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High life

Celebrity culture

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

27 August 2005

12:00 AM

27 August 2005

12:00 AM


Sartre famously called hell other people, and he had not even been on a boat anchored next to a gin palace during the month of August. Yachting in the Med used to be a cliché, as well as a very enjoyable pursuit. No longer. In Simi, one of the least known and prettiest of Greek islands off the Turkish coast, some friends of mine got a dose of what Sartre meant. A stink pot came into the tiny harbour and its captain was told it could not anchor next to my boat because the spot was reserved for the ferry. A large American woman emerged and using the f-word non-stop told the harbour master to get lost. Then the rather ugly gin palace, which looked like a charter, proceeded to dock where it had been told not to.

A large and menacing man, an American, stood around glaring, while an older guy, also from the States, read his newspaper saying little. After it got dark, the offensive language stopped but the generator of the stink pot did not. When my captain asked them to turn it off so my friends could get some sleep, he, in turn, was told to f— off and that was that.

Now it just so happened I was not on board, but even if I had been, I don’t think there was much I could have done about these rude slobs. The harbour master is a small man and was obviously intimidated. My captain is even smaller, so the slobs had their way. It wasn’t always like that. I wrote about a similar incident in these here pages some 25 years ago. I arrived in Mykonos on a smaller Bushido after a very rough crossing. The harbour was full so we tied our stern on to a larger boat’s bow — as the rules of the sea require. The crew of the larger vessel were rude and unco-operative. But they were not in luck. I had the whole of the Greek national karate team on board, and after a few choice words the crew decided to play nice. In fact, they were so nice, they ceded their place to us and left for destinations unknown. Score one for muscle over rudeness.

My friends told me that the people on board the gin palace looked as if they were in the music business. How could they tell? They couldn’t. It was just a feeling. You know what I mean. Fame, money, drugs, sex, brutishness, excessive use of the f-word, all go together to make up the horror of today’s celebrity culture. Our culture is now so debased by the spread of pornography and the violence in the movies, the stink pot crowd probably thought that their behaviour was normal. When was the last time a rock punk did not use the f-word, and when was the last time someone was polite in a film and was not stepped on by some oik? Such witless and repulsive oafs used to bother one in cheap nightclubs. Now they get in your face in beautiful little places like Simi. It’s enough to make one move to Patagonia, but even there no one is safe.

Back in the good old days, of course, disgusting types such as those my friends came up against in Simi had not dicovered pleasure boats. Better yet, they couldn’t afford them. When the nouveaux riches did purchase boats — as a man by the name of Robert Balkany did — they tried to ape their betters, although in his case he wasn’t always successful. Most boats back then were sailers, which meant sailors were a better breed. Tough, close to nature, old salts. Working on a stink pot today is like being a waiter in a large, impersonal restaurant. The Russian crooks, needless to say, don’t know any better. Big is best, and to hell with grace and beauty and trying not to pollute. All they want is a big enough gin palace to be able to store the dresses the whores they’re with have bought. The rest is immaterial. Oh, yes, and large screens and auditoriums so they can watch Big Brother, or whatever crap turns them on.


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