staying with the Kennedys at the family compound in Hyannis Port, had hoped to fly over but the you-know-what prevented it, while Charlie Glass rang from London to announce the end of capitalism as well as yours truly. I asked Charlie to answer me truthfully because it was my birthday, and he swore he would: “Do you have as many children out of wedlock as Boris, or more?” He hung up on me.
I write this under an Attic sun reflecting from the marbles of the Acropolis and into my living room. This was once the center of Western civilization, its stem just hundreds of feet from where I’m standing. Individual liberty and democracy first flourished right here, when 300 Spartans gladly went to their inevitable death against as many as 100,000 Persians in order to preserve free thought. Because of their sacrifice and those of many others following their example, fifty-some-odd centuries of triumph and tragedy have created a rich historical and cultural heritage that has indelibly stamped its imprint on the way Greeks think. No modern state believes so strongly in the continuity of its national existence from the dawn ofRead More »
SERIFOS—There’s no high life here, only family life, so I’ve been hitting the books about great Greeks of the past, and they sure make today’s bunch look puny. Philosophers, playwrights, statesmen, artists, poets, orators, sculptors—the ancients had them all. In 2,500 years they’ve never been equaled. I was once at the New York Met walking around the Greek wing and I ran into Henry Kissinger, whom I knew slightly. He asked me what ancient Athens’ population was. “About twenty to thirty thousand citizens,” I answered. He shook his head in amazement. “And they produced all this,” he said.
When I first began learning about the Greeks—my great-uncle was the foremost intellectual of his time and a brilliant pedagogue—I was mystified
ATHENS—This ancient city without tourists reminds me of the Athens I once knew and loved, but for the hideous ’60s modern buildings that defaced its beauty like plastic surgery gone wrong. Walking around the winter royal palace and the national gardens, I point out some old beauties to the wife on Herod Atticus and King George II streets. The chic addresses are of friends, now mostly gone forever, and I include number 13 Herod Atticus, where over the course of six weeks the greatest classic since The Iliad was written by the famous scholar Taki back in 1974. (My publisher and dear friend Tom Stacey made close to a billion from it, and built numerous Xanadus the world over, each palace containing ten floors, each floor tenRead More »
The lockdown and its enforced boredom have been replaced by a consistent feeling of loss, my nephew by marriage Hansie Schoenburg, age 33, from a brain tumor, and my close friend Shariar Bachtiar, 72, most likely by his own hand. Hansie was tall, blond, a Yale grad, and extremely handsome. Recently married, he died surrounded by his family.
Shariar was the Persian Boy, who as a slender, bright-eyed 6-year-old who spoke not a word of English was dispatched from Persia to an English school known for its cold rooms and strict rules. The Persian Boy learned early to do without parents. The bitter irony of their death was that Hansie willed himself to live these last fifteen years, whereas Shariar had had enough. Unlike many newly
GSTAAD—Are any of you tired of reading about Ghislaine Maxwell and her sleazy life? Bored with old news repeated ad nauseam by people who never had—and still don’t have—a clue? Well, your intrepid high-life correspondent does have a clue, so here goes.
But before I go on about la Maxwell, a few thoughts about the drama taking place in Court 13 on the Strand, where I had the leading role in an 1986 drama—also starring Charles Moore and some lesser characters—that almost broke the poor little Greek boy and also impoverished our ex–great proprietor Algy Cluff. As readers of this column surely know, I loathe Hollywood types, those preening egomaniacal popinjays adored and worshipped by brain-dead zombies known as fans, featured as
Apple pie, farms, local movie theaters, pickup baseball games, swimming holes, volunteer firemen, and small libraries with very old lady librarians: an America soon to be gone with the wind. I just read a piece by Scott McConnell in The American Conservative, a magazine we cofounded eighteen years ago, that mentions unfairness in the historical sense. He writes about the victims of communism being less commemorated than the victims of fascism. The death toll of communism was 100 million. (See: The Black Book of Communism.) While the mass murders were going on, your Cambridge Joseph Needhams and his fellow apologists insisted that Maoism represented mankind’s best hope. Maoism never received the moral obloquy that Nazism did. TheRead More »
GSTAAD—Oh, to be in America, where cultural decay and self-destruction compete equally with hyperfeminist and anti-racist agendas. Gone With the Wind is suddenly as popular as Triumph of the Will is in Israel, and the great Robert E. Lee’s statue in Richmond is as likely to remain upright as a Ku Klux Klan rally in Harlem. I give the statue of my hero a week at the most. And over here poor old Winnie is also in the you-know-what. Why didn’t anyone tell me Churchill was a Nazi? The Cenotaph also has to go—those guys it honors were racists.
Two weeks ago in The Spectator Douglas Murray said it all about a U.S. import we can do without. Alas, when Uncle Sam sneezes, the British bulldog gets the flu. The scenes may be less dramatic
VIENNA—Somebody once described Vienna as a top opera performed by understudies. The remark was unquestionably witty, but utterly false back when it was made. It is perfectly true for today, however. During the 650-year rule of the Habsburgs, Vienna reigned supreme, an opera sung by its greatest stars. It is the present Vienna, having lost its empire, its imperial family, and its power, that is sung by the understudies. I’ve just spent three days there, in Harry Lime time.
