She looked at me like I was an idiot. Certainly, she didn't think I was playing with a full deck. Amidst the tables laden with sweaty champagne buckets in one of the coolest restaurants in Manhattan, her grip clung to my wrist.
"I'm trying to teach you how to please your boyfriend. Don't you want to know how?
I was nervous. & # 39; I don't have a boyfriend, & # 39; I said apologetically. She then said something about corkscrews and the entourage of younger women around her laughed and giggled.
The woman seemed vaguely familiar. Her hair was black and tight, her face red and, I remember, I thought, rather tortured. Suddenly I recognized her.
Petronella Wyatt remembers her encounters with Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured with Jeffrey Epstein) and her father, Robert
It was a long time since I had seen Ghislaine Maxwell – now the focus of allegations (which she denies) that she acted as a & # 39; madame & # 39; for the late pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein. But as she grabbed my hand, I felt that her personality was the kind that didn't cause a refusal.
In it she was just like her father, Robert, the late, shameful newspaper magnate.
I had met Mr. Maxwell before I ever met Ghislaine. In the 1980s, my own father, the politician and writer Woodrow Wyatt, invited him to dinner.
Maxwell was the owner of Mirror Group Newspapers and rarely came out of the headlines. My mother, who is Hungarian, wanted to meet him because he was born in a part of Czechoslovakia that once belonged to Hungary.
I think his wife, Betty, went with him, but I can't remember her. I had heard gossip that her husband treated her badly, had affairs, and even hit her a little.
I do, however, remember him. A very tall man, he had cobalt eyes, a flowery skin, and features that would have looked good if they didn't look like God had given up at the last minute. He was wearing velvet shoes and a dinner jacket with a loud bow.
Someone had told me that he once killed a man, but that night he tried the air of a born boulevardier. He immediately bent over to kiss my hand. It was a cold night, but he was sweating hard.
He placed his lips on my knuckles and sucked as if he were pulling poison out of a snake bite, then turned to my mother and said, "What a beautiful daughter you have." I was 16 at the time. "I have a beautiful daughter," he added. "She is just like me."
Petronella (photo) admits that she was mesmerized and intimidated when she first met Ghislaine, an Oxford graduate, in an Italian restaurant
For everyone who moved into what London & # 39; society & # 39; was, it was impossible not to be aware of Ghislaine Maxwell. She regularly appeared in newspaper sections, in fashionable eateries such as San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge and in the nightclubs of Tramp and Annabel.
She was invited to all the smartest parties. She is seven years older than me and when we were first introduced, I was immediately mesmerized and intimidated. She had graduated from Oxford and had set up the Kit Kat Club, an exclusive salon for the more intellectual type of It Girl (if that's not a contradiction in terms).
Our first meeting was at an Italian restaurant and of course she was at the best table. I was in an alcove. Someone on her table knew me and beckoned me. We were introduced.
Ghislaine was tall and thin, with broad shoulders and layered hair so black and shiny that it looked like the wings of ravens. Her complexion was pale and her mouth well shaped but thin. She wasn't pretty, but she had the ability to make you believe it was her.
She also had intense sexuality, an almost androgynous allure.
& # 39; This is Petronella Wyatt, & # 39; she was told. She smiled cheerfully and said flatteringly: & # 39; I heard about you. & # 39;
She had the ability to both pleasure and hypnotize.
I often met her afterwards. She often spoke of her father, respectfully, as if he had the combined qualities of Socrates, El Cid, Cary Grant, and all twelve apostles. This was at a time when his star began to take off in the city and elsewhere.
Petronella believes that the death of Ghislaine & # 39; s (photo) father could have sent her to late pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein
I then wondered if her almost pathological desire to please men – something that I often saw at parties – came from her hero worship of him.
A few years later I met Robert Maxwell again, at a wedding. While dancing, I dropped my handbag. As I bowed to get him back, he almost threw my arm aside so that he could perform this chivalry himself.
He held the handbag above his head with a horrible playfulness and waddled a podgy finger.
& # 39; Doesn't this deserve a dance? & # 39;
I could not refuse so well.
His hooded eyes were bloodshot as he pushed me across the dance floor. His touch was damp and his breath smelled. I have not flattered myself that he was sexually interested in me.
