WE WERE SITTING in El Mirador, the hotel where young Mexican studs make their death defying dives several times a day into a rocky cove 135 feet below. Unfortunately it was only 11 am and the next performance was scheduled for at 1 pm.
“Let’s go to a massage parlor “suggested my new friend Bob, an old roué I had met at an earlier dinner on the cruise ship from which we had unfettered ourselves for the day.
Bob Lambert, a veteran of five world counsels (each 90 – 120 days) had made himself something of an expert on foreign sexual moves so I was less apprehensive than I might otherwise have been. He advises giving Mumbai’s Red Light district a miss.
With my handy guide and protector, we found a taxi driver outside the hotel who was happy to transport us to his favorite cathouse. A teenager with a loaded carbine patrols the sidewalk outside.
He even agreed to wait for us while we had completed our visit. “Dos minutos?”, he asked, jovially holding up two fingers. That’s how long he guessed he’d have to wait.
Climbing the stairs in his wake we found ourselves in a small lounge, furnished with sofas, a soft drink machine and six young ladies in halters and very short, shorts. Pick your masseur. An experienced negotiator, Bob agreed on a price of $65 plus tip, for each of us and moving back in the worship room before him, surreptitiously managed to get three seconds of videotape of two of the girls chatting by the Pepsi machine. “Special massages” should be the goddess-given birthright of every adult man or woman. It’s a pity that in puritanical America it’s declared illegal.
Then it was back to the Rotterdam, so we never did get back to La Quebrada to see the divers, but I had taped them some years ago and was sufficiently familiar with Acapulco from writing my book, Mexico on $5 a Day, I passed on taking any tours.
Bob’s own book, Wave Lengths, is an amusing account of his adventures both on and off board a typical world cruise, which can cost as little as $28,000 and as much as $250,000 for penthouse accommodations.
Tipping is a controversial issue with the cruise line, Holland American (HAL) now docking every passenger $11 a day in lieu of separate tipping—not only is mandatory tipping outrageous (adding at least $100 to even the shortest cruise) but it’s a fresh admission by HAL that they won’t pay decent wages which must therefore be subsidized by passengers. (You can, with trouble, adjust your tipping fee)
Much of the enjoyment of a World Cruise comes from the variety of tablemates, bridge, parties and drinking buddies one meet, Bob writes, “even given the limited socio economic pool cruise ships one draws from.”
And of course that pool really is restrictive. At least three quarters of the guests on a typical cruise are elderly, some very frail, others in wheelchairs and with a high proportion grossly overweight. Some passengers never leave the ship, even at the most enticing shops, and all take advantage of the almost 24-hour food service to eat like there’s no tomorrow.
Wandering into dinner, on an unassigned schedule, is a crapshoot. You’ll be directed to any table where the menus are just being handed out and most of the time you’ll find nothing in common with your fellow diners who are apt to be from small towns and have an imagination (or lack of it) to match. Subjects such as politics, drugs, sex, religion, ideas are carefully avoided and on the occasions I wore my High Times T-shirt, nobody had ever heard of the magazine.
As luck would have it, today, I hit the jackpot finding myself across the table from two of the men that HAL had hired to dance with the old ladies. Bob had written that the opportunity of getting to dance was the only thing that enticed some of the older ladies on cruises and my dinner parties confirmed it. If you dance with somebody twice in succession, on remarked, “the jealousy is enormous”. “If you give even a fraction of time more to one person than another there’s hell to pay.”
Being a roaming dancing partner is hard work—requiring one’s presence from the time the music starts in any lounge until midnight—and both men pointed out the hazards of making the slightest wrong move; being put off the boat without appeal at the nearest port.
Both talked of rich patrons they had danced with but neither had been invited to any of the estates, ranches or chateaux they had been told about, although there were legends in the trade about some predecessor who had snared a lifelong partner.
“It’s an exhausting job but you never know what the future might hold”, one said smiling. In addition to the bed and board, HAL dancers are paid a few hundred dollars a month and have other perks such as free tours available to them. There are no female dance hostesses to cater to the many single males. (Bob, single means all alone; solo is somebody who pretends to be single).
Bob wrote that the classic myth of the business “rumor, tale or truth—concerns the dance host who did meet and marry the woman of his fiscal dreams, only to return to the same ships on which he had hosted as an esteemed guest, probably living in the penthouse, Lord over all”.
A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money
nytimes.com: Frugal Traveler by Seth Kugel
It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
Manhattan Memories An Autobiography by John Wilcock
"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."
-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol by John Wilcock
Edited by Christopher Trela
Photographs by Shunk-Kender
Village Voice and Interview cofounder John Wilcock was first drawn into the
milieu of Andy Warhol through film-maker Jonas Mekas, assisting on some
of Warhol’s early films, hanging out at his parties and quickly becoming a
regular at the Factory. “About six months after I started hanging out at the
old, silvery Factory onWest 47th Street,” he recalls, “[Gerard] Malanga came
up to me and asked, ‘When are you going to write something about us?’”
Already fascinated by Warhol’s persona, Wilcock went to work, interviewing
the artist’s closest associates, supporters and superstars. Among these were
Malanga, Naomi Levine, Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, all of whom had been
in the earliest films; scriptwriter Ronnie Tavel, and photographer Gretchen
Berg; art dealers Sam Green, Ivan Karp, Eleanor Ward and Leo Castelli, and
the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Henry Geldzahler; the poets Charles Henri
Ford and Taylor Mead, and the artist Marisol; and the musicians Lou Reed and Nico. Paul Morrisey supplied the title: The Autobiography and Sex Life of
AndyWarhol was the first oral biography of the artist. First published in 1971,
and pitched against the colorful backdrop of the 1960s, it assembles a prismatic
portrait of one of modern art’s least knowable artists during the early
years of his fame. The Autobiography and Sex Life is likely the most revealing
portrait of Warhol, being composite instead of singular; each of its interviewees
offers a piece of the puzzle that was Andy Warhol. This new edition
corrects the many errors of the first, and is beautifully designed in a bright,
Warholian palette with numerous illustrations.
The British-born writer John Wilcock co-founded The Village Voice in 1955,
and went on to edit seminal publications such as The East Village Other, Los
Angeles Free Press, Other Scenes and (in 1970) Interview, with Andy Warhol.