Sunday, February 18, 2007

"We that are true lovers run into strange capers . . ."

I don't often find myself drawn to comment upon celebrity tabloid fodder, because of course my mind is generally occupied with matters far less pedestrian. However, even I am not entirely immune to the gross intrigues that so often titillate the common herd. Anyhow, I want to take a moment to examine this Aussie stewardess who went all "shagadelic" with Ralph Fiennes in the toilet of a jetliner, and I thought that by quoting Shakespeare, I might not entirely sully myself. I leave it up to you, gentle reader, to decide.

This morning's Daily Mail - highbrow British journalism indeed - carries a long and rather tragic profile of the "highs and lows" as it were, of one Lisa Robertson, who has now lost her position as a Qantas stewardess (yes, I am going to keep calling her that). Despite the recent turmoil, Miss Robertson exclaims,"'Ralph was a great lover. And I thought if I was going to get the sack, it would be worth it. I knew it was against the rules and wrong but I didn't care."

I think Fiennes' fee for his next film just went up by about $2 million. Unfortunately, the love-struck Robertson is, for the time being, out of her $24,000 per year job.

In case you, like me, (or is it I?) rarely dabble in the gossip pages, let me summarize this scandalous turn of events. Fiennes (British film star) was flying Business Class from Darwin (Australia) to Bombay (India). Mr. Fiennes was scheduled to tour the impoverished former British colony to educate the natives as to dangers of AIDS and the imperative to practice "safe sex." Fiennes and Robertson went, in a matter of hours, from flirting to cuddling to a rendevous in the toilet, as lovers so often do.

I suppose that to point out the various layers of irony here (engaging in random, "unprotected" sex while flying halfway around the world to promote safe sex) would be in poor form.

As a matter of curiosity, I've flown Business Class exactly twice (purely as a result of knowing an airline employee who could get me into Business Class at Economy rates), and yet on neither occasion did any member of the flight crew usher me into the toilet for complimentary intercourse. Could those of you who more frequently travel in the forward reaches of the aircraft answer me this question: Is there some special button one pushes on the Business Class armrest to request this service?

Anyway, back to the article:

Although Lisa makes no bones about having been an enthusiastic participant in the unedifying episode and is clearly still thrilled to have attracted the attention of an international film star, it is hard not to see her also as his victim.

Despite her tall, trim figure, there is sadness in her eyes, highlighted by the medication she takes for depression since she left a tough front-line job as a detective with an elite New South Wales police drugs squad.

One can't help asking whether Ralph Fiennes didn't spot a vulnerable woman, use her, and then abandon her to face the sack from her job with Qantas.

Viewed from chronological standpoint, I'm not sure Fiennes actually had time to spot her vulnerabilities before they were romantically entwined atop the vacuum-suction toilet. As Robertson remembers these events, "'I was a bit shocked that he didn't wear a condom. Looking back, I think of it as dangerous behaviour and hypocritical given that he was going to India to talk about AIDS."

Reader, are you shocked?

After their "passionate tryst", Robertson was grilled by her crew chief, who asked a series of less than romantic questions. Evidently, the toilet did not offer as much sound-proofing as the "enflamed" couple had imagined. Useful information, indeed.

Once on the ground, Robertson was soon summoned to Fiennes' hotel room in Bombay where, "they made love twice more through the evening - once in the middle of the night. But he told her, before they went back to sleep: 'I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to kick you out in the morning. I've got a lot of calls to make and things to do.'"

Gentlemen, you might want to file away this line of his and see what turn events take as you seductively whisper it to that special lady of yours.

Sadly, love is not always meant to last. In the cold light of morning, Robertson now "seems wary of men, saying she has been repeatedly exploited by them. 'So many treat you badly,' she said. 'They're just after sex. They're losers.' Ironically, she thought Fiennes was 'so sensitive, so different'."

Reader, do you share her estimation of Fiennes as "so sensitive, so different," or is she perhaps confusing him with his character from The English Patient?

After her suspension from work pending an investigation, Robertson somehow managed to track down Fiennes by telephone (I'm sure he'll correct that oversight next time). "I told him I was in a lot of trouble and that I had been suspended from work. There was silence at the other end. I told him people had seen us leaving the toilet, but all he said was, 'Nothing happened.' He kept saying, 'We weren't in the toilet.' I told him I couldn't deny it. I said I had to answer the allegation. Fiennes' reply, when it came, shocked Lisa to the core. She said: 'It was clear he was turning his back on me. He said, 'We don't know each other very well. I'm very sorry, I can't get involved. I can't help you.'"


