Sunday, 7 September 2020: Euro Gold. Euro Militaire 2007. I was looking through previous Euro Journals in my archives and realised I hadn’t mentioned the original motivation for Euro in the first place. Euro Gold. There was a time when the idea of a gold pin at Euro dominated my thoughts. This was a time before Scale Model Challenge existed and I had not yet attended my first KMK concorso in Belgium. There are but four things in my life I count as being true achievments. Being married to my wife Daiana. The birth of my little boy Tommy. My family. And a Gold medal at Euro-Militaire.
I attended three Euros before I actually competed in one. I had been working on a diorama for the best part of three years depicting a Land Wasser Schlepper floating on the Med above the wreck of an Italian fishing boat, titled ‘Herr Hauptman’s Champagne.’ I finished it in June 2007, leaving loads of time for me to prepare for shipping the large and heavy diorama internationally.
Summer ’07 was a splendid time. I sold my old house in Sherman Oaks for a pile. I took the summer off. Plenty of time to find a company to ship my diorama to London where I would collect it up and take it with me to Folkestone.
I found an LA based company specialising in packing and moving of delicate museum quality objects d’art. They offered to build a nice crate for the diorama and transfer it by air. Moving a diorama is more challenging than travelling with a single model. The problem with dioramas is endless vibrations during transportatio, be it during movement by truck, or plane, creates many tiny cracks in the glue holding the models and bits of diorama together. When these bits finally let lose they careen around the diorama during transport destroying everything in its path. I know. It’s happened to me. It’s not pretty. And almost impossible to repair.
A solution was found though. Oddly enough in the form of bean bag peas. Since all my dioramas are placed in plexiglass cases I could fill itthe case with the contents of a bean bag chair. What you say? Yes, indeed. The very small – and very soft – peas within a bean bag are ideally suited for this task. They absorb vibration and impact as well as keep everything in place if a vehicle or figurine comes loose from the base of the diorama.
Once packed up, the diorama left my atelier in Marina Del Rey, CA in the middle of August, destined for Robert De Keyser’s Rock & Republic showroom on Bond street in London where I would collect it up after NY fashion week.
The next week I travelled to NYC for NY Fashion Week, Market Week, Soho House events and the tennis at the US Open. When all over with I hopped a Virgin Atlantic flight on Monday 17 September out of Newark arrving into London Heathrow the following morning at 9. I checked into The Ritz London and then walked over to New Bond Street to visit Robert De Keyser and collect up the diorama.
London was having typically mild and wonderful September weather. I went into Robert’s and was shown to a storage where my crate was kept. I travelled with an electric screwdriver in my suitcase and opened the crate. It was filled to the brim with white bean bag peas. Reaching in I fished out the sealed up plexiglass case. I couldn’t see the diorama within as it was also encased in bean bag peas. At this moment I had no idea if it had travelled undamaged or no. I had made up my mind not to open it up until I arrived to Folkestone in two days time.
On Thursday, 20 September, I arranged a car service down to Folkestone rather than travel by train. I booked Room 112 on the advice of staff who told me it was the hotel’s one and only suite. In 2007 I was unaware of Room 111 which would later become my preferred room at the hotel. Room 112 is spacious, with its own separate sitting room. The only downside is a very squitchy and windowless bathroom, which really lets the entire suite down.
But, I digress. I arrived into the room, eager to open up the diorama for a look. I requested a vacuum from hotel housekeeping and removed the top sheet from the bed, laying it on the floor in the middle of the sitting room. Putting the diorama case in the middle I unscrewed the lid and then flipped it right side up and raised the case. Tiny peas flew everywhere. And in an instant I realised my mistake. I opened one of the giant windows in the sitting room to cool off and the breeze took thousands of the peas out the window. I slammed the window shut, but this resulted in the thousands of peas still flying about the sitting room to then settle everywhere inside! I needed to save as many of these peas as possible for the return journey to the US after Euro-Militaire.
I looked out the window of the sitting room. It looked like snow outside the back garden, the little white peas settling into below ground rear entrances to the basement of the hotel. I complete and utter cock up on my part.
But my diorama arrived intact. Although, I needed to pick out hundreds of tiny peas stuck in all the nooks and crannies of the diorama. It took me a good twenty minutes to hoover the room *. Then several hours more to pick out the hundreds of peas from the Land Wasser Schlepper, the figurines, and all the debris and marine vegetation on the diorama base. It took hours! By the time I was done I felt well pleased The diorama had not suffered a single scrap of damage during the 5,400 odd mile trip from Los Angeles to Folkestone.
Mike Rinaldi and another American, Pat Stansal, stopped into my room at 6 in the eveing for a drink and to have a first viewing in person of my diorama. Pat seemed more interested in the room than the diorama. When he saw the sitting room of the suite and stopped in his tracks and said: ‘Wow. You could have a party in here.’
Soon after we went downstairs to The Clifton’s very nice bar for drinks with Scott Hards of Hobby Link Japana before we went off to dinner at La Tavernetta just up the road from the hotel.
After dinner we four headed over to the Southcliffe bar for drinks. It was packed out. I was a smoker then and I’m a bit clostrophobic it was normal for me to remain on the terrace with a pint and my cigarettes. For some reason I went into the bar to order a round of drinks I suppose.
Swedish Rikard appeared, happy as always. And a bit tipsy. He took one look at Scott Hards and in his stupor and best English asked if Scott: ‘Had a big cook.’
‘Excuse me?’ replied Scott.
‘You know,’ said Rikard. ‘Do you have a big cook?’
If there is one thing Swedish Rikard loves to do it’s pull down his pants to reveal his hideous uncircumcised ‘cook’. Opening his pants he pulled it out for Scott Hards to see. Scott, understandably shaken, stammered backwards. I stood between Scott and Rikard, telling him he couldn’t do that in front of the owner of Hobby Link Japan.
Ah, just one of the many stories of Euro-Militaire over the years.
Euro 2007 began Saturday morning 22 September. A delightful day visitng with all the lads and catching up after a year. This was also the first time any of them had seen my modelling work. Evening came, and with it the judging. It was an incredibly mild evening. I was sitting at a table outside the Scuba Bar having drinks with Pat Standal when the great Marijn Van Giles came out the doors from Scuba. He stopped at our table and said: ‘Well, congratulations, I suppose.’ How do you mean? He then went on to explain he was one of the judges in the diorama class and I had won Euro Gold!
I’d done it. I’d won Euro Gold. I could not imagine being any happier than at that moment. A lot of drinks were put back at the Southcliff that night.
As I look through my photographs from Euro ’07 I see I hardly took enough. It’s strange really, already I had an iPhone and it had a camera in it, but I find the years I travel with a diorama I tend to get so stressed about its survival I neglect to snap more photographs. So it was in ’07. And I really regret it.
Although Euro ’07 was to be an apex in competition, other years were to also be quite fantastic. Events twelve months later were to change the world for a good few years to come.
Here below is a gallery of photographs from Euro ’07 in all its lunacy. The social scene. The hotel. The Leas Cliff Hall.
Virgin Atlantic flight itnerary and other reservations found in my Euro archive. So pleased to have preserved it all.
*A year later – Euro 2008 -I stayed in the same suite. Not only did I find my forgotten bottle of CA glue still in the bedroom closet, I lifted the oriental rug on the floor of the sitting room and found several dozen errant bean bag peas from the year before.
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