Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

Abe (Alberto Putra Migliavacca), Milo’s nephew, backstage at his tooth-filing.


I have known Milo my entire adult life. 
We both came to Bali as drop-outs — he from the world of ‘haute-schmuttah’ in Milan; me from architecture school in Sydney — and we have both stayed on, for almost 40 years, as ‘New-Balinese’ converts.
He rules the West Coast rag-trade spiritualists and I am the East Coast’s answer to Billy Graham, with a dash of Eddie Izzard. We each have our own favourite priests and ecclesiastical foibles (weaknesses for pretty faces and strong thighs among them).
Milo has ended up with a circle of born-again Hindu angels, a mixed-bag of gorgeous nieces and nephews (courtesy of his brother Ezio, a Legian lothario) and a band of merry men (his Seminyak banjar and attendant priests).
I go to palace cremations and make videos.
Now read on…

Milo in the rainbow warrior boat during Dr. Mario Veglia’s ashes dispersement in Sanur Bay, on 27th November, 2011.

4th December 2011: An Italo-Balinese dynasty is born — Major Hindu Ceremony at Seminyak Home of Bali fashion Giant
Today all the players in Milo’s life in Bali to date are gathered to  celebrate the consecration  of his new family house temple’s kemulan shrine. The shrine will become the earthly abode of his father’s recently Hindu-ized soul.
Milo has for decades been a devout Hindu — often traveling to India with his beloved guru, Pedanda Gunung and a contingent from Seminyak, his adopted hometown.

By consecrating a ‘family’ house temple — which involves the Hindufication of his late fathers ashes (Balinese religion is nothing if not  infinitely flexible) — Milo’s entire family will be  officially entered into the  the Hindu-Balinese faith, full-time.
I arrive to find a garden full of glitterati and cogniscenti and  fashionista — veritably le tout Seminyak.
It is a solemn occasion and the celebrity high priest Pedanda Gede Made Gunung is wearing a special Siwa-ite moon crescent tiara and pearls.
Milo for his part has turned a gold- trimmed South Indian ‘sari’  into a sporty twin set. I am in vintage Milo, wearing my order of the Shocking Pink Heliconia. The house is draped with orchids (Milo’s passion) and eye-candy, in the form of Abby, Putri and Luna, Milo’s nephew and nieces, who are having their teeth filed tomorrow, once the glitter-dust has settled.

At the end of the rituals, Bali TV interviews Milo and the high priest as today is something of a novelty in Bali — the internment of an Italian spirit of origon (‘Bhatara Kawit Italia’ as the high priest calls Milo’s father) into a family house temple.
I am so proud of Milo for taking such a big step — Balinizing his entire family, and his ancestors, for that matter, back to the days of Lucretia Borgia (an ancestor, on Mama’s side). It is admirable also that Milo has kept together such a disparate bunch of expats and help lead them towards a lighter reality.
Bravo Milo!


26th November 2011: Poet-Filmmaker-Painter John Darling dies in Perth after a long illness
 ‘Ketut’ John Darling was Bali’s most devoted poet-filmmaker. He produced a dozen gems in a career tragically cut short  by illness. His ‘Lempad of Bali’,  made with the late Lorne Blair in 1980, opened the world’s eyes to the wonders of the Balinese culture. ‘Ketut’ John covered the mammoth cremation of the last great Raja of Denpasar (Cokorda ‘Gambrong’ Pemecutan X), the aftermath of the first Bali Bomb, and the great Inter-Hash piss-up held in Nusa Dua in 1997, amongst other less sensational Bali subjects.
I posted the following obituary on Facebook today.