"Then he said, 'Let's have no further phone contact. I'll call you in a month's time, just to show you I'm a human being.' I was stunned."

Reader, are you stunned?

"Does she feel used? 'No,' she insisted. 'We were both fantastically attracted to each other. I am sure he cared about me."

"But she pauses, twisting a ring on her finger, as if for the first time considering the more brutal alternatives. 'Then again, she said, he is a very good actor.'"

A word of advice to vulnerable young ladies worldwide (Robertson, by the way, is thirty-eight): Sexual coupling with strangers (especially celebrity strangers) in toilets only rarely leads to spiritual co-mingling and long-term devotion, despite what you may have read in certain novels.

Perhaps it is best if we allow Shakespeare the final word:

"Then must you speak of One who lov'd not wisely but too well."


Rick Darby said...

Assuming what actually happened was as Ms. Robertson described it, Ralph Fiennes's behavior was rather crude, and I am disappointed to learn of it. Perhaps because he often plays likeable characters, I had a good impression of him (ridiculous, of course — as Ms. Robertson said, he's an actor).

And while I can sympathize with a woman who is seduced and abandoned, that doesn't quite fit the case here. She is a grown-up who should have reached the age of discretion by now; she knew what she was doing and surely could not have imagined that having it off with Fiennes in the lavatory would have gone unnoticed. Most of the people in the business class cabin probably recognized Fiennes, and celebrities are always under observation in public.

I think Aussies are broad-minded, but what else could Qantas do when faced with a flight attendant's blatant misbehavior? And what did she expect Fiennes to do, pledge eternal love? Ring up the CEO of Qantas to ask him to give her a break? On what grounds?

Finally, as someone who invariably rides in cattle class, I am curious: just how big are the lavs in business class?

Anonymous said...

no quarrel with anything you say, just a response to your question about the size of business class lavatories.
As Ms Robertson would, no doubt, attest, they are JUST small enough!

Black Sea said...

Thanks to both of you (Rick and Grumpy) for your comments.

I had somewhat mixed feelings as I was writing this post. While I certainly found this incident an easy target for satire, I did also feel that there was something sadly, maybe pathetetically, human about the whole thing. Something originating in contemporary confusion, or maybe just simple human confusion.

Stories like this often put me in mind of Theodore Dalrymple's observation about the sad, screwed-up patients he so often sees. Dalrymple speaks of "their fundamental ignorance of how to live." This woman's confusion, one might say delusion, about what to expect from an encounter like this, seem to me to be reflective of that ignorance, but it's an ignorance we're all subject to at times.

Grumpy, as always, you are welcome here in "The Black Sea." Did you mean to say that the lav was just "small" enough, or just "big" enough? Or am I reflecting some contemporary confusion by asking this question?

Anonymous said...

small enough, as in 'conducive to intimacy, but with just sufficient space for the exercise of a level of gymnastic inventiveness'.

Black Sea said...


I thought perhaps you were implying in your comment that the lav was just large enough to accomodate Ms. Robertson, Mr. Fiennes, and Mr. Fiennes' evidently rather generously proportioned . . . what shall I say . . . "equipment."

Ah well, the comedy never ends.

Anonymous said...

With reference to the previous two posts; one wonders whether Ms. Robertson might have considered herself head over heels (or, even, heels over head)
in love, however temporarily?

Anonymous said...

May I add a late post-script to this series of comments?
It seems that Ms. Robertson has recently admitted to having been employed (both pre- and post-Fiennes) in 'the sex industry'.
Perhaps her dalliance with the redoubtable Mr. Fiennes was simply her way of relaxing in-between shifts at her normal daily job?
A sort of (f)light relief?

Black Sea said...

Yes, I also saw an article in the Daily Mail in which her "part-time career" was revealed. In my original post, I made some reference to layers of irony, and this would have to add another: the call girl who laments the fact that men are just after sex.

Again, I wonder what Dalrymple would make of it all. She used to be on the vice squad, but now (and perhaps then) she works as a prostitute, and she is divorced and depressed. But does all of this confused behavior stem from some organic depression, or is it all the cause of her depression? One of those obivous question that is all too rarely asked in our highly medicated approach to the dilemma of living.

By the way, I suppose we could count her interlude with Fiennes in the toilet as a sort of brief busman's holiday. Evidently, she must be pretty good at her work, since he invited her to his hotel the next day.

Anonymous said...

Don't they call the stops made by airline crews 'a lay over'?
How terribly appropriate in this lady's case.