No Dandies Allowed?

Friday, March 28, 2008


(A) The title of a 19th-century novel of manners.

(B) The name of a defunct punk-rock band.

(C) The reason given by the U.S. government for barring British artist Sebastian Horsley from entering the country.

The answer, of course, is (C). Last week, Mr. Horsley, in top hat and tails, was turned away when he landed at Newark Liberty International Airport to begin a U.S. promotional tour for his new memoir, "Dandy in the Underworld." The grounds: moral turpitude, or depraved behavior. There is reason to think that Mr. Horsley's conduct at least at one time met the legal definition of the term. If his book is to be believed, Mr. Horsley started life to the manor born but spent sizable amounts of money on such diversions as booze, heroin and prostitutes. (He makes no mention in the book of whether he once aspired to become a U.S. governor.) Mr. Horsley's paper trail did not begin with the publication of his book. Some 25 years ago, the then-20-year-old Mr. Horsley was arrested and fined in London for possession of amphetamines. Mr. Horsley, though, has apparently been drug-, alcohol- and crime-free for years.

For eight hours, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents hammered Mr. Horsley with questions, according to The Post's Kevin Sullivan. The big one: "Describe your relationship with Kate Moss," the waifish supermodel with alleged substance-abuse issues of her own. Mr. Horsley denied knowing Ms. Moss, but he was nonetheless shuffled aboard a British Airways plane and flown back to England, forthwith.

Yes, according to the most technical reading of the law, the agents had the right to banish Mr. Horsley. No, Mr. Horsley is likely not the kind of Englishman you'd take home to Mum. But neither is he accused of a violent crime or of being a danger to others. The time and efforts of customs agents would be better spent ferreting out drug smugglers, would-be terrorists and others intent on doing harm. Their decision to expel Mr. Horsley on grounds of moral turpitude only proves that they used torpid judgment.

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