26 SEPTEMBER 1998, Page 62

High life

Missing Jeff


Jeff left us 13 months ago, and the saint- ed editor wrote a fine tribute to him on the anniversary of Princess Diana's death. Along with George Solti and Mother Tere- sa, Jeff got the short end of the stick by mistiming his exit. I didn't write anything about him at the time, and for the life of me I can't think why I didn't. Perhaps I felt it was corny. Basically, I was not at all close to Jeff. 'High life-Low Life' began in 1977 when The Spectator was selling 9,000 copies. I had met Jeff at Charles Benson's bachelor party at Langan's the year before My wedding present to Benson was eight pre-paid hookers. Never was a present more appreciated by the low lifes at hand.

Benson being a racing fixture, there were more jockeys attending than there are free- loading Old Etonians. And a randy bunch they turned out to be. One extremely famous rider kept busy, throughout dinner, underneath the table. Jeff, although out of it, asked politely for a Monica Lewinsky. One of the girls gave it all she had but to no avail. That is when Jeff began to insult yours truly as well as Benson. He called us all impotent c—s and then passed out.

I did not know my way around London back in those bad old pre-Mrs Thatcher days, so I took his insult rather seriously.

When he wakes up, I told Benson, he's going to get a knuckle sandwich and then some. We Greeks do not like to have our manhood challenged by an Englishman, and one who couldn't rise to the occasion to boot. As it turned out I, too, eventually passed out, so the evening ended peacefully.

Twice a year, for the next 20 years, Jeff and I got together in order to get loaded.

He never failed to get nasty in the middle of the bender, and always turned nice just before pass-out time. My favourite Jeff anecdote was when I lunched with him and brought him back home around 4 p.m. He passed out in the drawing-room almost immediately. I left at eight and returned with about 12 people at 4 a.m. We watched Jeff wake up, look around and go to the window. 'The trouble with London is it gets dark so f—ing early,' he said, and then asked for a vodka.

He used to say horrible things about me behind my back, but for some strange rea- son I didn't mind at all. When the Prince of Wales came to lunch at 56 Doughty Street, the then sainted editor Charles Moore warned him that neither the 'High' or 'Low life' correspondents would be attending. `Why is that?' asked the Prince. 'Well, sir, because Jeff will use the F-word non-stop and the Greek boy will leak the conversation.'

The best occasion of all was the night before I went to Pentonville. David Tang gave a dinner for me, as did John Aspinall the night before, and everyone got up and said a few words about how awful it was for the poor little Greek boy to have to go down. Alexander Chancellor, ever eager to stick the knife in, blamed Mrs Thatcher's fascist government. No one thought of say- ing that I got what I deserved. It was that type of evening. Until Jeff's turn. He rose and told a very complicated story about a spiv asking some bimbo if he could perform oral sex on her. (Those were pre-Monica days.) She finally agrees and while he's at it she reads The Mill on the Floss. When some- one asked Jeff what did this have to do with me going to prison, he was genuinely sur- prised. 'What, Taki is going to prison?'

Why am I writing all this after 13 months? Dunno. I am quite tipsy, however, and I suddenly miss him.