Drama & Diplomacy: In Sultry Puerto Vallarta was written more than forty years after John Huston put the town of six thousand inhabitants on the map with his film, The Night of the Iguana.
Huston’s filming received wide-spread publicity from reporters who flew in from around the world to try to catch a glimpse of the hot romance going on between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. To this day, many young people think Elizabeth was the star of the show. She might have been, but she wasn’t in the movie. Ava Gardner played the lusty female top role and she did play! Long after that film and other award-winners, Huston told his poker playing group he never figured out how to keep the young and innocent, but sexy little bombshell, Sue Lyons, from being exposed to such bald-faced lust and profanity.
My husband and I first visited Puerto Vallarta in 1966, and toured the abandoned movie set that stood for many years before the rains and mudslides brought it to the ground. I, like thousands of other women visitors in those years, stood under the brick arch that separated the dining hall from the bedroom, half closed my eyes and tried to imitate that ‘come-to-me’ look of Ava’s.
There were no scheduled direct flights into Puerto Vallarta back then. From whatever direction you might be coming, you made a connection through Guadalajara. The two Mexican airlines providing service were still using DC-3s and DC-6s. There were a few DC-8s added to the lines in the 70s, but they were used for long-hauls. There was one tiny, palm-frond thatched roof terminal. There was no night service since there were no landing lights. Today there are two huge international terminals and a third on the drawing board. Scheduled direct flights from around the world plus charter flights come and go twenty-four hours a day. The Bay of Banderas is a popular port call for as many as three cruise ships on a daily basis.
In Drama & Diplomacy, I recall exploring the unpaved roads to secluded beaches. Those roads are now double or four-lane highways and sky-scrapping condominiums stand on those hidden beaches.
Food was always fresh, tasty and plentiful, but basic. From offering seafood, rice, beans and tortilla, Puerto Vallarta now celebrates an annual gourmet festival featuring top-notch chefs from all over the world. The city also attracts major international golf, tennis, beach volleyball and fishing tournaments. It boasts of its Philharmonic Orchestra, Little Theatre and Writers Groups. Movies are still frequently filmed in the area and the John Huston International Film Festival is now an annual event.
We retired to Puerto Vallarta in the summer of 1973. In my book, Drama & Diplomacy, I admit the closest I ever got to Elizabeth and Richard was by telephone, even though they lived in the same neighborhood called Gringo Gulch – a smattering of jet-setting gringos living among the natives. However, John Huston was a frequent visitor in our home.
In 1982 I was appointed successor to Phil Ober, a former movie actor and first official U. S. consular agent in Puerto Vallarta . I served as representative of the U. S. Government for fourteen years. A senior officer in the Foreign Service Corps once told me that the Department of State regarded consular agent work as dealing with the four Ds: Detention, Destitute, Disappearance and Death. In Drama & Diplomacy: In Sultry Puerto Vallarta, available at www.amazon.com, I describe this work in my own special way, and added a few Ds of my own, such as Dos Morticians, Dames on my Path, Dope and Dirty Old Men. The American and Mexican flags are given their due respect, but diplomacy takes on a new meaning as the eagle and the serpent soar and slither their way through the book.
The DRAMA & DIPLOMACY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will begin on December 1st and end on December 23rd. You can visit Jenny's blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in December to find out more about the book!
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