30 January 2009

Paparazzi in Paradise

Flamands Beach faces north. Long, wide, two hotels (Taiwana and Isle de France) at the east end, beachfront villas to the west. Flamands is three minutes from our house, and we tend to go there when we want to spend just an hour or two in the sun.

There are two public entrances to the beach: one about 300 yards west of the hotels, and the other at the extreme west end. The former entrance is a 25 foot wide corridor between two large recently built houses, each bordered by an eight foot high white concrete wall. The houses have elaborate swimming pools at their seaward faces, and low concrete walls separating the pool from the beach. That wall is fronted by dense plantings in the sand immediately adjacent to the wall.

Flamands is not nearly as heavily attended as the others. It is at the extreme end of the island and not so convenient for most, it tends to be windy with a bit of surf, and because it is on the north shore of the island, you need to choose whether you want to face the sun or the water. None of those things bother us.

Okay, so one enters the beach by walking down what is a walled corridor that extends onto the sand. It is only when you reach the end of the swimming pool sidewalls and the beachside foliage, do you get to see the beautiful vista to the east and west. So why was that guy dressed in black jeans, black shirt, holding onto a black backpack, lying at the beach end of the westernmost wall of the entrance? He looked bored staring east, but what was he doing there? Clearly not dressed for the beach, not interested in the view of the sea and the islands to the north, not reading or sleeping, just staring to the east. Sinister. Very un-St. Barths.

Shortly after we settled in our chairs, it became clear. He was a spy. Really. Well, at least a lookout. This guy reached into his backpack and came out with a pair of binoculars that looked like the ones you see submarine commanders use in the movies. Long, large circumference. Impressive. He looked through them for only a few minutes, then put them away, then took them out ten minutes later, etc. At one point after a viewing, he made a cellphone call. Aha. Within five minutes three more people arrived, two of them carrying large gym bags, out of which they took cameras the likes of which I have seen only on the sidelines of football and basketball games. The camera body was a that of a normal size SLR, but the lens was a monster. I estimate it was 18-24 inches long, with an end-diameter of 6-7 inches. It even had a carry handle along is longitudinal axis. The photographers never exposed themselves to an eastern or western viewer. All preparations were accomplished in the walled corridor, and when they were ready to shoot, they emerged from cover bent at the waist, crouched behind the foliage, and fired away, lenses aimed at the beach in front of Isle de France.

Pinks went for a swim, and I went for a stroll--east to Isle de France. I am terrible at star sighting. I recognize nobody. One year I even came face to face with Nicole Kidman, and missed her. Happily, Stephanie was with me or I would never have known one my "girlfriends" ( I have three or four, it is a rotating list, I am fickle) was here visiting me--or at least visiting my island.)

When I got to the hotel beach, I made careful survey of its occupants. I saw lots of beautiful people, but nobody I recognized. I sighted back to the photographers who would not be noticed but for someone who knew where to look, and estimated the lenses were aimed at the swimmers, two gorgeous women in waist deep water, playing in the surf. Still no recognition on my part. The only thing I was sure of was that neither of them was my Nicole.

Lacking the ability to figure this out for myself, I did the only left for me to do: walk back and cross examine the photographers, who were not all happy to talk to me, especially not to be seen talking to me. That was my edge: I wouldn't leave them until they cracked. The answer, in heavily accented French, was that the two women in the water were top Victoria Secret models. From my keen observations, they surely qualified, and I retired to my chair and my book and told Pinks my story. Ho hum. Just Victoria Secret models. Big deal. These guys ever been to Gouvernor Beach?

End of story, but I have questions. I can understand why fashion and gossip mags publish pix of beautiful models playing in the water, but why do the photographers need to hide? At 300 yards, the pictures would surely be degraded by the powerful lenses, focusing would be extremely difficult, movement of the camera and the subject would complicate things further, etc. Do models not want to be seen swimming? What would happen if these guys just walked up the beach and shot photos? It is a public beach, even the part with the hotel's chaise lounges on it. I could have brought my little pocket Sony, sat on the sand right at the water's edge and done as well as these guys, if I knew at whom I was looking!

Hey, perhaps I have stumbled onto a recession-proof trade. I'll go upstairs and charge up the camera battery now. Better still, I'll use the new Flip videocam I got for Christmas, take pix of beautiful people, and then maybe will be able to afford the St. Barths restaurants!

A bientot.

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