Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, July 2004)


I had an art shop in Legian.  
Well, on the by-pass, near Makro and it’s not mine, really; my Balinese partner acquired the land and I designed a series of buildings to house a number of collections. I painted ANTIQUES on the roof tiles in big white letters, so you could see it from the air.
Over the years – now ten of them – I have tried putting big photos of beautiful people in the window and tried to park designers’ studios there to generate buzz but nothing really works in this present economic downturn. Lately I can’t even bear to go there, for fear of having to fluff cushions or scrape mould off lamp shades.  
This month the Pagerwesi holy day came, and with it, the anniversary of the art shop’s temple. Reluctantly, I dragged myself away from a busy morning at the office, climbed into my temple glad rags, and sped down the by-pass to face the music. On arrival I immediately grimaced: the courtyard floor was greasy after a recent flash flood and four statues were “obtrusive”, as an Italian friend of mine calls things that are ugly in nature.  
I then noticed the fabulously decorated shrine and a swell of pregnant women in temple dress. Great gamelan music spewed from the ghetto-blaster; a smart priest officiated from a platform of offerings and art shop staff were entertaining on the terrace. It was as if, all of a sudden, this wasn’t the island’s sleepiest art shop but the John Hardy emporium at Nieman-Marcus!
“Why let lagging sales get in the way of a great temple bash” is the Balinese spirit - and why shouldn’t it be! Everyone was so proud and wonderful. The place looked brilliant.  
Soon a big West Coast gay came in with three Balinese shopping consultants with gelled hair.  
I returned to the grindstone blessed and liberated …………. my faith restored.  
This month saw the sudden death of one of Bali tourism’s early pioneers, Walter Folle, founder of Bali Art Print (Sanur) in 1974. (See opposite).  
Researching for my old friend Walter’s obituary, I was forced to recall what remarkable times they were, when we were all young and free in Sanur and the beach was still virgin. No-one mentioned erosion, spa or sushi. IT WAS ALL PIZZA, BIG TITS AND JACK DANIELS. Walter Folle, Linda Garland, Victor Mason and Warwick Purser had spectacular homes in Ubud and glamorous Sanur bases to which we all flocked in search of free drinks, and loose women, or tight men, as the case might be.  
Walter Folle and Made Lunas had the General Manager’s suite at the rough but ready ‘La Taverna’ hotel (I was head gardener); debonair Australian painter Ian Van Wieringen had a permanent suite and a log book at the Tanjung Sari Bar next door. Wija Waworuntu and Donald Friend’s homes, down the beach at Batu Jimbar, were like the Acropolis; scaled only by the seriously rich, the serious socially climbers and Euro trash, preferably with H.R.H. titles.  
Us lesser mortals – and I talk here of Brent Hesslyn, David Stuart Fox and John Darling – got the crumbs off the tables of these high-rollers; and what sumptuous crumbs they were. I met Lorrae Desmond, the Duke of Bedford, Yoko Ono (oh the list could go on and on) all as a result of my job as gardener to the Sanur stars. The ‘La Taverna’ bar was the hang-out for the haute-bohemians.  In 1979, Australian actress Arna-Maria Winchester and her husband Terry Stanton built Bali’s first boutique on the beach in front of the bar.  The orang utan paintings that Ian Van Wieringen completed, in lieu of a bar bill, are still there, in the main restaurant. Artist Shane Sweeney was often there too, working on a beautiful series of paintings commissioned for the re-opening, in 1983, of Borobudur temple.  Putu Suarsa, Walter’s aide de camp, was moonlighting with the Mick Jagger camp one night when he spotted Van Wieringen being evicted by Sophia Loren over the balcony of her Bali Beach maisonette (Caught with his hand on her pillow mint no doubt - Ed.).  
It is hard to evoke the sun-baked sandy beauty of those early Sanur Days, when we were all tamu (guests) and no-one was thinking of real-estate developments. Without sounding nostalgic … they were just golden days.  
I most remember Walter Folle coming back from a tour of East Bali all bright-eyed with tales of the view from Putung and the ruins at Taman Ujung; it all sounded like Xanadu. The thrill of discovery, of new horizons on our beloved isle sustained us through long boogie nights.
Now read on:


