An Open Letter to McCookRacing and Nigel Hollingsworth
P.J. Read-circa 1962
Sir…..I am both surprised and concerned that you find space to print the ego driven anal slop of Nigel Hollingsworth. I was flabbergasted to realize that not only is Hollingsworth free from incarceration in the Thai jail that was his home for many years but is also living in utmost comfort in Beverly Hills, California.
My relationship with Hollingsworth goes back many well-traveled years. Despite the current bitterness that exists between us, there was a time when we were the best of chums. Our travels on the Continental Circus with Jeff Smith, those crazy Rickman boys and that upstart young Belgian were days of excess and enjoyment.
Disregard what you may have read in the press over the years about how Hollingsworth and I met. I am here to correct common misconception that we met when we both signed with the Ariel team in their misguided and vastly under funded GP effort of ’66. That misconception was fueled by Captain “Stumpy” Leonard, the poor morphine addicted Royal Air Force veteran who had been appointed the Ariel team manager at the time we signed. Nigel and I pretended to be strangers during early contract negotiations to avoid any press speculation of ‘jobs for the boys’. Leonard was unaware of our previous history and, in his mistake riddled autobiography, ‘One Leg, One Cylinder’ he perpetuated the myth for all time.
Nigel Hollingsworth and I first met at the 1961 Monaco Formula one GP when he was test and back up driver for the short lived Ecurie Savanti team. I was press secretary to Princess Grace of Monaco at the time and it was at a Royal reception in the Monte Carlo Casino given for the teams that our paths finally crossed. As press secretary to the Princess part of my duties were to shovel any ‘scandal’ under the carpet and basically put a positive slant on the obviously negative. At the reception, Prince Ranier pulled me aside and informed me that Princess Grace seemed to have gone missing from the festivities. He asked me to discreetly search the venue for her Highness. After what seemed to be almost an hour of fruitless searching I was at a loss to her whereabouts and I stopped by the pool for a much needed Gitane. Suddenly, the sound of wild laughter and the sweet smell of Moroccan hashish drew my attention to the adjacent pool house. Slowly I ventured to the small french window on the harbour side of the house and peered through. The sight that greeted me has become ingrained in my subconscious forever and I now take the opportunity to report it for the first time that old “Bertie Grimaldi” (Prince Ranier) has finally fallen off the trapeze…….. There, in naked delight in the Jacuzzi was (I was later to learn) Hollingsworth drawing on the pipe of the biggest Turkish Hookah I had see up to that time while an beautiful, American accented naked blonde sat on his lap drinking straight from a Dom Perignon magnum whilst wiggling her ‘lady bits’ and moaning in obvious pleasure.. A discreet cough and a “Your husband requires your presence, M’am” saw the blonde jump from the spa and slip quickly but elegantly into her Givenchy gown while adjusting her hair and jewelry in one fluid movement. A royally firm” thank you, Mr. Read” and she was back into the ballroom as if nothing had happened. The woman was all class. I also admired Hollingsworth’s style and we became firm friends from that moment.
Over the next couple of seasons we traveled the world with the Formula 1 chaps. My association with the Grimaldis in Monaco had earlier ended after I had shunted the Princes Ferrari LM250 into the wall on the Virage Racasse hairpin one Dom Perignon fuelled evening. I escaped without a scratch but Italian actress Gina Lolobrigida was lucky to survive after being thrown from the car. I called in all of my Fleet street favors to hide that scandal.
By this time Hollingsworth had graduated to the Brigante team as their number two driver along side the legendary Argentinean, Arturo “Pippi” Ponche-Crema. I was juggling duties between representing my beloved Great Britain at Polo and partnering Sir Eric Lansdowne in the Volare GTS team in long distance sports car events. Sadly however, neither Hollingsworth nor I were fully happy. Sure we were living a life that many little people would have thought existed only on film. I was living in both New York and London and was having a rather sultry and energetic affair with Hollywood starlet Tuesday Weld while Hollingsworth commuted between his holiday home in the Florida Keys and his Tuscany villa. He was also spending a lot of time at his then lover Rock Hudson’s Beverly Hills mansion. Something however was missing. Life had become too easy. We needed a challenge.
