Bermuda is a lot closer to Cambridge than Aspen or Ft. Lauderdale, but for most people it might well be on the other side of the world. Few people know that the island lies just off South Carolina. Most of the natives would like it to stay that way. Package tourism may be growing steadily as a key industry on the island, but the social climate there stubbornly clings to its Nantucket and Palm Springs roots.
Though in many subcultures vacation rank among the most symbolic of status symbols, few can legitimately add a trip there to their social resume. Any would be prephead who smugly remarks he has "a cottage near Hamilton," a town known for its night-life and shops full of duty-free liquor, is likely lying, because the Fermudan government has made it virtually impossible or foreigners to buy into choice property zones.
Bermuda is not a big place--it takes less time to traverse the island than to get to Logan during a pre-Thanksgiving rush-hour. Whether you spend your afternoons taking tea at the Mid-ocean Club or resting up from a night at the Forty Thieves--a Hamilton hotspot--it's clear that on an island where you are recognized by their license plate, a strong sense of community prevails.
BUT JUST WAIT until the start of College Week. Then it all goes to hell.
If you're a senior in high school and you're a girl, College Week--an annual pilgrimage of sun-starved New England undergraduates to a Mecca for Anglophilic vacationers--presents unprecedented opportunities for deviant behavior, including the ever-popular boozin,' cruisin,' and woosin.' So it's not all that surprising that placing 10 less-than-mild-mannered 17 year-old girls in this resort haven with minimal supervision during Spring recess would satisfy an Irwin Allen formula for disaster.
Two years ago, I joined the true believers in their journey to the promised land when I went to Bermuda with nine girls who had last names for first names (nine of my 25 best friends, as things worked back then). To say the least, we had a lot of fun. To say the most might indicate malice aforethought and would be more than a little incriminating.
We were stealing cookies one afternoon from the dining room in the Castle Harbor hotel (references required) among people who conceivably could have been dressed for the raj. One of the blonder and fairer of us attracted the glance of a Italian in a dark linen suit, who was taking effete puffs from a slender cigarette, sending a halo of smoke around his coiffed head. Actually, he was only a hotel official on break, but he handed us some nightclub passes, which was all that really mattered.
The French Connection provides the moral equivalent, though social superior, of Tommy's Lunch for the adolescent heirs of Bermuda's "Forty Thieves," the original British merchant families who sought and found their fortunes on the island. Most members of the French Connection clientele are on vacation from either a St. Grottleses or from an investment bank.
Before we had parked our mopeds on the street, there were people there to meet us. Among them were our Italian friend from the Castle Harbor and a guy named Tony who we later learned owned the Forty Thieves club. A doorman asked me for ID and I should him a picture card from my girls' day School "Finishing school girls," he nodded, I passed by.
To make this short, not all of us made it bad to Nanki's house in Tuckers Town that night. Zelda and I golfed one round then took he speed boat out to the tune of Kool and the Gang and a cooler of daiquiris. I may have been driving--I don't remember--but we seemed to be going up and down an awful lot.
We met the rest of our gang--Dorothy, Caroline and Stacey--on Elbow Beach, where a sea of peeling UVM skiers were trying to float rafts filled with beer. I was watching the sky go around when a man in rainbow shorts took pictures of Tatia and Zelda and insisted that they enter the Miss College Bermuda contest. At first they said no, but then the possibility of a year's supply of Budweiser dissolved their resistance.
Within seconds they were transformed into University of Virginia coeds, though they won little more than footage of a bathing suit competition taken by a probing camera and notoriety thoughout the country. Zelda received four proposals in the course of the day, and probably 10 times that many that evening.
The next afternoon while we all sat on a booze cruise sampling rum soda, none of us could figure out what had happened to Caroline the night before, but we felt sure she had declined Tony's offer to live on his yacht (sailing to Colombia) for the next three months. Suffice it to say that she was seen wearing a silk nightclub jacket for the next three days.