Tag Archives: Taki Theodoracopulos

Every Invented Paradise Soon Turns Into Hell

Taki Theodoracopulos has gained a special place in the hearts of British Sunday newspaper readers over the last forty years or so with his gossip columns which mostly concerned his own exploits. More recently he has attracted the ire of your favourite blog readers for his pomposity, his vanity, name-dropping, and his blatant errors in what was some sort of valedictory article soon after Paddy’s death. The debate following my publication of Better a Hero Than a Celebrity got pretty heated; see Getting it Right. But we can’t ignore him, and here he is back again with a further recycling of his only Paddy anecdote, name dropping on the way. Utterly shameless.

by Taki Theodoracopulos

First published in his eponymous magazine, Taki’s Magazine, 22 March 2013.

He was a member of a charmed circle of Hellene and Philhellene intellectuals just before and after World War II, experiencing modern Greece and seeing it as a place rich in beauty and a stimulus to artistic creation. Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose biography by Artemis Cooper I just put away almost in tears—like a magical night with a girl of one’s dreams, I didn’t want it to end, but end it did—was a second Byron in Greek eyes. I found the book unputdownable, as they say in Boise, Idaho, especially the rich descriptions of rambunctious jaunts in tavernas and places where I had spent my youth.

There is always a feeling of imminent loss where Greece is concerned, an anxiety of what is in store, and no one captured it better than the Nobel Prize winner George Seferis—a close friend of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s—when he wrote:

And yet we knew that by the following dawn

nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side

nor the memory that we were once men.

This mood of apprehension, foreboding, and fear of oblivion is very, very Greek. Every invented paradise soon turns into hell, starting with Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. After all, we Greeks invented the “T” word.

The second Greek poet to win the Nobel Prize was Odysseus Elytis, ten years or so after George Seferis. Elytis’s brother was the non-playing captain of the Greek Davis Cup team, and he and I didn’t exactly get along. His name was Alepoudelis—“little fox” in Greek, Elytis being a pseudonym, and he was always trying to buy a used car from me for peanuts. I loathed that petty little man who had not named me in the singles against Spain back in 1964 because I had gone out all night with a queer bullfighter and his entourage. (I was hoping to meet Ava Gardner, a friend of the gay caballero.) Yet when I asked the little fox for an intro to the Nobel Prize winner for literature, he uncharacteristically gave me a glowing one. I met Elytis in Kolonaki, the chic residential section of Athens where we both lived.

At Café Byzantium, the first question I posed was the usual boring and unimaginative question that hacks ask of those whose work they know little about: “What does winning the Nobel mean to you?”

“I’m getting more pussy,” came his answer. I thought it so great I grabbed his hand and kissed it. (The one-sentence interview appeared in a Greek newspaper with glowing letters to the editor following.) We then proceeded to drink ouzo and chat up the girls.

But back to Paddy and his circle of friends. The leading players were the painter Niko Ghika, George Seferis (the “Colossus of Maroussi,” as Henry Miller immortalized him), George Katsimbalis, and our hero Paddy. I only met Ghika and Paddy once—in 1978 or ’79—under unfortunate circumstances. Ghika is Jacob Rothschild’s father-in-law, and his paintings throughout his life have been fresh and clean and pure and naked of all pretense. I was lying at anchor in Corfu on Gianni Agnelli’s boat when my host asked me to go up at the Rothschild villa and ask them down to lunch. Back then it was the only way to communicate, unless the Rothschilds understood Morse code.

I went and ran into a strict nanny-like woman sunning herself on the terrace, asked her if Jacob Rothschild was there and was told he was out, so I left a message that the Agnellis were expecting them for lunch in the bay below. The nanny was not best pleased. In fact she was downright rude, but I don’t do rude from foreigners in my own country, so perhaps I was a tiny bit rude also. (“Listen you old hag, just give them the bloody message.”) Then the Ghikas and the Rothschilds arrived, me never having met any of them before. And they looked rather peeved. The nanny turned out to be Dame Peggy Ashcroft, who had stayed behind.

The atmosphere did not improve after Agnelli asked me to do the introductions—a strange request, as I had not met Paddy or Ghika before. I got them right, of course, but then introduced Jacob’s wife as his mother and his mother as his wife. Had it not been for Paddy’s brilliance (he recited poems and sang and told nonstop stories), the lunch would have been a disaster. Afterwards the Rothschild woman went to the Spectator’s editor, called me scum, and asked that he fire me. She did not get her wish, as well she should not have, because it was a totally honest mistake on my part. Both women were rather plain, and I didn’t know them from Adam, so there.

