A recent libel case won by Lady Moore, wife of Sir Roger Moore of James Bond fame, called for my testimony in London, and for once I was happy to oblige.  Roger Moore is a friend of very long standing, as is his son, Geoffrey, who lives 50 yards away from me in Gstaad.  British hacks are notorious for never allowing facts to get in the way of a good story, but in this case the Daily Mail paid dearly for involving the wrong Kiki.

Let’s go back 54 years, when a very young Taki (20) arrived on the French Riviera and was extremely lucky to hook up with the prettiest Swedish girl by far in that sunny place for shady people (Somerset Maugham’s description).  Her name was Kiki, she was 16 or 17, and she moved in with me in a tiny room without bath in the Hotel du Cap, made famous by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald as the hotel where Rosemary meets Dick in Tender Is the Night.

After two or three weeks of unbridled passion, all hell broke loose.  I opened up Kiki’s bag looking for cigarettes and found a wad of francs worthy of a drug dealer and then some.  Under vigorous interrogation, Kiki admitted that it was a gift from an older man, a disgusting individual of unknown origins.  The love affair ended on a sour note, although Kiki went on to marry one of the richest Americans and take him to the cleaners.

I wrote about that ill-fated romance a couple of years ago in the London Spectator, and a gossip columnist read it, put two and two together, and got five.  He figured my Kiki was the Kiki of Roger Moore (she, too, is Swedish) and, certain that the two Kikis were one and the same, ran the item, greatly embarrassing the Moores.  (I hadn’t revealed Kiki’s surname in the original article.)

When I testified that I met Lady Moore 40 years after my Riviera idyll with Kiki, it was only a matter of how much Roger and his Kiki would accept for being libeled.  (I hope it was in six figures.)  In the meantime, the Hotel du Cap got a lot of good publicity, which is the bad news.

Let me explain.  I spent my youth at the Hotel du Cap, having first gone there in 1952 with my parents, when the hotel was still owned by the family that had put up with Scott’s and Zelda’s shenanigans during the Roaring Twenties.  For the next 30 years I spent every summer at the hotel and its famed Eden Roc clubhouse, probably the happiest years ever, as the hotel was the place to be back before the nouveau-riche scum from the Middle East and the old Soviet Union polluted the place beyond repair or redemption.  Visit and weep is the only way to describe it.

I was there exactly 14 months ago, for Naomi Campbell’s 40th birthday party, thrown by her Russian boyfriend to the tune of a couple of million euros.  Among 400 guests there were five gentlemen: Leopold Bismarck, Tim Hoare, Nick Scott, Heinrich Furstenberg, and yours truly.  And three ladies: Countess Bismarck, Princess Furstenberg, and Princess Han­over.  (My wife refused to go, although my boat was anchored below the hotel.)  Never have I seen so many gangsters and hookers.

Which is the type the hotel caters to nowadays.  The Sella family sold the hotel about 30 years ago to a German group, which looked at the bottom line and decided to improve it.  The result was predictable.  Nice people cannot afford the over-the-top prices of the hotel, and even if they could, who wants to lie next to disgustingly behaved Russians in the first place?

Although the hotel has not changed physically, its neoclassical façade surrounded by pined woodland and tennis courts that lead down to the sea, the people have, and that makes all the difference.  There are no more Dukes of Windsors, Gianni Agnellis, Noel Cowards, Rita Hayworths, Jack Warners, Aly Khans, King Farouks, Joe Kennedys, Gary Coopers, King Alberts of Belgium, Marlene Dietrichs, or Scott Fitzgeralds any more.  Not even a Taki.

Here was a typical day back in the Fabulous Fifties.  I’d wake up around nine, breakfast in the grand terrace facing the sea, then go on to the tennis courts for a long hit and good sweat to get rid of the alcohol from the night before.  Then on down to the cabanas screened by shrubbery from the gaze of upstanding folk who might not approve of monkey business before or immediately after a liquid lunch on the terrace of the clubhouse.  After a long swim in the afternoon and more tennis, there were pre-dinner drinks at the hotel terrace, and then it was time once again to go hunting for women, a popular sport among Riviera regulars.  It may sound like an empty life, but it sure was fun.

Thanks for nothing, Kiki.