My Best Summer Love Unlike so many of you youngsters ...
In the first instance, my former wife decided enough was enough and stayed away, having flown to Brazil for the marriage of the recently departed Heini Thyssen. This was in May. As some of you may remember, some spoiled French students also decided enough was enough about that time, and Paris became a battleground. My ego was hurt by the wife leaving me, and my polo career suffered when the students invaded the polo field and demanded we join them rather than play cowboys and Indians in the Bois de Boulogne. All the nightclubs shut down?except for New Jimmy's?there was no gasoline?I rode my ponies around Paris?and the city came to a halt, except for the nightly skirmishes between the CRS, the tough French riot police, and the spoiled ones. What depressed me most of all was the fact that the Czechs had risen up that year, the students demanding what their French counterparts were actually rejecting?bourgeois values.
I finally got bored and left with Diane Alfin for Switzerland, where she met her future husband Egon von Furstenberg, and then I for St-Tropez, where I began seeing a young girl by the name of Alexandra Schoenburg-Hartenstein, the mother of my children.
Thirty-two years later, the French students knew better, but I hadn't learned a thing. In July I was informed by Olga, my mistress, that enough was enough, and then, to my horror, my wife Alexandra also told me that she was thinking about calling it a day. Now, to lose one's mistress is a disaster, but to lose both mistress and wife has to be a catastrophe. So I shaped up and everything has been hunky-dory ever since. Though I did have a bad week or two the first year of the new millennium.
But now for the best summer ever. It had to be 1957, my first year of freedom, and it happened right here in the beautiful Big Bagel. It was late May, the daffodils were out, the park looked like paradise and I went to a party off Park Ave. given by a friend, Francesco Galesi. It was there I met Linda Christian, the femme fatale to end all femmes fatales. Linda was Dutch-Mexican, had just divorced Tyrone Power and, at 30 years of age, was at the height of her beauty. Every single man in the city was after her, and one, John Schlesinger I believe, had got himself into terrible trouble by stealing money from his mother to buy her jewels worth 200,000 big ones. (Remember, this was 1957, and a dollar bought a hell of a lot more than it does today.)
Dick Savitt, the great tennis player and native Noo Yawker, introduced me to her. "Tell her you beat Philippe Washer," he advised me. (I had recently played Philippe?then and now one of my best friends?and he had killed me 6-1, 6-1.) I did better than that. I smelled that Linda didn't care for jocks, so I asked her where she lived. It was the Plaza. "Why do you want to know?" she asked beguilingly. I knew it was now or never, so I sprung it. "Because I want to send you diamonds, but I'll start with flowers."
Well, you can guess the rest. I paced up and down my room at the Sherry-Netherland where my parents kept a suite, and finally the telephone rang. It was Linda.
"You were very generous with the flowers," she said, "but will you be the same with the diamonds...?"
So we started to go out, every night, followed by the paparazzi, welcomed to all the clubs as if I were Rockefeller, my college friends going nuts as to how I had pulled it off. Never had I been so much in love, never had the city been more a place for lovers, never had I spent more money that I didn't have. The Marquis de Portago, a dashing and very good-looking Formula One racing driver, had been a boyfriend of Linda's and was beckoning her to return. Count Paul de Ganay and Dennis Slater were two socialites I blew away easily.
But of course it all ended in tears. One day, returning from practice, I walked through the Plaza lobby on my way to the Sherry. There I saw an incredible sight: my mother, covered in jewels, and Linda having tea. My mother was in tears. When I demanded to know what was going on, I was informed by Linda that my mother had offered Linda her jewels to leave me. (Mother also told her I was penniless, which did the real damage.)
Soon after de Portago killed himself in the last Mille Miglia race, Linda flew to his funeral, and a heartbroken yours truly was sent to the French Riviera by my father to recuperate. I've been a friend of Linda's ever since, and she now lives in California and at times we correspond. But I shall never forget those four weeks of mad, passionate love 45 years ago right here in this wonderful city.
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