Joan Collins, Jaqueline Bisset, Alexander Godunov and Robert Kass, circa 1988
Today is a very busy day! After being woken up by 2 little bandits who attacked me in bed, it’s off for a swim in the pool and breakfast with the Kass family. I’m really exited to be spending the day with both my childhood BFF’s: Fabrizio Malfanti and Gigi Nasoni, with whom I’ve been friends with since we were 15 years old; we even shared an apartment during our college years in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Morning wake-up by local little bandits
One of the best things to do in summer in Lugano, is take a boat on the lake for the day and have lunch in one of the few amazing Grottos around the lake. Today Gigi is taking Fabrizio and me on his boat for the day and we are having lunch at Crotto del Lago (www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Crotto-Del-Lago) in Porlezza, in the Italian side of the lake. Crotto del Lago specializes in local fish dishes so the three of us have a field day gobbling up all sorts of specialties, not to mention a few bottles of “plonk”. After lunch, it’s time for calm and digestion, so Gigi takes us to his secret lagoon, somewhere on the lake, where you can swim and relax in total seclusion…except the curious swans and ducks. Swimming in a lake is so different from the ocean; the sweet, cool, green tinted water and the lush landscape around you, really create a unique experience.
Finally, it’s time for a tour around the lake and a peek at Campione d’Italia’s relatively new Casino designed by the famed Swiss-Italian architect Mario Botta. What strikes you about this building is it’s sheer size; so disproportionate to it’s small village environment; there’s big money at work for you. It’s time to go back to shore; tonight I’m having dinner with my family’s old butler: Ettore. Ettore worked for my family for 20 years and pretty much helped raise David and I in both our Swiss and London home; he is one of the most charming and kind Italian man with whom I have so many fond memories. I haven’t seen him in 15 tears so I’m really exited…he must be in his 80′ now and I can’t wait to hear all the tales from my youth, my parents, The Beatles and other icons that were hanging around the house in those days, London, etc… I remember that when I was little, I would blackmail him into paying me money to do the things that my mom and dad had asked him for me to do; I knew that he would get in trouble if I didn’t, so scalping a few pennies seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea…lovely child I was.
Boarding Gigi Nasoni’s boat for the day
Captain Gigi Nasoni
Approaching Crotto del Lago in Porlezza
Table with a view
Crotto del Lago’s Menu
Nothing like a swim in sweet waters
Stunning lake villa
Small lake village
Refurbished old farm house
The very large Casino di Campione by Mario Botta
We are having dinner at Osteria la Palma (www.osterialapalma.ch) where they serve the BEST risotto al Barolo in the universe; I’m telling you, this dish is simply insanely good!!!! And I know… I’ve been around!!!! Barolo is an Italian, bold red wine, which is what they use for this local specialty. Jonathan, myself with family in toe, pick up a slightly frail Ettore at his home and off for dinner. Ettore is definitely emotional and overwhelmed by the whole situation; after all, it has been so long since our last encounter.
After a little time to adjust, the stories start flowing out one by one like a gift that keeps on giving; hilarious stories about the Beatles at our home, the Rolling Stones, Rod Steward, Alice Cooper, Joan Collins, Edgar Bronfman, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, the Bee Gees and so much more. You see…at the time of Ettore’s employment, my dad was a very successful music executive: President of Apple Record (the Beatles own Label), President of MGM music, head of Warner Brother’s music for the UK, etc; so having all these music icons around the house was a normal, daily event; that is why Ettore has so many tales about the shenanigans at 30 South Street (our home in Mayfair, London). Good Lord, most of them I cannot even repeat they are so scandalous…maybe on my Biography when I’m much, much older and most of these people are dead!
Osteria la Palma
Osteria la Palma entrance
Jonathan Kass, our old butler Ettore and yours truly
All good things come to a close and it’s time to leave the family and join my Brazilian friend Wesley Torriani at the Harley Davidson Music Festival in the center of town; an unusual event for Lugano given the rough and tough demeanor of the Harley Davidson brand in comparison to the very conservative and quiet nature that is Lugano. Perhaps they are finally coming out of their shell…but Harley Davidson??? Who’s making the decisions around here??? The center is packed with Harley freaks from all over Europe, not the American rougher kind, more the gentle, old and bohemian European type…Oh no he didn’t!!! The rest are young locals, thrilled that there is finally some activity in their town. My generation? Nowhere to be found…they rather stick needles in their eyes before part taking in such a mundane event.
