Magazine article The Spectator

Party Time

Magazine article The Spectator

Party Time

Article excerpt

The trouble with throwing a party is it only lasts for a few hours. Compared with the time and effort it takes to organise, it seems, well, a waste of time. John Aspinall spent months preparing the extravagances he used to stage at Howletts and Port Lympne, his perfect Palladian structure near Canterbury. At one of his parties, the staircase was festooned with dwarfs, while acrobats and wild animals roamed around the rooms. I remember playing chemmy next to Tina Onassis, or Blandford, as she then was, and a large tiger making an entrance and sniffing the green felt table. Tina fled to the loo. I was too embarrassed to do likewise and called banco instead. I was too nervous to notice whether I won or lost. All Aspers's parties were centred on a theme or one of his heroes, people like Mithridates or the Diadochi or Cuauhtémoc, the last emperor of the Aztecs.

The expense and attention to detail at each feast were enormous. I once told him that gamblers were ignorant types, and the name of Mithridates was as likely to be recognised by them as that of Theotokopoulos (El Greco to us art lovers). Never mind. The pleasure was in organising the bash.

My party at Annabel's was nothing of the sort. I flew in an orchestra from New York, one which played only Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Anything after 1956, I don't pay, I told Alex Donner, the true successor to Lester Lanin and leader of the band. The trick, of course, is to have lotsa young people coming in after dinner.

And a change of pace. This was provided by Jackson Scott, a fantastic flamenco guitarist whose new band of youngsters kept us dancing until five a. m. Many of the oldies had departed by then. My Greek friends ditto. They thought the party had come to an end as the bands were changing. Just as well. Eighty young people had come in with a vengeance and they needed room to roam. At one point I went to the outside bar and noticed an Italian lady whom I know slightly. She was not invited but I was nevertheless happy to see her. Until she cut me, that is. I almost felt like saying something, but I was too far gone by then. My problem continues to be the same. I drink too much in nervous anticipation, and then become like maple syrup. …

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