Puerto Vallarta and X Dames

With the next few entries I want to talk about the real people and tell the stories behind the third volume in the series, called X DAMES. This was written not too long after “reality” TV shows started taking over the airwaves, and was obviously inspired, in part, by such shows.

More importantly, not long before I began this book we had discovered Sayulita, a wonderful little town on the west coast of Mexico a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta and its international airport.

First, Vallarta: As anyone familiar with the recent history of this part of Mexico will tell you, Puerto Vallarta was a sleepy little beach town tucked between coastal mountains and a deep, beautiful bay that filled with migrating whales every winter (and still does), until that fateful year of 1964 when Mexi-phile film director John Huston decamped to Vallarta with the cast and crew of NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, a film based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Williams went down to write the screen version, and a cast including A-list movie stars Ava Gardner, Sue Lyon, Deborah Kerr and Richard Burton also went down, Burton accompanied by his paramour, the ravishing Elizabeth Taylor, who was not in the movie but provided plenty of drama nonetheless. At the time, she and Burton—Liz and Dick—were the most famous unmarried couple in the world.

These movie stars were followed by a small army of paparazzi, of course. Though social media didn’t exist in the ubiquitous way it does today, the press did like a scandal, and the doings of Burton and Taylor were scandalously big news.

Long story short, a memorable movie got made—Williams is a brilliant if occasionally melodramatic dramatist—but more to the point here, all those photographers and reporters sent back piles of words and pictures extolling the wonders of Puerto Vallarta, with its perfect climate and endless beaches backed by lush, jungled hills. Bring on the developers!

Puerto Vallarta has been a major winter escape ever since. Along with a couple of hundred thousand full-time residents, the town is now home to hundreds of hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions. The weather is perfect 75 per cent of the time, the food can be fabulous, the people are mostly friendly, and it takes three hours to fly there from LA.

Sayulita was lucky, for a while. Though less than an hour away from Vallarta by bus or car, Americans tend not to be all that adventurous when traveling in “scary” foreign countries like Mexico, and so, aside from the more risk-taking types—mostly surfers!—not all that many people headed up to Sayulita in spite of its proximity to PV.  It did not get overrun for several decades.

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