Magazine article The Spectator

Club Ties

Magazine article The Spectator

Club Ties

Article excerpt

St Moritz

This is the worst news I've had since Paulus's Sixth Army surrendered in Stalingrad. I was speaking to a very old friend in St Moritz when she suddenly asked me why I live in the Third World. 'But I live in Gstaad,' I stammered. 'Yes, exactly, if Gstaad is not the Third World, I don't know what is. Faster than a bullet, I began buttonholing old St Moritz hands, asking them if they thought Gstaad was the Third World. As great regrets go, their answers did not rank alongside Pushkin's failure to shoot d'Anthes, but damn near. It seems I've been a terrible schmuck these past 47 years. To St Moritz regulars, Gstaad is the Gulag.

Sporting the dyspeptic demeanour of a New York trophy wife who has mistakenly found herself in a Parisian brothel, I decided to investigate further. At the Corviglia Ski Club, which was celebrating its 75th anniversary last weekend, high above St Moritz. As everyone knows, in Dante's eighth ring of Hell, flatterers were dumped in excrement, to remain there for ever. In view of the opinions I heard, no Corviglia members will be dumped in the shit any time soon. Take, for example, the impeccable secretary of the club, Brigadier David Webb Carter. He welcomed me with a smile, stuck a large G on my jacket, and told me that, although the G stood for Gulag, I could pretend it was for Gstaad. Now that's what I call telling it like it is. (The Irish Guards are known for it.) Or the president of the club, Prince Augusto Ruffo di Calabria. 'You poor, poor man,' he said. 'How long have you been there? You look remarkably healthy after years in that dreadful camp.' His wife, Princess Tana, born Windisch-Graetz, immediately slipped me some food and blankets.

But enough of this silliness. About 50 years or so ago, the American humourist Art Buchwald wrote a brilliant column in the Herald Tribune about the 'most exclusive ski club in the world'. Buchwald pretended that he was unwelcome in the club because he was short on tankers and low on cash. So he got inside the door by saying that his dog wished to become a member. It was all in fun, and a picture of Buchwald lunching with Marella Agnelli on the terrace was published in the club's wonderful 75th anniversary book. In my case, it was not necessary to use my dog. The mother of my children was good enough. She was the Corviglia glamour girl in 1965, and for this year's celebrations, 30 ex-glamour girls showed up. I went along for the ride. And what a hoot it was. Let's face it. The mystery and success of a club, any club, lies in its membership. …

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