Consorting with the rich and famous

Langebaan Lagoon at Churchaven

Langebaan Lagoon at Churchaven

On 7 April the operations manager of the tour company I work for phoned to warn me about a tour they had booked me to do: “It’s a wealthy family from Monaco, plus butler, who’ll be arriving in their private jet; they’ll be staying at the Cape Grace for a few days, but on 16 April you must take them to the Strandkombuis at Yzerfontein where they will spend two nights (you must sleep there with them); and on 18 April you must take them to the airport. Another driver and vehicle will travel with you to carry all the luggage.”
 
My heart sank. Why the hell did a wealthy family from Monaco want to spend the best part of three days in a sleepy dorp on the west coast where there was nothing to do except look at the ice-cold sea, walk on the beach and surf, if the wind wasn’t blowing too strongly (it usually blew like the clappers)? Did they speak English? He didn’t know, and suggested taking them to Langebaan and Club Mykonos.
 
The rich and famous (especially the French) can be difficult, and this family had a French name. The famous tend to expect diffidence and deference, and being an ordinary South African ou, I don’t do diffidence very well. Luckily most of the famous don’t want tour guides, and prefer to use the services of our black-suited drivers and chauffeurs. But, occasionally we guides get to encounter celebrities: I once spent an uncomfortable couple of hours trying to take Jay-Z’s mother and entourage on a tour; but they spent most of the time chatting on their cellphones, and asking about doing a township tour. I took them back to their hotel where I had arranged for a township expert to take over from me. He did not have a happy time: “They didn’t listen to what I was telling them, and were on their cellphones all the time.”
 
But, Ronan Keating and his pretty wife and daughters turned out to be great company. He and bodyguard were very friendly, and he is a great fan of Cape Town; Kirstenbosch seems to be his favourite concert venue.
 
Our firm has the contract to do most of the tours and transport for the new One&Only hotel in Cape Town. Before and after the hotel’s grand opening various drivers got to ferry Sol Kerzner, Thandie Newton, Matt Damon, Gordon Ramsay, Marisa Tomei, and Robert De Niro to and fro. My friend Mike got to transport Mariah Carey’s luggage (you can’t believe how many people want to know what her luggage consisted of, etc, etc). The man who drove Sharon Stone from the airport had to use great willpower to stop himself from turning round and checking for a wardrobe malfunction.
 
The closest I was allowed to get to anyone famous was to do a winelands tour with jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and his friend Tom. You can read all about Dave on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Koz and see pictures of him on http://www.davekoz.com/
 
Tom is an American living in Cape Town, and seemed to know more about our wines than Wineou. So, all I had to do was follow his suggestions of what wine farms to visit, and get them into the best available restaurant in Franschhoek, La Petite Ferme, for a belated lunch. The reason why the two of them seemed more interested in each other than hearing what I had to say became clear when I read the following in Wikipedia: “In an April 2004 interview with The Advocate, Koz came out publicly as a gay man. Later the same year, he was named by People magazine as one of their ’50 Hottest Bachelors’ in their June issue.”
 
On the journey back to Cape Town with the two hot bachelors on the back seat I put on a classical music CD (compiled, incidentally, by a lesbian friend of a friend). Tom asked Dave what he thought of classical music and he replied that he loved relaxing to it. He then asked him what famous people he had worked with, and he mentioned an impressive list which included Burt Bacharach, Celene Dion, Jonathan Butler (with whom he had appeared on 3 April at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival), Kyle Eastwood (who had also appeared, with his band, at the festival) and Bill Clinton (one of the most satisfying moments of his life was introducing his parents to the current president of the USA). Famous friends he mentioned were Matt Damon (“a very handsome man”) and Clint Eastwood (who is in Cape Town to direct a film about South Africa’s winning the rugby world cup in 1995; with his son Scott taking the part of Joel Stransky, and Matt Damon taking the part of Francois Pienaar). Dave and I agreed that Clint – with his acting, directing and musical ability – was approaching the genius level of Charlie Chaplin who acted in, directed, scripted, produced and eventually scored his own films. Charlie even did the choreography for the 1952 film Limelight, and his score for this film won an Academy Award. He also composed hit songs, including “Smile” famously covered by Nat King Cole, and “This is My Song” which became a number one hit in several languages (most notably the version by Petula Clark). 
 
But, I digress. Back to family “B”, the millionaires from Monaco. It turned out that they had come for a wedding reception at Strandkombuis (“beach kitchen”), and that all the efforts I had made to find suitable restaurants and things for them to see and do were wasted. A relative of Mr B’s was marrying into a Dutch family, and the Dutch are noted for being careful with money and doing self catering wherever possible. So the first evening’s entertainment was a lamb spit braai (barbecue) at the B & B next to the beach restaurant where they were all staying, and I was allowed to leave them to it and drive 5 km to Kaijaki guesthouse in Yzerfontein, that I had cleverly booked myself into, go for a walk, watch surfers catching some excellent waves, and have a rather nice kingklip supper at Meeurots restaurant.
 