Of course here I am in the middle of it with my friend Wesley looking so out of place without our black leather HD outfits. No matter, 5 Vodka Tonics later, no one cares anymore! What next? Since I am leaving tomorrow, I promised my brother’s employees at his restaurant Etnic that I would join them at a local night club for my last “Hurrah” in Lugano…how bad can that be?
Seven Restaurant in Lugano
The amazing risotto Milanese
The main square: Piazza Riforma
Big stage in Piazza Riforma for Harley Davidson’s concert event
Crousing the Piazza with my Brazilian buddy Wesley
Final “hurrah” at Club Chocolate with Jonathan’s employees
3AM, dying to get home but to drunk to drive…why do I do this to myself? I guess it was worth it, I had an amazing day, an amazing night and I am ready for bed and even more ready to leave in the morning for my beloved Istanbul!! Loving my life…ZZZZZZZ
Another day…another packed schedule! Today I’m revisiting my childhood by going to one of my favorite museums in the world: The Museum of Natural History (www.nhm.ac.uk). I can still remember my reaction when I first saw the massive Blue Whale hanging form the ceiling and the first dinosaurs in my life…I must have been 5 or 6 years old. Since then I have seen many dinosaurs, in fact, I’m surrounded by them back home in Beverly Hills…but that’s all together another story! My very handsome and very fit friend Robbie Banner, picks me up at 11am and off we go to see the lizard; after an hour searching for parking (don’t bother driving in central London, It’s impossible to find a parking and when you do, it costs a fortune!!! Better to use Uber or a cabby), we finally make our way into the iconic building that is The Natural History Museum. The first site in the main lobby, is an amazing skeleton of a Brachiosaurus Dinosaur who reveals a striking resemblance to so many people I know back in the US…oh no he didn’t!!!!! Just kidding…not really. The place is exactly how I remember it exempt all the animals and skeletons seem much smaller. Both Robbie and I are suddenly 15 years of age again, looking in wonder at all these amazing creatures filling the halls of this beautiful museum. After a quick lunch at the grand cafeteria at the museum, it’s off to the legendary Harrods (www.harrods.com) for a look-e-loo. I’ve been visiting Harrods since I was a baby and nothing has ever stuck with me more than Harrods’ food halls; they are truly a thing of beauty, imagination and perfection! I can spend hours wondering these halls, not to mention, I can also spend a small fortune here on all the amazing world foods readily available at all times. Harrods has gone through lots of changes through the years, but it is still a treat and a London MUST DO when visiting this amazing city.
Natural History Museum
Main Lobby and it’s main attraction: The Brachiosaurus Dinosaur
Now it’s off to Belgravia for tea with my ex-step-mother Joan-Collins…now Dame Joan!! Depending on the mood, It’s always a laugh catching up with Joan and the mood is better than ever now after recently receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles…She is one happy and proud Brit!!! It’s also really nice sharing my recent experience in Peru with Joan’s husband Percy Gibson, who is himself, a Peruvian.
Dame Joan after receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles
It’s 6PM and Robbie is on his way to pick me up for the highlight of the day: The Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium. I don’t know if I’m ready for this…I hate concerts and I hate big crowds, but my boy Bob Semanovich is behind this event so I will suck it up and make the best of it! The ride to Wembley Stadium is only about 30 minutes but parking your car is another one hour (should have taken a damn Uber!!!). The event started at 3pm; it’s now 7:30pm and we are entering the arena: “God help me”, it’s packed with 60,000 screaming teenagers; there is no way in hell I will survive in here…I’m already planning my escape! “Alright Kass, it’s survival mode: first thing…find a bar, get drink, calm nerves!” I desperately wobble through a maze of hotdog stands, pretzel stands, Slurpee machines and screaming kids to find the mother load: alcohol. I finally see something that looks like a drink but is in fact a Smirnoff wine cooler bar…it will have to do, I’m desperate! Robbie and I make our way back to our seats and slurp away on our disgusting wine coolers through three acts: Ariana Grande, Ne-Yo and Pitt Bull before we agree that it’s really time to leave!!! It’s 10:30pm and we are famished; we must find a suitable place to eat before joining Bob at the Summertime Ball private after party bash at Mahiki in Mayfair. Turns out that finding a place that serves food after 11PM in London is quite a challenge…shocking!!!!! We went by a dozen restaurants and all of them already stopped serving food; what’s up with that??? Isn’t this London???
