16 MARCH 1991, Page 47

High life

Sinking ship


oor Christina Onassis, the boat that is. Aristotle Socrates Onassis left her to an ungrateful nation, and the first thing the Greeks did was to change her name to Argo and put all sorts of civil servants on board. Mind you, by the end of his life old Aristo had disproved the theory of evolution once and for all. When he first bought her he

cruised with the likes of Churchill, Garbo and Callas, but he finished with the Kennedys.

Now I read that the Christina is in very poor shape and that the trustees of the Onassis foundation are trying to reclaim her from the state. The trustees are a bunch of lawyers, which means the brave ship is going from bad to worse. But at least she hasn't fallen into the hands of Thierry Roussel, Christina Onassis's last husband. That would have been as humili- ating a fate as, say, the Bismarck being cap- tured with all hands on board by the Iraqi Republican Guard.

Christina comes to mind because there is a new book out on her, one much too long and far too repetitious, even for fans of rich white trash. The definitive work on the last Onassis was written two years ago by Nigel Dempster. The opus now making the rounds is a rehash. I guess the fascination with Christina Onassis is her money, because she certainly did not have a per- sonality. She craved men all her life, was extremely generous with her friends, but demanded company in return. She com- plained non-stop. I found her repulsive but also felt sorry for her. She had a ghastly upbringing. (She didn't exactly think me a hero either.) What outraged me, however, was Roussel. We Greeks may have many faults, but I like to think we are decent people, with a sense of honour and pride. Libel laws prevent me from saying what I yelled to the face of that particular Frog the two times he had the bad luck to cross my path. Now he has lots of minders with him, so I guess it is just as well I haven't run into him again.

Many benefited from her largesse, none more than Louis Basualdo,who is still sell- ing stories about her. People like Basualdo have never been accused of having any shame, but he nevertheless was a close friend of Christina. I guess that tells us all we need to know about her.

Another close friend was Nicky Mavro- leon, whom both books deal with at length. Last week, while walking in the vil- lage of Gstaad, I ran into his father, Bluey, and almost acted like a thug. Mavroleon is a man of whom the mauvaises langues say he used to be ashamed of his mother because she was common. I never met his parents but! knew his uncle well. He was a very nice man, unpretentious and generous. Bluey gives the impression he'd prefer to be an Englishman, which shows the kind of values he must have. Without provocation five years ago he showed up in court and gave evidence against me, a fellow Greek, in favour of an old bag. I had not seen him since, and for a moment I almost felt like cooling him. But he's an old man, and I would have been behaving badly if I had. Almost as badly as he did when he testi- fied against a person who had never snubbed him behind his back. Roussel, Basualdo, Mavroleon — egad, what a bunch.