Last Thursday Nicky Haslam and his 1000 closest friends thumbed their noses at the coming tide of thrift, on a river of champagne, wearing raiment of violet, black and silver. To the unfamous anthropologist of conversation, it was a valuable opportunity to observe whom the people who wish to be seen themselves most wish to see. The conclusion was dismaying.
Allegedly, Paris Hilton’s wranglers have been hiring crowds of fans to provide suitable ‘background context’ for her public appearances (apparently, she’s been on the prowl for a new best friend for a TV show — a project for which public indifference makes an unsuitable backdrop). Nonetheless, there has been no dimming of Paree’s glamour for the in-crowd. Luminaries such as Lord Bragg, Yentob of the BBC, Princes and Princesses (from Fergie to Kent), media moguls, pipe-cleaner blondes, moustachioed dukes, gum-chewing Jaggers, even Sainted Bob Geldof, were mere gyrating, hypnotised extras beside the bulb-popping, groin-swelling figure of pipe-cleaner in excelsis, Paris, as she shimmied on the rotating dancefloor. Our host wore a beatific smile and did not quit gay Paree’s side.
I also learnt a useful social lesson. In a noisy room you can talk to anyone. Simply ensure that what you say sounds like something else. To prolong the encounter, make sure that you mishear what you are told. And be charitable: the lone celebrity’s sense of self dissolves like a sunburnt vampire if for more than two seconds they are left alone. They want you to say hello.
Thus I enjoyed intimate exchanges with Mrs Newhouse.
‘Have you had a good evening?’ I asked.
‘We’ve been travelling round old France,’ she said.
‘In France? How lovely. Whereabouts?’
(Laughter) ‘I said, we’ve been catching up with old friends!’
And the solitary drifting form of Prince Michael of Kent, like a White Russian ghost with his antiquely pruned whiskers and vapid gaze, seemed quite friendly when I asked: ‘Why aren’t you wearing violet?’
A step closer, a hand cupping his silverly hairy ear. ‘I knew your father, eh?’
Upon clarification, his smile faded.
‘I didn’t know your father?’
He waved a handkerchief in my face and skedaddled, in a vaporish way. I assume the hanky was violet.