RIP the playboys of the western world
The Oldie Magazine|July 2021
Charlie Methven mourns his dashing former father-in-law, Luis ‘the Bounder’ Basualdo, last of a dying breed
Charlie Methven

There are some words that defy too much definition.

Only the other day, I was trying in vain to explain the concept of cheekiness to a Latin American friend. The dictionary explanation – ‘Being slightly rude, but often in a funny way’ – just didn’t quite capture it.

And so it is with ‘playboy’, an almost quaint term – very rarely heard these days, but still in currency when I started my career as a gossip columnist in the mid-1990s.

All of us following the London social scene knew, somehow, exactly what ‘playboy’ meant and it wasn’t the bone-dry OED effort: ‘A wealthy man who spends his time enjoying himself.’ No, it was something more mysterious and glamorous than that. A touch of disapprobation often accompanied its use, together with the envious implication that this was a man who was perhaps just a little too accomplished in his dealings with the fairer sex.

A playboy was an adventurer. A lounge lizard, yes, but also a man of action when the moment required. He needed style, courage, charm and a carefree attitude towards everything and especially money – preferably somebody else’s.

Rather than dive back into dusty dictionaries, let me offer you Wikipedia’s summary of the life of Porfirio Rubirosa (1909-65): ‘Dominican diplomat, race car driver, soldier and polo player. He made his mark as an international playboy for his jet-setting lifestyle and his legendary sexual prowess with women. His five spouses included two of the richest women in the world.’ Most of us would settle for that.

Rubirosa – the doyen of his trade – died in 1965, but in the three decades that followed, the roulette tables of Monte Carlo, the slopes of St Moritz and the banquettes of Annabel’s played host to plenty of his successors.

One such was Argentine playboy adventurer Luis Sosa Basualdo (19452020). Known to English society as ‘the Bounder’, Basualdo, who died in December, having somehow made it to 75, was my father-in-law for the ten years I was married to his daughter, Charlotte.

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