The cad rides again

There ought to be no place for the cad in touchy-feely, egalitarian 21st-century society. Yet this symbol of arrogant, devious and irresistible manhood is flourishing ­ and now even available for hire. It's the moment John Walsh has been waiting for.
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The Independent Online

Once you could tell him from 20 yards away by his Tattersall-check waistcoat. Or the co-respondent shoes. Or his driving gloves. No gentleman would be seen dead wearing any of them, and the thing about the cad is that he lacks the instincts of a gentleman. He is not interested in correct behaviour or good form. He observes no proprieties or decent intervals. He is out for what he can get, and will use anyone - women especially, but also friends, parents, children and employers - to get it.

Seldom independently wealthy, the cad is likely to be penniless; his desire for instant gratification makes him spend any dosh, brass, moolah, shekels, tin or rhino that has recently come his way, before scheming about how easily (and how soon) he can get more. If he can't scrounge a Lady Godiva or two, he can always crash someone's party and hit the free buffet, before checking out the Popsie Quotient.

Despite his chronic lack of funds, he is always well-turned-out in slightly archaic fashions - in brown pinstripes or Cordings houndstooth, although there are giveaway signs that all is not well: the string cuff links, the torn collar, the white sweat stains in the tuxedo armpits, the rumpled shirt that looks two sizes too big (of course it's too big - he got it from Toby Newstead when Toby was distributing his dead papa's wardrobe after the funeral) and the shoes held together with surgical tape. You don't draw attention to these details, but every time you glance at his collar or his shoes, he redoubles his efforts to tell you about the time he beat the Sultan of Brunei at poker and, instead of money, was given his choice of the courtyard odalisques to play with for the night. (He chose two. Just couldn't decide between them...)

Cads have always been womanisers. They may be ungentlemanly in many ways - failing to settle debts, getting drunk, abusing other chaps' hospitality - but it's in their treatment of the fair sex that they reveal their headlong rotter-ness. Consider the great lovers of history - Don Juan, Casanova, Hugh Hefner, Porfirio Rubirosa, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra - and you notice we have hardly a good word to say about any of them. They had too many women, the logic runs, and in moving on so fast from one to the next, they behaved like cads. It's not just ungentlemanly behaviour that defines the beast; it's unconcern for, or disregard for, other people's feelings.

Real cads aren't, in general, strong characters; they just do extraordinary things. Their lives are compendia of bad behaviour, anthologies of wrongdoing, and most of the time they hardly notice. When Frank Sinatra tired of Mia Farrow (as he'd tired of Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall) he sent one of his bodyguards to serve divorce papers to her on the set of Rosemary's Baby because he was too busy laying siege to Barbara Marx. When the late Alan Clark MP conducted an affair with a judge's wife, it was not a polite or decent thing to do. To have an affair with the judge's daughter as well was to go far beyond modern propriety. To have an affair with his other daughter - that went off the scale of misbehaviour, into that no-man's-land where spectators stand slack-jawed with awe and grudging respect."He should be horse-whipped," the cuckolded judge allegedly remarked, invoking the traditional aristocratic punishment for caddishness. Alan Clark probably thought much the same; true cads are often amazed by their own wickedness, because they're slow on the uptake - so startled by what they're allowed to get away with that they don't realise how much other people have been hurt, exploited, or disregarded.

Does this sound attractive, girls? Well, now you have a chance to test the type yourselves. From this week, you can hire yourself a cad for the evening and, through drinks, dinner and whatever misbehaviour follows, you can explore the full range of caddishness available to modern womankind, the whole dismal gamut of caddiosity. It's the brainchild of a company called Rakehell's Revels, which puts on 1940s-themed club nights at the Café Royal in London, where swishy would-be sophisticates in their grandparents' dove-grey tailcoats and Fortuny gowns pretend it's wartime and dance to Tommy Dorsey and Ella Fitzgerald.

The chap behind all this is David Piper, events organiser (he's hosted parties for Christina Aguilera, Keira Knightley, Freddie Windsor, Jade Jagger and, surprisingly, Amnesty International) and retro flâneur. He always dresses in Forties style. Why? "I grew a pencil moustache," he said suavely, "and the world just... fell into place." How would a Cad-o-Gram evening unfold? "We hire out cads who will show women a wildly exciting time in which the cad has no responsibility of any kind. The lady pays for an expensive dinner in which she'll be swept off her feet, but it's quite likely the gentleman will flirt with every other woman he sees, he may order a cocktail on her tab and send it to a blonde at another table, he may steal £40 from her handbag while she's in the loo, he may pinch the waitress's bottom, and they may both be interrupted by the cad's jealous current girlfriend appearing and screaming abuse at him..."

