|"Movie star Rita Hayworth sacrifices her bumpers for Uncle Sam"|
Tomorrow morning, I'm splitting briefly from the team, and heading off back to Dar es Salaam (we're in Zanzibar now, a 2-hour ferry ride north of Dar) on the ferry, before the rest go back by light plane, to look for Rita Hayworth's house. Why? Because my parents lived in Dar in the early seventies, when my father was High Commissioner to Tanzania. And they lived in the Australian government's official residence, which was..... Rita Hayworth's old house! She had lived in during her marriage to the then Aga Khan, Prince Aly Khan, 1949-53.
And there hangs another tale, as I was interviewed by the Prince's son, Aga Khan IV and his wife, the famous model Sarah "Sally" Frances Croker-Poole (who became, through the marriage, the "Begum Aga Khan"), for a job as driver to the Begum and their three young children. This was 1974. I was first interviewed by the Begum, then a tall blonde beauty, in her London Knightsbridge apartment.
"Can your drive a four-door Maserati?", she asked. "Can I what!" sez I (or sum'fink similar). The job was to drive her and her kids round Europe in the Maz, and in winter to their various Alpine chalets. "Don't worry", she said, "there will be plenty of free time for you to ski as well". Heaven, I was thinking, you do exist.... [it may be only be a four-door Maserati, not the coupe, but what the hell, you can't have everything..]
She gave me the all clear; as far as she was concerned I was to be her new driver. "You will look well in a uniform", she said as I left....
She organised a first-class ticket for me to fly to Paris to be interviewed by her husband, the current Aga Khan IV. He was staying in his Paris residence, a massive castle-like structure on the Île de la Cité.
The odd thing is that before getting down to the interview proper, he talked to me at length of how difficult it was, how great a responsibility, to be the head of the Ismaili sect of Islam. This to a know-nothing lad of 24. I listened politely (my future boss, after all...), and then he got down to tin tacks. Why did I want a driver's job, he asked, when I was a graduate in Economics and my father in the diplomatic corps. Of course, he'd done his research -- or had his people do it -- and I was caught off guard. I could hardly say that the thought of squiring round his pulchritudinous wife -- a blonde version of the luscious Rita -- and in a Maserati, was the stuff of a young man's priapic fantasies. Drop the ankle-biters off at ski school and "where to now, Ma'am?".
So, long story short, I didn't get that job, but the connections, Rita, cars, Dar, Aga Khan.... "spooky, darlings", as Dame Edna would say.
And that's not the end of the connections. I phoned my mother just now to find out where the residence was/is. She said it's on the right hand side of the harbour as we come in on the ferry and right next to the Chinese embassy. Spooky, or what?!
Stay tuned for the update on if I find it.