ST TROPEZ – The news of Pashtun jihad master Baitullah Mehsud possibly hit by a United States Predator drone on the roof of his father-in-law’s house while undertaking a massage provoked hardly a ripple among the happy few gathered around the table of the appropriately named Pan Dei (“All Gods”), a glitzy multimillion-euro yacht currently anchored at the mythic Mediterranean port of St Tropez.
To start with, the happy few – five toned, tanned, swinging Dolce and Gabbana, model lookalikes – wouldn’t even dream of being caught in such a situation, unless the masseuse was a Swedish valkyrie and the tribal setting was a suite of the Pan Dei itself. And they don’t deal with drones – only private jets. After all, they are proud enablers of jihad bling bling – post-crisis hypercapitalism’s answer to the enduring financial “crisis”.
Crisis? What crisis? As much as France remains the number-one destination for mass tourism in the world, St Tropez remains the most coveted spot in the world for jihad bling bling. Forget the Dubai oven with its “artificial islands”. Forget the faded California dream. Exclusive St Barth in the Caribbean is too much under the radar. This is not about a Baudelaire remix of luxury, calm and voluptuousness. If we’re talking over-the-wall brash and flash, St Tropez is the genuine (gleaming) article.
It’s 9pm at the ultra-busy port of St Tropez, the sunset is absolutely smashing, cafes like the swinging Gorilla are bursting at the seams and the gleaming Pan Dei is about to dock – to the speechless amazement of hordes of multinational day trippers in trunks and sandals who packed their ham-and-cheese baguette and diet cola in a plastic bag as their last line of defense against hyper-inflated local prices.
They wouldn’t even dream of a fish duo dinner at the perennially cool Cafe des Arts in the Place des Lys, where Chichette – the coolest bartender west of Baghdad – dishes out glasses of fine chilled Cotes de Provence and the patron, an unsmiling summer table warrior who’s seen them all, from Brigitte Bardot to the emir of Qatar, would refuse to get them a table anyway.
Outside, undulating Tropeziennes in impossibly high heels play petanque with hardened veterans sipping pastis, and Bardot replicas in faux Indian chic babble into their golden Motorolas identifying the night’s jackpot. A nagging question intervenes. Where are the Russians – aka, the novi ruski?
They haven’t exactly disappeared from the jihad bling bling planet. Tired of being fleeced, they have partly abandoned St Tropez for more sedate pastures like the wild beaches of Sardinia, where one Silvio Berlusconi, who happens to be Italy’s prime minister, keeps his outstanding Tiberian orgy summer digs. For their part, Italians – not all of them horrified by Silvio’s erotic antics – are back in St Tropez in full force, escaping the overbuilding devastation of their own Riviera.
Exit the Russians; enter the enigmatic upper bourgeoisie from Latvia, which sends its daughters to London for culture and its sons to Geneva for investment banking; impossibly tanned and fit, they reunite by intermarriage in St Tropez to live la dolce vita in style.
The rent-a-yacht lifestyle
Back at the Pan Dei, there couldn’t be a more classic jihad bling bling stage. While the five happy few drink (silver) buckets of Krug – served by a stewardess – and hang five to their upcoming wild night, two muscle girls in blue shorts, part of the crew, work their perfect butts off, impeccably landing the boat under the orders of a crew master. The full crew numbers no less than 10.
Jihad bling bling’s financial savvy remains merciless. Supporting the local economy is only relatively encouraged – as in landing the best tables in town. But paying taxes is frowned upon. It’s not for nothing that virtually every other mega-yacht in St Tropez comes from this magic neverland, Georgetown, in the Cayman Islands, which for all Group of 10 rhetoric to amuse the galleries, will never be subjected to fiscal control.
The jihad bling bling solution to escape the hefty taxes imposed at St Tropez’s port is the rent-a-yacht. This means renting only the deck of your yacht for a private dinner (the whole boat, cabins included, is fully locked), when aspiring jihad bling blingers can dazzle the port hordes with their (fake) immunity to the “crisis”.
Other, more savvy yachters have come up with an even better solution; they park their gleaming beasts somewhere in the Mediterranean and take a rollicking 10-minute boat ride to shore, where they very excitedly alight in white linen regalia after what is later packaged in conversation as a “sea adventure”.
Jihad bling bling as applied to St Tropez could not but be a class society, as in ancient Greece – from the ultra-exclusive multinational yacht crowd and the yacht renters down to the local (European) crew and the multinational hordes of hangers-on. As for the oldest profession in the world … well, talk about crisis.