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(25 February 1946 – 26 November 2011)

Visiting a gravely ill Johnny in Perth with Jero Asri last month I was startled by, of course, John's calm and Sara's compassion but also by John's immaculate library of Bali books, which took up one side of his library. To our generation of the Bali-besotted Johny was the poet, the scribe and the wise mentor — leavening everything with his wisdom and superb artistic taste. My Sunday pilgrimages to his exquisitely rural, all bamboo, pure Balinese pondok in Banjar Taman Sari  north of Ubud were the highlight of my week. Johnny was the only friend who had bread and vegemite and blue brand margarine for one thing! A cricket match was always playing, subliminally, on the radio in the study part of his studio home and his loyal manservant Gusti Nyoman was always tending his garden, his coffee , his cow, and his Gudang Garam intake. Sometimes his great buddies , sculptor Wayan Cemul, Cokorda Raka Kertyasa and Jero Asri, or Gusti Made Sumung — son of the legendary artist Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Johnny's big love — or Professor Anthony Forge would drop by and we'd all wait a few hours for Johnny to fully wake up. Then we'd talk about village politics, temple festivals, his barong bathroom, the rice cycle and Walter Spies, his other hero. Often we would visit the King of Ubud, Ida Cokorda Agung Sukawati, who adored John, and sometimes the ancient Lempad himself, who would glow in Johnny's direction while dispensing words of wisdom. For years Diana Darling moved in and there were two ashtrays brimming with butts and considerably more waking hours. During Johnny's classic Bali period -- when Johnny, Van Wieringen and I named ourselves "the three Bli" (Balinese brothers) and Diana was created the first Bali Aga for services to "sugra" — Johnny made "Lempad of Bali" with his great mate the late Lorne Blair and wrote a book on Walter Spies paintings, with Hans Rodius. Johnny was a great supporter of my work as a photo-journalist and my early gardens were much inspired by his pondok cottage garden. Rio Helmi, Adrian Vickers, Budiarsa the painter and Putu Suasta the sociologist were also mentored by Johnny, amongst many others.
In the 1990s Johnny and Diana returned to Australia and set up house in Sydney; any other films on Bali were made during frequent forays back to Bali.

The pondok never closed.
John and Diana eventually divorced and John started a new life as a lecturer in film making at a university in Perth, with his beloved Sara. In 1996 Johnny was finally diagnosed with something other than the “weather-sickness”, something far more dire — a rare red-heads-only blood condition which he bore bravely for the next two decades.... with Sara always providing unconditional love for the long term invalid. As best man at their 1998 wedding I made sure to thank the good people at Pfizer and Bayer and Kimia Farma and Lupin for helping keep Johnny alive.

Johnny's final month was lived surrounded by Sara's love and attention, Sara's children and grandchildren, and a garden home he adored. His only regret was that he would not be able to watch the coming cricket tests on his new plasma t.v.
He is survived by Sara, his sisters Lisa, Jane and Caroline, and a legion of fans.

20th December 2011: Bali is my Homo
Last month bulldozers moved in on Bali’s only gay beach bar: young  homosexualists were seen nailing themselves to the future Alila hotel’s timber screen façade samples  in protest. The trendoid ‘New Asian’ architect of the future Alila Pooftah has already decreed the once hallowed pansy park a “no flower” zone. A few miles away Bali’s most celebrated Arja dance drag performer, Ni Liku, was swiveling her hips on the lap of warrior princes at a police brigadier’s wedding.

The Balinese, and the Indonesians for that matter, adore girly-boys, but the territorial prerogatives of developers take precedence over heritage homosexualist sites, it seems.
The thick pandanus-fringed shores of the beach between the new ‘W’ hotel and the Bali Oberoi  — once the sacred noontime turf of nimble-footed sexual predators — is now almost devoid of pandanus bushes.

The paradox is: New Asian, Muscle-Mary resort architecture — that strain of the applied arts that has lots of brown things in straight lines, equally  spaced — is now the favoured style of straight fashion-victims worldwide.

Perth-born, porn-film-star Widjie Weinberg — who now operates a time share business out of Seminyak — was last year roped in to star in “Cowboys in the Pandanus”, a homage to the heydays of the gay beach.
Amazingly a Singapore production company then made an ugly copy-cat production starring Janet De Neefe and Wham-Bham Tengkiu Nyoman entitled “Cowboys in Paradise”, which caused quite a stir.

•       •        •

Images from the PENILEMAN for Ida Ayu Kompiang Oka Sutarti and the
tooth-filing of her grandchildren, Puri Bongkasa, 24th, 25th November 2011
Photos by Made Wijaya and Tim Street-Porter

[Click image to enlarge]