(Art Buchwald has taken off a few weeks to study the effects of solar energy on bikini bathing suits. He left behind some of his classic columns which the Supreme Court has just ruled can now be released to the American people.)
A few years ago I wrote about the shortage of guests on the Riviera, and pointed out that while everyone had a villa or a yacht, the natural resources in house guests and boat guests were drying up fast, and unless a guest conservation program was instituted, the people along the Riviera would soon find themselves dining and sailing alone. Well, they scoffed at my warning, but this year the Riviera is facing its worst guest shortage since Elsa Maxwell tried to get a passenger list together for a cruise of the Greek islands.
The profiteering in guests this year is unimaginable.
I know, because that's how I was paying for my vacation. It happened by accident, but if a fellow doesn't take advantage of a situation, he'll wind up spending his own money on the Riviera, and who wants to do that?
It seems that fellow columnist John Crosby showed up in Monte Carlo and innocently asked me if I could get him invited to the Red Cross dinner and gala at which Sammy Davis Jr. was going to entertain.
I pretended it would be difficult but said I'd do my best. What I knew but John didn't was that the ratio of women to me all along the Riviera was six to one, and [WORD ILLEGIBLE]were willing to pay anything for a single man to sit at one of their tables.
An hour later I was down at the beach making discreet inquiries. I was tipped off that a Mrs. Max Kettner of New York had three extra women for the gala and was getting desperate.
"How would you like to have Crosby at your table?" I asked her.
"Bing Crosby?" she asked.
"Listen," I said, "if I had Bing Crosby, I wouldn't be here - I would be negotiating at the palace withPrincess Grace.
"My boy's John Crosby, but he's been a helluva dinner guest in his time. He's eaten at Billy Paley's house, he's broken bread with Mrs. Pam Harriman, he's had coffee with the Trudeaus twice. This guy is no bum - he's Yale '38, and that gives him a presold table audience right there."
Mrs. Kettner wet her lips. "How much are you asking for him?"
"It depends," I said, "Do you want him for cocktails before the dinner?"
"What's the difference?" Mrs. Kettner wanted to know.
"Well, I can book him for cocktails before the gala at the Hotel de Paris with another part, and that would cut down the price for you. He could join you for dinner around 10 o'clock."
"I think I should have him for cocktails," Mrs. Kettner said.
"But I'd better warn you that I don't want to pay more than $1,500 for the evening."
"Fifteen hundred dollars?" I said. "Why, I turned down $2,000 from Sam Spiegel for Crosby to lunch with him on his yacht, and Crosby din't have to put a black tie on either. If you're going to start talking chicken feed I'd rather have Crosby stay in his room tonight."
I'll pay $1,750," Mrs. Kettner said.
"This is ridiculous, I couldn't get you a gold Caddy for $1,750 tonight. Look Crosby's a syndicated columnist, he's a name. You pair him up with one of your female guests and she's going to be impressed - this guy's got class. I'm not going to sell him out for a song."
"Well, how much do you want?" Mrs. Kettner said.
"The same as Sammy Davis Jr. is getting for entertaining tonight," I said.
"But that's outrageous!" Mrs. Kettner replied.
"Look. Entertainers are a dime a dozen," I said. "Where are you going to find dinner guests at this late date? After all, Davis will only be on stage entertaining: Crosby will actually be at your table sitting with you."
Mrs. Kettner finally agreed, provided Crosby also would come for cocktails.
I pocketed the money and then rushed back to tell Crosby the news that I had managed to get him invited to the gala.
Tears of gratitude poured from his eyes. "How can I ever thank you?" he said.
"Forget it, kid." I said, punching him slightly in the shoulder. "You can do a favor for me sometime."
To this day Crosby doesn't know how much he is worth. He still thinks I did him a good turn. If I only had three Crosbys a season I could make enough dough to retire for the rest of the year.