Entry dated :: December 16, 1994
Cuixmala, Mexico
Laline in Mexico

I had invited Laline Paull to Mexico for a pre-Christmas weekend. It was a relatively cheap date for me because Jimmy Goldsmith, having just taken delivery of his $40 million 757 Jetliner in Paris, was stopping in New York en route to his kingdom by the sea in Cuixmala. Not only could we hitch a very comfortable ride to Mexico, Laline could continue on to London after the weekend since the 757 would be flying there to pick up 20 of Jimmy's Xmas guests.

Laline, an Anglo-Indian movie writer, had not met Jimmy before, but the logistics had appealed to her. When she published her account of that weekend in The Guardian three years later (July 24, 1997), and I compared it with my diary of it, I realized that she was an acute– and embarrassingly perceptive– observer.

That Friday morning was bright and Sunny when we arrived at the private terminal in Newark Airport. Jimmy was waiting impatiently. I knew he would be disappointed since the real reason for his stop in New York was not with us. That reason was Lisa. A month before, Jimmy had been seated next to Lisa a dinner party and was greatly impressed by her curiosity about the world and also her great looks. He found this combination, as well her charm, so irresistible that he invited her to Mexico over Christmas. Here he used his favorite "you choose" gambit, saying " My plane will be landing at Newark at noon on December 16th. If it would amuse you, and you have nothing better to do, just be at the airport. No need to call me in advance."

It didn't work. Lisa, in the end, decided to stay in New York that weekend and Xmas shop. Jimmy hid his crushing defeat so well that Laline, knowing nothing of the subtext of the stop over, wrote:

"I first saw Jimmy Goldsmith standing beside his newly customized Boeing 757, one cold and sunny December morning in New York, 1994. He was larger than life, his hands folded royally behind his back, his long black coat flapping in the wind, watching us being driven towards him. He had stopped en route from Paris to pick its up and take us to Cuixmala, his Mexican palace, for a long weekend.... For the next three days, it would be Jimmy, Ed and myself."

The airliner was divided into three sections– a dining room, which doubled as a small movie theater, a bedroom for himself, complete with a Jacuzzi bath, and a large salon for up to 20 guests. Once airborne, we had a lunch of smoked fish and eggplant caviar that had been prepared by the restaurant he owned in Paris, Laurent. There was nothing on the plane not under Jimmy's control.

Although I found him subdued throughout lunch, Laline had a different impression. She recalled:

"Jimmy glowed with pleasure in his recent activities – causing a stir in the European Parliament, completing the plane, and his developing plans for the Referendum Party... I privately classified him as a king crocodile - a vast and glinting smile, a lazy gait and an impenetrable mask of politeness But very, very dangerous."

Jimmy then chose the 1946 movie Gilda for us to watch, but began getting phone calls and retreated to his private quarters. Laline and I meanwhile watched Gilda (Rita Hayworth) betray her lovers. Since the jetliner was too large for Jimmy's landing strip, we landed at Puerto Vallarta. We then transferred to the waiting twin-prop Otter. Jimmy chartered this plane, which otherwise gave tours of the Grand Canyon, to shuttle his guests back and forth between Puerto Vallarte his twin estates, Cuixmala on the Pacific, and Jabale, in the mountains. The sun was just setting as we approached the blue and yellow dome of Jimmy's main house at Cuixmala.

Since the landing strip had no lights, we had to land before the sun set, like in some Dracula movie. A convoy of SUVs was waiting, with Jimmy's bodyguards, all former Federal police, to take us through the coconut groves to his palace, which he named la Loma, (since it was on a hill.) He had built it, and the rest of Cuixmala, just six years ago in massive construction projects which he financed advantageously by buying abroad Mexican debt at a 50 percent or so discount and swapping it for Mexican pesos.

Laline was impressed by this personal Shangri-la. She wrote:

"What do you think it looks like? he asked me, as we were chauffeured and bodyguarded towards Cuixmala, its minarets and dome glowing above palm tops in the last of the sun. Like a mogul palace, I said, to his evident satisfaction."

