GONG FOR BAROQUE
The jet-set descends on Bali for the August moon
Since the 1970s, when Cunard liners deposited the rich and the titled for a quick geek at the world’s most gorgeous culture, the name “Bali” Walter Spies’ estate on the Campuan River (the present Hotel Tjampuhan) was home base for the ‘30s glitterati, the first clique of artists and heiresses. Films survive showing Charlie Chaplin and Doris Duke frolicking in the spring fed pool, a monkey on each shoulder. Even Garbo came to Bali before she died.
Legendary society beauty Lady Diana Cooper praised Bali in her memoirs, as did friend Noel Coward in a most astute and anthropological dirty:
As I said this morning to Charlie
There is far too much music in Bali
And although as a place it’s entrancing,
There is also a thought too much dancing.
It appears that each Balinese native,
From the womb to the tomb is creative,
And although the results are quite clever,
There is too much artistic endeavor.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead and pen heiress “Tante Betty” Waterman headed Ubud’s “Sayan Swingers” in the heady hey-days of post-war paradise (their club house was the leafy retreat of Colin “Music in Bali” McPhee, the present day Taman Bebek hotel).
The arrival of the Pan Am clippers in the ‘60s bought a news generation of world travelers (as well as the first trickle of backpackers) keen to sample the scenic and cultural delights of the fabled isle. Wija and Judith Waworuntu’s charming cottage hotel in Sanur, the Tanjung Sari, was their base, along with the beach-side museum of Jimmy Pandy and, later on, Warwick and Lisa Purser’s fabulous mini-palazzo in Ubud. The beautiful people of Melbourne, Montreux and Mustique started the “August in Bali” tradition during this era of peach-blush livery and gamelan-on-top.
In the 1970s, the Batu Jimbar studio-home of Australian painter, writer and wit Donald friend was court to a host of international luvies with Vuitton accessories and Pucci patio culottes. The Balinese , particularly the Sanur Balinese, became consummate party-planners and learnt, with savvy, how to head off the advances of the hedonistic and the hirsute. The Balinese saying, “Wrap around the neck and take the shoes”, was probably coined during this era.
The completion in 1973 of Asia’s first boutique hotel, the Kayu Aya (now The Oberoi Bali), by New York-based jet-setters Carles Osborne and Julian Moulton, was the start of Bali’s era of seriously rich and the seriously self-absorbed. The architecture was “spacious and stylish” (soon to become an Amanwannabe catchery) and suddenly Jackie “O”, Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger were calling Bali their second home.
The ‘80s were good years for the expatriate building-room, and August visitor like David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor created dream homes in which to rest their world-weary limbs. It was at Batu Jimbar in Sanur, however that the August scene really got rumbling The success of these palatial beach-side villas, the brainchild of Wija Waworuntu, Donald Friend, Chris Carlisle and Ceylonese architect Geoffrey Bawa, was in providing a glamorous base for the RIWTs (the so-called Rich International White Trash, who Christmas in Gstaad and secrete enzymes at the Amankila). Designer du jour Ed Tuttle gutted Donald Friend’s incredibly beautiful garden in favour of the lean and mean lines “that better one’s Armanis”, setting a precedent for ruthlessly chic pleasure palaces (Fergie stayed there).
The rest history.
This August saw a battalion of the beautiful like none before. The international set were represented by Yoko Ono, John Galliano, Kenzo, Tim Jeffries, Mark Shand and Julia Roberts (here to help save orangutans, Mark to hold the banana) and even Elle MacPhearson’s ex. The regional set were represented by Tina Tan Leo ( Singapore’s answer to Ines de la Fressange), Hong Kong’s Michelle Han and Jakarta’s Soetikno and Diane Soedarjo (in Bali with Helen Gurley Brown to launch the Indonesian Cosmopolitan). The party faithful convened at a series of seamless soirees that combined great food with Balinese fiesta atmosphere.
Villa Bebek, August 8, 1997
A farewell dinner for the popular French Ambassador to Indonesia, Thierry de Beauce, was held at the Villa Bebek in Sanur The old edge “to be a good diplomat is isn’t enough to come from a good family…
You also have to be dim!” is certainly not true of M. de Beauce, whose observation on Indonesia life and art over his three-year term have earned him a reputation for “diplomacy through culture”.
Tonight 40 Bali friends gathered in the garden to bid the grandee, diplomat and writer a fond adieu. Paris was admirably represented by Homero “King of the Night” Machry , Mr. Constantine Niarchos, Lady Amabel Lindasy and musical impresario Sandro Sursok of the Lebanese royal family, who fell in love with the singer from the local keroncong string quartet.
Batu Jimbar, August 10, 1997
Last night was Melissa Ong’s bash for John Galliano (more beautiful people than Linda Garland cushions” one wag commented), and now it’s Ed Tuttle’s 50 th birthday at Kenzo’s August retreat. Ed was part of the original Bali Hyatt design team and has since been catering to the refined tastes of mega-stylish clients like Joyce Marr and Adrian Zecha (his latest project, the Amanjiwa hotel near Borobudur temple is a master piece, give or take a few faux stupas).
Under the August moon, the gamelan tinkled and the stars shone. For the glitterati, paradise was never so lovely.
Iseh August 20, 1997
Hugo Jereissati’s mountain retreat at Iseh is one of the marvels of Bali: a wide terrace opens onto the entire south face of Gunung Agung (Bali’s Mount Meru) and the most picturesque rice fields on the island. This was the setting for Vicky Baum’s novel Night of the Purnama (1965) and the former painting studio of Walter Spies and Theo Mayer.
At lunch were old Bali hands, the Hon. Harry and Tessa Fane and their delightful children, Sophie and Sam. Iseh is famous for its silk ikat and the cuisine of local prince Cokorda Sidemen, Hugo’s liege landlord. Harry is on the third leg of his August treks across the hinterland of the island. We talked of the wonders of east Bali, including Carole Mulleer’s stunning new house overlooking the royal water palace of Tirta Gangga.
Four Seasons Resort, August 24, 1997
With my house guests the fabulous Yorke sisters lady Amabel (Deb of the Year 1953) and lady Victoria (Catch of the Day 1997) and artist chum Nigel Waymouth, I attended a dinner honoring New York wonderwoman Helen Gurley Brown and the launch of the Indonesia edition of Cosmopolitan. Our hosts were Soetikno and Diane Soedarjo, Jakarta’s answer to John and Jackie Kennedy. A fabulous banquet was arranged by Chris Norton, boyish G.M. of the the tropical world’s most seductive resort, the Four Season at Jimbaran. Poolside under a clear night sky, 25 beauties in bright Balinese dress served wave of local delicacies. Poured into a Pucci one-piece and pawing like a siren, Ms. Gurley Brown was understandably excited about heer latest venture, the mag’s 35 th international edition. Good luck and have a good hair day!