It's always the same, the name of the game
Is who do you know higher up? - Bob Dylan
Familiar with the joke, and the movie of the joke? It's allegedly the comedian's "secret handshake": a family of vaudevillians visits a talent agent, who's reluctant to take them on because family acts are "too cute." But the act is a litany of scatological and sexual obscenity, often with horrific violence, and the more imaginative the comedian's depiction of the young children's abuse the more successful is regarded its telling. "It's the perfect joke," says Dana Gould. "Just hearing out loud descriptions of giddy shit-covered incest." (Like Otto Peterson's: "then my daughter comes on stage. She's a real sexy 9-year-old. I hit her with an ax handle....") When the family has finished, the agent says "That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?" And the father always replies: "The Aristocrats!"
Get it? The joke's pay-off is the supposed disparity between depravity and nobility. What could be more absurd than a family of torture artists engaging in polymorphous abuse identifying themselves by a term denoting high social station?
Here's another variation of the joke, as told by Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele Alberto Carlo Teodoro Umberto Bonifacio Amadeo Damiano Bernardino Gennaro Maria of Savoy:
Italy is in shock after the son of its last king was arrested as part of an investigation into prostitution and corruption. One of the country's best-known figures, Prince Victor Emmanuel was detained in the north but taken to a jail in Potenza in the south where the probe is based.
His family strongly denies the allegations against the 69-year-old who went into exile with the rest of the country's royals when Italians rejected the monarchy in favour of a republic, in 1946. But the magistrate who signed the arrest warrant for the prince and 12 other men told reporters about what he called "extremely alarming evidence."
"I believe I have made a rigorous assessment without taking into account the rank of the person concerned," said Alberto Iannuzzi.
Others detained include Salvatore Sottile, a top aide to the foreign minister in former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government.
According to media reports, investigators believe Prince Victor Emmanuel had contacts with Mafia clans and was involved in procuring prostitutes for clients of a casino in Campione d'Italia, an Italian enclave on Lake Lugano near the Swiss border.
Implicated in Victor Emmanuel's corruption charges is also his cousin, Bulgaria's former child King Simeon II, Simeon Saxe-Coburg.
[And on edit, updating with a story from May 29 posted in the comment field:]
Police bust suspected child trafficking gang
A Bulgarian gang of suspected child traffickers has been broken up by police in simultaneous operations in Italy, Austria, Germany and Bulgaria. Police in Italy say dozens of people were arrested in the raids.
Most of the children moved by the gang were from Bulgaria and were between the ages of eight and 13-years-old. They appear to have been sold to the gang by their poverty stricken parents.
Police said some of the children appeared to have been sexually exploited, they had been kept in slave like conditions and they had been used to move drugs and commit crimes. Operation Elvis Bulgaria - coordinated by the Italian Carabinieri - involved police forces in Austria, Germany and Bulgaria.
[It's not a great stretch to see the potential of a link between this action of Italian police and the unspecified "extremely alarming evidence" against Victor Emmanuel, which also appears to have a Bulgarian connection.]
Some other knee-slappers of the Italian Prince have included shooting a tourist to death in 1978 (and subsequently acquited of unintentional homicide), dealing arms for the likes of the Shah of Iran (his son bears the name Reza in honour of Reza Pahlavi), defending Mussolini's anti-semetic legislation under his father, the last King of Italy, as "not that terrible," and having been a member in good, secret standing of P2, Licio Gelli's criminal fascist Masonoic lodge. As was, let's never forget, Berlusconi.
In April 1981, Milan magistrates broke into Gelli's villa and discovered his lodge's membership lists, which read, says Daniele Ganser in NATO's Secret Armies, like a "'Who is Who in Italy' and included not only the most conservative but also some of the most powerful members of Italian society." Fifty high-ranking officers of the army, for instance, and ten bank presidents. In the subsequent parliamentary commission, Communist member Antonio Bellocchio lamented that "we have come to the definite conclusion that Italy is a country of limited sovereignty because of the interference of the American secret service and international freemasonry." He regretted most commissioners had not followed their analysis to its logical end, but understood why they could not, because then "they would have had to admit they are puppets of the United States of America, and they don't intend to admit that ever."
Even without a joke, even just as a punchline, there remains something anachronistically comic about the aristocrats. They appear about as serious as actors in a heritage fort or pioneer village, recreating the rituals of a long-dead era. Their form is absurd, because their function appears to carry no consequential gravity. Yet they remain apart from us in a privileged world, linked by blood. And not only by the blood in their veins.
Early in Grant Morrison's The Invisibles - comic art, and as funny as the End of the World - we read a phone conversation between Whitehall and an occultic assassin. Scion of the ruling class Sir Miles Delacourt, who's favourite recreation is the most dangerous game, cuts the conversation short: "Look, I have a Cabinet ritual to attend, and if it's anything like the last one we'll be up to our knees in blood and spunk for at least the next twelve hours." It could almost be a joke.
A network of fascist Princes and Kings, laundering money, shooting tourists, running guns and elite prostitution rings, is a hell of an act. What do you call it?