Tickets to Summertime Ball
Ariana Grande performing
Pit Bull performing
All right, time to regroup and think…we take a cocktail brake at the very glamorous The Wolseley on Piccadilly Road (who’s kitchen is also closed), inhale 10 mini cheese balls each from the bar, two Martinis and…Eureka!!!!!! Hard Rock Cafe is just down the street and it’s definitely open till late!!! We stumble down what seems much further than I remembered, but finally arrive at “Old faithful”: the very much OPEN, Hard Rock Cafe. At the risk of aging myself, I came at the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in London with my Dad back in the 70′ when we lived in Mayfair; it was the very first Hard Rock Cafe and the then owner Peter Morton, was my dad’s friend and that joint became a favorite of ours for many, many years. Memories aside, I’m salivating over the idea of the HRC bacon cheeseburger with a black & white shake…It’s on!!!!
Having a drink at The Wolseley in Mayfair with Robert Banner
Hard Rock Cafe London
Hard Rock Cafe interior
1am…food coma! Got to snap out of it, it’s time to join Bob at the after party up the street at Mahiki! After a few meltdowns at the door when they couldn’t find my name on the list, we finally make it down to the basement floor of this 4-story club and reunite with a now very “Happy” Bob and co. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long before Robbie and I catch up with the rest of them, especially when very large bottles of Ciroc vodka are parked in front of us calling our names. The rest of the night is a little blurry and probably not suitable for this blog anyway.
4am…What an amazing day: I am exhausted, drunk, happy and “one” damn year older!!!!! Tomorrow it’s off to Switzerland to visit my family and celebrate my birthday once again, in a much more civilized and subtle way…it’s always good to keep a good balance!
Good night everyone and Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!
The Shot Boat at Mahiki in Mayfair
The 19 year old amazing DJ that rocked the house
Robbie Banner trying to tell us something about the very large bottle of Cîroc
A very happy Bob Semanovich
I don’t quite know what’s going on here with Mr. Kass
After a very brief few days in LA, it’s off to London to celebrate my 40…ish birthday and check out what’s new in one of my favorite cities in the world! London is very dear to me, I lived in London throughout my youth and went to grammar school at St. George School in Hanover Square where I was made to wear a red blazer, red shorts, striped white & red tie and red hat…I believe that’s where it all went pear shaped! When my father, Ronald Kass, was asked by the Beatles to be President and founder of Apple Records in the early 70′; we all moved to the lovely neighborhood know as Mayfair. My brother and I were very young and started living between Lugano, Switzerland and London. Even after my dad and his, then bride, Joan Collins moved back to LA, I continued my love affair with London for many years up to the present day. Through all these years I’ve cultivated amazing friendships in London that I continue to enjoy immensely and use as an excuse to pay the occasional visit.
I am particularly exited about this leg of the trip because I am using the website Airbnb for the first time (www.airbnb.com) and I’ve rented a lovely 1 bedroom apartment in Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood in London. I’ve been hearing about his new way of lodging for some time and I decided to take the leap and try it out; who knows…is this the death of my usual high priced hotel rooms? I’m also exited to fly one of my top 3 airlines in the world: British Airways (www.britishairways.com); This time around, I managed to get a free…ish business class trip with my American Express miles, even though the tax and luxury fee you have to pay on a miles ticket is pretty steep; even so…it’s a hell of a lot better than the standard $8000 plus you have to fork out for this kind of fare! So off i go for my favorite travel routine: cocktails, dinner, 2 movies, sleeping pill, sleep, breakfast and I’m in London! I’m flying the massive Airbus 380 for the first time, so I did my legwork (as I always do before traveling) and researched which is the best floor on this double decker-flying monster and which is the best seat I should get; as usual, I refer to www.seatguru.com to do the job. Top floor, window seat it is!
