4th September 1998
Spoonmobile dream of peace
A snap-happy American rolled up on my drive this week in a 1972 Dodge van covered in cameras.
I don’t mean decorated, or festooned, or dotted. I mean covered. There was not one inch of this vehicle’s bodywork visible. Poloroids and Instamatics and Nikons and Kodaks and box brownies and Apple digitals hung from fender to fender. There was a camera dangling from the aerial. There were cameras on the windscreen wipers, and on the door handles, and glued to the tyres. 1,705 cameras.
The driver’s name was Harrod Blank, and when he set off the flash a searing burst of light erupted that fried fish in the river and registered on spy satellites as a possible nuclear blast. The photograph it took picked out all the bones of my skeleton.
Harrod has been driving round Britain for a couple of weeks, and he dropped in on me because he’d heard about my Peace Cadillac – a custom-built Cadillac Brougham, a 1976 gas-guzzling sleek chrome monster I bought at the height of my Seventies excesses, when I was very rich and very famous and wanted everybody to appreciate these facts. The Caddy is now a glittering mass of cutlery, all of it bent.
The police have been no trouble to Harrod, but the insurance people gave him a major headache. I sympathised. When I told my insurers I’d been pinning twisted forks to the bonnet, there was a sort of strangled laugh down the phone. The woman said, “You understand, we can’t insure if any mascot protrudes above the height of the bodywork – a badge, the Spirit of Ecstasy, nothing like that, I’m afraid.”
“It’s nothing like that,” I assured her. “We are talking about five thousand eating utensils all sticking straight up. Bristling with sharp points.”
“Can you imagine,” she said, “what would happen if you ran someone over in that?”
I thought it would almost be worth it for the headlines – Uri Geller Carved Me Up On The M4. But then I thought about the lawsuits.
So I never insured the Caddy since it became a work of art. But I have this crazy idea it might be fun to drive it round the Middle East. Very slowly. For peace.
The craziness started when the Israeli sculptor Avi Pines came to my house and we started bolting my favourite trophies to the doors. John Lennon’s spoon was the first – he gave it to me in New York City one strange night after telling me how visitors from another galaxy had come to his bedroom (he hadn’t even been stoned, he insisted).
JFK’s fork is there. And Elvis Presley’s. Three forks are wrapped around a giant crystal given to me by Salvador Dali, a man who really appreciated crazy ideas. Chopin’s spoon, Clint Eastwood’s, Archbishop Makarios’s, Adnan Khashoggi’s, Federico Fellini’s, Danny Kaye’s, Andy Warhol’s, David Bowie’s and Gary Cooper’s. Not to mention Diego Maradona’s spoon, Christiaan Barnard’s, David Frost’s, Elton John’s, Elizabeth Taylor’s, Franz Mesmer’s, Charlie Chaplin’s and Barbra Streisand’s. And cutlery once owned by Freud, Shimon Peres, Golda Meir, Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali, Al Gore, Sophia Loren, David Ben Gurion, Richard Branson, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moshe Dyan, Rasputin, Houdini, James Dean, Wernher von Braun, Yasser Arafat, Rock Hudson and Pablo Picasso.
I sometimes look at all those utensils, touched by so many famous hands, and think – what a dinner party that would have been.
We twisted the cutlery so that, seen from above, a giant peace symbol is visible. It’s easy to see this from an upstairs window, but I once flew a helicopter over the car, just to check.
Imagine the effect of driving such an artwork across the Middle East. From presidential palaces to hillside settlements, across the wide hot tarmac of diplomat’s private roads and the yellow dust trails leading to the poorest refugee shanties. How the politicians would beam, and clasp each others’ hands across the jewelled bonnet. How the children would shriek and run barefoot over the stones for miles after us, Arab and Jewish children alike in a hubbub of disbelief.
What a propaganda coup for peace. The world will stare, and chuckle, and reflect: “Anything is possible. Just like Uri says. Anything. Even peace.”
The ultimate destination, after a meander across the Sinai into Israel, excursions into Lebanon and Syria, a short motor along the West Bank and a long lunch with King Hussein, would be… Iraq. I have a vision of my spoon-encrusted car rolling through the avenues of Baghdad, to a rendezvous in an underground, N-blast resistant mansion with 800 secret service men and Saddam Hussein.
I told my close friend, the concert pianist Byron Janis in New York, and he said: “When you do it, I want to come too.”
I said: “Byron, that’s nice, but this is a very personal thing. Something I need to do alone.”
“You’ll need me to read the maps,” he answered, “or you’ll drive straight from Cairo to Ethiopia. Or Morocco, anywhere but East. Plus, you never worked out where the gas went in that car.”
So my idea for a peace pilgrimage acquired a concert pianist.
Oh, but I forgot the craziest bit. When Byron saw what Avi and I had done to the Caddy, he said: “You’re taking the cutlery – fine, I’m taking the piano.”
He’s serious. He has a Steinway Concert Grand, which plays like no other instrument in the world, and without it he frets. I said we could tow it, like a caravan, but Byron thinks that would detune it. So we’re going to hitch a pantechnicon to a juggernaut, and hire a team of drivers to follow us.
By now, you think I’m joking. I’m not. The idea started with a car, and grew bigger and crazier every year, and I think we’d better hurry up and get the trip made before one of us adds an even more lunatic ingredient to the brew – parking the car in the Space Shuttle, for instance, and flying it to the moon…
Come to think of it, why not?
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