I see. And what exactly is in this for the lady? "She'll get treated incredibly badly, but in a most exciting way. She'll encounter bad behaviour of which most men just wouldn't be capable."

Mr Piper and his retinue of scoundrels are not tied to a decade, it seems. They're not stuck, like Piper himself, in the Forties, but share elements of ne'er-do-well heartlessness from several periods "from Don Juan to Regency rakes". An evening with one will cost you an astonishing £500, plus the cost of dinner. And sex? Is that, as it were, thrown in? Is Cad-o-Gram, in fact, just a form of anti-escort service? Piper considered. "I think it's more likely the cad will let her assume that sex is on the cards, before running off when something better comes up," he said. "I think sex would be giving the lady a bit too much. The idea, you see, is not to give her anything at all."

There are eight cads currently on Cad-o-Gram's books, bearing names like Blue Logan ("the dashing bohemian"), Lucifer ("combining the wild gypsy spirit with effortless swashbuckling dash") and Amechi ("an African prince, and master tailor and dressmaker"). They all appear to be friends of Piper's. So if an unknown male arrived to join the team, what qualities would he have? "He must be immensely good-looking," said Piper, "witty and charming, a brilliant conversationalist, he must be willing to manipulate any situation and use every kind of Lifemanship gambit to get what he wants."

Lifemanship! It's ages since anyone mentioned the works of Stephen Potter, the university professor and literary critic who, in the 1950s, published The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating and its many offshoots, most notably One-Upmanship. He invented the concept of "Woo-manship" - strategies for courting women so they'll be putty in your hands. His books were the inspiration for School for Scoundrels, the 1960 film of do-it-yourself caddishness, starring Terry-Thomas, the ne plus ultra of English caddery.

English cads, of course, are different from other nationalities. Terry-Thomas was a ludicrous predator with quizzical eyebrows, an RAF moustache, a gap-toothed leer ("I sayyyyyy...") and a buttonhole carnation, and no woman in her right mind would be taken in by him for a second. The idea of this reptilian non-charmer as a genuine seducer was absurd. His later girl-crazy avatar, Leslie Phillips ("Hell-ay-oh...") was a skirt-chasing smoothie, but you couldn't imagine him coldly dumping a lover from boredom. Chasing her sister, yes, being heartless, no. Michael Caine in Alfie is a shallow, chauvinistic womaniser who dumps the sweet Julia Foster when she's pregnant and has sex with his hospitalised pal's wife; but, in Bill Naughton's novel and screenplay, he's brought up short by witnessing an abortion and discovers his internal loneliness: a cad who acquires a conscience has no authenticity as a cad.

English fiction is jam-packed with cads. In David Copperfield, the glamorous and clever Steerforth is a hero to both David and the reader; there's no hint of danger when David introduces him into the Peggotty family. When he runs away with Little Em'ly, the sweet young virgin betrothed to the cloddish Ham, we can intuit how Steerforth might have told himself he was only saving the girl from terminal ennui. But his actions bring only misery - to Em'ly (deserted), her father (heartbroken), Steerforth's mother (bereaved), to Rosa Dartle who loves him (frustration), to Ham and to Steerforth (they both drown). In Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy gave his heroine Bathsheba a test of character in the person of Sergeant Troy. Handsome, dashing, impecunious, sword-wielding, laddish and in love with someone else, he's the Victorian super-cad, deserting Fanny Price, neglecting Bathsheba, disappearing and reappearing for maximum inconvenience, blithely unconcerned about anyone but himself. Jane Austen's cads are also classics of the type, polished charmers, habitués of pump room and ballroom until the moment comes when they elope with a younger sister (like Wickham in Pride and Prejudice) or leg it to London to marry an heiress (like Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility).

The trouble is, of course, that we secretly admire their bad behaviour. Without Wickham and Willoughby, the Austen novels would be studies in propriety rather than warnings of social ruin. Without Tom Jones' sexual incontinence in Henry Fielding's novel, we'd have a dull moral fable about goodness under threat. Without the weapons-grade caddishness of his womanising, James Bond would be just a cool killing machine. Something inside us instinctively half-admires the flash villain, the smooth-talking predator, the cocky adventurer, because they make life temporarily more vivid, even if they are trying to borrow £50, bum a cigarette or part your daughter (or mother) from her underwear. We are shocked that people can do such things, that the civilised world can allow it to happen, but we love to experience that rare, electrical charge.

