Born Gerald Smedgewick in Horsebreath, Ohio, in 1922, the interior designer Wayan Bokong Besar is one of Bali's best-loved characters. She is perhaps most famous for designing the cushions for the 12-room, 2-star Wiki-Dikki Hotel in northern Lovina, which was featured extensively in the Adelaide Free Advertiser in 1973. Her award-winning pillow cases are currently on sale at Macro for Rp.15,000/dozen. She can usually be found, lunchtime onwards, at the Old Tranny Tavern, Sanur, muttering obscenities and hurling insults at passers-by.
Tropical Living: So, Gerald, are you cross with anyone today?
Wayan Bokong Besar: Wayan, sweetie, Wayan!! I'm glad you asked. I tell you whom I’m cross with, I will. All these blasted developers, that's who! Who do they think they are, coming to Bali and building villas for people? Where, oh where, will it all end? They are destroying Bali, I tell you!
TL: Really? How so?
WBB: Well it's bleeding obvious, innit? The culture is being destroyed! It used to be that people lived in huts, barely able to afford clothes! It was so charming, dear! You could get a houseboy for ten dollars a year. Now they want at least thirty dollars a month, I've been told! Outrageous! Oh, I remember, when I first came to Bali, seeing all those strong, handsome young men running around naked in the villages, their firm young buttocks glistening in the…………..sorry, what was the question again?
TL: And the tourists? Are they evil too?
WBB: Even worse, I tell you! One can hardly go down the street without bumping into these hideous tourists everywhere, breeders most of them, and these barbarians usually stay in ‘hotels’, and I tell you, hardly any of the hotels have their sofas or bedcovers designed by yours truly. How can people possibly stay in hotels which have their soft furnishings designed by people other than me? Why don’t they protest? Do I see petitions? No. Do I see boycotts? No. It's shocking, I tell you! Who do they think they are, these people, coming here and spending money and buying things and eating in restaurants and enjoying themselves? They should be banned, I say!
TL: Er, yes, hrrm, tell us about your latest design project.
WBB: I am pleased to announce that I have just been commissioned to do the interior design at the new McDonalds in Kuta. It will be lovely, with orange Formica tables and white tiled floor, I think. Absolutely marvelous, sweetie. Very responsible development, unlike those bastards at Luxury Villas and Tropic House, who won't hire me.
TL: Who are your favourite people in Bali?
WBB: I have many aristocratic friends in Bali, you know. The third cousin twice removed of the second wife to the former prince of Klingklong is a dear friend (we met once at the ATM in Denpasar). And Poppy Hottle-Twottle, a well-known English lady whose former husband's brother owned a sock shop in Worcestershire where Prince Charles once bought a pair of wool blend size 11 grey socks, is also a dear, dear friend. A very distinguished lady! I have so many famous friends!
TL: What is your favourite villa in Bali?
WBB: Why, it's my own villa development, of course; Villa Bokong, which is Balinese for ‘Eternal Serenity’. Luxury villas for the gentry, with gigantic swimming pools, everything air-con, all mod cons and pittoresque peasants attending to your every whim! Built in a beautiful rice field in the middle of the conservation area, it offers full five star amenities and Balinese dancing and tequila-shot competition and karaoke nightly. Special rate for early bookings! www.villaBokong.com