What's the point of Taki if he isn't offensive any more?

The ageing womaniser and 'Spectator' columnist talks to Matthew Bell about David and Boris

The first test for any incoming editor of The Spectator is Taki: to sack him or back him? One of the magazine's longest-running columnists, his dispatches from the frontline of the international beau monde have achieved cult status, though he is as notorious for his racist rants.

Soon after Fraser Nelson took over last summer, he telephoned the 73-year-old columnist, announcing he had bad news. "But the bad news was that nobody had asked him to sack me," laughs Taki Theodoracopulos, from the end of a phone in Manhattan. To a professional irritant, this must be a blow, as there have been calls for Taki's head ever since he started the High Life column in 1977. The millionaire playboy has breezily called himself a "soi-disant anti-Semite" and peppers his conversation with words like "wop", "yid" or "dago"; yet he has survived seven editors and five proprietors. Tomorrow, he publishes an anthology of the past nine years, the last half of which has been relatively controversy-free. Has this been deliberate?

"I have calmed down," he admits, "I try to be a little more pensive now and write comment pieces rather than extracts from my diary." Asked if he regrets what he has written in the past, he screams: "Of course" – explaining that he would often dash off a column in the heat of an emotion and then feel quite differently two hours later.

This week's column includes no racism, and no gossip about the Kennedys or Goldsmiths; instead it is a comparison of the political situations here and in Greece, concluding: "What's a little stealing from the crooks of the EU, with a little help from Goldman Sachs, that is?"

This is still classic Taki – forthright and provocative, and firmly anti-banker. Taki was ahead of the curve on that, blasting City mega-bonuses long before the recession, even if his objection came from the viewpoint of a plutocrat lamenting the deluge of new millionaires.

The son of a shipping magnate, Taki has never needed to work, yet wealth has not made him idle: in addition to his weekly Spectator column, he has four other columns, edits Taki's Magazine, and co-founded The American Spectator. The only break from his Spectator column was a spell in Pentonville, after he was caught trying to board a plane in possession of cocaine: "At least I got a book out of it."

His energy has also famously been channelled into his sex life, and his advice to lovelorn men is to pursue a girl until she gives in, even if it's out of sympathy. He is currently in pursuit of The Spectator's deputy editor, Mary Wakefield, though his chances are considered slim.

His enthusiasm for writing is admirable, even if English is not his mother tongue. "When I started, William Buckley said you either go back to school and learn what a dangling participle is or you do it by ear. I'm lucky to have a great editor [arts editor Liz Anderson] at The Spectator – sometimes I read my column and there are some sentences that look awfully good," he laughs.

As you would expect, Taki shares his magazine's enthusiasm for the new Conservative Prime Minister, although he has never met him. "I'm more of a Boris man," he says, referring to his former editor. Taki's endorsement may be toxic to a modern Tory, but he remains loyal to Boris Johnson, who refused to sack him despite an investigation by the Met into one particularly forthright column in which Taki wrote: "Only a moron would not surmise that what politically correct newspapers refer to as 'disaffected young people' are black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs ..."

Taki has been sued five times, his most recent opponent being Lady Colin Campbell, whom he wrongly accused of being a man. He lost them all, but he delighted in a legal victory against Mohamed Al Fayed, who failed to demand costs from Taki and the group of others who had financially backed Neil Hamilton's libel action. He still thrills at the memory: "Attacking big shots is always fun. I only go for the big guys, and they deserve it."

Taki remains an active sportsman, having played tennis professionally for Greece. His daily routine involves judo in the morning and a walk round Central Park; reading the papers and writing a column, followed by karate in the afternoon; in the evening he goes out "and gets drunk".

He spends every winter in Gstaad, and has homes in Greece and London; but asked where he feels most at home, he says New York, before making a typical sideswipe over the city's racial diversity. Quite why he feels entitled to claim New York for his own over its millions of other immigrants defies logic. But racism has never been logical; nor, for that matter, has Taki.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living