European Diary

Crazy Russian No More

A quarter of a century ago, when I started writing for this magazine, I was the Russian.  Along with the sense of exclusivity it afforded, that simple tag gave its owner a clear run through the 1980’s and 90’s on both sides of the Atlantic.  I was the only Russian in any crowd, whether as taciturn as the Scotch-drenched habitués of a club in St. James’s or as boisterous as the desert sheiks losing their camels in a casino in Curzon Street.  I had gone to Yale, retched with the best of them in the Rockingham, reviewed books for the Wall Street Journal, published English poems in Encounter, drunk ombre with descendants of Venetian doges, eaten macaroni with Sicilian gangsters, argued about communism with Taki, and eavesdropped on Russian hookers who had been working Chelsea long before the first New Russian businessman dipped his as-yet-unmanicured toe in the Thames.

At least as far as social life went, in the new millennium my easy eminence began to totter.  Chelsea had become a household Russian word.  The fashion model Natalia Vodyanova had become a lady.  Evgeny Lebedev had been launched as the Russian face of the British glossy Tatler, and reciprocated by launching Geordie Greig as the English face of the London Evening Standard, which his dad had bought from Lord Rothermere of the Mail.  Through circumstances over which she had...

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