Which is why cads, it seems, can go on thriving on misbehaviour, irresponsibility, selfishness and amorality, because they will always find people who are weary of abiding by the rules, who don't want men to be gentlemen all the time or stay-at-home partners, who want to see how a modern Regency buck behaves, and test their mettle against his. Are enough women so anxious to find out that they'll happily spend £500 being treated like dirt for the evening? Couldn't they just get hold of James Hewitt's number?

Cad profiles by Ed Caesar

James Hewitt

It seems hard to believe now, but James Hewitt - the braying, blazered nincompoop, and Britain's foremost reality television tart - once used to cut a dash around London. Indeed, this is the man Princess Diana claimed she "loved... adored". How did he do it? Hewitt has claimed he is "a very big boy!"

James Bond

Given that his chat-up technique consists of dry martinis and cheesy one-liners, the number of women that Bond can seduce - and discard - in the course of a two-hour film is breathtaking. Even though in the latest film, Casino Royale, Bond's womanising is less overt, the secret agent still finds time to tuck into three international beauties (all of whom end up dead).

Daniel Cleaver

It says something of Hugh Grant's performance in the film adaptations of Bridget Jones, that the dastardly, shagging, inconstant Daniel Cleaver is by far the most appealing character. Cleaver is the über-cad - who, on hearing that a young Bridget used to run around Darcy's paddling pool naked, remarks: "I bet you did, you dirty bitch."

Terry-Thomas

Debonair, gap-toothed, and deliciously moustached, Terry-Thomas was the ultimate on-screen cad. He played a variety of rotters through the 1950s and 1960s, in films such as Private's Progress, I'm Alright Jack, and Lucky Jim, where his catchphrases - "You're an absolute shower!" and " Good show!" - made him a picturehouse favourite.

Mr Wickham

Cads rarely fare well in Austen. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy has Wickham's number from the start. The women, though, are blinded by Wickham's suavity. It's only when he runs off with Lizzy Bennett's younger sister, Lydia, that everyone sees what a rapacious ne'er-do-well he really is.

Sir Harry Paget Flashman

Flashman was created by Thomas Hughes, where he appeared as the school bully in Tom Brown's Schooldays, but his fame as a cad is entirely down to George MacDonald Fraser, who reinvented the character. In the Fraser's Flashman books, the Victorian anti-hero appears as a serial womaniser, popinjay and coward. He also sports a fine moustache.

Mick Jagger

The Rolling Stone made sure the British Invasion was fought at both a musical and physical level. Jagger is well known for his high-profile marriages to Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall, but he has also been romantically (and unromantically) linked to scores of other famous beauties, including the singers Carly Simon and Marianne Faithfull.

John F Kennedy

JFK was America's most handsome President, and a cad to boot. When he propositioned the attractive wife of a friend at a White House reception, she told him she was married. He replied, "so am I. What of it?" For Kennedy, sex was not just fun, it was necessary - he is reported to have told Harold MacMillan that if he didn't have sex once a day, he suffered from headaches.

Giacomo Casanova

The granddaddy of caddery, and the inspiration for the fictional creation, Don Juan, Casanova was a legendary Venetian womaniser who ploughed his furrow through European society in the 18th century. In his memoir, Histoire de ma Vie, Casanova mentions 122 women with whom he enjoyed conjugal mischief. And those are just the ones he remembered.

Leslie Phillips

Born into a working-class family in Tottenham, north London, in 1924, Phillips became one of the nation's favourite screen cads. Borrowing from Terry Thomas's film persona, Phillips developed the cad oeuvre in the early Carry On films. Known for his suggestive catchphrase, "Ding Dong!"

Errol Flynn

Tasmania's most famous cad made himself famous in Hollywood not only for performances in classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, but for being prodigiously endowed. He was the original "big swinging dick" - a brawling, boozing womaniser who liked to find his quarry after nights out with the Hollywood Cricket Club.

Alan Clark

Clark, the diarist, controversial Conservative MP and enthusiastic bedder of women, was on a train when he noticed that the girl sitting opposite " was not wearing a bra, and her delightful globes bounced prominently... I gave her a huge grin; I couldn't help it." Clark's adult life was a libidinous litany of things he could not help.

