The last week in Gotham was exceptional fun. I saw a Broadway play, Finding Neverland, compliments of the producer, my NBF Harvey Weinstein.It had me clapping with one hand due to the operation, and standing with the packed theatre for the ovation. Shows how much the critics who panned it know. The audience loved it, as did I. It’s an uplifting, wonderful play about J.M. Barrie and the children. Then there was the blind black guy in Brooklyn who told me, ‘You’re too pale for this neighbourhood.’ Go figure, as they say in that part of town.
I’m always sad to leave the city, especially with the end of spring. I miss its mixture of glitz and grit, of races and colours, of violence and pleasures, of misfits and millionaires. But saddest of all is seeing from up close a culture in decline. Someone called Gotham a vast ornithology, and that it certainly is. Not many writers take it on nowadays, but they sure used to — with elegance and economy, starting with E.B. White and Joseph Mitchell. I suppose political correctness inhibits scribes. It’s a bit like touch boxing: one goes through the moves, but very carefully, so as not to hurt.
In an advice column in the New York Times, a reader asks for guidance concerning household help. The help, apparently, is restricted to using service lifts. (Nothing unusual as far as I’m concerned.) The answer the ‘expert’ gives is PC at its most egregious. It describes the building as ‘white-glove’ — a modern-day Downton Abbey. It calls ‘household help’ a poor choice of words, a euphemism for language used ‘even earlier, like servant’. It suggests that ‘personal assistant’ would be less distasteful.
See what I mean about writers being afraid to take the city on? When one can’t call a spade a spade, one calls him or her — I don’t know — ‘buddy’, ‘Your Grace’? Yet turn on the idiot box and all you see is porn, violence and bad white guys killing minorities. During commencement week, speakers told thousands of students that they should listen to themselves, that the Big Me is the most important thing, and to keep promoting themselves on social media. Tom Wolfe predicted all this 30 years ago, but even he didn’t realise how bad things would become. Character building has become a no-no; one’s weaknesses make one strong. Amazing! Self-glorification is the be all and end all. Again, go figure.
Every time a crime is committed, the mother of the perpetrator claims that her little boy suffers from bipolar disorder. The hacks are very eager to report this in case the brutish cops give him a rough ride. As I’ve read the newspapers over the past two weeks I’ve made a note of the various diseases claimed by criminals with very long rap sheets: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, polysubstance dependency, attention deficit disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and one that made even the perpetrator laugh, intermittent explosive disorder.
One of the pleasures of living in New York City used to be Central Park. Central Park West’s beautiful beaux-arts and art-deco apartment towers were the backdrop to my vision of urban glamour. Walking past them I always imagine hearing the music of Cole Porter and see a faint outline of Fred Astaire in his white tie and tails. Since last year things have changed dramatically. No more dreaming while crossing the park. It’s now much too dangerous. Crime, shootings, murders and mugging have shot up, no pun intended. The new mayor, one Bill de Blasio, has ordered no more stop-and-frisk, and so criminals are out shooting at each other and muggings and murders have quadrupled in one year.
The worst news was the grisly murder and torture of a Greek-American couple, their 10-year-old son and their housekeeper by an ex-con from Guyana. Savvas Savopoulos paid $40,000 to the monster who was torturing his son by having a driver bring the money to his house, but was murdered along with the rest. An ambulance-chasing lawyer claimed the cops had the wrong man. He was discovered with 10,000 greenbacks in cash having travelled to New York City to see his girlfriend. His DNA matched that on a pizza crust found at the crime scene. The lawyer’s defence was that the monster did not like pizza. The reporting was fair but it did point out, time and again, that the Greek-American couple were affluent, as if affluence at times deserves what it gets. (They were successful, hard-working and self-made, and hardly as rich as, say, the Clintons.)
And to finish on an even more depressing note, the inevitability of Hillary’s election reminds me of the Papandreou family in Greece: the more money they had, the bigger their margin of victory at election time. Hillary and Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have become very, very rich. They are people without shame, who even solicited funds for their foundation from the model Petra Nemcova — $500,000 — to speak at a fundraiser for the charity that she founded after surviving the 2004 tsunami. The model paid, they collected. Squeezing donors is an art the Clintons have perfected, but Hillary will be the next American president, take it from Taki. It’s too depressing to think of the Clintons back in the White House selling rooms for the night to rich donors, so I might just stay on board the cruise ship with Spectator readers for the next five years.
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