I started this column with the intention of explaining Paddy’s Greece and why he loved my country so. I got sidestepped with trivia, although Nat Rothschild still laughs at my Corfu story. As publisher John Murray wrote on the dust jacket, “No one wore their learning so playfully,” which in today’s ghastly world of untalented people who hold themselves in high esteem is such a welcome relief from the pompous and self-important. Greece is olive groves and hills covered in pine and myrtle, thorns and cypress trees standing at attention before gray-green mountains that turn yellowish as the sun sets. Henry Miller waxed lyrically on the Greek light. He maintained that the Greek “lived amidst brutal clarities which tormented and maddened the spirit…urging him to war.”

No longer. The EU suits have turned the Greek into an effete, cowardly nonentity who plays along. Achilles is now Antonis, as in Samaras, the prime minister who has sold out the country. While 400 years of Turkish occupation did not snuff out the flame of Greek passion, the Brussels scum have. Goodbye Hellas, hello Belgium.

Related articles:

Better a Hero Than a Celebrity

Getting it right and that Taki article

Getting it right and that Taki article

I have to admit that there have been times over the last two years, when, running two blogs, I have either clearly been wrong to publish something, or I have posted an article that has created significant controversy and I subsequently wished I had not done so.

Life is always easy if one takes the uncontroversial path. I dare not mention the post I had in mind a year or so ago with the working title “Patrick Leigh Fermor: the Court Jester?” which was sparked by an interesting series of conversations and impressions I gained from reading ‘In Tearing Haste’. Whilst remaining an ardent admirer of Paddy, it would be wrong to say that he was a saint and beyond criticism. Few of us are.

Which brings me neatly to Taki, and the article that I posted last week entitled ‘Better a Hero Than a Celebrity’. Clearly Taki believes that he himself is beloved by all and can say and write what he wishes without fear of recrimination. He has a very old and a very thick skin. The article has sparked some significant debate in the comment section and I think it is worth bringing this to the attention of a wider audience for it sheds some light on Taki’s character and addresses some of the inaccuracies that I warn of in the introduction.

However, I stand by my response to the first comment which was as follows. Taki Theodoracopulos has had a place in European society over the last fifty years or so. Some may not like him, but clearly he has a role in commenting on the lives and loves of celebrities, which today appears to be of greater importance than the state of European banks and the future of the Euro; it is very big business. In fact Taki was one of the first ‘gossip columnists’. Whatever the inaccuracies of his article it meets the criteria of this blog. It is about Paddy and does possibly bring some new perspectives. This blog is fundamentally an archive of all on-line material about Paddy, and therefore the article stays.

I think it would be useful to all to highlight the points discussed in the Comments section, particularly the major error Taki made in stating that Paddy had killed Albert Fenske, the driver of General Kreipe’s car. Paddy had nothing to do with his death which was against orders and not at all part of the plan. Additionally the story about Paddy witnessing the death of the last German commanding General of Crete is pure fiction; it just did not happen like that.

So what is the moral of this tale? Yes, I would like it to be all sweetness and light, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. Let’s keep up the debate and remember I am more than willing to take in and publish articles that you have found or have written yourself.

Here are the comments up to this evening …..

From Chris Lawson:

“Known to the cognoscenti as Taki Takealotofcokeupthenose, Theodoracopulos is a man for whom the word “snob” might have been invented. Note the casual dropping of Agnelli’s name into his piece and Taki’s snide comments on Dirk Bogarde. It is NOT true that Paddy killed the driver of Kreipe’s car. Apart from the story of the execution of Kreipe’s successor (Name, details of crimes? Doesn’t mean Kreipe’s predecessor?), this brings nothing new to the saga of Paddy’s life. I would respectfully request that you remove the piece.”

My reply:

“No Chris – I don’t do censorship. Your comment can stand as a beacon to my error in posting it. However, Taki has a place in society over the last 50 years and this blog is a repository about Paddy. It stays.”

Chris Lawson responds:

“Fine by me. Of course it was not an error posting it and I agree entirely and whole-heartedly about what you say about censorship. Yes, Taki certainly has a place in the cultural pantheon de nos jours, and my thoughts are just the latest in a stream of negative comments directed at the former inmate of H.M. prisons. Whatever else one has to say about the gent, he is certainly one of life’s great survivors.”

