Japan, YSL chair
My BlackBerry rings at all hours of the day and night. Right now, in Athens, I’m two hours ahead of England, ten hours ahead of my children in California, and six hours behind Tokyo, where I spent just a few hours this week.
The first piece, known as the dragon armchair, was created by art deco designer Eileen Gray, and is just 24 inches tall with wooden arms carved like serpents. I can’t imagine sitting in it to enjoy a movie — it might make a nice footrest, if you don’t mind paying almost £2m a toe.
That’s the most expensive piece of 20th century design ever. So when I received the latest catalogue from Christie’s, detailing an auction of YSL’s favourite artworks to raise money for Aids, I made a point of looking to see whether there was another chair for sale.
There was. A beautiful Charles Eames leather-covered lounge chair, an icon of design. Eames was an architect who developed a technique for moulding wood which was used to make safer, stronger stretchers during the Second World War.
With his wife, Ray-Bernice, he created the most stylish and comfortable furniture — think of those impossibly cool Sixties thriller series like the Avengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and you’ll know what an Eames chair looks like.
The catalogue featured a photo of YSL sitting in his lounger. The most stylish man on the planet, curled up like a cat on the coolest chair… “It isn’t fair,” I told my daughter Natalie, “that one man should be able to look so good. I want to sit in that chair on my show. I’m going to buy it.”
Nat burst out laughing. “Great idea, Aba,” she said. “All you have to do is sell the house first. For £19m.”
I could tell that Hanna was just as much in love with the chair as I was. “Make a bid,” she suggested. “Don’t go mad. But why not see what happens?”
I trust Hanna’s intuition, so I alerted Christie’s to my interest and, yesterday afternoon, my Blackberry rang while we were stuck in Athens’ smoggy traffic.
“Your lot is about to come up,” said a cultured voice in London. “What do you wish to do?”
“I’ll listen in,” I said. And within seconds, the bidding was off, racing up the thousands… The cultured voice asked whether I was still interested.
I was, and I asked her to continue bidding – and I won the chair! While I did not pay £19m, some would still consider the amount I paid for the chair to be a great deal of money to pay for a piece of furniture, but for me it’s more than that, it’s a piece of history.
During the same auction, I bought a sherbet spoon, made of turtle shell, coral and crystal, which will be the 5011th piece of cutlery on my Cadillac.
And I purchased a 2,300-year-old terracotta statue, which I will give to the national Greek museum, in gratitude for the many hours of wonder which I have enjoyed with my family, studying the exhibits or just staring out of our hotel window at the Acropolis.
But it is the lounger which I was the most excited about, this is the chair that Yves Saint Lauren would have relaxed in while coming up with idea’s for new designs. Somewhere in the next world, I’m sure he is still designing, and I’m sure he knows that I will take very good care of his beloved chair.
Whenever I visit Japan, I always call my friend, Makoto Akiyama. We first met when he was 14, in 1974, and a national phenomenon: he had astounding gifts for mind-reading and metal-bending.
He traces the source of his gifts to an encounter with a UFO. “It was an inexplicable light,” he told me, “and after I saw it, things broke frequently. For example, the head of the toothbrush often snapped off, or household electrical appliances stopped working. And I began to see light glowing around other people. I studied the phenomena and gradually, I gained control over my power. Not complete control, but some.”
Many Western scientists are close-minded and sceptical about the unexplained, but in Japan there is intense interest in mindpower phenomena. Between 1995 and 2000, the Ministry of Science and Technology invested one hundred million yen (£600,000) in parascience research.
Makoto has undergone countless tests and now works with major business corporations as a consultant. I believe that the crucial breakthroughs in understanding the human mind will come this century from the Far East.
I saw evidence of the Japanese passion for the unexplained at an event thrown by dear friends of mine, Mr and Mrs Tanaka. They invited 2,500 people, chosen by lottery, to meet me and share energy at an arena in Tokyo.
It was an amazing experience to shake hands with every member of the audience. By the end, even though I had just stepped off another flight halfway around the world, I was buzzing with excitement and adrenalin. I felt like I could have flown back to Athens on my own.
We’ve found a way to beat the bomb hoaxers. Before our live show, sniffer dogs scour the studio. Then everyone who enters the building, even me and my celebrity guests, has to pass through a metal detector.
Inevitably, for the third week running, we had a bomb call. But this time, because of the intense security arrangements, we were certain it was a malicious lie, and the studio audience happily shrugged off the announcements. The show went ahead without interruptions.
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