What is lousy about birthdays at my age is obvious. What is great is that you celebrate only with good friends at home. There’s none of that super-phony air-kissing parody of the grand manner that is the celebrity bash nowadays—no hookers, touts, fakes, wannabes, pretenders, or posturing nobodies.
Thirty-five of us had dinner under the stars, and on August 11 it was the night of falling stars, like the birthday boy himself. I sat next to Lara Livanos, wife of Peter, who’s a great friend and brought me a sculpture of a samurai to go along with his priceless gift of a samurai sword. Peter and Lara Livanos live just above me in a wonderful chalet that houses part of his classic car collection and other goodies.
Gstaad could use more men like Peter. He donated the Kennedy School to a public foundation in Bern and has turned it into a first-rate place of learning. He does countless other good deeds for the community. No showoff, he downplays his charity work and exhibited a great sense of humor as I made nonstop jokes in bad taste. Lara is a Brit who was born in Kenya. It is said that her father was the inspiration for Papa Hemingway’s white hunter in his great “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”
I told Lara that I believe every word Papa ever wrote: “Your old man must have done the wife of a client, otherwise Hem would not have made it up.”
“Only after the client chickened out,” said Lara, giggling. It was fiction, after all.
My friend John Sutin sat one seat away from me making puns nonstop, even as Chaz and Druziana Price arrived late from Portofino. “Portoritardo,” quipped John.
My daughter delivered a sweet and funny speech and gave me some oranges, a reminder that on her 12th birthday I had come up from a Palm Beach tennis trip with a bag of oranges as a present. “Thanks, daddy.” Friends rang from all over, even my old Davis Cup doubles partner from Costa Rica.
I was touched that people remembered, and as the night closed in under the stars it got chilly—for all but the birthday boy. After pink champagne, white and red wine, it was vodka time, and soon I was feeling neither pain nor cold. Everyone went to bed but I roamed the empty halls wishing the party was just starting. That’s how it is when something works. It’s like good sex. You want to do it all over again.
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