High Life

The Fondest of Farewells

September 23, 2017

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The Fondest of Farewells

As everyone who stands up when a lady enters the room knows, the once-sacrosanct civil rules throughout the West have all but disappeared. The deterioration of manners has accelerated with the coming of the devil’s device—the dehumanizing iPhone—and with phony “art” and artists such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. I don’t know why, but Warhol is a bugaboo of mine. He always treated me politely, featured me favorably in his magazine Interview, and referred to me in his diaries in a good light. Perhaps my being violent back then—he headlined a cover story by referring to me as a terrorist among the rich—made him think twice before he stuck the knife in. Warhol ruined many lives by leading them astray with drugs and false promises, but most of all he ruined art by making it showy. The idea that today’s hustlers sell a picture of a Coke bottle or a shark wrapped in formaldehyde for tens of millions is obscene. The worship of money and celebrity is Warhol’s legacy and art’s tragedy.

I thought of Warhol and what I call ELCPs—extraordinarily lower-class people—as I roamed around London this week. ELCPs have nothing to do with the old class system; they have to do with vile manners while shopping on Bond Street. Most of them are Chinese and have dyed-blond hair, wires in their ears, and an extremely vapid look on their dumb faces. The only thing that matters to them is wealth, and the ability to outshop the next idiot. Comfort and fame are also prerequisites. They are forever posting pictures of their ugly selves to anyone possessing the devil’s instrument. The Tao, which was known as the Way of Heaven and which embodied the sacred character of ancient China, has gone with the same wind that swept away the antebellum South in the USA.

“Celebrations of a life are bittersweet occasions. Some are too corny, others downright false. This was as good as it gets.”

Mind you, I write as an oldie. Ironically, however, my children agree with me. They both have impeccable manners, although my daughter inherited my temper. Her raised voice sends shivers. My son, who is a great athlete and very strong, has a very sweet nature and thinks only of girls all day and definitely all night. Both children have expressed shock to me at how rules and traditions are something their counterparts resist or ridicule as they interfere with self-expression, along with mass tourism, the bane of modern life.

When the hippies first told us that if it feels good, do it, one never imagined that forty years later their message would become law. One can even change one’s gender nowadays by declaring oneself a man or a woman, and can get on the news if someone else expresses surprise. They’re called victims. Now everything goes, including activities once considered shameful or criminal. Ancient third-century Rome has nothing on the 21st-century West.

Thus it was a welcoming sight for hundreds of us to be attending a certain occasion, however sad it was: the memorial service of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Nick Scott, president of Pugs Club, dandy, soldier, raconteur, humorist extraordinaire, gentleman, landscape artist, farceur, great friend, and as sensitive a soul as is possible to be without being too precious for words. They say you can tell a man by his friends. Just check the following: The crown prince of Greece, Pavlos, hopped on a plane in New York, flew all night, attended the service at St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea, then drove back to Heathrow and caught a plane back to the Bagel. His brother, Prince Nikolaos, flew in from Greece, as did George Livanos, whose doctor had prescribed rest. Bob Geldof changed his singing tour in order to address us. I’ll get to that in a moment. A part of the church was reserved for Pugs Club members, and we were all advised by the president pro tem Count Bismarck to wear our club tie. Everyone, including Arki Busson and Rolf Sachs—two who never wear neckties—did.

Celebrations of a life are bittersweet occasions. Some are too corny, others downright false. This was as good as it gets. The Reverent Emma Smith was perfect, the choir divine, and things began to rock with Sir James McGrigor’s childhood memories of Nick. Rolling in the aisles, as they say. Followed by Commodore Tim Hoare, a lifelong friend and Eton schoolmate. Tim is a very serious man who shows his funny side only to people he knows well. He spoke briefly and movingly, and generously gave Sir Bob the rostrum.

Well, Mark Antony would have blanched. Geldof spoke for thirty minutes, and when he finished, everyone in the church wanted more. Both Tim and Bob spoke with such eloquence and heartrending truthfulness, Nick was brought back to life. This is a hard thing to say, but I have never in my long life heard a better eulogy. He described Nick in depth; his flaws, however, emerged as compliments, all due to Geldof’s words. He didn’t hide a thing, nor did he skirt any issue. The rhythm was perfect, from sad to funny, from melancholy to burst-out-loud hilarious. My only hope is that this extraordinary eulogy was taped and preserved. The mother of my children called it the best ever, and I have to agree. Geldof is a poet of rare intelligence and talent, and what a pity it was that he called me useless during the greatest eulogy ever.

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