Okay, close your eyes and imagine the Grand Canal with only a few gondolas and no floating-behemoth horrors, the Bridge of Sighs without the Chinese hordes below, the Spanish Steps with only Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, and Vienna with no tourists but a sole
AUSTRIA—I finally understand what’s wrong with the modern world: motorways! These dehumanizing slabs of asphalt lining our continents are Prometheus-like chains luring us to nonstop movement and uniformity. But before you start screaming that you’ve been isolated for months and would give up a night with Jennifer Lawrence to roar down a highway, let me explain:
It all began when Alexandra and I decided to visit my daughter and the new baby in Austria. It was my idea to drive there, the Swiss-German-Austrian borders having opened that very day. When the wife suggested a chauffeur I said no. When the son assured me I’d get lost, I threatened financial repercussions that I can no longer enforce. I then recounted stories of travels
Solitude is a blissful disengagement from the horrors of modern-day life, even if forced upon us by a government lockdown. The trouble with the present situation is the idiot box. The enforced solitude would be a blessing—it tends to breed spirituality—but for the escapism of television. The absolute rubbish, the vulgarity and violence that the networks put out nowadays and call entertainment, is far more dangerous than the virus we’re isolating against.
But this is about solitude, so I’ll skip the Hollywood horrors. We tend to derive as much good from time spent alone as we do from interpersonal relationships. It can, of course, have terrible effects, as in Conrad’s Nostromo, where a character expires after being stranded on a
GSTAAD—Well, Theodora did not wait and I missed yet another grandchild’s birth. (The prettiest little blue-eyed thing ever, if I say so myself.) Funny thing is, I’ve never been able to be there when it counts. I missed my daughter’s birth because I was playing tennis in Palm Beach and got to the Bagel ten minutes too late. (She rarely forgets to mention it.) I missed my boy’s because I went back to sleep and Alexandra chose not to wake me. Taki and Maria were born in Rome, and Antonius and Theodora in Salzburg. This makes children and grandchildren 6, yours truly 0. Nothing to be proud of but I make up for it.
For example: After my father died I instructed the household to always refer to my person as the GP. GP did not stand for
The front page of the New York Post on the 20th of April, 2020, said it all: a large crowd in front of a Brooklyn barbershop being dispersed by police after a riotous party. There was no social distancing, just glum faces full of aggression and contempt for the fuzz. There was not a single white face among them. So far, so bad. Let’s skip now to remarks by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Both are calling the epidemic a historical injustice, with a flawed health system designed to help the rich. The Queens Congress lassie, as opportunistic as Fagin of Oliver Twist fame, is demanding reparations for “racism and discrimination built into public policies that make the pandemic worse for blacks.”Read More »
Aristophanes was a comic genius before the Marx Brothers, but he also gave good advice to the Athenians: Stop the war! In his play Lysistrata he had the women going on strike—no more nookie—until the men stopped fighting. During the plague that killed the greatest Athenian of them all, Pericles, Aristophanes advised the young to isolate, meditate, and masturbate, advice still valid to this day.
Greece, with roughly the same population as Switzerland, and under siege by migrants turned loose by the dreaded Turks, has handled the crisis well. Unlike the American media that is using the virus crisis in order to attack Trump, the Greek people will not tolerate such craven opportunism and dishonesty. Criticism of the government is
Desperately boring times, but very healthy ones. No parties, no girls, not too much boozing, lots of smoking and reading very late into the night. And nonstop training and sport. What else can one do when locked in with one’s wife and one’s son and with nostalgic thoughts of a time when people gathered in groups? It seems very long ago, but do any of you remember when people gave parties?
Desperate times demand desperate measures and make for desperate columnists. Meditation might be good for philosophers and their ilk, but correspondents need to get out and get the story. The only thing to report nowadays is the sleeping habits of cows (standing up), plow horses (ditto), and Swiss peasants (with one eye open, in case some
GSTAAD—I shoulda been a weatherman. No sooner had I announced snow to be a Gstaad rarity than it came down nonstop. Then it rained, so everything’s hunky-dory. Older rich people who don’t ski are happy after the scare of a snowfall, while younger types who do indulge are over the moon. Happy, happy Gstaad, but not really; the coronavirus news has some scared out of their wits, in fact this alpine village is beginning to feel like Der Tod in Venedig, or Death in Venice for non-German speakers.
