The Negresco is a beautiful rococo, belle époque hotel built around the turn of the last century on La Promenade des Anglais in Nice, in the south of France. Even under today’s plebeian standards, when backpacking and sandal-wearing tourists invade its elegant quarters, it stands as a monument to a world that no longer exists. I used to stop for a drink at its bar almost daily—nightly, rather—as the Negresco was always on the way back to Antibes after a night of gambling.
We were always three: Jimmy de Cadaval, Portugal’s premier duke; Porfirio Rubirosa, the world’s greatest playboy and seducer; and poor little Taki. Poor is the operative word, as the reason for the nightly stop was to drown my sorrows after an evening of contributing my father’s hard-earned cash to the Monte Carlo Bathing Corporation, as the casino was formally known.
Jimmy and Rubi both liked a drink, and after the casino closed at 4 a.m. we’d drive back to Antibes, where Jimmy’s boat was anchored. The bar was closed, but the hotel was open. The night concierge, a great friend of all of us, would open it, and we would have a whiskey or two, or at times even three. On the rare occasions when one of us was a winner, champagne would be offered, and perhaps a lady of the night.
This is all in the distant past, Nice having been overrun by...