He seemed confiscated despite the swagger. A few months later I understood why.
I think it was her father's death that changed the life of Ghislaine Maxwell and perhaps turned her upside down toward a man like Jeffrey Epstein. I read about it in November 1991. His body was found in the Canary Islands, floating near the yacht he had named after his favorite child, Lady Ghislaine.
By that time everyone knew that he had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from the Mirror Group pension fund. Most of us assumed that his death was an accident – his heart was bad – or that he had committed suicide.
Petronella (photo) recalls that there were many Maxwell stories in the newspapers after his death in the Canary Islands
A friend who knew Ghislaine called me one morning. & # 39; She is pretty angry with sadness, & # 39; she said. & # 39; She thinks he was killed. Her friends are very worried about her state of mind. & # 39;
In the extremities of grief, we invent so many palliatives for the truth. I don't believe Ghislaine could accept that the person she worshiped was an ordinary thief who had died a sad but non-glamorous death, his reputation went along with most of his money.
Maxwell & # 39; s sons Ian and Kevin, then 35 and 32 years old respectively, were later prosecuted as accessories for fraud (both were released). Almost every day there was a Maxwell story in the newspapers, including raids on their return home.
One Sunday a friend of mine invited me to a lunch party in her flat in London. I was taking care of a Bloody Mary when the Maxwell boys came in.
I have to say I liked them, especially Ian. He looked good in an inconspicuous way, with a wry, twisted smile. He seemed like a gentleman. However, I found him a weak vessel that his father had smashed.
Kevin was angry. He was more like Ghislaine and had a shabby, combative manner.
It was clear to me that the sons had suffered, but it must have been hell for Ghislaine, the youngest of Maxwell's seven surviving children and the most devoted to him. He was no longer there to protect her from the barbs of London's life.
Petronella tells about seeing Ghislaine (pictured left with her father, Robert) five years after her father's death during a visit to New York
She disappeared from parties, restaurants, private dinners, night clubs and openings in London, and I didn't think long after five years on a visit to New York, when I heard she had moved there and quite a strip.
"Nobody in New York cares that he invades pensions," a matron from Upper East Side said.
Ghislaine & # 39; s good friends had stayed with her and she had met an impressive array of Americans, including the Clintons, members of the Kennedy family and Donald Trump.
Then she fell in love with a financier named Jeffrey Epstein, who, it was said, reminded her of her father. People said he had saved her & # 39; & # 39; and & # 39; had made her feel safe & # 39 ;.
He also financed her opulent lifestyle of private jets, expensive real estate and designer clothing. I also heard that she had not lost her Geisha-like compulsion to flatter men.
Even in those days, Epstein had an unpleasant reputation. I only met him once in the bar of a hotel in New York, where he met a friend of mine. I said hello and left without disturbing.
He looked annoyed; it was said that he was often angry and had a fundamental disdain for women.
I now think how ironic it was that the only good thing Robert Maxwell ever did for his daughter scared unsuitable friends, but he wasn't there to protect her from the man who became her arch enemy.
Petronella (photo) says that Ghislaine tried to show her how to perform oral sex at a party in Manhattan
Then, a few years later, there was that bizarre meeting with Ghislaine at the Manhattan party. She was alone and no longer romantically involved with Epstein, who was about to be charged as a sex offender.
Her hair was cut into a boyish haircut, her teeth bleached, and I suspected she had done something to her lips. Her once pale skin was the teak permatan of the aimless rich.
She had lost her charm and seemed to play a role, just like her father all those years ago. Above all, she seemed to be playing to be happy.
After that moment of mutual recognition, she laughed a little too hard. I asked her how she was and she didn't answer.
Her way was brittle, almost uncontrolled. But it was clear that with many of the younger female guests she was holding onto her old rule, and they gathered around her, eager to hear what Ghislaine said.
& # 39; Give me your arm, & # 39; she insisted and looked directly at me. "I'll show you how to give a man & # 39; the world's best oral sex."
I put both hands in the pockets of my coat like a jab and shook my head.
Fortunately there was someone who was more eager than I rolled up the sleeve of her dress and two young giggling women followed her example.
When I left, Ghislaine Maxwell finally got her party trick – a lesson in the art of pleasing men. I've never seen her again.
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