Bonnie surrounded by a Swedish film crew in Peru

A friend Susan and I were checking out of our hotel in Ayacucho, Peru, when seven men—each well over six feet—entered the lobby. From their height and fair hair we guessed they were Scandinavian. We learned they were a film crew from Sweden making a documentary about a Swedish priest living among indigenous Indians in the tropical forest along the Ucayali River bordering Brazil. When we introduced ourselves and I said my name was Bonnie, they all started singing ♫ My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea ♫ in unison. It’s always amazed me how much other countries know about us and how little most of us know about them.

The guys insisted we stay for a drink, which became several drinks and hours of conversation—that’s when the picture must have been taken. One of the team did part-time work as a stuntman and the other men teased him without mercy. Apparently he could set himself on fire and jump out of a building, but was terrified of spiders and anxious about going into the jungle. When it became too late to get any connections out of Ayacucho, Susan and I checked back into the hotel and changed our clothes for dinner. Afterward we went to listen to music in the hotel club. If you read my book, Without a Spare, you’ll know about my low tolerance for alcohol and what happens to me after two drinks, so it won’t come as a shock that I ended up slow dancing with one of the guys named Klaus. He’s the man with a mustache partially visible on the bottom right of the photo. We went to his room but he’d had so much to drink, body parts weren’t cooperating, which at the time we found funny.

I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d spent the night in Klaus’s room, but when I opened the door to sneak out in the morning, I discovered the crew had been silently waiting outside and they started clapping and hooting and slapping Klaus on the back. I wanted a big hole in the floor to open and swallow me up. Klaus would have been one of the two one-night stands in my life, but when I got home he started telephoning and my night of “wildness”turned into an on again, off again twelve-year relationship. Klaus was a journalist and superb sailor who’d soloed across the Atlantic. He had long great legs and was a pretty heavy drinker.

A year after Ayacucho, Klaus stayed at my apartment in Manhattan for a few days before continuing on to California to cover an important yachting race. The first morning he went out jogging in Central Park and came back with two coffees and a smile on his face. Hearing his accent, someone had asked where he was from, and when he said “Sweden,”they said, “Oh, you speak German.””No,”Klaus replied, “I speak Swedish.” “No,”the guy insisted, “if you come from Sweden, you speak German,”and you knew it was going to be one of those stories he’d repeat often when he got back home.

The second time he came to New York was on assignment to do an undercover story on the Unification Church/cult founded by Sun Myung Moon. He dragged me along so we could pretend to be an interested couple, but the “Moonies”separated us immediately and within five minutes I found myself in a circle of people holding my hands telling me they loved me.

The next visit was timed for the American 1976 Bicentennial celebration, and Klaus and I sat in an open window of my father’s office on the 16th floor of a Wall Street building drinking champagne with friends and watching the tall masted-ship flotilla sail up the Hudson River. We were invited to a party to see the 4th of July fireworks from the terrace of a relative married to a Vogue model. It was a beautiful people crowd and the women were all stick-thin. Their chests were wrapped in wide Ace bandages to ensure no bumps disturbed sleek silhouettes. How could anyone not like a man who said, “God, there are gorgeous women here, but way too skinny for me.”

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One Comment

  1. I was born in Denmark and my mother was Danish, so I spent my summers there as a child. Danes and Swedes can be found in almost any country in the world, yet there are only 6 million Danes. It must be that Viking spirit of adventure. Look forward to reading, “Without a Spare.”

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