In a more amusing world, the acid-tongued Taki Theodoracopulos — known simply as Taki — would by now have been the host of a late-night television chat show for at least three decades. Given his penchant for delivering outrageous remarks at machine-gun speed, he would have needed an attorney as a sidekick in order to fend off the lawsuits within minutes of his going on air. On the other hand, he would have kept us titilated, infuriated and possibly in a state of simmering national uproar. The water-cooler conversation would have made way for the water-cooler fight.
In the world we actually live in, Taki, the son of a Greek shipping magnate, works strictly in the medium of print — not that he has to work at all. “High Life,” his column recounting the goings-on in the upper echelons of society on both sides of the Atlantic, has run in the London Spectator since 1977. In 2002 he formed an unlikely partnership with Pat Buchanan and started The American Conservative, a biweekly anti-war “paleo-conservative” riposte to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. Though far from liberal on many issues, Taki was against the Iraq war long before it started, and continues to criticize it now, along with a lot of other things.
But be warned. “I’m very political without being political,” he says. “I don’t know how to speak proper political language.” Which is why, of course, you would never see him on TV. What follows is an edited version of two conversations with Taki in his Manhattan townhouse.
L.A. WEEKLY: What pleases you about modern life?
TAKI: Absolutely nothing. Like Gore Vidal says, “When would you like to have lived? 17th century with penicillin.” What pleases me is modern medicine; that keeps you alive. But the modern world, actually nothing. I was brought up in a very formal world, which I liked, because it was nice to be an anarchist among the rich in those days. It was nice to do the bad things, but like P.G. Wodehouse said, the worst thing you could do was knock a policeman’s hat off. This was the kind of trouble you’d get in, and it was fun. Now . . . But a lot of old people get like that.
Were you always so opinionated?
I was very politicized always. I was very conservative politically, because I’d seen what the communists did to my country. If I heard the word “Hitchens” or “Trotsky,” and all those chic Trotskyites in London in the ’70s, I’d get in fights all the time. Which didn’t make you very popular, because in England, for some strange reason, people wanted to settle their arguments over a civilized discussion and tea. [Laughs] I’ve obviously changed now. I’ve become very, very liberal as far as war is concerned. It’s just too terrible. I’ve been to wars and I’ve seen what happens. I know what it is to be hurt, and it’s nothing compared to these guys. To be blind for the rest of your life. To have prosthetic limbs.
You’ve long been notorious for being “outrageous.” What do you think of Ann Coulter?
I like Ann Coulter because for far too long the left has had the podium to say anything they want. Obviously I don’t agree with her pro-war stance, but I like the way she goes after liberals, and I love the fact that she first pointed out that all these years they’ve said it’s a level playing field. Well, it’s not a level playing field. The liberals always had the three networks, and the other things. Now, because it’s getting a bit more level, Teddy Kennedy’s screaming, “Let’s have a Fairness Act.” They’re so spoiled. It’s like the rich man who suddenly has to pay taxes.
What about our current president?
I still can’t get over on what grounds Bush went into Iraq. The idea that we have people in jail as being terrorists — I think it was a pretty terrorist thing we did down there. What kind of an American administration is this, where Charles Taylor is sitting with 100 million dollars in his pocket? After all, Liberia is sort of like America’s child. Why is Charles Taylor above the law? Why does Bush hold the hand of that towelhead Abdullah? What has he done for the oil lately? Come on! If you had a moral line, which I thought Bush might keep, then of course you’re for him 100 percent. “Well, we need the oil.” Fuck the oil! What are they going to do, drink it? Mind you, having said that, there’s nobody I find a nicer person than George Bush. I think he’s a real president, not a sleazebag like that piece of filth, Clinton. He has big ideas, a program, not afraid to change things. But is he a Republican? Of course not. Is he a conservative? Certainly not. I mean, the budget has ballooned, the deficit has ballooned, and we’re going around imposing democracy.