High life

The appeal of ugly men

15 February 2020

9:00 AM

15 February 2020

9:00 AM


Lenin Moreno is in trouble, despite his very unchristian first name. For any of you unfamiliar with the name, Senor Moreno is the president of Ecuador, a tiny South American country that I like very much because if you’ve met one Ecuadorian man you’ve met them all. There are 16 million Ecuadorians, and eight million of them, the men, all look like identical twins. One of my closest friends on the tennis circuit back in the late 1950s and early 1960s was Eduardo Zuleta, an Ecuadorian who was the colour of copper and could run all day, all night, 48 hours straight, as long as he was chasing a tennis ball. Those were not colour-blind days and I remember how, one day, an Australian lady watching Eduardo playing a match expressed outrage at the fact that he had a very blonde and pretty girlfriend pining away at the courtside. ‘What does she see in him?’ ‘Well,’ I told her, ‘if you care to sneak into the locker-room shower after the match, I’ll point it out, not that you can miss it.’

Zuleta almost reduced me to tears when he and his partner Guzman beat the big bad Yankees in the Davis Cup, back when the Yankees were a superpower. (And the Davis Cup was the number one prize in tennis.) They played in Quito, the capital, and the powers that be promised Zuleta’s father a peanut concession outside the football stadium if he beat the hated gringos. I think he ran something like 250 miles in the course of two singles and a doubles match, and Ecuador won 3–2. When I asked Barry MacKay, a top player, what had happened, he said it was like being in a bullring, with people throwing pennies and screaming their heads off as he looked up to hit an overhead. Although they were and are dirt-poor, the Ecuadorians threw their last pennies on to the court in order to ensure victory. It’s called patriotism, not nationalism.

I say all this because President Lenin Moreno is in deep doo-doo. Les girls are Orlando Furioso and want to make him a soprano. He said that women complain about sexual harassment only when they are harassed by someone ugly. He has apologised — as is the form nowadays. No dice. The girls are mad and they will not take it any more. So, always in search of the truth for the dear old Speccie, I went the length and breadth of this alpine village and visited the nightclub up at the Palace hotel looking to interview members of the fairer sex about Lenin’s remarks. ‘Who the hell is Lenin?’ was the first answer I got when I asked a young woman drinking a martini in the bar (most of the women in Gstaad have never been accused of being intellectuals). This place attracts females like you-know-what draws flies, possibly on account of the mature men who frequent the Alps for the scenery. Some have even been known to ski, but not too fast.

The next lady I asked was more forthcoming. ‘Would you feel harassed if Brad Pitt stroked your backside uninvited?’ ‘Actually he can stroke it any time,’ said the 50-year-old. ‘But why would he want an old bag like me?’ I congratulated her on her candour and honesty, and then asked if she would react the same way if the perpetrator were Harvey Weinstein. ‘Not in a hundred years,’ came the answer.

This prompted me to broaden my quest. I stopped women in the hallways and in the nightclub and posed the following question: ‘Would you slap Brad as hard as you would slap Harvey if both goosed you on the dance floor?’ Most answered by telling me to go and reproduce myself, but when I took out my notebook and pretended to write down their responses they asked whom I was doing this for. My answer was Screw magazine, now defunct, as is its owner, Al Goldstein.

But this poses a serious question. What Lenin Moreno said was out of line — or so my wife and daughter tell me — but what he meant, I am sure, is what it has taken me all these words to say: Brad Pitt would be able to get away with touching whereas Harvey Weinstein cannot. Is this true? I am not a woman, so I cannot say, but what I can say for sure is that if Helen of Troy had been ugly we Greeks would not have gone to war for ten years to get her back. Mind you, women know better. John Wilkes insisted that 30 minutes alone with a lady overcame his ugliness and that he would triumph over any far better-looking rival. He was right. Women prefer brains and charm to looks. Men are dummkopfs and will take skin-deep beauty every time.

The great seducers were mostly ugly, men such Casanova, Talleyrand, Louis XIV, D’Annunzio, and so on, though power undoubtedly had something to do with their appeal. Errol Flynn and Gianni Agnelli were two very good-looking men who got lucky a lot, but most male lookers do not rank high. That’s because women want something more than looks, and if brains are not on offer, then power will do nicely, thank you.

So, this is for you, ladies: next time Brad Pitt comes around and acts inappropriately, slap him rather hard — if he makes a pass, that is. Harvey will not be coming around for some time, so you can forget about him.

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