All eyes on the Philippines this week, and rightly so. Godspeed to those American and British ships making their way to the devastation in Leyte and Samar. It’s sad, though, that the global news machine can only process one disaster at a time. The world has all but forgotten the tropical storms and floods that have battered Acapulco in the past two months. It’s a lesser tragedy, with mercifully a much less significant death toll, but nevertheless it tears at my heart. Acapulco was my youthful stamping ground, the most glamorous, exciting, beautiful place I had ever been. At 22 I went on holiday there for a week and stayed for another six. It was a playground for some big Hollywood names, and the surroundings reflected their standards of hedonism. I followed in their footsteps like a panting little puppy, water-skiing around the gorgeous, unpolluted bay for hours, eating in fabulous restaurants and dancing all night. Alas, no more. These days it feels as if the drug cartels have taken over: everyone who owned a villa triple-locked their doors and hired hefty security guards. Most of those I knew eventually sold up and left.
The Oscar race has begun in earnest, with a few good movies on release and some terrible ones. I agree with all the praise for Tom Hanks inCaptain Phillips— but not aboutGravity, the film which has the lovely and talented Sandra Bullock being pulled about in space on what looks like an umbilical cord. It sent me to sleep. I dragged Percy and Ivan Massow to see another film I had high hopes for, having read four-star raves from several critics. Sadly it was such a pretentious boring dud that we left halfway through. It amazes me that critics can be so enthusiastic about what was — we all agreed — a dull second-rate film, and yet give lukewarm and bad reviews to truly entertaining and original movies. (Blue Jasminewas underrated this year, for instance.) I keep re-learning that the ‘critics’ choice’ is most emphatically not mine.
It was enormous fun collating photographs for my new illustrated memoir,Passion for Life. There are more than 500 images in the finished book, but the most exciting find, for me, was a cache of early-20th-century photographs and scrapbooks belonging to my late Aunt Pauline, which now forms the bulk of the chapter on my family. As the pictures show, we were a showbiz tribe. My grandmother entertained the troops in ostrich feathers and lace-up boots during the Boer War, my Aunt Lalla played opposite the 1920s matinee idol Jack Buchanan in a West End revue, and Aunt Pauline revealed more than a hint of legs and bare bosom as a showgirl and flapper. My grandfather and father, who were agents and theatrical entrepreneurs, oversaw them all, and reminded me of a famous Mel Brooks line: ‘Judge, I confess I’m a lying, backstabbing, stinking cheat — I can’t help it: I’m a Broadway producer!’
It’s been ten years since Percy and I took the last flight of that beautiful bird Concorde. We went from New York to Heathrow — and how the tears and the champagne flowed as we landed. Even the fire department got into the act and sprayed three planes with their hoses as a gesture of farewell. I still miss it. A trip to New York that took less than three-and-a-half hours can now take over nine. One devastating crash sealed the fate of a sleek achievement of Anglo-French ‘entente’, and now Concorde flies no more. Rest well, our streamlined friend, though I yearn for your return.
Throwing a party is always enjoyable and my book launch had all the ingredients for a marvellous one. The venue was No. 41, next to the Westbury Hotel, a glamorous nightclub with a fleur-de-lys carpet, Titian-style baroque paintings, burgundy velvet banquettes and a magnificent mirrored bar. One hundred and twenty souls were invited and I thought that, as often happens, many of the celebrities wouldn’t show. I was so wrong. Shortly after the designated hour, Tom Ford arrived, the epitome of masculine glamour and style, closely followed by A.A. Gill and Tim Jeffries, no slouches in the dandy department themselves. Then, within what seemed the blink of an eye, Jeffrey Archer, Lynda La Plante, Peter James and William Boyd turned up, closely followed by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Tamara Beckwith and Amanda Eliasch. Hairstylists to the stars Nicky Clarke and Charles Worthington threatened scissors at dawn. Towards the end, in swept Signor Valentino Garavani accompanied by Giancarlo Giammetti and the photographer Mario Testino — like a second-wave assault on Normandy. I’m still on a high just thinking about it. To paraphrase Frank and Bing, what a swell party this was.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated16 November 2013