30 MARCH 1996, Page 45

High life

Kennedy women


hez Madame Tussaud's last Saturday for a great bash among the waxworks. Unlike the Donald Trumps of this world, my host, an American, asked me to keep his name out. What I enjoyed most was the trick I played on our ex-deputy editor, Anne Applebaum. I took her hand and goosed Saddam Hussein, and then did the same with Fidel Castro's bottom and fmally pinched Sir Ted Heath with it. Same non- reaction. Yet Heath was there in person, dressed in a white dinner-jacket which, alas, did not distinguish him from the Admirable Crichtons doing a terrific job. With the exception of my host, most of the guests fell for it — like Anne — and mis- took the greatest prime minister that Labour has ever had for a wax dummy.

And speaking of failed leaders, I have been reading the excerpts from The Kennedy Men by Nellie Bly, whoever she is. There are two things I read of which I had first-hand knowledge and they both checked out. Ergo, Miss Bly knows what she's talking about: 'Her husband, Stephen Smith, exposed her to years of humiliation from his indiscreet philandering but in 1965, when she started an affair with Alan Jay Lerner, Bobby soon interfered.' The author is referring to the Draft Dodger's present ambassador to Ireland, Ted Kennedy's sister and William Kennedy Smith's proud momma, Jean Kennedy Smith.

In 1965 I was as thick as thieves with the Smiths. Unbeknownst to me, Steve Smith was a very heavy cocaine user. In retrospect — Smith died about ten years ago — his behaviour was extremely volatile, typical of cocaine users. It was just about that time that Alan Jay Lerner (he, too, now long gone) befriended me, in El Morocco of all places. I was with Lee Radziwill, and he asked us up to his flat and played a tune called 'On a Clear Day'. The musical named after the tune came a couple of years later. Lerner loved boxing, and had lost an eye in the ring. Back in those good old days, before Muhammed Ali began to humiliate and torture opponents, I loved the art and those who made a living out of it. As did Lerner. We regularly went to the fights, and after a while I realised that he and Jean were up to something. Ironically, I liked Jean back then. She was the nicest of the Kennedys, although I'd rather spend 15 minutes with her son William — than seven weeks in the hospital.

The second item I found interesting is the love affair between the old bootlegger Joe Kennedy and Gloria Swanson. 'Swan- son was Hollywood's most alluring star when she met Joe in 1927. Glamorous, famous, financially independent and mar- ried to a French marquis.' The French nob married my aunt-by-marriage following Gloria's escapades with the worst of all Kennedys. She was very rich and kept him in far better style than la Swanson ever did. The marquis had a faithful butler, Henri, who had gone through some pretty thin times with him. Once rich, the marquis made sure Henri did not get any socialist ideas. Every morning, if he happened to be in the country, he would ask him to open the vast doors of his vast bedroom so that he could walk out to his even vaster ter- race. Then the marquis would look out onto his vast estate. He would look at the horizon for some time and then turn towards his butler and ask, 'Henri, who does all this belong to?' To you, Monsieur le Marquis,' would come the dutiful answer. Then the marquis would beckon Henri to approach him, would cover the loyal servant's eyes with the palms of his hands, and ask 'What do you see, Henri?' 'Nothing, Monsieur le Marquis.' Eh bien, that is what's yours, Henri,' he would say.

The marquis died broke, I'm sad to report, having spent all the moolah that one day would have come to Talci's wife in giving non-stop parties. I guess nice guys always finish last. The Kennedys are not only richer than ever, they are also getting their own back against the Brits by making Gerry Adams a fixture in the White House. A hell of a price to pay for having once snubbed that awful family.