Tim Todd (who runs the Il Met by Moonlight site and is an expert on the operation) interjected:

“That Taki could be so fundamentally wrong about the death of Albert Fenske, Kreipe’s driver, tells me much about the appropriately named Taki.

I believe that Fenske’s death, at the hands of two of his Cretan andartes and contrary to instructions, caused Paddy no end of personal grief, perhaps second only to the accidental shooting of his Cretan friend. I once listened to Paddy talk about this latter incident when, in the mountains after a cadet’s exercise, he failed to check his rifle before cleaning it when it was returned to him. I have to tell you he was still mortified by the whole business and sixty odd years on he was still visibly upset by it. Tom our webmaster and I, know from the best of sources that Fenske’s death was much regretted by Paddy. My own feeling is that but for that we might have seen Paddy’s own account of the abduction published.

I am thoroughly disappointed that anyone claiming to know the man would dare suggest Fenske died at Paddy’s hand. Paddy, perhaps the most honourable man I have ever met, would though have accepted responsibility for anything that may have happened under his command. He was that sort of man.

It is perhaps as well that Tom has published Taki’s piece for it provides an opportunity to compare the two and set the record straight.

I am pleased to say that, through Annette Windgass, Fenske’s family have recently been made aware of Paddy’s great sadness of that particular outcome of the operation.”

 Chris Lawson gave us some more about the story of the General’s death:

“On the General who succeeded Kreipe, and two predecessors

The Commandant of Crete, appointed on 1 May 1944 after Kreipe’s kidnapping, was Generalleutnant Helmut Friebe, Commander of the LXIV Armeekorps. He was captured by the Americans in May 1945 and released in 1947.

Two former commanders of Crete were tried and executed in Athens on 20 May 1947, the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete. One was the bloodsoaked Friedrich-Wilhelm Mueller, who was to have been the original target for the kidnapping until he was replaced by Kreipe. Mueller had a reputation for brutality and numerous atrocities were committed under his regime.

The other was General Bruno Bauer, a paratroop officer, who was appointed in 1942, replacing General Alexander Andrae. Bauer had gained the reputation of being hard and fair, and the “most humane commander” of Crete. Antony Beevor describes him as truly unfortunate, as he was executed for crimes “committed under another general”. Three years later the Association of Former German Paratroopers requested that his remains be returned to Crete. George Psychoundakis, resistance fighter and author of the Cretan Runner (already much-mentioned by Tom), reburied his remains.

Taki’s fourth paragraph is a complete fantasy.”

George joined the argument:

“The only readable part of Taki’s remembrance (sic ) is the last sentence, horrible in its clarity and even worse that it is written by someone whose trotters are deep in that particular trough.

His comments however, are an excellent example of the sponger’s wiles. The mildly mocking comment by Agnelli, humbly repeated to establish the writer’s honesty, while at the same time making it clear that the writer enjoys the same societal position.

Then the personal revelations as told uniquely to Taki, and no other. Who is to say it did not happen? Taki’s favourite method of asserting inside knowledge always has been to quote the ‘ confidences ‘ of dead people.

The lustrously depicted tale of an unrepentant Nazi Officer going blithely to his death comes straight out of ‘Boys Own ‘.

Next we have the gay bitchiness in his description of PLF’s relationship with his wife. Once again the vampire straddles an innocent’s grave seeking the lifeblood of fame by association.

Chris Lawson ( thank you ) marshalled all the necessary facts to give the lie to Taki’s comments. He was probably as irked by them as I was.”

Tim Todd concludes it all: 

“Inaccurate accounts of historical events, for personal vanity, or a film-makers preference for ‘a story’ over fact, infuriate me. This is especially so when such accounts may subsequently become part of history for those without inquiring minds. Last week saw the release of a new video by National Geographic half of which was about the abduction of Kreipe. It is appallingly bad and inaccuracies abound. I am so glad that some colleagues of mine and I, who know a thing or two (but not all) about the abduction, rejected the film makers request to assist them for it has turned out every bit as bad as we feared. Having read some of Paddy’s comments about Ill Met By Moonlight, I can imagine what he might of thought of the latest misrepresentation.”

… and you say ….??

Better a Hero Than a Celebrity

Taki Theodoracopulos

Always a modest man, Taki Theodoracopulos, the great playboy and socialite, is someone who knows everybody, and it is no surprise that he too met Paddy as he recounts in this piece from his online Taki Magazine which humbly describes itself as being about ‘Cocktails, Countesses and Mental Caviar’! I am not sure if Taki gets the irony in the title 🙂 Beware some glaring errors.

