Shooter by Bob Dut - HTML preview

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When we arrived, the village was deserted and we were now in the heat of the day. Up on a tall hill the villagers had gathered with their chief to await our arrival.

Lord Pierce headed this expedition himself, he must have been about 70 years old by then but there wasn’t an inch of spare flesh on him and the sparse Lord strode out briskly up the hill followed by us overweight sweating journalists and camera crews, My television camera and tripod weighed a ton and my soundman was burdened down by his recorder, spare film magazines, microphones and all the paraphernalia of so called

“portable” news recording.

Out came the magnetic fields and cows, an interested large crowd watched amused at the antics of their visitors as Lord Pierce struggled with the blackboards and set them up and went into his act.

The clear icy upper class syllables cut through the hot tropical air as we waited for the crowd’s inevitable “No’s” and waving banners.

There were mutterings among the crowd, clearly they were getting as bored as we were and I made out the odd word in English, for a second I thought I’d heard “elephant’ but that didn’t make much sense, Lord pierce was as thin as a snake. The mutterings grew louder, now it was definite, the word “elephant” was loud, clear and distinct.

The old Lord fought valiantly on, he’d come to do a job for his county and was determined to do it.

In the best traditions of the British Empire, he droned on and on.

Finally the muttering got so loud, Lord Pierce stopped and looked around, a faint puzzled look creasing his aristocratic features, he paused for a few moments and then carried on valiantly, in spite of the growing noise. Finally it got so loud, it began to drown his words and he turned to the chief for an explanation. The chief ignored him for a moment, he seemed sunk deep in thought, in a world of his own. Suddenly he came to life

He brushed aside the services of his interpreter.

‘What about the elephant?’

The clipped vowels of the English lord faltered for a moment and then ignoring the interruption he went on.

‘Do you see, Old chap?... if you have two cows, ‘

He stopped, intrigued as the chief’s words percolated.

‘What Elephant?’

The chief was a large scowling man but his face changed and broke into a beautiful smile, at last he was getting somewhere with these stupid white people.


He got up ponderously from his ceremonial chair, advanced and poked the gallant lord in his thin flat noble stomach.

‘There’s this elephant who keeps coming round and knocking down our huts.’

He looked earnestly at our noble English Lord.

‘What are you going to do about him?’

‘I say, don’t you see old chap, we’re talking about you chappies getting more votes.’

The chief refused to be dissuaded and we could see he had the mood of the crowd with him.

‘The Elephant!’

His tribesmen took up the chant, “Elephant!’ “Elephant!’ “Elephant!’

it didn’t matter how much Lord Pierce tried to explain about the cows and the fields and the world watching, all the chief cared about was this wandering rogue elephant who bothered his people and tore down their huts.

The blackboards were packed up sadly and the magnetic cows put away for the last time,......... try as he could, Lord Piece’s heart wasn’t in it anymore and the commission finally closed and went back to England without achieving anything..

As usual the politicians had forgotten that simple people care about simple things and to the fishing chief and his villagers, the pressing problem was the elephant, not how many votes they’d be allowed in a white run government.

We stayed a week longer after the commission and their magnetic blackboards left, we were still hoping to get an interview with Ian Smith at the opening of a new game reserve near the Victoria Falls.

We flew down to Wankie where they’d built a wonderful new hotel to house visitors in the middle of the reserve.

Ian Smith remained unapproachable at the opening, he just wasn’t talking to the press and we reluctantly gave up on him and enjoyed the party given by the owners to celebrate the opening of the hotel.

We felt lazy and relaxed, there was nothing more to film, we couriered our film to the airport, there was another party tonight and tomorrow we’d go back to Salisbury and then on to London, The party went on till the early hours of the morning, enlivened by a wonderful swimming pool and the presence of some lovely French airline stewardesses from UTA, the French run internal African airline.

Finally we all went to bed and the noise of our carousing fell silent and the night noises of the Rhodesian jungle took over.