The wedding ceremony at 2 pm on 17 April was at Churchaven on the Langebaan Lagoon about 45 minutes’ drive

Wedding chapel at Churchaven, with phallic tree stump
Chapel at Churchaven, with phallic tree stump

away. Thereafter I returned the party to Strandkombuis for the reception. Once I’d dropped them there I was allowed to depart, go for a walk, get another look at the surfers, and have an excellent dinner at Kaijaki. (The Dutch co-owner and chef produced the best Karoo lamb chops I’ve ever had, surrounded by an explosion of colourful vegetables.)
 
The next day during our drive to the airport I caught interesting snatches of conversation between Mr B and Paul the butler. It seemed that Paul was not a butler, but some sort of security expert who was going to Mr B’s diamond mine in Sierra Leone where theft was a big problem. The family, meanwhile, were going on to a holiday in Mauritius where Mr B was having a meeting with the president . . .

After the family had been put on their private jet Paul told me that he had been very amused to hear that I thought he was a butler. Apparently he had had extensive military training in the UK and Southern Africa, and had been a member of the elite Grey’s Scouts unit during the Rhodesian bush war. That night I googled Mr B and discovered that he was worth at least £300 million. Earlier he’d told me that we had something in common: we had both worked for De Beers in the 1960s, me underground in Kimberley, and him in Central Africa.
 
I couldn’t help thinking of the movie Blood Diamond which was set in Sierra Leone, but filmed mostly in Mozambique and South Africa. One of our drivers had the job of driving the star of the film, Leonardo DiCaprio, around during the filming in Cape Town. He told me that Leonardo was a very nice chap. Pity the driver didn’t give him some help with the Southern African accent he acquired for the film.
 
Incidentally, in case anyone thinks I am casting any aspersions in the direction of Mr B and his family, I wish to say that I thought they were a pleasant, attractive (especially Mrs B) and thoroughly nice group. In saying this I am not influenced in any way by the thought that they might contemplate legal action against me (and am aware that Mr B fought and successfully defended a $200 million lawsuit that one of his brothers had instituted against him, and am willing to concede that his lawyers are better than mine, and that anything approaching a $200 million lawsuit could make a serious dent in my savings).
 
Today’s quote
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on. – Robert Strauss
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6 Responses to Consorting with the rich and famous

  1. Chris says:

    You’ve met Ronan Keating?

  2. Wineou says:

    I am amazed and humbled to hear that busy teenyboppers [Encarta definition: a young teenager, usually a young girl, who follows the latest fads in fashion and music] are reading this blog. Chris, if you can motivate another 2 boppers like yourself (preferably under 40) to beg me to write what little I have left to say about Ronan, I will gladly oblige.

  3. Jessica says:

    I have a year left of being a bopper. Or to be more precise, another 10 months before I’m a bopper over 40. Perhaps if another bopper finds these comments and adds their interest, you’ll impart your experience onto eager ears.

    • wineou says:

      Hi Jessi. I had to search through my trip notes and found this entry for 4 Jan 07: “8.30pm: Famous singer + black bodyguard + Ronan’s wife and 2 kids and another couple + kid. All nice and friendly”. I seem to remember that Ronan was diminutive and good looking, while his wife (a former Irish model) was a tall, very pretty blonde. (Much taller than him.) The large, friendly bodyguard with a London accent sat in the front next to me. We got going after 9 pm and as we drove from the Cape Grace through the Waterfront Ronan commented to the others about the beauty of the marina and Cape Town in general. He pointed out the One&Only Hotel that was being built. During the course of the evening he mentioned that Kirstenbosch was his favourite concert venue (I heard that he later bought property in Cape Town). I asked the guard if he knew anything about the Irish film “The Commitments” and Andrew Strong, the amazing 16-year-old lead singer in the band. He knew a lot about them, and told me that Andrew’s problem was drink (how Irish!) and that he had carved out a sort of career in the USA. I dropped them at Blues restaurant for dinner. Hours later, after midnight on the way back, Ronan and the kids were full of chat and told some very funny jokes. I was impressed by how mature and relaxed the youngsters were. The trip cost him R500 and the tip to me was R100. This all happened over three years ago, and that’s the best I can come up with now. If you google any of the names you’ll find out a lot more, and see pictures. Let’s hope the subject of Ronan can now R.I.P.

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