After a brief visit to the very un-impressive business class lounge at the new International Terminal at LAX, I’m ready to nestle into my fancy little cubical for the next 12 hours. The first thing I notice when I arrive to my seat, is that they are arranged in such a way that the person next to you is NOT facing the same direction as you are, as in all flights, but the opposite way; meaning, he’s next to you and facing you! We’re talking facing faces 2 feet away from one another. Now, I have two problems with this, first of all, I need to face the direction that the plane is flying towards, no flying backwards for my sister! Number two, it’s very uncomfortable and awkward having a perfect stranger so close to you trying not to stare you in the face; of course there is an electronic separator that you can raise once you reach 35,000 feet, which opens up a new set of issues of who will be the first to have the courage to raise the privacy wall. I definitely don’t like this layout at all! I try to break the ice with my neighbor with a few witty remarks, but apparently he was not amused and asked to be moved to another seat! All the better, now I don’t have to stare at “Mr. Humorless” and I can raise the separator without feeling rude. I thought my remarks were quite funny…oh well.
Not a moment after settling into my seat, I hear a voice from the cubical behind me: “Robert, is that you???”. I can’t believe it, it’s my dear friend Bob Semanovich, who just happens to be in the seat behind me…what a laugh! Bob and I go back a long time and I’m so exited to have all this time to catch up with him since we haven’t had a chance to visit in quite a while. Bob is a big shot in the music industry and I am pleased to hear that he is going to London for a big music festival at Wimbledon Stadium that his company is organizing and even more exited that he will give me two tickets to the event…I guess I’ll have to fit that in my very busy London schedule somehow! All right, enough pleasantries with Bob, we both want to pop a pill, sink into our flat beds and sleep our way to London…ZZZZZZZZZ.
British Airways’ flying monster Airbus A 380
BA’s weird business class layout with facing seats
The very comfortable business class cubicles on the Airbus 380
My surprise traveling neighbor Bob Semanovich
We are just about to land and I’m anxious to see my new Airbnb “flat” in Chelsea. After a short 45-minute Uber ride (these people are everywhere!!!) I arrive art the flat to meet Alessandro, the landlord; I am happy to say that this place meets all my expectations; a charming classic English 1 bedroom apartment with lots of light, a lovely terrace for my afternoon tea (that will never happen…) a fully equipped new kitchen and a very comfortable bed. The location is perfect, just in the mix of things and e few Uber pounds away from my social neck of the woods. I settle in, unpack my 15 outfits for my English stay…yes, you need lots of outfits when socializing in London, lots of fashion rules, fashion snobs, mandatory suits or dinner jackets in many places, all rules to which I gladly succumb to…coming from LA where you wear shorts and flip flops to a wedding! In the rush of things leaving LA I did forget a tie and tonight I’m going to the chicest and most exclusive private club in London: Loulou’s, where jacket and tie is a must to enter, so is a membership! Thankfully, my dear friend George Glasgow is a member and has invited me to dinner at this “impossible to get in” new spot.
So it’s off to Jermyn Street, one of my favorites streets in London for shopping; I’ve been coming here since I was a baby with my dad who was very fashion forward and extremely dapper. One of his favorites was Turnbull & Asser, a very old fashion English brand that has been around since 1885. I’m a sucker for tradition so I think it appropriate to honor my father’s memory with a tie from this gorgeous and yes, quite stuffy store. $150 later, I have a tie for tonight; it’s now off to my beloved Fortum & Mason for a little visual stimulation; This iconic department store, as Harrods, is a tribute to England and all that is traditionally English; it’s been around since 1707 (like most everything in this country) and it’s the definition of English high-end shopping. Though I am always so temped to stock up on their amazing tea selection, biscuits, Stilton cheese, patés, etc… this time around, my long travel schedule won’t allow weighing myself up with merchandize, so it’s going to be just a jar of my favorite Blue Stilton cheese and some water crackers for my afternoon snacking back at the Chelsea apartment.
