Magazine article The Spectator

Dubai Debacle

Magazine article The Spectator

Dubai Debacle

Article excerpt

When the Marx Brothers announced in 1946 that their upcoming film was called A Night in Casablanca, Warner Bros threatened to sue for breach of copyright. Warner had produced the great hit Casablanca four years earlier, and insisted that the funny men were trying to cash in on it. But Groucho was no slouch.

He had his lawyer threaten Warner Brothers with breach of copyright for using the word brothers. The Marx boys won, as they were brothers before the Warners had formed the company. A Night in Casablanca also turned out to be a great hit. (Here, as bores and pedants tend to do, I have to declare an interest. I am related to the Marx Brothers - Harpo, in fact, as my sister-in-law is married to his grandson. It's the relation I brag about the most. ) I thought of the Marx Brothers when I heard about Dubai and those other comedians, the Maktoums. It was while racing during Ascot week that I first saw them. I can't remember how many of them there were, but in they came to the royal enclosure's paddock, inspecting the ''orses', and never having heard of them before I qstarted to laugh. Mind you, this was some time ago, when people tended to laugh without fear. They really looked quite ridiculous, all stony-faced, bearded, tawny and wearing top hats. The English even more so, running behind them forelock-tugging, rubbing their hands together nervously as they looked the horses over. I remember telling Charles Benson that these people were funnier than the Marx Brothers, but he told me to shut up. He then went over to bow and scrape to the lead clown, but poor Benson had good reason to do so. He was the poorest man at Ascot and needed every crumb he could get. Benson is no longer with us and was a great buddy of mine - my first English friend back in 1961 - but for the record he never got a penny from those bearded bums. Very few did but hundreds of thousands believed they could. Now they're running for the exits, but it's too late, as it always is when the penny drops for the suckers.

I suppose one can look ridiculous and still be someone of value, but not often. When asked about the debt a couple of months ago, the ludicrous Mohammed Maktoum - the head one - confidently assured reporters that everything was hunky dory.

Reporters tend not to be very smart and are also known for taking very rich people at their word. But the Maktoums are not the kind of people who make money or create wealth, except for themselves. As is the case with the rest of those guys in the Gulf, starting with the Saudis and Kuwaitis. …

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