All Downhill From Here

GSTAAD—My annual end-of-year party in the Bagel was a bust. Too many people brought their friends and I ended up asking men and women to please leave my bedroom, especially my bathroom. I had some very pretty young things drop in and some even overstayed, and—surprise, surprise—there were even some items missing after the cleanup the next day. But that was then. I’m now in Gstaad for the duration.

The good news for the nouveaux riches is that it rained like hell for three days and it washed away all the snow. Skiing and new moola don’t mix. The sounds on Main Street now are a bit like Beirut—or is it Athens?—but it sure “don’t” sound like good old Helvetia used to. My closest friend Aliki Goulandris gave a wonderful pre-Xmas dinner in her chalet, and we reminisced about the ’50s and ’60s in Gstaad. Nothing worked, the chairlifts were slow and swung dangerously when the winds blew, the slopes were unprepared and without warning signs for rocks, the pistes were icy and uneven, the bindings froze and didn’t snap open if one fell forward or backward—only on the side—and the chalets were so flimsily insulated that men and women did what came naturally in their thermal underwear. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $15.00 (as of 10:25 EST - Details)

Yet it was paradise because we all knew one another and we were all young. Fifty back then was the 80 of today. We were all in our 20s. The Volkswagen Beetle was the car to own, and the only Rolls belonged to the Palace Hotel. It ferried important clients up from the railroad station. The Maharani of Patiala arrived by helicopter and was told not to do it again. (It scared the crap out of the cows locked up for the duration.) Food fights were a nightly occurrence, and they sound awfully silly now. The locals were the only ones who owned chalets; the rest of us were at the Palace. And then it started—the one-upmanship, that is. Chalets got bigger and bigger, swimming pools were added, then private cinemas and large gymnasiums, well, you know the score.

Buses now arrive packed with awestruck tourists looking for celebrities, the last one being Elizabeth Taylor, who left us quite a long time ago. Julie Andrews, David Niven, Roger Moore, and Sean Connery were all Gstaad people at one time or another, my favorites being Sir Roger and Lord Menuhin, both now performing upstairs for the duration. Another one I liked was Larry the lorry driver, married to Liz Taylor and a bit befuddled at times because of drink. But Roman Polanski is still here, still skiing well at age 84, and still pursued by the Americans for something he did more than forty years ago.

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