About four am I heard a loud knocking and angry raised voices, then there was a thunderous hammering at my door.

‘Is my cameraman in there?’

The questioner was an obnoxious reporter we’d spent all evening avoiding.

He was very drunk now and had gone around banging on all the doors trying to locate his crew to get some dawn shots of the reserve.

He didn’t apologize for waking me and it was obvious by the angry mutterings of the other journalists and stewardesses he’d woken, he hadn’t apologized to them either.

I’d covered mobs plenty of times but their anger was nothing to the collective fury of the partygoers woken from their hangovers.

‘Let’s get the Bastard!’

Within seconds the man was flying through the air and landed with a loud splash in the hotel’s pool.

We all looked at each other smiling, it was a classic example of press co-operation and we went back to our beds with the knowledge of a job well done.


The Shah of Iran

The Shah of Iran had seceded to celebrate the 2500 Anniversary of The Pahlavi dynasty and Iranian monarchy with a fantastic parade next to the ancient ruins of Persepolis and we decided to go and cover it.

. It didn’t matter that he was only connected to the old ancient Persian family very remotely and he’d been propped up on the throne by the British and American’ anxious to thwart the Prime Minister Dr. Mosaddegh whose ambition was to free Iran of the hold of the oil companies and the Iranian parliament unanimously voted to nationalize the oil industry – thus shutting out the immensely profitable Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), which was a pillar of Britain's economy and provided it political clout in the region.

A British and American coup failed to depose the firebrand Prime Minister and the Shah fled to Baghdad but later Rome. A 2nd coup succeeded and after a trial Mosaddegh was sentenced to 3 years of solitary confinement followed by life house arrest. The Shah was finally brought back from Rome and with a million US dollars resumed his rule and became despotic with a much feared secret police. The “Savak”

Now he had decided to spend $100 million dollars on a celebration and had invited 90 heads of state to come to stay in his “Tent City” with it’s 3 Royal tents and 59 smaller ones.

French chef’s from maxims of Paris were brought to cook for the guests, high ranking army officers cruised around on motorized carts to deliver the champagne with crystal glasses and the massive opulent tents were decorated by the same firm that Jackie Kennedy had used to redecorate the White House.

The Shah was arrogant and his people feared him and his Savak secret police.

With good cause!

(An aside).

A friend of mine Greg Dobbs (of abc news) went into one of his prisons after the Shah was finally deposed and fled and saw a large pool of water that could be heated to boiling point and had hooks above it to lower his opponents into it to be slowly boiled to death.


But now he was on top of the world and wanted to show it.

We’d arrived in Teheran and wandered around all the time escorted by a supposed “school teacher”

Our “school teacher” however had an

ominous bulge under his armpit and was from Savak and was desperate to keep us together and not let us film anything unpleasant.

We had fun with him, I’d go in one direction with my soundman and our correspondent would go off in another in spite of our escorts frantic appeals for us to stay together.

He wasn’t the brightest even though he was a secret policeman and had no sense of humor and I loved to tease him.

Iran had one of the largest collection of Crown Jewel and the famous Peacock throne and it’s famous crowns.

We got taken to the National Museum where all these fantastic treasures were kept as the Iranian currency was based on these jewels.

I filmed them through glass cases with difficulty, the lights kept getting reflected in then glass and spoiling the shot.

“Any chance of getting the glass cases removed while we film?’ I said pointing to an enormous case full of trays of the biggest, rubies, emeralds and diamonds.

I was finding the sight of all these precious stones amazing!

On large trays lay hundreds of the emeralds, rubies and diamonds, just laying loose covering the tray in their hundreds.

To our surprised after a hurried consultation the glass covers were lifted off, the alarms on the trays disarmed and I filmed away happily while our Savak escort looked on unhappily.

I thought it was time to tease him and pointed to the tray of emeralds, the stones were about an inch big and splendid looking as their green luster gleamed in our lights.