WALTER FOLLE (1939 – 2004)
This month saw the death of one of expatriate Bali’s true survivors; Walter Folle. Famous for his temper, his swivel hips, his second wife (Made Lunas), his high sperm count and his staying power, which survived many imigrasi pogroms; Folle was also an art director and graphic designer. His company, Bali Art Print, produced some unique books with Australian artist Donald Friend (‘Birds of the Magic Mountain’) and with Victor Mason (‘The Haughty Toad’), among others.
His Bali story spanned some 35 years and was an exotic one.
The exact details of Folle’s arrival in Bali, during Sanur’s heydays, is lost in the mists of time. One story has him coming from Irian Jaya, the son of Lutheran missionaries, born in a Messerschmidt shot down over the Kakoda Trail. Rumours of an Upper Sepic issue haunted him till his dying day. Another story had the ever-natty Folle escaping a laundry bill and a paternity suit from the Borobudur Hotel in Jakarta.
In the late 1960s, he married the most beautiful girl in Ubud, Made Lunas. Their house in Penestanan Kelod, Ubud, was incredibly romantic in a charming rustic way. Its imaginative use of Balinese architectural elements, including the first modified lumbung since that of his countryman, Walter Spies, inspired a generation of rustic-charmers. Folle, a lover of beauty, recently described minimalist ‘Zen’ designers of the ‘Virtual Asia’ movement as ‘Congo Müllers’ (the German equivalent of the ‘Muscle Mary’ - Ed.).
My favourite story of these years is of the time he woke up in his Penestanan house to the noise of people talking about him. Gazing blearily down from his bedroom window, Folle was astonished to find his courtyard full of foreigners, wearing sunhats and carrying cameras.
“What can I do for you?” he shouted.
A woman looked up and replied, “We asked the guide to take us to see a waterfall.”
By the mid 1970s, Folle was, with his wife Made Lunas, manager of Sanur’s ‘La Taverna’ hotel until he was finally deported, in 1984, for excessive machismo. His 1984 ‘THIS IS IT’ farewell party at the old Matahari Disco at the Bali Hyatt, then Bali’s hub of bona fide tourism, was one of the great acts of defiance (bird-giving) of that memorable decade, before personality disorders became a non-issue at immigration.
Putting out a cigarette on the noxious ‘La Taverna’ owner’s forehead was another Follean act of defiance.
From 1985 – 1995, Folle lived in exile in Sydney, running a successful pop-up greeting-card business, while taking breaks to smuggle himself into Indonesia to see his two children.
During his last decade, Folle married again; to a lovely Australian lass named Stephanie, with whom he quickly produced a son, Sebastian Rai, the pride and joy of his twilight years. The last ten years of Walter’s life were spent in quiet retreat, with his new family, in rural Ubud. Folle’s funeral brought out generations of Bali-lovers from as far back as the Adi Yasa Home stay period (Shane Sweeny, Milo) and the Sidakarya Senangski (Ian Van Wieringen, Putu Suarsa) group era.
In an on-line obituary, Sarita Armawa of Saritaksu wrote:

“What a legacy Walter started when he founded the first Graphic Design Studio in Bali. His brilliance was an inspiration to many. Putu from Gemini studio; Liliek of Mata Graphic Design; Burhan, son of Hussein with his Agung studio, Inovasi Design and Printing; Sarita of Saritaksu Design and Publishing and countless others who have gone on to shape the world of images and print that is now a burgeoning industry giving shape to the world’s view of Bali.”

At the funeral one new-ager said that Folle was more Balinese than most Balinese. I would have said that Walter was more German than most Germans.
Walter Folle is survived by his daughter Ratna (30) and his sons Oliver (43), Kadek (26) and Sebastian Rai (12) …………. that we know about!

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