by Drew Bagley
The brothers Grimm wrote some grim fairy tales.
They made Snow White share a pad with seven peculiar dwarfs. They fed Red Riding Hood’s grandma to a wolf that swallowed her whole. They burned up an old lady in her gingerbread oven and conceived scenes of mayhem, seem tame.
But one thing the Grimm boys never did was wrecking a love affair. No matter how many obstacles their lovers had to overcome, they always got together in the end and lived happily ever after.
Real life, however, is often grimmer than Grimm. And it can now be reported that the fairytale romance of Annouchka von Meks did not have a fairytale ending. Annouchka’s Prince Charming jilted her. She was left with her memories – and a mystery baby.
But it was quite a romance while it lasted. There were gay parties, yacht cruises to exotic ports,private plane flights to exciting places, horse races, sports car rallies, water-skiing on the Mediterranean, snow-skiing in the Alps. This entire plus furs, diamonds and other fringe benefits.
Annouchka’s fairytale came true in 1959, when she was 16. Blonde, blue-eyed with the fragile beauty of a Dresden doll, she was a Paris schoolgirl spending her summer vacation on the bikini coast of the French Riviera.
One night, at a St. Tropez nightclub, a young man approached her table and asked her to dance.
“I’m the Aga Khan,” he said.
Annouchka thought that was the funniest thing she had heard all night. She laughed, giggled, tittered and practically came apart at the seams. She had seen pictures of the Aga Khan in the Paris papers and she recalled that he was a huge, bald old man nearly 80 years old and weighing around 259 pounds. And here was this skinny kid claiming to be the fabulous Aga.
Annouchka’s exact reply has not been recorded for posterity. But it was something like: “Oh, sure, and I’m Princess Margaret.”
Then one of her friends whispered in her ear and the blonde’s ivory skin turned scarlet. She had been told that the old Aga was dead, had in fact died two years previously, and that this shy,smiling stranger was indeed Prince Karim, the new Aga Khan.
When she recovered from the shock, she apologized for laughing and told her admirer that her name was Annouchka von Meks. In a way, this was almost as unbelievable as Karim’s introduction.
Before the evening was over, Annouchka had agreed to have lunch with the Aga next day. One date led to another and soon they were a steady twosome.
Annouchka’s parents were White Russians who immigrated to France before she was born. Her father runs a Paris dress shop – not haute couture but ready-made.
When Karim first began courting her, Annouchka’s folks were a bit flabbergasted. They realized he was probably the richest, most eligible bachelor in the world. But Annouchka, after all, was only 16. Her parents weren’t sure she was ready for marriage.
As things turned out, it was Karim who wasn’t ready. The romance lasted five years – perhaps the best years of Annouchka’s young life.
As she blossomed into womanhood, she became even more beautiful. She was offered jobs as a fashion model and movie starlet, but she turned them all down for Karim. Being his playmate was practically a full-time occupation.
Annouchka because she had caught the Big One. Only she couldn’t drag her Khan to the altar.”Just because I date a girl doesn’t mean I am on the verge of matrimony,” Karim once told a reporter who asked his intentions toward Annouchka. “Anyone who travels six months a year as I do cannot think of marriage.” Other girls in the Jet Set social whirl were jealous of He travels for pleasure to the Jet Set playgrounds – Rome, Paris, Gstaad, St. Tropez, the Greek Isles, and Sardinia, where he is building luxury resort. On these jaunts, and on cruises abroad his king sized yacht, he often took Annouchka along.
But when he travels on business, the handsome young Aga travels alone with nary a girlfriend in sight.
His business is religion. He is the Imam, or spiritual leader, of 20 million Ismaili Muslims scattered through Africa and Asia. They regard him as a living god and once a year pay him his weight in gold.
In naming Karim as his successor to the god-king throne, the old Aga bypassed his two sons, Prince Aly and Prince Sadruddin. Karim, he said, “is a young man who has been brought up in the midst of a new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.”
But thought his outlook may be as modern as mini-skirts, Harvard educated Karim must also respect Ismaili traditions, some of which date back almost 1,000 years. Among them is the Secret Order of Assassins.