The current going rate is 2,000 euros (US$2,840) for a live copy of Maria Sharapova rented before 10 pm. At midnight, the rate drops to 1,000 euros. And at 5 am, it all becomes a bargain: only 200 euros. No wonder beach babes are all flocking to Sardinia to do business with Berlusconi. Not only do they get 1,000 euros a night plus immeasurable bonuses, they are elevated to tabloid fodder stardom and show up all over pan-European media telling all about their hot adventure with the insatiable Il Cavaliere.
According to Forbes magazine, now there are “only” 793 billionaires left in the world. A great deal still call St Tropez home. Poor guys. Jihad bling blingers are now more money-conscious than ever. Their newfound, low-cost attitude includes bargaining for every possible free lunch in town, and every available discount in a sales-infested shoposphere. Of course there are exceptions, such as a suspected, lonely Emirati who showed up in an empty St Tropez shop at 10pm and bought 10,000 euros in cashmere.
Where is Chouchou?
It’s easy to spot who’s really missing in St Tropez; none other than uber-couple “Chouchou” (my little darling) and Carla – or, in plain English, the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, aka Sarko the First and his belle, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the (Italian) priestess of the new French gauche caviar, those specimens who pretend to be impossibly politically correct while dreaming of a star-studded life as jihad bling blingers.
The first couple is currently holed up in the Cap Negre, east of the port of Toulon, far, far away from St Tropez glitz, at the house mansion of mom Bruni-Tedeschi. The definitive bling blinger way back in 2007, the adrenalin junkie Sarko the First is now in full low-cost, low-profile mode – especially after his spectacular collapse while jogging at noon under 35 degrees Celsius. But dedicated Carla still calls him “Chouchou” – a jihad bling bling form of affection if there ever was one.
To the north of Cap Negre lies Provence – which dazzled Van Gogh, Picasso and F Scott Fitzgerald. Not exactly jihad bling bling territory. This is arguably where the essence of the best of real-life France still is – from the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to the understated elegance of medieval Bonnieux; from the canyons of Colorado atmosphere of Roussillon to the dazzling hills of the Luberon – mostly a protected national park.
A mere chair on the beach at Pampelone, in St Tropez, rents for a staggering 60 euros a day (and jihad bling blingers get no discount). But arguably the funkiest beach outside the Cote d’Azur is actually in the Camargue – an apex of ecological equilibrium – not far from marshes inhabited by packs of pink flamingos.
The beach, near the salt banks of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, sports a motley crew of gypsies, bikers, dopers, losers, fake rastas, anarchists, trailer park trashers and nudists as if they all had sprung up from Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon, the definitive novel of the summer of 2009.
Nostradamus – who was born in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 1503 – didn’t bother to predict the arrival of jihad bling bling. Vincent Van Gogh, who lived in Saint-Remy, wouldn’t bother to paint them. Jihad bling bling is all about showing who, according to Monty Python, is the Biggus Dickus in town.
In this particular department, few jihad bling blingers may equal former French king Philippe Le Bel. His 13th-century tower still stands at tiny Villeneuve-les-Avignon, on the other side of the river Rhone opposite the legendary city of popes, Avignon. The river used to be the dividing line between the kingdom of France and the Christian kingdom of the papacy. Philippe Le Bel built his fortress/tower on a hill rising above the papal palace on the other side, his way of affirming who had the jihad bling bling Biggus Dickus in town.
And then there are the ruins of the Divine Marquis de Sade’s chateau at tiny, hilly Lacoste. Sade, aristocrat-pornographer, the philosopher of transgression in all its nuances, has never been hipper, making the transition from jail in the Bastille to the Pleaiade – the most prestigious of French literary collections. Forever enigmatic, “extreme in everything” according to his self-description, smashing all conventions with his deregulated imagination.
The blueprint of a jihad bling blinger? Hardly. The divine marquis would never dodge taxes on St Tropez’s port, or wait for 5am to grab a Russian hooker for 200 euros; he’d keep a non-stop orgy, parked at the port, with all the belles in town. On the other hand, Sade wrote a detailed eulogy of sodomy.
St Tropez locals – men and women – rage about the “weird practices” of selected jihad bling blingers of Middle Eastern extraction. Well, even Nostradamus could not possibly predict the advent of anal hypercapitalism.