I tend to associate Monaco with truly beautiful women, and I’m glad to say that standard is being maintained. Mind you, after Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married, my mother, just back from her annual visit to the tables in Monte Carlo, commented that the local Monegasques – though they approved – were a little concerned that their new princess’s breasts were too small. I gather that the concern passed.
My mother, let me say – she died the Countess Slywinska – would say virtually anything to, or about, anyone. But she was never dull.
The above, by the way is the principality’s official coat of arms. I always like to hear good things about Monaco because I had so much fun there both as a kid and as a teenager. I didn’t go there every year, though my parents did, but I went there often enough to accumulate some truly wonderful memories. Also, it was a place of firsts for me (and I’m not talking about what you think I’m talking about; or if I am, I’m going to say no more on that subject until I write my memoirs).
It was the first place I had a gun pointed at me. Actually that happened at Nice Airport (Monaco is significantly smaller than most airports). I had left something on the aircraft we flew in on and went back alone to get it. There I found a small team unloading gold bullion from the plane – and startled one of the cops as I bounded up the stairs unannounced. Having an automatic pistol thrust into your face is not like it is in the movies. And the gendarme was scared which didn’t help matters. Scared people do stupid things. I wasn’t scared. I was petrified. And the seconds passed. Then the cop realized his gold robber was a thirteen year old boy and laughed. I don’t think I did. I was very, very shaken.
It’s amazing how much more relaxed security was in those days; and how much pleasanter for it.
It was the first place I was approached by a prostitute – a very pretty girl, not at all what I had imagined. I couldn’t afford her on my pocket money.
It was the first place I was officially presented to a princess, and had to bow and kiss her hand. I wiped my lips afterwards – and was teased about it ever since. I was about nine when that happened.
It was the first place I saw stunningly beautiful women sunbathing topless by the pool in the private beach club called Le Beach. I didn’t know where to look at first; but I learned.
It was the first place I ordered a beer. I was thirteen then and didn’t like it. My step-father insisted I finish it. His attempt at aversion therapy did not work.
It was the first place I went to a discotheque (as they were called then).
It was the first place I met a Sudanese. His name was Osman Ba and he was as black as could be and accompanied by a stunningly beautiful Swede who was as blond as could be. They did their best to keep me out of trouble.
It was the first and only place I saw policemen wearing spats; and if you’ll check out the recent wedding photographs of Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert II, you’ll see they still do.
What are spats? Well, the picture shows the idea (although the trousers should be longer). In effect, they are a shoe accessory of dubious value except arguably in the military where they bridge the gap between boot and trousers. Soldiers blouse their pants into them. Civilians hang their trousers over them. In their day, they were considered to look dressy. Gangsters in the Thirties used to wear them. They can afford them in Monaco. It’s the second smallest country in the world with a per capita income of $215,811 as of 2010. Good grief!
It was the first place where I saw the truly rich at play. One of the first things I noticed was that the men were all much older than the women; and that the women laughed a lot.
It was the first place where I met a Prima Ballerina. Her name is Carla Fracci and she was young then, and gorgeous. In fact she is pretty good-looking now (she was born in 1936). And she was the Prima Ballerina of La Scala, Milan. I met her at the Monaco home of a famous dancer and choreographer called Sir Anton Dolin. He offered me a job at La Scala but I turned him down. He was a charming man, but his motives were dubious. Carla went on to even greater things and, most suitably, has her own line of perfumes.
It was the first place, apart from home , where I met celebrities on a virtually daily basis (the flow was more variable at home). The one I got to know best was Peggy Lee, who was not only delightful but who – in the flesh – was an even better singer than when recorded in a studio. And she had a sense of humor.
It was the first and only place where I saw Sir Winston Churchill. He used to vacation on Aristotle’s yacht which was normally moored in Monaco’s harbor. As it happens, I saw him in the Hotel De Paris, dozing in his wheelchair. It must have been around 1959. He died in 1965.
It was the first place I fell in love – virtually every day (and sometimes more often).
Monaco: I remember it well! I had an interesting upbringing.