15 OCTOBER 1977, Page 29

Night life


Taki Theodoracopulos

Paris While the world's press has been busy reporting the breakup of the leftist alliance in France, the scandalous and reverse discriminatory practices of French nightclubs against Europeans in general and Englishmen in particular has gone unreported. And despite the political turmoil which continues to dominate the headlines, this new and insidious phenomenon can no longer be ignored, especially with the autumn season well under way. Things came to a head following the greatest English victory since Agincourt in the Arc de Triomphe on 2 October. Charles Benson, better known as 'The Scout' to millions of racing fans, was unceremoniously thrown out of Regine's, France's foremost nightclub, when it was discovered that underneath an Arab headdress lay his pink and cherubic countenance. Benson was celebrating the English victory surrounded by his friends — all of them Arabs except his lovely fiancée — and in his exuberance got careless.

Although the French Parliament has not as yet passed the draconian law banning Europeans from nightclubs — its hesitation is due to German pressures, according to well informed money changers it is sad but nevertheless true that despite Albion's belated entrance to the Common Market Englishmen are not welcome in France. While the Assemblee Nationale is debating the ban, I recently spent two weeks in Paris interviewing Regine and Castel, their' personnel, and a few English expatriates. • Regine's is situated on the right bank, Rue Ponthieu, a short walk from the patrician Jockey Club. It is glossy, plush, full of mirrors and done up like a 'thirties Hollywood nightclub. Regine is pleasantly plump, has dyed red hair, a terrific singing voice, a worse temper, and has managed to become a status symbol. She owns nightclubs in New York, Rio, Monte Carlo and two in Paris. Her clientele is mostly over fifty-five years old and no one with less than fifty million dollars in a Swiss bank account is allowed in. 'I like the English' she says, 'but they always bring troubles with the filthy pounds and terrible 'Aft of no pourboire.'

Lucciano, the good looking, heavy punting maitre d' explained the ban along the same lines. After ordering a bottle of Dom Perignon for himself he said. 'Regard Taki, I love zee English, especially Ascot and Newmarket. Zey are both gentlemen, but this is business. Ze British always look at ze bill, somesing our Arab clients would never do, zey would prefer to roll inside a pork rather than look mead and check ze bill. Zey also argue about ze bill, zut alors, incredible. And when zey pay, zey give dirty money, grubby pounds. When we exchange zem zey have already lost half ze value, and when we insist on ze rate of exchange on ze spot ze English say terrible words, horrible names such as fucking Healey.' Lucciano looked truly upset. When I tried to argue he interrupted me. Turzermore, zey wear thick tweeds which smell of horses, and zey dance without rhythm, like spastics; zometime zey scare ze Arabs.'

Lucciano was the one that spotted Benson's disguise Sunday night. In fact, as he told me afterward, they were well aware that some non-Arabs would try to get in posing as sheiks. Regine had already been left with numerous bad cheques by Europeans (mostly Greeks and Italians) whose dark complexions helped them pose as Arabs. Not that'all Europeans are banned, far from it. There are even four English people allowed in. Well, three and one half. These are the gelded knight Sir Charles Clore, Mrs Vere Harmsworth, Sir James Goldsmith and. . .Nigel Dempster. When I asked Regine why she allowed Dempster in, a notorious drunk, a man guilty of the worse crime in her mind — no money — she said. 'He is a great writer, the greatest English writer since F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am proud to have him.'

The other club in Paris is Castel's. It is on the Rue Princesse, on the left bank. It caters to a much younger crowd, the sons of sheiks, and one only needs about twenty-five million dollars in Switzerland to get in. Castel's is done up in turnof-the-century brothel style, all mauve velvet and low lighting. Jean Castel is known around the milieu as an intellectual. That is so because he not only reads the newspaper without moving his lips, but also because he allows a few actors and even journalists to enter his premises. Thus his reputation as a thinking mitn.

Despite his intellectuality, Castel does not like Englishmen coming to his place. He allows them to enter, however, when escorted by Arabs, or possibly a Greek shipowner, preferably Niarchos. (But as the shipping market is in the worst slump in fifty years Greek shipowners, I hear, are about to be banned also.) When I called Her Majesty's embassy and asked what if anything the ambassador was doing about the ban, [was told that with a name like mine it was none of my business and that I should worry about the Turkish ban on Greeks. And following the way the British aristocracy acted in St Etienne during the football and the garden party hosted by the French, I did not much feel like taking their side any longer.

Charles Benson convinced me to drop the matter altogether when he told me on Monday that he deliberately exposed himself in order to get thrown out and not pay. 'One bottle of champagne there costs what one week at Annabel's and Tramp's does here,' he said, looking pleased as punch.