London summer parties are a dime a dozen. The moment the weather turns hot, Englishmen cast aside their brollies and head for a garden party. This year was no different. I spent from the latter part of June until mid-July in England, and went to more parties than there are Trump haters in New York and L.A. There was a grand ball in the country given by the crown prince of Greece, Pavlos, for his 50th birthday that reminded me of my youth, because that’s what people used to do in the good old days: Give parties and balls for their friends and neighbors. No longer. Parties nowadays are given in order to promote a product or a person, and there are sponsors picking up the bill. Elsa Maxwell and Perle Mesta are turning over in their graves. Not to mention Mrs. J.J. Astor.
All that was good went with the wind once the vulgar new rich of Wall Street and Hollywood stopped aping their betters and began wearing sneakers with their tuxedos, and T-shirts with their Armani suits. Everything became commercial, every party a promotional event organized by p.r. flacks and reported by celebrity sites and publications. The rot started about 25 years ago, just as the Clintons hit the big time.
So it was a particular delight to go to a party and sit next to people who hadn’t paid a fortune for their seats and weren’t pushing some product. The English countryside can be magical during summer, and as Prince Pavlos was also celebrating his daughter Olympia’s 21st birthday, the place was crawling with beautiful young people dressed to the nines and dancing up a storm.
Just before I left the states for the U.K., I received a call from an old friend asking me to help get an American hack invited to the princely ball. The hack used to be an Andy Warhol groupie, and is someone I don’t particularly like. I refused. My friend said never mind. “We’ll get him invited without you.” For the record, and to my delight, they did not succeed. Such are the joys of giving a party for party’s sake, no strings attached and no obligations. Yippee!
Upon my return to London, the social whirl did not let up. Another private bash for 300 was given by my friend Robin Birley, and a lunch at Pug’s began at 12:45 and ended with us looking like the Karamazov brothers prostrate around the table at 8:45. And then came The Spectator summer party, an annual event I haven’t missed in 41 years.
The “Speccie” party is a sweaty, rowdy affair, although it has become much more civilized over the last ten years. Writers, journalists, artists, and politicians are invited, and the booze overflows like the Mississippi after a month-long rainfall. This year Prime Minister Theresa May, Secretary of State Boris Johnson, and other Cabinet ministers were in attendance, along with our own Freddy Gray, countless BBC Trump haters posing as impartial journalists, some pretty female RT correspondents, and yours truly.
Because of the crunch, I stood at a corner of the garden—the party is given at our headquarters, which is a grand house near Parliament with an even grander garden—chatting with Lord Lamont, chancellor of the exchequer during the early 90’s. Norman Lamont is an old friend. We talked about—what else?—the manner in which the wool is always pulled over American eyes where the Middle East is concerned, under both administrations, Republican and Democrat.
Let’s face it. George W. and the neocons started a catastrophic war that caused the greatest upheaval in that miserable part of the world since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Worse, a de facto unholy alliance has formed between Saudi Arabia (the most oppressive regime, bar none) and Israel, a country that has occupied land that does not belong to it, and its inhabitants, for exactly 50 years and two months. Religion and geopolitics connect the two: Israel has the crazies of the religious right who want to drive the Palestinians across the Jordan River, and the Saudis have the crazier Wahhabi fanatics who make foreign policy. Uncle Sam has always sided with the pair—now more than ever, as the two baddies have a common enemy, Iran. “Doesn’t anyone get it over there?” asked Norman. The Saudis finance terror in a very big way via the mosques they support throughout the world, and the Israelis call anyone who resists their brutal and illegal occupation a terrorist. By those lights, there are very few nonterrorists, said his lordship.
Actually, oppressive regimes do tend to flock together, but why Sam has to play the Good Uncle is a mystery to me. I know, I know, AIPAC and all that, plus zillions of cash spent by the Saudis in D.C., but I was brought up to think we were on the side of the angels, not the demons.
Just as I was getting hot under the collar, Boris Johnson asked to see me, and the subject changed from politics to girls. Yippee!