“Assassin” is derived from an Arabic word meaning “one who is under the influence of hashish.”
The original assassins were a secret society of Ismaili Muslims whose bloody rites including drug taking and murder.
Ismaili chief Hassan Sabah founded this killer cult around 1090. It quickly spread terror through the Muslim world. The hundreds slaughtered imams and sheiks that opposed the Ismaili sect.
Later, the hashish-chewing fanatics battled and Crusaders who were trying to capture the Holy Land. Led by Sheikh el-Jabal, the Old Man of the Mountains, the assassins – or hashishin, as they were originally called – inflicted heavy losses on the European invaders. Today, most Ismailis live peacefully with their neighbors in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Libya, Indonesia and other parts of the Moslem world. The assassin cult has been almost forgotten.
But it still exists. And its terrorists have been keeping Prince Karim in line. One of their favorite reminders is a bouquet of red roses. When he checks into a hotel on his frequent travels, Karim often finds a bouquet in his room. This is the assassin cult’s way of saying: “Big Brother is watching you.”
On one occasion, when Karim returned to his Paris town house from a ski vacation in Switzerland, he found a photo album on his desk. In it were photos of six pretty girls. All had large, dark eyes and jet-black hair. All were Ismaili Moslems. Although Karim did not know any of them, a note attached to the album advised him to take one of the six girls as his bride. The note also warned him to stop running around with Continental cuties. Especially Annouchka von Meks.
Though he is also a playboy like his father, Karim has inherited Aly’s preference for blondes. But Ismaili leaders, and particularly the assassins, are determined that this Aga Khan shall marry within his religion even though is father and grandfather did not.
While she still had hopes of becoming the Aga Khan’s Begum or queen, Annouchka took instructions towards becoming a Moslem.
The hashishin, however, made it clear that she was not acceptable.
They threatened to kill both Annouchka and Karim unless the romance broke up. Perhaps Karim used this as an excuse for ceiling his longest love affair. In any event, it became increasingly clear that Annouchka would never become his Begum.
While she stayed alone and dateless in Paris, turning down countless invitations from other men, the Aga began running around with several other beauties. At first, he always returned to his blue-eyed blonde. Then his absences grew longer and longer. Finally, another lovely blonde succeeded Annouchka – Dolores von Furstenberg Guinness, described by Women’s Wear Daily as “the most beautiful girl in Paris.”
Dolores and Karim are semi-related though the relationship is somewhat difficult to explain. His mother, British socialite Joan Yarde-Buller, was Aly Khan’s first wife (before Rita Hayworth). Beforeshe married Aly, Joan was wed to multimillionaire Loel Guinness. They had a son, Patrick, who became Karim’s half-brother and a close friend.
Patrick’s father, Loel Guinness, married socialite Gloria Rubio after his divorce from Joan. Gloria had been previously wed to Count Franz con Furstenberg, by whom she had a daughter, Dolores.
So when Gloria’s mother married Patrick’s father, Dolores became Patrick’s stepsister. They were so fond of each other that eventually they married.
In 1965, the 34-year-old Patrick was killed when his car crashed into a tree in Switzerland. Naturally, the Aga Khan hastened to console Pat’s widow, who was also Karim’s stepbrother’s stepsister.
He has been consoling her ever since. Despite renewed warnings from the assassin cult, the Aga seems serious about Dolores. Society columnist Suzy Knickerbockers recently reported that Karim and Dolores “are together every night as they have been for more than a year.”
“Yes, yes, yes, I know all about the Ismailis,” Suzy added, “but they’re still together every night.”
Annouchka, meanwhile, has been quietly learning how to mix baby formula and change diapers.Her mystery baby was born in a private clinic in Paris early this year. The birth was registered in the residential suburb of Neuilly, where Annouchka is living with her parents.
Normally, certificates of birth, death and marriage are public records in France. Anyone who wants to examine them may do so. But officials at Neuilly Town Hall have been ordered not to show anyone the birth certificate for Annouchka’s baby, unless the inquiring person has a written letter of authorization from the von Meks family.
Parisian and Jet Set socialites have been wondering out loud whether Karim took time out from Dolores to give Annouchka a farewell gift that will last her a lifetime.