First published in Taki Magazine 4 July 2011

I first met Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor in the summer of 1977 in Corfu. I was onboard Gianni Agnelli’s boat, and the charismatic Fiat chairman asked me to go ashore and bring “a very smart Englishman whose ancient Greek is much better than yours.” I knew “Paddy,” as everyone called him, by sight, because among us Greeks he was on a par with our ancient heroes. Leigh Fermor was not only famous for his books on Greece—Mani and Roumeli—he was renowned for his incredible heroics in a guerrilla operation in Crete in May 1944. Having spent two years disguised as a Cretan shepherd in the island’s rough mountains harassing German troops, Paddy dressed as a German police officer and stopped a car carrying General Karl Kreipe, the island commander. Having killed the general’s chauffeur, Leigh Fermor proceeded to wear the general’s hat and managed to bluff his way through Heraklion and 22 subsequent checkpoints. Kreipe was stuffed under the backseat while Leigh Fermor’s bat man and three hefty Greek rebels sat on him. For three weeks the group managed to evade frantic German search parties, finally marching the general over Mount Ida, the mythical post-birth hiding ground of Zeus.

“Heroics aside, Leigh Fermor was often compared to Lord Byron for being both a man of action and learning.”

One moonlit night high up, Fermor was guarding the general when Kreipe, gazing up at the snowy peak, recited the first line of Horace’s ode, Vides ut alta stet nive candidum…—“ You see how [Mount] Soracte stands out white with deep snow.…” Leigh Fermor then continued the poem in perfect Latin until the end. The two men stared at each other, realizing, as Paddy later wrote, that they had “drunk at the same fountain.” The German and the Englishman then made a pact. Kreipe gave his word as an officer that he would not try and escape; in return, Leigh Fermor never turned Kreipe over to the firing squad.

What follows came straight from Paddy to me in Corfu. Six months after Kreipe’s kidnapping, Leigh Fermor landed yet again on the island to celebrate its liberation. He was taken behind Heraklion’s main square, where the general who succeeded Kreipe was about to be shot. Paddy was aghast because the German was cool as ice and when Paddy introduced himself, the condemned said: “Ah, Leigh Fermor, you were lucky. Kreipe was an intellectual, a softie; I would have killed you on the spot.” When Paddy asked him if there was anything he could do for him, the German asked for one last cigarette, thanked him, smoked it while inhaling rather deeply, then said goodbye and went off and got shot ramrod-straight.

Heroics aside, Leigh Fermor was often compared to Lord Byron for being both a man of action and learning. His very good friend, Robert Byron (no relation), was a travel writer who greatly influenced Paddy, whose most celebrated book, A Time of Gifts, told the story of his walk across Europe from Rotterdam to Constantinople at age 18. Leigh Fermor continued writing travel books, and they stood out for rendering the past visible, for their evocation of youthful exuberance, and for the joy one felt reading them. He was a very good-looking man, an Anglo-Irishman whose adventures in Crete were made into a film back in 1957, Ill Met by Moonlight. The irony was that he was played by Dirk Bogarde, an outrageous homosexual whose greatest talent was spreading terrible rumors about others.

Leigh Fermor was 96 when he died but lived vigorously until the end. Three years ago his correspondence with the last surviving Mitford Girl, Deborah, dowager Duchess of Devonshire, was published to great acclaim. What a cast of characters in that book. Norman Douglas—another great influence—Steven Runciman, Osbert Lancaster, Cyril Connolly, Bruce Chatwin, and many others rich and famous and literate. Paddy was a hell of a ladies’ man, although he married only once—to Joan Rayner, who was his close and understanding companion until her death in 2003. The word ‘understanding’ is key. He also wrote the script for John Huston’s The Roots of Heaven, a vastly underrated film in which Errol Flynn made a comeback by playing a has-been of sorts, a character Flynn repeated successfully to the end.

One of Leigh Fermor’s great regrets was that while cleaning his weapon in the mountains of Crete it accidentally went off and killed his trusted guide. He told George Seferis, Greece’s first Nobel Prize winner for Literature, that this death was probably his life’s lowest point.

Leigh Fermor and his wife designed and built a beautiful but very simple house in Kardamyli, deep in the Peloponnese and overlooking the sea, and they lived there for most of his adult life. I was lucky to have met him, and now that I am of a certain age I realize how much better it must have been to have lived during heroic times—no matter whose side one was on—than today’s empty, horrible celebrity culture. Paddy, Rest in Peace.