I would imagine that each of the emeralds was worth about $30,000

“Can you get me one of those as a souvenir?’ I whispered in his ear trying not to grin.

He took me seriously. Ì can’t!’ he said and looked around quickly hoping no one had heard.

He looked even more shocked as I whispered.

`Go on, there’s so many nobody would miss one.’ I looked at him trying to hide a grin.

He hurriedly motioned for the glass to be put back on, casting worried and suspicious glances as we packed up our equipment and quickly escorted us out of the building .


Poor man! We were a trial to him and he obviously wasn’t relishing being assigned to escort us around.

We finally got invited to the Shah’s Royal Palace and drank coffee with gold spoons, the Shah probably had no other kind.

We drank wine from Gold rimmed crystal glasses and were finally allowed to attend a press conference where the Shah lorded over us.

Greatly daring, the correspondent I was with ( Michael Maclear of CTV) asked him if he felt justified in spending all those millions when his people were near starvation.

The Shah looked down from his diamond studded chair.

“What kind of question is that?’ He said contemptuously.

“What kind of mind can ask a question like that?’

He looked down at the worlds press scornfully.

“What do I care what you people think as long as my people love me?’

We were uncrushed however and the revolt and his rapid departure in 1979 finally showed what his people thought of him and his “Royal”


Now it was time for us to leave Teheran and go to the desert and the ruins of Persepolis where the Tented city had been built and the parade was to take place in front of the ancient pillars.

We stayed at the nearby University and had to stand up to eat our meals from paper plates..

We were only journalists, unlike the guests in the tented city who ate off Limoges plates and drank from Baccarat crystal.

We found to our dismay that the press weren’t to be allowed to go into the Tented city!

A call to Ottawa however got our telephone conversation patched through to the “Tented city” and the tent of Canada’s Governor general Roland Mitchner.

We’d flown from Lahr, the Canadian Airforce base in Germany with Roland Mitchner the Canadian Governor General in his Royal plane and found him very pleasant and approachable.


Àny chance of you inviting us to your tent and we doing an interview with you in the Tented city?’

Our correspondent asked and Roland happily agreed and we were in!

Some of the only journalists in the world who managed to break the embargo on press being allowed into the tented city.

We sneaked out of the press compound, not wanting our colleagues to find out were we were going.

Halfway there my soundman (Dick Hunt) suddenly said. Ì haven’t got my pass.”

We all looked horrified.

When we’d arrived in Iran, they’d ran strict security checks on us, with 90 heads of state and several Royal’s the passes we were finally issued were like gold and never to leave our possession.

Dick had put his down when he was taking a shower and forgot it and now we were just a few miles from entering the fabulous and closely guarded tented city.

There was no time for recriminations and we desperately tried to think of a solution.

“I’ve got a Texas driving pass with me” I said thoughtfully, `maybe we can get you by with that?’

Dick looked doubtful. He was fat and had a full beard and looked nothing like me and the Texas driving pass had a brown background and my photo on it and the Royal Iranian passes had a blue background as well as the photo of it’s owner.

Ìt’s worth a try though, what can we lose?’

We pulled up to the gate of the Tented city and armed guards with machine guns surrounded us.

“Passes’ they said sternly as they doubtfully surveyed the Governor Generals official request for us to be allowed in.

Maclear showed his and made a lot of supposed fuss about how it was a bad picture of him and he’d been photographed form the wrong side.

Then it was my turn and I took a long time showing the pass, first taking out a wrong one and then showing mine upside down and the wrong way round until the guards were losing their patience with us crazy foreigners.

Dick brushed my hand away impatiently and smiled at them and pulled up my driving licenses . He’d gaffer taped it to a chain he wore around his neck and flashed it briefly with his thumb partially covering my photo and they waved us through.

We were in! So much for security!


We made for Roland Mitchner’s tent and did the interview with him.

We knew we only had permission to do the one interview and only visit his tent and then we were supposed to leave but we took a chance.

