Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Article excerpt

The leaves are falling non-stop, like names dropped in Hollywood, and it has suddenly turned colder than the look I got from a very pretty girl at a downtown restaurant. I was dining with the writer Gay Talese and had gone outside for a cigarette. Two men and a lady came out looking for a cab. The scene was straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story: 'I love you, I'll take you home,' said one of the young men. 'I love you more, let me take you home,' said the other. Both were well dressed and spoke proper English. There was nothing else to do but to butt in, and I did. 'I love you the most, and I've got a car and driver waiting,' I said to her. That's when I got the cold stare, although to their credit the two preppies laughed. The three of them wandered off into the cold night looking for a taxi. I went back in and had a very good evening with the writer and a beautiful African-American model. Such are the joys of the Big Bagel. Anything can happen at any moment.

Speaking of Fitzgerald, a new musical adaptation of his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise has opened on 42nd Street, one I plan to see if I could only find the girl that gave me the cold look on that freezing night in Soho. She looked like an upper-class flapper, a perfect companion to share a pre-jazz age cocktail and then hit the Great White Way and enjoy Scott's autobiographical novel set to music. The review I read said that the musical takes place in Princeton's ivied halls, and if memory serves I read the novel when I was at prep school. Amory Blaine, the hero, is in hot pursuit of a New York debutante called Rosalind.

Fitzgerald called himself 'a romantic egotist' in the novel, one that put him on the map at an age when his contemporary Papa Hemingway was a starving unknown living in a cold flat in Paris. We tend to forget how unbearably young and attractive those writers were back before the booze got to them. And how well dressed! And what perfect manners they affected. Today's scribes tend to equate slovenly dress and boorish manners with talent. The aforementioned Gay Talese is an exception, but he is 82 years of age. Gay is a dandy, and during dinner he recounted how his father was an Italian immigrant who became a tailor but who never managed to save any money because he insisted on tailoring beautiful suits with very expensive material few people could afford. (His mother kept the family afloat.) I have never seen Talese in the 30 or more years I've known him without a perfectly cut suit and waistcoat, and he always wears a hat, the way men used to do when manners were still more important than money. …

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