Jermyn Street, SW1
Windows at Turnbull & Asser
Side entrance at Fortnum & Mason
One of the many beautiful design features at Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly Road
Wine and spirits hall at Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason’s famous teas
Alright, it’s time to go back for a nap and get ready to meet my dear friend George Glasgow (CEO of G.J. Cleverley & Co., one of the best of bespoke English shoemaking and craftsmanship), for an evening at London’s hottest new private club: Loulou’s. Turns out two good American friends of mine, Michelle and Jason Sheldon are also in London so I invite them along with my British friend Robert Banner to join me at 5 Hartford Place, Mayfair; which happens to be just a few blocks away from my old house on South Street. It’s time to see what all the fuss is about; we enter though the very nondescript side door and into a small reception area where immediately you are asked for your name and membership; after telling the very well dressed gentlemen that I was expected by George Glasgow, we are ushered into the the main salon to sign our names on a book and then directed to the Martini Bar on the 3rd floor where George is waiting for us with Martinis at hand.
Loulou’s has become the hotspot for London’s upper crust; it’s a multi-story townhouse, along Mayfair’s Shepherd’s market. Owner Robin Birley, English businessman and political activist, has transformed this traditional townhouse into several lounges, a drawing room, a martini bar, a library, a cigar room, stunning courtyard, a nightclub and two très chic restaurants all designed by Turkish fashion designer Rifat Ozbek (who’s never designed an interior space before). Robin Birley, is the son of Mark Birley and Lady Annabel Goldsmith, who themselves owned several members’ clubs in London, including the legendary Annabel’s and Harry’s Bar, both of which I frequented as a young lad. Each room at Loulou’s has a different mood and provides a totally different experience. There’s a stuffed giraffe, greeting the guests as they enter the Madagascan Bar on the way to the over-the-top disco room. The who’s who of London are regulars here including the Royal family, Mick Jagger, Daphne Guinness, Kate Moss, me, George Clooney and the list goes on.
By 10 pm the place is packed and it is practically impossible to move, having been in LA for so long, you can’t not notice how everyone, and I mean everyone, is so elegantly dressed in suits and ties, black ties, long gowns and fashion galore…these Brits sure know how to whip it up! Drinks start at $30 a drink so you better be ready for a BIG bill; my favorite is the passion fruit martini! I don’t even dare find out how much dinner costs; then again London is the most expensive city in the world, so if you’re on a budget, you got your work cut out for you!!! My favorite story of the night is when the group “One Direction” came in without being members and arrogantly told the front host: “don’t you know who we are?? We are One Direction and we want in!!!!” to which the host calmly replied: “I’m terribly sorry Sir, but you are not members of the club, so the only direction you’re going is out the door!!!” So British…so Brilliant!!!!
Loulou’s on 5 Hertford Street
My Posse: George Glasgow, Michelle Sheldon, Jason Sheldon and Robert Banner
The Dining Room
One of the two stunning Dining rooms
The beautiful outdoor patio
3rd floor Martini Bar
Basement Bar and night club complete with stuffed Giraffe
The venerable toilet at Loulou’s
The beautiful Madagascan Bar
George is set on showing me every room at Loulou’s, where of course we must have a drink; so 8 rooms later, I’m about to pass out! This place is really fancy so perhaps it’s time to leave before I make a fool of myself. Michelle, Jason, Robert and I have the brilliant idea of walking to Barkley Square for a nightcap at Morton’s…that part is a little blurry but I know I was there because I have a photo to prove it! Thankfully I make it back safely to my Chelsea pad; what a great first night in London!!!! Tootles possums…talk tomorrow!
4AM at Morton’s in Barkley Square for a nightcap…hopefully!
NO…I am NOT a member!!!!!
It seems as though every time I mention going to Soho House for dinner or drinks, the first words out of anyone’s mouth are: “Are you a member?”.
So here is the reason I have NOT applied for a membership: When the Soho House opened it’s doors in spring of 2010 as a private member’s club, everyone and their grandma’s raced to fill those applications in hopes of becoming a member of the new LA Golden Club; it was like Black Friday at Wall Mart for the rich & famous!