The great South African doubles specialist Frew McMillan, now the best tennis commentator on TV, used to call me Dirk, as in Bogarde, because he thought I looked a bit like the thespian. “Different sexual proclivities,” I used to shout back
GSTAAD—It feels like a sepia-tinged melodrama, one directed by the great schlock-master Sam Wood. Driving up the winding valleys through the 17th-century villages and the Castle of Gruyères on one’s right, the heartbeat quickened as Gstaad beckoned in the distance. It meant beautiful women, parties galore, challenging snow-covered slopes to swish down on, and a friendly atmosphere among the lucky few who knew about the place. All that has gone down the drain, except for the prices of everything, which have gone through the roof. It’s called progress. I used to be able to identify the mood of a time, especially here in Gstaad, but no longer. For starters, there is no more snow from upstairs, only man-made white stuff. The lastRead More »
GSTAAD—Lenin Moreno is in trouble despite his very unchristian first name. For any of you unfamiliar with him, Señor Moreno is the president of Ecuador, a tiny South American country that I like very much because if you’ve met an Ecuadorean man, you’ve met them all: There are 16 million Ecuadoreans, and 8 million of them, the men, all look like identical twins. One of my closest friends on the tennis circuit back in the late ’50s/early ’60s was Guillermo Zuleta, an Ecuadorean, who was the color of copper and could run all day, all night, 48 hours straight as long as he was chasing a tennis ball. Those were not color-blind days, and I remember one time, while watching Guillermo playing a match, an Australian lady expressed outrageRead More »
I find myself detached from mainstream culture. It started with the demise of nightclubs like Annabel’s, and the people that frequent them with names like Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Fat Joe, Pusha T, DaBaby, and others of their ilk. All real names, incidentally, lifted from saccharine, slush-like descriptions by gossip columnists of nightclubbing celebrities. Yep, things sure ain’t what they used to be—after dark, that is. Forget top hats and tails, or older men leering at figure-eight gals dressed in clingy gowns; this is the #MeToo era and men are almost redundant. The blatant extravagance and at times arrogance that came with inherited money are over. Silly, empty-headed dowagers are a thing of the past. Women nowadays goRead More »
I never thought I’d get back to this silly subject ever again, but the Markles, as I now refer to them, have a way of getting our attention—and embarrassing Al Capone in the process. (As the feds were closing in on him, Al was told Chicago was getting too hot and he should move to Canada. “Canada?” growled Capone, “I don’t even know what street that’s on.”) Well, for any of you who, like Capone, have never heard of the place, Canada is a very big country run by an even bigger fool named Trudeau. But Canada’s fuzz dress beautifully in red tunics and shiny black boots and always get their man. And now this lucky country also has the Markles, or royal riffraff, as some embittered old British salts now call them. But let’s not beRead More »
I write this from the once-upon-a-time small alpine village of Gstaad, Switzerland, now a mecca of the nouveaux riches and vulgar, snow and manners having gone with the wind. Global warming is still a maybe, as far as I’m concerned, but the visual evidence right here in the Alps is undeniable. The glacier I used to ski on almost year-round has disappeared, and man-made snow is pumped out daily in its place. The reason I’m reluctant to believe the climate Cassandras is because their prophetic gifts have been very wrong in the past—Prince Charles predicted the end of the world some time ago, but he’s still flying private around the globe twenty years on—and that Swedish teenager who accuses us of killing her future is a publicityRead More »
I began my journalistic career under strict censorship. It was imposed on the press and media by the Greek colonels who had seized power in a bloodless coup in Athens on April 21, 1967. Censorship, however, suited me fine. That’s because I was an ardent backer of the coup, the democratic process having been torn to shreds by the socialists and extreme left-wingers in Parliament. Fifty-two years later I am once again writing under censorship, this time virulently unsuited to it, the inspectors now being the politically correct gestapo who hand down punishments for life. One wrong word and one’s career is kaput, no ifs or buts about it.
A society in which free speech or an ill-judged joke means losing one’s livelihood is not a
No use piling on where Prince Andrew is concerned. It’s not the end of the world, and he’s not among the brightest, either. Back in the summer of 2007, in Saint-Tropez, I had a boatload of guests and we all went to a party given by the Rubin family in their villa. It was a very gay night, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word “gay,” and soon we were joined by a slutty-looking beauty from the Far East and the prince with the highest IQ on the planet, Andrew. He was polite but distant, concentrating on the slutty beauty. That’s when I told my friend Debbie Bismarck that Andy had no chance. “Just watch me,” I said.
I inched myself close to the babe in question, signaling to her that I needed to tell her something, and when she
At the time it felt like a century, but it was only twelve years. I began this column in 1977 and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the latter calling for an end to my anti-communist tracts that my first editor, Alexander Chancellor, described as quasi-fascist efforts to subvert democracy. By 1977 I had been trying for a couple of years to get something published in the Speccie, and only achieved it when I abandoned right-wing politics and wrote about how one could always tell an Englishman abroad. (Brits would use flashlights and check their bill in dark and crowded Parisian nightclubs, making them persona non grata with waiters at Jimmy’s.)
Twelve years had seemed a lifetime back then, and once the wall had come down I gave a
NEW YORK—What follows will bore the pants off you, but at least it beats another piece on Brexit. Perhaps some of you are interested in old Bagel buildings, as I am, but if Boris doesn’t make a deal with Nigel and the vote is split, I will make sure to blow up the houses of those responsible for easing an old Marxist fool into 10 Downing. Boris, I love you, but please call Nigel. So here goes about buildings that are not about to be blown up:
The prewar aesthetic of the Bagel’s storied past was one of grandeur, beauty, and power. The buildings still stand out as a bygone romance with elegance, as opposed to the ugly cutting edge of Jean Nouvel’s and Frank Gehry’s modern monstrosities. A recent coffee-table book about how the