14 MARCH 1992, Page 47

High life

Qualified success


Gstaad There is nothing like an all-night party to set one's skiing back a decade or so. Or rather, set it ahead, because ten years ago I was skiing far better than I am today. Peo- ple here are still talking about the Santo Domingo-Sursock party, one given by hosts who had nothing to sell and pushed no cause. Mind you, it had some rough spots, at least where Chuck Berry was concerned.

It seems the great man arrived in Geneva and was duly met by a team of young peo- ple eager to make him feel welcome and drive him up to Gstaad — in the latest high-tech Range Rover. It was like serving pork at a bar mitzvah. 'Chuck Berry only drives in a Cadillac,' said Chuck Berry. `And if Chuck Berry doesn't have a Caddy in a jiffy, he's flying right back to the good old US of A,' he added for good measure. (I like the way today's rock stars refer to themselves in the third person. After all, they are royalty to Americans, even if they make real royals rather smart by compari- son.) So all those nice young people had to go out and find a Caddy, and the great man finally got in and drove — he insisted on driving it himself — up to the fabled resort, and as far as I'm concerned the Zero Heroes would have sufficed (Berry should take some humility lessons from Princess Michael).

On the afternoon of the party there was serious ski-racing. All the modern electron- ic devices were used, so one's excuses were rather limited. For myself I cannot com- plain. I came in next to last, but declared to everyone that I had won the race but failed the drug test. Amin Aga Khan, the brother of the Aga, and as charming and nice as the Aga isn't, also failed to win. But with a good sense of humour he declared that he too had won but failed the sex test (Amin is gay).

Then came the turn of Gian Piero Dotti, once upon a time brother-in-law of Audrey Hepburn. Gian Piero is a friend of mine, and we share a fascination for the young. He declared a win but admitted having been disqualified for moral turpitude, something to do with a young man having a skiing lesson parallel to the course while Gian Piero was racing. A very drunken party ensued in the middle of the moun- tain. Nicolas Anouilh, the son of the French playwright, was the winner, fol- lowed by Dimitri Saltafera, my old Greek friend and one of the rare gentlemen pro- duced by the Olive Republic.

And speaking of Hellas, Alecko Goulan- dris had a 65th birthday party in his art- filled chalet, and once again it set my skiing forward a decade or two. Alecko and I met in 1945, three days before the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. We hit it off right away, as they say, and in 47 years we have never had a cross word between us. For someone as volatile as I am, this is rare praise indeed — for Alecko, that is.

During his dinner he admitted to me that the joke I played on him five years ago hadn't worked. It was just about the time that the ex-king of Greece, the future king of England and the present king of Spain were staying with Alecko and Marietta

Goulandris. Princess Michael of Kent was also in Gstaad, staying with the Fayeds, of Tiny Rowland fame. On the night of the

big party chez Alecko I had the perverse idea of sending a cactus to him with a writ- ten note announcing that I was looking for- ward to meeting him and signed Princess Michael. Then I went around telling every-

one I had seen a panic-stricken Prince of Wales furiously escaping up the mountain in sealskins. The truth, alas, is somewhat different.No sooner had the cactus arrived and the note been read than King Constan- tine bet his crown that it was a practical joke by Taki, and the dinner went ahead without a hitch. Oh well, I did enjoy the joke for a while, even if it never came off.