Man About Town: 'Was that bid for £55,000 or £60,000?' 'Oh whatever...'


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The Independent Culture

As David Cameron and Boris Johnson will know, the secret to a successful fundraising party is not simply inviting your best friends, but your richest ones. Dave and BoJo bumped up the Tory party’s coffers this week to the tune of £160,000, by auctioning off the chance to play tennis with them.

On Monday night I watched similar money fly across the room at an auction at the Masterpiece exhibition in London. The auction wasn’t specifically an art one (although a portrait of Kate Moss by David Bailey went for £80,000), but one of general, money-can’t-buy-experiences. Heather Kerzner, a socialite and philanthropist, played hostess at the dinner which was held in aid of the inspirational Marie Curie cancer charity, and raised a total of £900,000.

It has become an annual event, and among those with high-profiles and high net-worths, this year’s guests included Princess Beatrice and Clive Owen. A previous run of the party a couple of years ago at Claridge’s, saw Ronnie Wood perform while Kate Moss danced.

The auction that night also made me realise the importance of inviting the extremely rich to your charity event. One lot was a special, customised ring by a top jeweller. The bidding had reached £50,000, when auctioneer Lord Harry Dalmeny spotted another hand go up in the air.

“Is that a bid for £55,000 or £60,000?” Dalmeny asked the bidder.

“Oh, whatever,” came the reply.

* With the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend I was asked to present a pre-race build up event in the stunning grounds of the Honorable Artillery Company in the heart of the City of London.

Now, I’m normally not one to subscribe to the idea that life was better in the past. But after interviewing Sir Stirling Moss I wondered if I was right. Moss, the first Briton to win the British GP (Aintree, 1955) and a man who won 40 per cent of the races he entered, suggested that it really was more fun for the drivers in his day.

He said that when current star Lewis Hamilton won a race, his first priority had to be chatting up his sponsors, when Moss won a race, his first priority was chatting up members of the opposite sex. I found it hard to argue with that.

Luke Blackall is a video journalist for London Live