“There’s King Constantine of Greece.” and we dashed over and filmed him.

“There’s Spiro Agnew and we did the same thing.

Nobody seemed to be bothering us as we filmed madly.

Grace Kelly was here and we got a shot of her and then saw President Nicholae Ceausescu of Romania.

We walked up to the open entrance of his tent and asked if we could interview him and he was a despot but toady he was in a good mood and he graciously agreed.


(A note on President Ceausescu)

He’d had concentration camps for his enemies, ruled his people with an iron fist, built an absurd magnificent palace for himself that cost millions with 24 karat gold plated furnishings and magnificent balconies and was the 2nd largest building in all of Europe He got deposed years later and he and his wife were caught as they tried to run away and both of them got summarily executed by a firing squad outside his wonderful palace.

The day of the parade arrived and we took up our positions early as the sun came up over the pillars of Ancient Persepolis, White robed priests in flowing traditional gown shouldered long golden trumpets greeted the dawning sun and the eerier sounds seemed to take us back to the days of Cyrus the Great and Darius the Persian general who defeated Alexander the Great and stopped his march to conquer the world at Persepolis.

Then the parade started!

It was the most wonderful parade I’d ever seen!

Horses, chariots, wooden forts pulled by teams of chariots and horses and marching army all clad in the uniforms of ancient Persia passed by the 90 heads of state and the assembled press.

The were no spectators from his ordinary subjects to watch the splendor.

This splendid parade that cost millions was reserved for the dignitaries and the press cameras.

His people had to be content to watch it on television 53

. Charlie Mingus (jazz musician)

We were filming a documentary special in New York on Charlie Mingus, the double bass jazz musician. At that time Charlie was on a diet to get his considerable weight down. I don’t know what diet it was but it consisted of red meat and garlic. Every morning we’d meet Charlie to film him and he’d offer us a cold unappetizing garlic soaked steaks from the brown paper bag he carried. To me they looked particularly awful and I managed to avoid them, this didn’t faze Charlie, he tucked in ravenously and soon demolished the bagful.

The result of his diet was of course that he smelt violently of garlic, I love garlic myself but like most people I didn’t like the smell on other people but he was a great musician and a sweet man to work with and our ‘star’

and we put up with it.

We had some nervous moments when we unloaded our camera’s from the cab in the center of New York’s Harlem, white people were not popular there and as soon as they saw the camera and recorder we were quickly surrounded by an ugly menacing mob. Charlie heaved his ponderous girth out of the cab, grinned at everyone and smiled.

‘These boys are with me folks, their making a film about me for TV.’

The crowd’s mood changed instantly, the smiles broke out once more. Charlie Mingus was a local hero and we had the stamp of his approval, so things suddenly were OK.

We’d been trying to get a moment to stop and have lunch with Charlie but every day seemed to be busy and most days we spent our lunchtime dashing back to the hotel, checking with the network about what they wanted shot, reloading film magazines and picking up new batteries that had been charging overnight.

Finally Charlie became exasperated.

“You guys are going to eat with me today! No excuses it’s all arranged.”

We had visions of a meal of dreadful “Soul food” in a sleazy Harlem restaurant and looked at each other, wincing a little, to give up our choice of New York’s wonderful restaurants was awful.

Charlie mumbled an address we couldn’t hear to the cab driver and about ten minutes later we pulled up at a very impressive Park Avenue apartment complete with uniformed doorman.

‘The top floor Mr. Mingus?’


The penthouse apartment looked more like a Chateau, Persian rugs, Monet’s Picasso’s and Utrillo’s hung on the walls, a beautiful Steinway grand piano gleamed and graced a corner and everything reeked of wealth, lots of wealth!

A very pretty young woman appeared and Charlie introduced us,

‘These guys are from TV. P........’

The woman smiled and said.

‘I’ve put some wine and cheese and things in the kitchen, why don’t you boys get started while I change for the filming.’

