Story & Pix by Chris Marais
As part of my editorial duties at Scope Magazine, I took it upon myself to cover fishing derbies, air rallies and yacht races all over Southern Africa.
These gigs were often a welcome break from sitting in a dark room with the tape recorder on, wondering if this week’s crazy man would jump across the room and cut my throat.
Anyhow, it’s somewhere around 1987 and I’m sucking on a beer at a boat club in Mauritius.
There’s a yacht race on the go. I’ve just about had it with all the rich boys and girls in their white yachtie outfits running around yelling:
“It’s wine o’clock!”
As if the rest of us with our big boat envy could give a hoot.
I’m really in trouble here, because unless I start giving a hoot and interviewing all these boat bunnies and their Captain Rons, there’s going to be no story in the bag for Uncle Chris.
And Uncle Editor will be asking questions about expense accounts and time out of the office and such.
Here comes the solution, strutting down the slipway towards the bar. It’s none other than a certain Mr Les Bush.
Les is here on a photographic assignment for the sponsor of this event. Luckily he is just as bored as I am, having taken most of the shots he needs.
Two street journos. A tropical dream island. Multi-million dollar yachts all around. Girls in bikinis. Men in silly hats. Fear and loathing, doctor. Fear and loathing.
Things happen speedily from this point on. We find a friendly taxi driver called Anand and ask him to take us to low dives where they sell cheap liquor.
Enter, stage left, on wobbly legs, the infamous Rhum of Mauritius. All I really remember is the stuff makes you a little bit blinder each morning.
Two days later, I’ve got my story. Half of it comes from Les’ yachting chummy chum chums, the other half is pure street-level Mauritian colour from said low dives we visit in Port Louis, the capital.
And the re-connect with Mr Bush has been made.
I have, I must admit, been a bit short of a working compadre of late. This Scope job is just no fun on your own.
Les Bush fits the bill perfectly. Great photographer, very good travel partner. Drives an old road warrior BMW that we can commandeer for assignments.
Also, Les is short (“Anyone taller than five feet is a waste of space”, he would often tell me) so he can fit easily into Economy Class seats on flights, and doesn’t cost much to feed.
But he is a Beer Monster.
So we sally forth over the years, to many towns, countries and taverns, on the kind of adventures you only used to read about in booby mags like Scope.
And Les is always better at being Mr Scope than I could ever hope to be.
“Oh, you’re the guy who puts the stars on the nipples,” says someone accusingly at me on a job somewhere.
“No, I write the words for the magazine. The Nipple Stars man works in Durban,” I would reply.
Words. Mmm. Scope. Mmm.
Les, on the other hand, has memorised the names and vital stats of every Scope Magazine centrefold going back to the mid-1960s.
He, subsequently, can wax lyrical to the punters on the subject they really want to know about: the glamour girls of Scope.
No matter that they all come from syndicated British packages. To the readers of Scope, they have become real and available.
And so Les plays to the crowd and they love it.
Words. Who wants to speak to the guy who does “words”?
“You have to understand,” he explains to me on the cement porch of a skanky motel with dodgy disco frontage one day. “If we were The Rolling Stones, I’d be Mick Jagger.”
“And who would I be?” I ask.
“Take your pick. Just not Mick,” replies the cheeky Bush.
“OK. From now on, I’m going to try really hard to be Keith Richards” I venture.
All I hear from the cheap seats is a snortle of derision…
- This is an extract from The Journey Man – A South African Reporter’s Stories by Chris Marais, available in print HERE.
- Also Available in Ebook HERE.