Thursday, November 23, 2006

Trouble in Paradise

The islands of The Bahamas often portray themselves, in holiday brochures, as an earthly paradise. Those of us that have been to take a look could be excused for hoping that Paradise kept itself in rather better shape in terms of cleanliness, that its inhabitants would be rather more inclined to work for a living and that the percentage carrying handguns would be a trifle lower. A little more taste in architectural terms would not come amiss either, since Sol Kerzner’s Atlantis complex on Paradise Island (tactfully re-named – it used to be Hog island) makes Nero’s efforts seem tastefully restrained in comparison.

Once memorably described as “a pimple on the arse of the British Empire,” since gaining independence from that undoubtedly relieved body, the nation has done little to burnish its spotty image.

The first prime minister, reverting to the piratical roots of the country, spent a quarter of a century improving relations with the drug cartels of Colombia, recognising that, sitting athwart the main transit route, his country was ideally placed to benefit. The principal king pin, Carlos Lehder, was allowed to operate his own little fiefdom, virtually unhindered, from Norman’s Cay under this mutually beneficial arrangement.

There is an old saying that any publicity is good publicity, but the recent events concerning a one-time Playboy centrefold and her attempt to settle in these paradisiacal islands, can hardly be good news for the tourist board.

Anna Nicole Smith had achieved fame and fortune partly through her appearance as a sort of Barbie doll on steroids, but mainly from her achievement in marrying an octogenarian billionaire, who, predictably, did not last too long and left his fortune to his rather newer wife. Equally predictably, his family took exception to this, and the subsequent lawsuit made a good deal of copy for the less cerebral papers.

She wound up scooping a sizeable sum however, which she seems to have managed to spend remarkably quickly.

Playboy must have had an enlarged edition when they featured her as a centrefold, since she would have made the Guinness Book of Records as the heftiest one ever.

Bra size, and size in general, does not equate to brain size, for, as Winnie the Pooh once remarked, “I am a bear of very little brain and long words confuse me.” One of the long words that confused Ms. Smith seems to have been “contraception,” since she then allowed herself, in the argot of the times, to get “knocked up” and carelessly to fail to be able to identify the knocker.

There seems to have been some competition for this dubious honour and, to avoid all sorts of nasty legal recriminations, she elected to remove herself, voluptuous body and soul, to paradise, The Bahamas.

To reside in The Bahamas, it is necessary to prove that you have a substantial chunk of cash with you and the easiest way to do this is by buying an expensive house.

She moved into a million dollar establishment on the Eastern Road of New Providence and, using this as her bona fides, achieved her permanent residency in a matter of weeks, leapfrogging over many who had been waiting for years.

All might have gone smoothly but, entering the local hospital, she duly gave birth and her twenty-one year old son from a previous liaison, came to visit. Now hospitals are, by and large, pretty attuned to having the odd inmate hop off the twig. It goes with the territory, you might say. But eyebrows are raised when a visitor does the same thing. Which is what Ms. Smith’s son managed to do, in her private room, by taking a massive drug overdose.

Bearing her unexpected bereavement bravely, Ms. Smith, a few days later, elected to marry her attorney. The ceremony was carried out on a yacht just off Nassau and concluded with bride and groom jumping, fully clothed, into the ocean, something which has never happened at any of my weddings and a performance the object of which I am at a loss to explain to you. Even so, this might have gone unnoticed except that one of the witnesses to this aquatic performance happened to be the Minister for Immigration.

Worse was to follow. From Florida, one of the busty beauty’s former swains pops up to say, “Hey, that’s my house she’s living in. She’s never paid me for it.” And then, the law firm handling her application for residency chimes in to say that the cheque to the Ministry for the application was not sent to the government offices but was, in fact, handed personally to the Minister for Immigration, who just happened to be standing in Ms. Smith’s bedroom at the time.

It is fair to say that there is a degree of confusion over a good many matters relating to Ms. Smith, the unfortunate death of her son, the patrimony of her new infant, the ownership of the house on Eastern Road and just how she managed to achieve her residency in a matter of weeks.

Sometimes I look back over my own life and wonder if, in view of perhaps a degree of turpitude, I might be refused permission to enter through the Pearly Gates.

But then, if Paradise is anything like The Bahamas, I don’t think I’ll worry.


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