s awful as it may sound, it's just possible that Aids is bringing romance back to this most unromantic of cities. Just last week I heard of an incident — prob- ably apocryphal, but one that wouldn't surprise me in view of the nuts that inhabit the Big Bagel — that shows we may be going back to high-button-shoe times.
It seems that a certain gent had been pursuing a member of the fairer sex for more than a year, when she finally relented and went off with him for a dirty weekend to Palm Beach. Once down there, how- ever, she adamantly refused to go to bed with him, despite the fact that throughout their stay among the palms she acted like Juliet to his Romeo. When he could bear it no longer, and had begun acting like a caveman, she explained to him: 'I'd love to darling, but I've tested positive.'
It should have been enough to turn off even the original Romeo, but it wasn't. 'I love you so much that I don't care,' came his reply. Well, don't forget I did warn you that the story is probably apocryphal, but if it isn't, how do you like that for romance? It reminds me a bit of a short story by Somerset Maugham, 'Sanatorium' I be- lieve is its name, where two doomed lovers suffering from consumption are advised not to marry because it will shorten their lives, but they decide to marry anyway, and to hell with trying to stay alive but apart. I must admit I found the story touching, although I don't believe it. I think it's based on a true-life incident that took place three years ago between two . . . homosex- uals. The difference being that the one who agreed to become the lover, despite the knowledge that his friend was a carrier, had not at the time had a blood test, c'est tout. (If he had he would have been as likely to test negative as Roy Hattersley is to be elected dieter of the year.) But I can already see some Hollywood hack licking his chops in anticipation while knocking out a script based on a teenage love affair that went wrong because the boy pretended to have tested positive in order to test her love, and then committing suicide after she refused to marry him.
Yes, romance is coming back, but it's not going to be the old-fashioned kind some of us were lucky enough to experi- ence. The Abbie Hoffmans, Jane Fondas and Hugh Hefners of this world did a good job on our youth back in the Sixties, so I predict that if romance does make a comeback, it will be with a Hollywood twist: shallow, empty, trivial, and appeal- ing to the lowest common denominator.
Needless to say, Aids is the topic in New York these days, as I suppose it is every- where else with the exception of Albania. My friend Professor Ernest van den Haag had me in for a chat recently in order to warn me to stop having one-nighters. My only reply was that if I do die from the dreaded disease, he is to make sure they put on my tombstone the following: 'Lived and died as a heterosexual, but was misled by the great Professor van den Haag.' By this I mean that long ago the good Profes- sor — who has had as many lady lovers as Anthony Haden-Guest has had personal cheques bounce — told me that he thought Napoleons might be less at risk from Josephines than vice versa, but I am not worried. In two days' time I shall be having my first check-up ever, and I shall be testing for that, too. If I test positive I shall soon find out who my friends really are.
And now for the sad news. For the last six years I have been unaware that the lady who edits this column is as opposed to everything I believe in as, say, Roy Hattersley would be to a starvation diet. Nevertheless, Gina Lewis, who is as attrac- tive and gentle as Gerald Kaufman is not, has not once dropped the slightest of hints that what I write is drivel. And I have certainly given her plenty of opportunities to do so. The only time the column has not come in at virtually the last second was during the time I was in the slammer. And the only present I have given her in six years is half a bottle of vodka, which I had won in some raffle and, because of its Russian origin, wouldn't drink.
I am very sad she's leaving, and even sadder that I cannot make it to London to say goodbye, but if I survive my blood test I will make sure I ring her the moment I'm out of the Big Bagel. In the meantime, the good news is that Jenny Naipaul, Shiva's wife, gets to inherit Taki and Jeff. I guess for her it's better than testing positive, but not by much.