I’m not quite familiar with how they pick who does and who does not get access to the club; but after the dust from the “great run” settled, there were plenty of wounded souls with crushed egos that didn’t make the cut. However, many of my friends, with whom I spend lots of time with, got accepted and consequently began dining, drinking and entertaining there all the time (some I think live there…), so I found myself going to Soho 2-3 times a week, as their guest.
So here was my thought: If I applied for the membership and for some ungodly reason, I would to be denied, I’d be so pissed off that I would never set foot in the place again, which would mean giving up spending plenty of social time with my friends. So in one of my least courageous moments in life, I decided not to take the chance and just stick to the status quo. Not to mention I am really not the kind of person who buys into these elitist clubs for “special” people, which works like a charm in a place like LA where most people have approval issues!
The Soho House is billionaire Nick Jones’ 2nd venture in LA after opening Cecconi’s in 2009 in the old Morton’s location. Perched on the top floor of the Luckman Building in West Hollywood, with the most unbelievable views of the city, the space is divided in 2 main areas: the restaurant and the bar/lounge. My good friend Waldo Fernandez designed the place and really succeeded in creating a chic, laid back, sexy, comfortable oasis for the “Pretty” ones to pollinate. The massive staircase in the entrance hall, when you exit the elevator, is beyond glamorous; though I wish it was inverted, meaning, instead of going up to the higher floor from the entrance hall, you would be going down…it would make for great entrances; people would be flocking at the bottom to see the spectacle of it all. Not to mention it’s a hell lot easier than walking down the stairs on your way out after a few cocktails; especially for the 99% of the ladies population at Soho who wear 6 inch heels.
There has been a lot of talk through the years about the food not being very good, but I must admit, I never had a bad meal; though I don’t think anyone goes to Soho Club for the food. It’s hard to top dining under olive trees by a water pond, under the stars at the top floor of a building in West Hollywood! This place rocked for the first year, with more mega stars, fabulous parties and drama than anyone has ever seen in LA in such a short period. I can’t even count how many great nights I had here…never a dull moment!
The only other successful Member’s only Club in LA that I can remember of was Tramps! For almost 2 years, this London-based phenomenon, owned by the legendary Johnny Gold along with my then step-uncle Oscar Lerman (the best person EVER!), husband of my then step-aunt Jacky Collins, it was “THE” Place to be in LA! I remember all the glamorous dinners I had there with my then step-mother Joan Collins (are you getting sick of the: “then step…” yet?), with Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Sydney Poitier and the beautiful Joanna, Jacky Collins & Oscar Lerman, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Sylvester Stallone with the psychotic Brigitte Nielsen and many more. I remember dancing weekly with Prince, who was always by himself, and his bodyguards till the wee hours of the morning without sharing 1 word; and for some obscured reason I remember Steven Seagal (“I know…right?”) with his lady in red and then wife, Kelly LeBrock, who I thought was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. The energy was amazing, the bathrooms sounded like Hoover testing factories and the people were just gorgeous; there was a lot of fun and naughtiness that cannot be mentioned on my PG13 Blog! Sadly, after an incredible first year, it quickly fizzled and eventually closed it’s doors. Maybe the weird location in the Beverly Center’s street parking level, next to all the dumpster, might have helped with it’s demise.
The Soho House however, seems like it’s here to stay; especially after a hefty $383,000,000 cash infusion from the supermarket mogul and “Entendeur of pretty”: Ron Burkle! Rumor has it that Soho House will be opening its 2nd LA spot in Malibu: Soho Beach, right next to Nobu.
They really are the first to succeed with the “members only” formula in LA. In a city, where everyone who thinks they are anyone is plagued with entitlement issues, getting all the right people to sign up and pay the $1,800 a year membership, regardless of who you are, is quite an accomplishment! Two years after it’s opening the momentum has definitely slowed down, but Soho House is still hot and a great place for a business meeting, a dinner under the stars, a private event in the homey private rooms downstairs, or cruising celebrities and wannabe’s at the bar…that is, if you can get in!
Dinner with Lady Cher at the Soho House
The stunning rooftop restaurant