Just another day in paradise
The power of celebrity and fame…
IT WAS SO EXCITING. Sir Barrington Topps picked up his mistress when she got out of school and whisked her off in a private jet. She was so thrilled.
“Where ARE you taking me, Sir Barrington?” she gasped. “Great Barrier Reef? — The Hamilton islands?”
“Those drowned sandbars in the Dead Sea?” puffed Sir Barrington, “I think we can do a little better than that, darling.”
“Ooooh,” squealed his mistress. “I’m so excited,” she said excitedly. “Is it Maui? Are you taking me to Maui?”
“Maui?” said Sir Barrington, scowling. “Nimbin-on-Sea? You don’t think I’d take you to hang out with a bunch of South Sea hippies now, do you?”
Not bloody likely, thought Sir Barrington. Maui — that’s where his ex-wife lived with her partner, a yoga instructor. Bloody hippies. That was probably where his son Eric had picked up his bad habits. He would have to find out what Eric was up to when he got back, but for now he had other pressing matters at hand.
“So where is it, Sir Barrington, where are you taking me…?”
“Why don’t you come over here and sit right beside me, my dear, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
In return for a very small favour concerned with the The Hole Thing mining development, wealthy entrepreneur Mortine Hogden had lent Sir Barrington her private jet and the use of her private island for the weekend. It promised complete seclusion and a degree of luxury not seen since the abolition of slavery.
“There’ll be no prying eyes, my dear,” comforted Sir Barrington.
“No paparazzi?” inquired his mistress.
“Absolutely not,” said Sir Barrington.
“Oh,” said his mistress, with a sigh.
Noticing her disappointment, Sir Barrington added.
“However, there may be one or two minor celebrities joining us. More champagne, darling? It’s a jolly fine vintage.”
Before landing, the pilot circled the island at low altitude to give his passengers the best possible view of the small miracle the Hogden Mining Corporation had created. Using spoil from a coal mine on the nearby mainland, the corporation’s engineers had built up the artificial island, layer by careful layer, from foundations deep on the rocky reefs. They had created glistening black beaches, a world class marina, an exclusive resort area, and a rich tropical hinterland from millions of tonnes of mining sludge.
They landed at the small black runway of the airport, and were immediately met by a squadron of fawning toadies who gave Sir Barrington the kind of deference he would have liked to see more of, back at BIG4BANK. He and his mistress were carried from the plane in an ornate and heavyweight sedan chair, upholstered with vintage silks and the Hogden family crest.
Travelling sumptuously across to the main hall, Sir Barrington observed the fabulous gardens with their gushing water features, complete with choreographed frog chorus. There were some other low-key parties of guests scattered discreetly among the grounds, quietly enjoying the opulent surroundings and free booze. Sir Barrington noticed the gangland figure Franco Slaughterhouse among one of these groups and made a mental note to stay well clear. Meanwhile, his mistress scanned the surrounds for faces whom she could recognise.
“Look, Sir Barrington, LOOK,” she squealed. “It’s STEPHEN FRY-UPP!”
“Stephen Fry-Upp! You know the guy from the television. Speaks in a real posh English accent. You know, he’s in everything…”
“Oh yes, of course. You mean THAT Stephen Fry-Upp.” Sir Barrington had no idea of what she was cackling on about, but he was damn sure he was going to find out.
Later, after they had a few cocktails as a starter, Sir Barrington suggested that they should both freshen up. When his mistress went off to get changed out of her school uniform, Sir Barrington beckoned to one of the waiters who were hovering discreetly in the background.
“Who is this Stephen Fry-Upp chap? Can you point him out to me? I want to have a quiet word.”
Sir Barrington’s proffered tip was refused, with a look of horror.
“No tipping accepted on the island, sir,” said the waiter, bowing. “To accept a tip would be to put my entire families’ livelihood at risk. We are only too happy to serve, but please, no tipping, sir.”
Very admirable, thought Sir Barrington.
The waiter went off and came back with the television celebrity Stephen Fry-Upp. He introduced him to Sir Barrington and then moved back into the shadows.
“Very good of you to come over, er, Stephen,” said Sir Barrington. “I imagine you must be very busy.”
“Well actually, I am rather busy at the moment,” replied Stephen Fry-Upp, cheerily. “However, as an actor, there’s only one thing worse than being busy… and that’s not being busy.”
“An actor?” asked Sir Barrington. “Oh yes, of course. How amusing.”
“Now, what can I do for you, Barry?” said Stephen Fry-Upp.
“It’s ‘Sir Barrington’ actually,” said Sir Barrington, “but no, no, that doesn’t matter now. I wondered if you might be able to help me with a rather delicate matter. I have a young lady friend — and she’s a great admirer of yours, er, Stephen.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” said Stephen Fry-Upp.
“And I think it really might impress her if … if you were to pretend that you and I were old friends. That we know each other rather well. You know how these ladies are with celebrity…”
“How gallant,” said Stephen Fry-Upp, grinning. “How perfectly charming. Faint heart never won fair lady, eh? I’ll be only too happy to oblige, Sir Barrington. Now, what is it you’ll want me to say?”
Later, Sir Barrington and his mistress were both beginning to feel a little tipsy. Sir Barrington had been at the Penfold 1958 even before the dinner had started, and now he was on his second bottle. He just couldn’t resist it. Five thousand dollars a pop. They were just about to decide on their starter when Stephen Fry-Upp made his entrance.
“Sir Barrington!” he bellowed across the hall in a plummy accent. “You crafty old goat. I haven’t seen you in absolutely AGES.”
Sir Barrington looked across discreetly at his mistress. She was beaming, but he wasn’t sure if it was the celebrity starlight or the wine.
“What HAVE you been up to, Sir Barrington?” continued Stephen Fry-Upp, far too loudly. “HAW! We used to have such fun! Do you remember how we got stuck in between Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan at Rod Stewart’s party in Miami?”
Stephen Fry-Upp used all his dramatic presence to draw himself up and over the couple, beaming.
Sir Barrington put down his glass and turned his attention to the popular television presenter.
“Fuck off, Fry-Upp.” said Sir Barrington with a quiet determination. “I’ve told you before to quit pestering me. Now piss off or I’ll have you thrown out.”
“Well, I…” muttered the deflated presenter. “I really…”
“I mean it,” continued Sir Barrington. “Scram.” He motioned to one of the background waiters, waiting mutely in the background.
Stephen Fry-Upp, slumped off-stage, grumbling, and away from the table, even before the waiter had time to approach.
“What an absolute nuisance,” tutted Sir Barrington. “What a notice-box.”
His mistress squeezed his hand under the table.
“Yes,” she agreed. “He’s in everything but the crib. He’ll be reading the bloody news next.”
Sir Barrington lifted his glass and took a long, expensive swig of the Penfold 1958.
“Tell me, Sir Barrington,” whispered his mistress, giggling, “did you really meet Michael Jackson?”
This story originally appeared in issue 12 of New Philosopher in slightly amended form (i.e. they literally cut the ‘fuck’ out of it — but, heh, heh, no worries there, New Philosopher is a superb mag and they’re a great crew).
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely unintentional. Yup.