The Geezer Roués

“We got chatting and it went a bit further. And it was every man’s dream, to be honest. I was about 19,” the flaxen-haired honcho is quoted as saying. “What I remember vividly is seeing four handprints on the mirror as we finished, and thinking I’d better wipe them off.”

Mr. Branson—who is married but famously surrounds himself with beautiful young women—surely knows better than to wrap his rascal in what looks an awful lot like a sales pitch.

The roués are mourned not only by the women who succumbed to them; the fact was, a roué was damned good company even if—maybe especially if—both parties remained fully clothed.

Elaine’s habitué Ruda B. Dauphin, the American representative of the Deauville Film Festival, said she had the pleasure of knowing a number of roués in her day. There was the great choreographer Serge Lifar. “Oh, I loved him,” she said. “I wanted to have dinner with him and talk to him and flirt. Who flirts anymore?”

Ms. Dauphin added that greed has unfortunately replaced lust as the deadly sin most in evidence.

“Everybody’s greedy, everybody wants to make money, everyone wants to buy things,” she said. “You wanna buy a yacht, an apartment. How much time have you got to spend seducing women or men? And it’s a pity, because it’s much more provocative to spend time seducing friends, lovers, possibilities, the girl next door, the boy next door. Come on. Come into my web. Be a spider.”

“That Rat Pack sort of style would seem ridiculous today,” said Shawn Levy, author of The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa, a biography of the polo playing, Ferrari-racing Dominican playboy who married five times, including the likes of Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke, and died in a car wreck at age 56. “In that era when old folks had center stage in pop culture, they could sort of set the socials standards, the sartorial standards, the rules of mating,” said Mr. Levy. “But as soon as the kids took over, then any adult that tried to hit on a woman by acting young looked foolish. The only guy who can get away with it today is George Clooney. You have to have a great amount of not-give-a-fuck-ness. You can’t do this if you’re worried about how you look.”

Nor if you’re overly worried about your health: The empowerment of young women—to be as bad as they want to be, to enjoy sex as much as they want to—has perhaps raised the stakes of the game too high for many a geezer heart to bear.

“Roués are now terrified that they’re going to come after a woman and the woman will just scare the daylights out of them,” said advertising executive Jerry Della Femina, at a recent party he hosted at his East Hampton home.

“You have to understand that these days it’s looked down upon to be a sensualist,” said society photographer Patrick McMullan, 51. “And although I started my career so I could have a drink in one hand and a camera in the other, it’s sort of frowned upon to be not serious.”

(Mr. McMullan said he considers himself a roué enabler, because when he takes pictures of young women with older men, “the young girls realize, ‘Well, my picture is being taken, so if I hang out with this guy, maybe I have to put out a little, but I’ll get some attention, too.’”)

“The whole roué dynamic changed when Warren Beatty decided to settle down with one woman and spawn like what, 20 kids,” said Vanity Fair’s Mr. Wayne. “He knocked up that poor woman into oblivion, ruining Annette Bening’s brilliant acting career in the process—which I suppose is the ultimate revenge for the roué.

“There are hardly any leading men in Hollywood today who fit that mold,” he continued. “Brad Pitt has been hen-pecked into creating his own mini United Nations.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Levy was wondering if our sub-sandwich-scarfing Ur-Geezer Roué could still pull it off: “I think if Jack Nicholson walked into an L.A. nightclub, most of the young girls would be scared.”