My brief flirtation with Monte Carlo.

My view from the Lowes Beachfront Hotel in Monte Carlo.

     "My head was pounding from the twelve very dry vodka martinis I'd drunk the night before at the Grand Casino.  Morning came blasting through the delicate white lace that coated the seaward windows like a fine spray of dust, lingering just so.  Through the fog in my head I started to remember some of the events of last night.  I should have stayed on the eight of diamonds but I had grown impetuous with drink and was determined to show Ernst Stavro Blofeld that the cards were a fickle and exacting mistress.  Damn my foolish pride.  Once again hubris had got the better of me.  I pushed the super model over a bit on the bed and stuck my hand under the pillow where I was comforted to find the cool and calming bulk of my Walther PPK pistol, cocked and ready to deliver lethal justice.

It was my second day on assignment in Monte Carlo.  I had already wrecked my Aston Martin DB-8 and been in two gunfights.  Oh the life of a foreign....."

Oops.  Sorry.  Too many James Bond books.  But,  let me veer away from photography for just a second and indulge a literary guilty pleasure.  If you've seen the James Bond movies but have never cracked one of the Ian Fleming novels that the movies are loosely based on I am very jealous of you.  You will get to savor each one for the very first time.  They are wonderful, elegant, funny, anachronistic, sexist, suspenseful and delicious.  I read them from time to time just to savor the descriptions of food that we'll never see the likes of again.  Especially if nutritionists and cardiologists have their way.....  Buy them all while you can get your hands on them and I warrant that you'll find it the smartest literary investment you've made in a while.  A cooler look into the 1950's and 1960's you'll not come across.  End of indulgence.

I was asked to go to a conference in Monte Carlo for a company called Tivoli, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of IBM.  I would arrive on a Saturday evening and the conference would start on Sunday evening with a cocktail hour reception and dinner.

The 50 meter swimming pool overlooking the bay and yacht docks.  My favorite memory of Monte Carlo.

The conference would last through until Thurs. afternoon.  Anyone who wanted could stay for the weekend and play golf.  There were helicopters to make the transfers between the airport in Nice and the hotel.  Everything was beautiful, the hotel had the patina of a place used to hosting dignitaries and heads of state.  And for true James Bond fans it was next door to the Grand Casino.  My job was to photograph all of the proceedings, the speakers, the speeches, the food, the carefully grouped shots of new acquaintances and the general ambiance of the event.  The dress was "business" and it was requested that I wear a dark suit and tie during all portions of the conference.  Packing was a pain as one doesn't wear the same suit or tie twice in a row.  This necessitated bringing along four suits as well as a few more casual sport coats for the times when I was "off the clock".  Strange how clothes are part of some assignments.

I've found that, when shooting pictures while wearing a suit, it never looks good to throw a camera bag over your shoulder so I would always find a corner behind the AV partition in which to hide my camera bag.  I'd carry a Nikon F5 and a medium zoom lens in my hand, complete with a flash in the hot shoe.  We shot ISO 400 Kodak print film at these events as it could be processed and printed just about anywhere, and quickly.  I carried three or four rolls in my suit coat pocket.   In the bag behind the curtain would be a back up camera body, a back up lens and an 80-200mm 2.8 zoom.  Extra batteries and film.

There were fun things to photograph including a very wonderful dinner in Prince Rainier's private car museum and speeches by Sir David Frost and Tom Peters.  But here's how it fell out for the client:  a number of anticipated guest didn't show.  The organizers decided to end each day's sessions at noon, serve lunch and then give the attendees the afternoons off to play golf or sightsee.  

Once my morning obligations were taken care of I headed on foot into the center of town to the Prince Rainier Swim Center, paid my two bucks and got a few miles of lap swimming in.  Rarely have I eaten so well, been so richly entertained and also been well paid for a job that included a recreational swim component.

At the end of the conference my client asked me to fly to Rome on another assignment.  Ah, the days of high tech's ascendency!  I spent the next five days in Rome before heading back home to Austin.  I still congratulate myself for taking along my favorite pair of swim goggles and a swim suit.  Nice pool.  Good view.  Some think these days will never come back but it's just not true.  All fun stuff cycles back into fashion with the utmost reliability.   In the meantime, have a few vodka martinis and relax.....


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wonderful article and photos, Kirk - thanks for that one! Hmmm why does it remind me of that Dire Straits' line "Money for nothing and your chicks for free"? ;-)

Being an "aquired" IBMer myself, I can confirm that times definitely have changed. No more heli flights, at least for mere mortals like me. Not much traveling at all in those days of video conferences.

Dunno if that will ever change back during the rest of my working life, but you never know.


David Ingram said...

Tuck.. Kirk Tuck! Fun post.

Mike said...

Nice post. I am surprised somebody else enjoys Flemings original stories. If you like Fleming, you might like Raymond Chandler too.