Steve Bing

When Steve Bing, the American film-maker, was 18, he inherited $600m (£300m) from his grandfather. Suddenly, attractive women were keen to make his acquaintance. But his roving eye has landed him with some hefty bills to pay. In 2001, he was hit with the double whammy of forking out for the child he had fathered with Liz Hurley, and for a child he had fathered with his ex-wife Lisa Bonder.

Viscount Valmont

Valmont is the debauched central character of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Laclos' steamy novel charting the pre-revolutionary excesses of the French aristocracy, and a bastard. For Valmont, sex is a game - and one he likes winning. After each conquest, he writes a letter from a new "desk" - the back of the kneeling, naked woman.

Why ladies love a cad by Hermione Eyre

1. Cads are never there in the mornings, hogging the bathroom, moping around and asking to talk about their feelings.

2. They always open doors and say "after you" most gallantly. Often one suspects this is simply because it affords them a better view of your bottom. But what is the point in having a bottom unless someone looks at it occasionally?

3. When a cad has you in his sights, he behaves as if no one else in the world exists. His attention is like a sun-lamp you can bask in. You are quite simply the most fascinating creature he has ever set eyes on. He won't remember who you are in an hour's time, but it's fun while it lasts.

4. You don't have to wash a cad's socks.

5. You can never break a cad's heart.

6. A cad always tops up your glass. Best not to question his motives for doing so.

7. As a girl, you always wanted to go out with a cad or, at the very least, a bounder. This desire, caused by the fetid pro-cad propaganda that is otherwise known as English literature, will not be appeased until you have lived out your adolescent fantasies and been thoroughly betrayed by Lovelace/Heathcliff/Charles Highway. Once this has been accomplished, you can find yourself a nice chap who's into home decorating.

8. The worse he behaves, the better you look. He's a devil, ergo you are a saint. The cruder his jokes, the more maidenly your blushes become. The crueller his moustache, the brighter your halo. All some kind of twisted gender role play, probably. But fun, nevertheless.

9. There is always the tantalising feeling that it could be you who finally reclaims the cad from his wicked ways - every Warren Beatty needs an Annette Bening.

10. A cad never says, "I'm terribly sorry, do you mind if I sort of remove your bra?"

11. When a cad leaves you, he gives you the opportunity to quote Dorothy Parker: "Serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard."

How much of a cad are you?

1. You are dining with a female companion at a prominent table at The Wolseley. An attractive waitress approaches. She asks whether you would like to hear the specials? Do you:

a) Politely decline? You know what you're having...

b) Say yes? And then choose a dozen oysters for both of you...

c) Suggest that both waitress and companion repair to your townhouse where they can read the "specials list" to you in more comfortable surroundings?

2. You have been on three dinner dates with the same girl. She has exhausted your interest. How do you tell her it's over? Do you:

a) Meet at a café, where you let her down gently, citing commitment issues and a wish to "find yourself"?

b) Send her flowers, champagne and a card, thanking her for "the good times"?

c) Fail to return her calls?

3. There are some difficult clashes in your summer diary. Your mother is relying on you to accompany her to the Hampton Court Flower Show, but you have promised a girlfriend that you will take her to Henley on the same day. Do you:

a) Persuade the girlfriend to join you and your mother at Hampton Court, and then take everyone out for dinner? b) Telephone your mother to tell her that you can't take her to Hampton Court. You wouldn't normally abandon her, you explain, but you think this girl might be "the one"?

c) Leave both women in the lurch and head to the Hotel du Cap for the weekend with an old flame?

4. A female friend is worried about her younger sister, who has become interested in boys, drinking and smoking, and is in danger of failing her A-levels. The friend asks you, as a man of the world, to travel to her sister's exclusive girls-only boarding school, and persuade her to mend her ways. Do you:

a) Decline? You feel it would be inappropriate for someone outside the family to intervene...

b) Agree? You tell the miscreant teenager that if she's very, very good, you'll take her to a Lily Allen concert...

c) Bite your friend's hand off? You turn up at the girl's school in a convertible MG, tell the teenager to keep up the good work, and invite yourself to the night's pyjama party and pillow fight...

5. Your girlfriend of the moment takes her opportunity, on 29 February, to propose. You are not so keen. Do you:

a) Kiss her and tell her you're flattered, but it's a big step, one you both need to think about carefully?

b) Feel pressured into saying yes, and then order a large bottle of champagne?

c) Laugh in her face, and then call her a taxi?

IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY:

A you are a pragmatic, caring soul who would make a lovely househusband;

B you are a gooey romantic, destined to fail in your amorous endeavours;

C you are a card-carrying cad.

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