1 OCTOBER 1988, Page 57

High life

Hostess with the mostest


Even if I have to say so myself, it was The Spectator's High life correspondent who initially broke the story concerning the first bimbo of Greece, almost as great an exclusive as when I revealed the hairi- ness of Lord Weidenfeld's bottom. But in case any of you missed it, here is a more detailed background of the Olive Repub- lic's numero uno bimbo, soon to be the nation's first lady.

Her name is Dimitra Liani, and she was well known among those who know about such matters, not only as the tallest hostess on Olympic Airways but also as the one with the biggest bust. Needless to say, Dimitra was extremely popular with the short men who fly the planes, so much so, in fact, that there was even a joke about her: something to the effect that the only pilot she hadn't dated was the automatic one.

Liani eventually married a big wheel in the Communist party of Greece, a fact that did not endear her to many of the people she liked to keep company with. At age 31 she separated from the commie-pinko, but continued to be employed as a flying hostess. Her prospects of glory and riches, however, were not exactly brilliant.

That was three years ago. And that is when a miracle of sorts took place. She was assigned to the 747 that flew Andreas Papandreou and hundreds of his aides to Mexico for the annual meeting of the 'Six'. If you haven't heard of them, they are the prime ministers of India, Argentina, Sweden, Mexico, Greece and an African country whose name escapes me, who meet in fancy and expensive resorts in order to discuss anti-nuclear policy.

No sooner were they airborne than the gravel-voiced, pipe-smoking, overweight Andreas was said to have been struck dumb upon seeing Liani. His American wife, Margaret, was on board, which helped accentuate the differences between them. Margaret is very thin, dry and affects gravitas. Dimitra is round, voluptuous and loud. Margaret was then 63, Liani 31. The moment they landed the two love-birds went AWOL. The anti-nuclear campaign took a back seat.

Although the Greek hacks knew what was going on, they did not exactly sing like canaries. In fact they were more like an Indian tomb. The Greek Papa Doc is known to be ruthless, as well as an expert in destroying people who have crossed him. It was not the Greek Fourth Estate's finest hour, to say the least. But the first subtle hints were dropped by the opposi- tion press when Liani suddenly quit her job and was appointed hostess of a major television chat show. Even bigger ones were dropped when the producer of the show was fired after he dismissed her as incompetent.

Finally it became public knowledge when the lovers chose to take a long Aegean cruise on board an industrialist's gin palace while hundreds of Greeks were sweltering to death in the summer of '87. In the meantime, Margaret Papandreou was biding her time. Which came when the Turkish premier, Turgut Ozal, accepted an invitation for an all-important as well as historic meeting in the spring of '88. Once all the details of the state visit were ironed out, she suddenly informed her errant hubby that she would not be receiving Mrs Ozal unless Andreas dropped the bimbo. Despite pressure from the Foreign Office and threats from Andreas, she stuck to her guns. Hell hath no fury like an older thin woman scorned for a younger and rounder one. Madame Ozal had to stay home, signalling an inauspicious start to the talks. As usual, the Greek government lied about the facts. But as soon as the talks ended, Margaret — in the .best Stalinist tradition — became a non-person.

Needless to say, there was a small outcry by women's groups, but the only com- promise Andreas agreed to in order to cut his political losses was to instruct the Public Prosecutor of Crete to drop charges against two ten-year-olds who had insulted his authority by writing slogans on school lavatory walls. Three weeks later Papan- dreou flew to London with Dimitra for a heart operation.

Now although I, too, did the same last year my excuse is that I'm not the Greek prime minister and do not have to set an example. The idea that most Greeks are stuck with Greek health care while Andreas uses the best private care England has to offer is preposterous. As is the fact that the bimbo and a very large entourage are housed at the Grosvenor House hotel at taxpayers' expense. The latter makes me so disgusted that I refuse to stay in the same town with them, so I'm off to Salzburg for a 45-and-over tennis tourna- ment. If I win I shall dedicate my victory to the automatic pilot.