10 DECEMBER 1988, Page 48

High life

Yule nouvelle


New York his is a particularly gay time to be in New York (I use the word gay in its correct and original meaning) with parties galore and Christmas Trees and decorations sprouting up all over the city. The birth of our Lord Jesus is big business over here, and Bagel-dwellers pull out all the stops come December. Even the muggers get into the spirit of things. Last week an old lady was robbed by a man who held a knife covered with red and green ribbons to her throat.

Christmas aside, the arrival of Michael and Raisa has everyone up in arms, no pun intended. Store owners have been com- plaining for weeks that the security arrangements will be bad for business, while law-abiding citizens (a minority in this town) have been worried that the bad guys will have a field day while the cops guard Gorby and the missus. As it turned out, Gorby's visit was good for business, and good for the bad guys, too.

Needless to say, 'nouvelle society' — as Women's Wear has dubbed the latest nouveaux riches and the extremely greedy — has not exactly been hibernating. The charity party scam is on full throttle, and hardly a day goes by without the gossip columns gushing over such elegant ladies as Mrs Saul Steinberg, Mrs Henry Kravis, Mrs Donald Trump, Mrs Ann Bass, Mrs Sid Bass, Mrs Ann Trout and others too fishy to mention in the elegant pages of The Spectator.

And speaking of Henry Kravis, I warned you a couple of weeks ago that the midget had an extremely long reach. Long enough to grab RJR Nabisco and make sure that the cookies my little boy loves so much will be dearer in the future. What the midget has really done is to take over a healthy company with a tremendous cash flow by putting up very little money of his own and borrowing the rest from what in effect is the government. RJR used to pay at least 500 million dollars per year in taxes, but will never pay taxes again, at least not in my lifetime, as the company is now in debt trying to pay back the money Kravis borrowed in order to buy it. (Yes, you guessed it, the taxpayer will make up for it.) Last week at Mortimer's I spotted Kravis sitting on four cushions and lunching with some other Lilliputians (rumour has it that no one taller than five foot five is allowed to approach him) and I tried to stick my lunch bill on his tab, but was restrained from doing so by an outraged owner.

Oh, well, if you think Kravis is bad news, what about the oldest reliable walker of nouvelle society, my old buddy Jerry Zipkin? Two weeks ago, during a dinner given by Rupert Murdoch, Zipkin struck again. To the astonishment of everyone he tried to give Arnaud de Borchgrave a lesson in etiquette, which is like me trying to give Malcolm Muggeridge a lesson in celibacy. Borchgrave is a count of the Holy Roman Empire, the editor of the Washing- ton Times, one of the greatest foreign correspondents ever, and has impeccable manners to boot. Like the gentleman that he is he said nothing, but was heard muttering, 'Isn't it astonishing that the face that lunched a thousand shits should pre- sume to give us a lesson in manners?'

I guess it is not astonishing, not with nouvelle society around. This weekend Sid Bass is marrying Mercedes Tavacoli, a Persian lady. Bass just paid around 200 million smackers to divorce his wife in order to marry the Persian Mercedes, and will spend almost as much for the ball he is giving at the Met on Saturday. For some strange reason Sid and Mercedes did not invite Taki, but invited Mrs Taki, which must be a first even for nouvelle society. Mrs Taki did not want to go but I insisted. Thankfully there is another wedding party that night, one that I'm taking my two 20-year-old girlfriends to.