|Pages from Michael Butler's Journal
HAIR IN ACAPULCO
Acapulco has always been a very special place for me. When I was a 15 I ran away from my military school tour of Mexico City. I wound up living on the beach in Acapulco. I finally got a job as a boat boy for Bono Batani. Bono was taught water skiing by Errol Flynn and started the first ski school down there. One of my principal duties was to hold the girls in support as they were starting up on skis. It was very interesting work. Bono was a short Adonis and thus we were never in competition in our common interest in the “cichi’s”
His mother, Sra. Batani, was a widow and enjoyed considerable prestige in Acapulco. Her home was in a back alley and she took in paying guests. In the beginning of the season we, the boys, had our own rooms but as guests came in we were finally moved to cots in the laundry. It was a fun life with lots of practical jokes.
My Father's man, Mr. Bireley, finally found me and I was returned to the military academy. However I made a deal that I could return to Acapulco that I did for three summers. I continued working for Bono, living and spending most of my time with him. We would do shark fishing off the beach at barra north of Acapulco. This could be dangerous as the undertow was strong. One time I was so preoccupied with the shark on a hand line that I got in too deep. Bono pulled me out or I might not have been around today.
When we were not fishing nor working I spent a lot time hanging with a small group of friends. Melchior Peresquia was the son of the big man in Acapulco and Manuel (Manolo) Arango was a budding industrialist and philanthropist. Melchior had a crippled leg from a skiing accident and with my bad arm we made quite a group. As was said "Melchior with a crippled leg, Miquel a crippled arm and Manolo a crippled head." I was quite friendly with Miquelito Aleman the son of Don Miquel Aleman who was the President of Mexico at that time.
I never wore shoes in Acapulco. One day with my friends we were walking down the middle of a street when out of store came a couple of tourists. They were quite the unpleasant type of tourists. She was in a pseudo peasant costume, he with leaping sailfish shorts and shirt, black shoes, drooping silk stockings. I am sure you can get the picture. They were swearing and shouting about the "dirty Mexicans' probably to do with the shop while pointing at us. I shouted, "callete gringos". We proceeded to the Presidential yacht "Sotovento" where Miquelito told his Father what I had done. Thus Don Miquel adopted me and he became my patron, saying. "You are a true Mexican at heart". - The maximum complement.
I have made many trips to Mexico. I continue to say if I were ever confined to one country or people I would choose the Mexicans. I fell in love with Dolores Del Rio. I acquired Luiz Etevez's house. I married Marti Stevens in Mexico City. Spent a lot of time with Antonio Souza who guided me in acquiring. Mexican Art. I usually stayed with Luiz Barragan (the famous architect) who had a strong influence. Polo was a great common interest. Over the years I have many stories and friends throughout the country. There will be another time and place to tell them.
As a Mexico lover in 1968 I went to Acapulco with great expectations. Bertand Castelli had teamed up with Alfredo Calles (producer and grandson of a former President of Mexico). They were putting on HAIR in Acapulco and recording the soundtrack in Spanish.
1968 was a seminal year. In the US we had the opening of HAIR on Broadway, the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. Columbia University was subject to riots. Many of us had great fears that the Civil War was going to come again to America. Mexico was not calm. Student riots had caused great turmoil in the city. Ordaz was President in Mexico and considered close to Nixon.
In Acapulco there was a strong opposition to HAIR. Merle (Oberon) Paglia headed the ban HAIR movement. I did not take this seriously. I knew the Paglia’s, Merle had been the mistress of my former uncle-in-law and Bruno Paglia had worked for my former boss Axel Wenner-Gren. I couldn’t believe she would have such an effect. This time in Acapulco I stayed at Las Brisas. My house had been given to Loyce as part of our divorce. Not important as I usually stayed at Peresqia’s anyway. However we were too many for Melchior. Minnie and I were together, Maurice Hogenboom (the fashion photographer) and Caterine Milanere were joined by John Philip Law. Michael Gifford was covering the PR side. Marsi Trinder was already in Acapulco as she was doing costumes. In was in these days that I met Corinne who was in the Acapulco tribe.
The show opened to great acclaim. I was quite disturbed with the direction as I found it aggressively anti-American. HAIR had never been anti-American. In fact many said that the song “Don’t Put It Down” was highly chauvinistic. However this production was more of an attack on USA. I planned to ask for changes. I never had the chance. The authorities closed the show. President Ordaz said that he was “closing the show out of respect for my friend, Nixon.” I was stunned. I went straight away to see my old patron, Don Miquel Aleman. I found him at his girlfriend’s house. He was very surprised and found it hard to believe. He called and told me the quote from the President.
There was nothing to be done except to assist and protect the tribe as much as we could. It was many years before I returned to Mexico.
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