Some of his journalism comes with a health warning, but, taken together, Taki Theodoracopulos’s work reads like a roman-fleuve, an affectionate tapestry in remembrance of things past. The precocious teenager of the fifties is now one of the last men standing from an era of authentic chivalry and elegance.
Taki taking a break from his dictionary in 1982 (Photo David Montgomery/Getty Images)

“The Child,” Wordsworth wrote, “is father of the Man.” This apparently oxymoronic truth explains much about Taki Theodoracopulos. As a schoolchild in America after the war, and while his fellow pupils were preparing for life at university, Taki was reading for the university of life, learning Tender Is the Night and A Moveable Feast by heart. “As soon as school was over, I headed for Paris, the south of France and the Alps in hot pursuit of Dick Diver and Papa Hemingway,” he says. Thus it was at an American prep school that he plotted the coordinates of one of the most colourful voyages through life of the last 60 or so years, during which time he has become both Hemingway and Fitzgerald while remaining very much himself: war correspondent, convicted drug smuggler, Davis Cup tennis player, ladies’ man, karate champ, raconteur, and friend to Agnelli, Onassis, Sachs, Rubirosa, inter alia... a survivor and celebrant of the generation often celebrated in the pages of this magazine.

But he is best known as The Spectator’s High Life correspondent: the Ogre, the Bogeyman with whom the liberal elite scare naughty children, much as in the early 19th century exasperated British parents threatened to hand over their unruly offspring to Boney. In the interests of health and safety, even potential adult readers are presented with a stern health warning. One anthology of his work informed the neophyte reader what they were in for: “People say he is a racist, a snob, a vulgarian, a sex-maniac, a cad, a fascist and a drunk.” If he had to declare his occupation on an official document it would be as the baiter of sententious and sanctimonious liberal opinion. And it cannot be denied that some of his work makes extremely uncomfortable reading, particularly in these inclusive times. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the world would be a better place if all racists, snobs, vulgarians, sex-maniacs, cads, fascists and drunks were like Taki.


July 2021

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