As everyone who has ever joined a club knows, Pugs is the world’s most exclusive one, its members ranging from German nobility and Greek and Danish royalty to the British upper classes, Indian nobility and American and Greek aristocracy. Plus Sir Bob Geldof and Roger Taylor of pop music royalty. Club rules prohibit membership to exceed 21, hence a titanic struggle is taking place, as I write, to fill the last two spots. We are, at present, 19 members.
Last week in London, the annual Pugs lunch took place and I flew over for it from New York, despite running a temperature and suffering from flu. Mind you, it was worth it. Everyone wore the sky-blue and white striped necktie of the club, evoking a gentler time when men wore uniforms and marched in step. At one head of the table sat Sir Christopher Lee, our oldest member, who, at the age of 92, has two films and three recordings out this year alone. At the other end were Sir Bob Geldof and club commodore Tim Hoare. I sat between Count Leopold Bismarck and Prince Nikolaos of Greece, who had flown in from the birthplace of electrolysis especially for the meeting.
His older brother, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, opened the proceedings by suggesting we leave the voting for new members until last — the prince is a very nice man who does not like blackballing people — but his suggestion was unanimously rejected. Even before the first course, but after numerous bottles of wine had been consumed, we dealt with a plethora of proposals for membership, a most pleasant business. For starters, Charles Saatchi received 19 black balls out of 19, which means his name can never come up again. Following was Edward St Aubyn, who received 22 black balls, which, according to club rules, needed an open explanation. I was the one who had to stand and explain why there were more black balls than members voting. The reason was that St Aubyn had blackened his father’s name by writing that his old man had buggered him silly, all in order to exorcise his demons, patricide being a real no-no among Pugs members. So there was a second vote on St Aubyn and this time he got 25 black balls. After him, Jay Zee, or Jay Z, the rapper billionaire, also received more black balls than we are members, so the president himself, Nick Scott, aka Professor Gimlet, explained that, while the rapper was being kicked and beaten by his sister-in-law, the rapper did not react in a typical rapper manner by punching her in the mouth and calling her a bitch. Not acting like a rapper when one has made a billion as a rapper deserves a black ball and a half, hence the result.
After that particularly pleasant interlude, lunch was served and then once again we had to vote. This time for Pugs’ dream date. But before nominations were heard, Prince Heinrich von Fürstenberg warned members that Arpad Busson’s dalliance with one of the Kardashian women could bring the club’s impeccable name and ranking into disrepute. Busson strenuously denied any contact, but the more he denied it, the less he was believed by his fellow Pugs. The dream girl we finally agreed on for 2014 was Kristin Scott Thomas, although in the secret ballot there was one vote for a Kardashian, the handwriting being rather familiar to me as that of Arpad Busson, with the same misspellings. (Mine vot ees fer….) But it could have been a jokester among us trying to blacken a poor Swiss boy’s chances with Kristin.
What goodies come with being the dream date of Pugs club? Quite a lot, actually. A weekend on George Livanos’s private Greek island. An indefinite stay at chalet Palataki in Gstaad. A weekend of shooting on England’s greatest sporting estate, Gunnerside, graciously offered by the owner Bob Miller, another member. A cruise on Mark Getty’s magnificent clipper bowed yacht Talitha, ditto a cruise on Mark’s half-brother Tara Getty’s boat, Tara being the most recent member elected to Pugs. Commodore Hoare has also offered his beautiful sailing boat, but she is for the moment unavailable as she is being repaired. (Plus ça change.) I could go on. Basically, I will become engaged to Kristin later on this year, and by that time I hope to have met her. Count Bismarck has promised a ball following the engagement and Sir Christopher Lee will read the lesson. Everything will be hunky-dory.
Now for the bad news: for the Saudis, that is. More than 40 years ago I remember gambling against a Saudi called Fahd, who had a beautiful Palestinian girl next to him whom he introduced as his wife as he sat down at the chemmy table. It was at John Aspinall’s old Clermont Club in Berkeley Square. I remember it as if it were yesterday because in a very high stakes game I got an eight to Fahd’s nine. His wife sympathised with me as I was young and obviously in over my head. Aspers applauded as Fahd had unlimited funds and suckers like me were needed to butter him up. I went to the loo and threw up. Now I read that Fahd’s son is accused of refusing to honour promises his father is said to have made to the beautiful Palestinian, who is now 65 and still beautiful. So what else is new? If she needs a witness I am ready to testify. But as I am engaged to Ms Scott Thomas I will demand nothing in return. Fahd’s wife’s name is Janan Harb. I hope justice is served.
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