She noted "He enjoyed the sight of 60 servants lined up in welcome on the sweeping main steps, and swept a rapid critical eye over the fountains, the courtyard, the countless candles and lamps lit everywhere, before pronouncing himself satisfied with his palace. Immaculate servants padded silently like pink-clad ghosts, their dark enigmatic faces making his booming voice and vast sprawling body language all the more emphatic. They never looked up, and they never met your eyes."

In fact, there were only about a dozen servants, and Jimmy, who spoke Spanish, was on a first-name basis with most of them and knew an amazing amount about them. But Laline, perhaps because he was Anglo-Indian, saw him in the image of some Eastern despot.

"This was a man who loved to be king, his domain bordered by pristine jungle on one side - as far as the eye can or, he old, and on the other, a rough and crashing sea too dangerous to swim in," she wrote. Jimmy lived in the domed palace we saw from the air. In area, it was the size of the White House. It included three outdoor dining rooms under thatched roofs, or a"Palappas", a huge circular library, a theater (with bad projection TV and even worse acoustics), a cloister and a living room organized with giant pillows like a sultan's harem, it had no spare bedrooms for guests. They were quartered in six pavilions on another hill. Between the two hills, there was a labyrinthine jungle of bougainvillaea.

The three of us had dinner in the papilla overlooking the lagoon. Jimmy, a great host, focused his attention on Laline. As she recalled:

"Jimmy pointed out we were enjoying delicacies from Cuixmala's sea, soil fields and gardens, and that due to the expertise of Cuixmala's master chefs, haute cuisine of the globe was only a whim away. He was a genial perfectionist, an absolutist and a performer, radiating a slight field of impatience until the conversation returned to him, and he relaxed again, leaning back in his chair, legs spread wide."

She was, to say the least, ambiguous about this projection of power, noting:

"I found him magnetic rather than charming, and imposing rather than charismatic. He was particularly voluble in his appreciation of women as the great nurturers and civilizers of men and children, whose greatest fulfilment was in this role, and professed a belief that when a man was interested in a woman it was because that woman had on some level invited him to be."

There was a phenomenon that I had observed with every woman who had visited Cuixmala, whether happily married or single, mature or barely legal, poor or rich, they are found Jimmy both attractive and scary. Laline was no different. She found:

"He was generous, imposing and powerful, and he played his vulnerability. I believed him when be said that if he should find himself alone in a strange town, unmarried, it would be a matter of a few hours before he would remedy that terrible situation, and that he honestly could not imagine existing without woman."

His art was another matter. There was very imposing bronze animals in and around the house had been a result of his lifelong friendship with John Aspinall. Aspinall had sculptures made of his ape, rhino and other animals in his private zoos, and Jimmy acquired (or was gifted) many them. Laline took them as evidence of his affinity with predators, writing:

"Jimmy's taste in art ran to colossal modern bronzes of fighting panthers , a giant-tusked elephant on the beach, and a gorilla at the main entrance. All served to reinforce the feeling that our host saw himself as a grand and fierce creature."

The guest pavilions were lavish one-bedroom structures. Jimmy had rejected the architect's idea of providing them kitchens because he wanted all his guests to dine at the main house. It was more social that way, and he could do their placement. Laline was concerned that there was no maps to orient her. "I wondered if there were no guest maps of the estate because of the security risks, but also because Jimmy liked to keep the maximum psychological advantage," she wrote, "such lavish hospitality could be as much a weapon as a gift."

I didn't tell her about the scorpions that had once infested Cuixmala-- and the entire Costa Careyes. When Jimmy had first visited Costa Careyes in the mid nineteen-seventies, his companion,h Annabel Birley (who he married in 1978), was stung by a scorpion. Although the bite was not serious, Jimmy did not like having his vacation interrupted by an insect. So when he built Cuixmala, he went to great lengths to make it inaccessible to scorpions. I played a role by stumbling on two ecologists from the University of Mexico, who then devised a series of tiny moats and other elaborate barriers that actually worked. To make sure no scorpions remained in the moats, a two man patrol checked them throughout the night with ultra-violet light. So there were no real scorpion danger, but these lights looked eerie as they slowly circled each guest house. After a long flight, Laline noted: "Strange ultra-violet lights moved in the darkness."

Who could blame her?

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