The situation was a little delicate, Charlie wanted to be filmed with his girl friend in Central Park and only yesterday we’d been filming his wife and family.

‘Are you sure Charlie, your wife will probably see this film.?’ I asked him hesitantly.

He brushed our tactful questions aside.

‘No problem, guys, lets go and see what there is to eat.’

Well it was his business not mine.

The kitchen was larger than an average house. Laid out in front of us for our choice were cheeses from all around the world, Camembert, Brie, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Tete du Monde, Boursault, the list went on, German sausages and French Saucissons English roast beef, Swiss hams and a mountain of French bread.

Both Pat my soundman and I prided ourselves on our love of wine and we looked around entranced, Montrachet, Mersault, Gevais Chambertan, Pouilly Fume, La Tache, Moet et Chandon, were there and ready for us to sample. I looked at Pat with a grin, this was going to be great!

Charlie looked at them disparagingly.

‘Lot of Crap!’ He grinned.

‘Let’s see what else she has got.’

We cursed him as he rummaged below the table.

‘This looks OK, let’s try these.’

Mingus pulled out a case containing four dusty dirty bottles of red wine with a label I didn’t recognize.

Pat and looked regretfully at all the wonderful wines on the table as Charlie poured the wine into our glasses but we were his guests and we felt had to go along with his choice however dreadful it could be, maybe we could sneak a taste of some of the others later.


I suddenly beamed, my veins glowed and my taste buds jumped up and sang “Hosanna”. I’d never tasted wine like it, smooth soft and beautiful, one intriguing flavor after another swirled and chased around our mouths, rippling on our tongues as we quickly followed the first bottle with a second till all four had gone. We looked back at the table, the wines there we knew and had loved seemed tame after this one.

Charlie’s girl friend came in, she’d changed into an outdoor outfit, even to my untrained eye it looked designer classic and expensive.

‘Good you’ve started, is everything all right?’

The rich girl’s eyes fell on the empty four bottles.

‘Oh you drank that wine.’

She sounded a little sad.

We looked at her gratefully.

‘Yes it was wonderful, why?’

‘just that those were the bottles I was saving for dinner tonight, Jackie and Jack are coming over.’


We found it difficult to meet her eyes but Mingus didn’t seem to care as he tucked in happily.

We filmed Charlie and her in Central Park that summer afternoon, trying to make the shots particularly beautiful, misty and romantic so that she’d forgive us.

Later that day, the woman showed us what a nice lady she was.

We were filming that evening in a converted garage that Charlie’s musicians used to hold practice sessions in.

Through the throbbing beat of the jazz we heard a knock at the door and a uniformed New York delivery service man brought in three cases of wine, Montrachet, Mersault and Gevray Chambertin. We opened the engraved envelope that came with them, knowing that they could only come from one source and read the note.

‘I hope I didn’t offend you about the wine.’ P........

We were stunned, we’d drunk the girl’s rare wine, ruined her meal with the President and his wife and here she was, apologizing to us!

The music session heated up, the room got warmer, the wines got lower, the jazz got hotter and things were really swinging until were became aware of a loud banging and hammering at the door.

Two New York police officers were standing outside when we opened the door, wondering what was going on. When they saw our cameras they decided to stay.


One burly friendly cop pushed back his cap and looked around.

‘Hey is that wine? I’ve never drunk wine, maybe I should try some.’

Two of New York’s finest sat sipping $50.00 a bottle wines and decided they liked it.‘Hey that’s not bad, Tom. I think I’ll get some of that wine stuff for the weekend.’

He pushed his plastic cup towards us, smiling as we refilled it.

Pat and I were wondering what they’d feel like after they drunk the usual supermarket gallon jugs of plonk and not $50 dollar bottles of wine.


My dad, one of London’s top restaurant managers, grinned when I told him this story and the name of the wine we’d drunk at Migus’s girl friend’s apartment.

‘That wine Petr