That challenge came when Derek Rickman called me out of the blue late one evening in late ‘62. He and Don were about to release their new Metisse onto the market and they were looking for a public relations agent to “sell” the new concept to the motoring press. I flew to England and met up with the witty and charming Rickman brothers whom I had previously met at Lord Profumos Surrey holiday house in late ’60. After a sumptuous lunch at the Dorchester we immediately hopped into Derek’s Humber Snipe and drove up to Farleigh Castle for the Metisse debut. Derek had always been an admirer of my race driving and asked me if I would like to try out the new Matchless powered beauty prior to the press boys arriving. I jumped at the opportunity and took to the big shiny beast like a Frenchman to reverse gear. Before long I was lapping on the same second as Smithy and those Commie CZ chaps. The brothers were smitten, as was I. I immediately declined the PR job and purchased two Triumph and two Matchless powered Metisse machines. I managed to track Hollingsworth down at the Kennedy compound at Martha’s Vineyard and after a quick chat with Jack I informed Hollingsworth that I finally had the cure to his boredom. We were to join the Continental Motocross GP circus with our own team. The fact that Hollingsworth’s only motorcycle experience had been a small number of works Manx Norton rides on the Isle of Man waxed insignificant. If the man could ride a Manx, a Princess and a Rock, he could ride a Metisse.
Equipo Madre Trato (see diccionario espanol) hit the GP circuit for our first GP in Luxembourg at the beginning of the ’63 season and we continued over the next four years with varying degrees of success including Hollingsworth’s exciting victory in the Sardinia 500 GP of ‘63 and my own now legendary victory in the Romanian GP the following year. By the end of the Ariel contract in late ’67 the shit (as you Americans so vulgarly put it) was starting to hit the fan. It all started to unravel over such a trivial thing. A woman. I had long split with Tuesday Weld and was now involved with Beatle John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia. She and I had leased a small beach house in Phuket, Thailand for the summer and invited some chums over for New Years celebrations. Little did we know that it was all about to get very ugly.
Hollingsworth had been dependant on opium for a number of years but we had kept it quiet from the general public. I had used up all of my press favours to keep the scandal out of the tabloids but Hollingsworth was becoming increasingly hard to handle. Cynthia and I had hoped that a quiet holiday in the tropics would help him sort himself out. And at first it was succeeding.
Hollingsworth’s love life was apparently in tatters and he had arrived in Phuket alone but in good spirits. It didn’t take very long at all for the still devilishly handsome Nigel to begin seducing everything in sight. Nothing was sacred. The beach cabana boys, Cynthia’s assistant Prudence and our Thai chef, Sammy had weakened to his manly charms by the end of the first week. We even suspect that he had had his way with the British Ambassadors wife.
I didn’t think too much of it when, after breakfast one morning Nigel asked if he could borrow my MV Augusta for a short ride up into the highlands to “clear his head”. As he cruised off towards the steamy hinterland we thought little more of Hollingsworth and launched into an impromptu game of beach cricket. It wasn’t until we had settled into some late afternoon Pina Coladas that “Pippi” Ponche-Crema commented that Hollingsworth hadn’t returned. We all laughed knowingly when Sir Jack Brabham assured us that Hollingsworth had “surely found a little tribal maiden” and probably wouldn’t return until morning.
Morning arrived and still no Nigel. By the time the sun had set that evening it was evident to all that something was amiss. “Pippi”, Jack, Bobby Goldsboro, George Hamilton and myself decided that a search party was in order. We quickly loaded the Land Rover with some provisions that Sammy had whipped up and a case of Gilbeys Gin and we were off in search of our dear mate. Meanwhile Cynthia, Lesley Gore and “Pippis” fiancÚ Kim Novak set about searching the local village bars and joss houses for our errant houseguest. Our planned overnight search turned into a five-day journey that took us away from the party paradise of Phuket and into a new kind of Hell.
Unfortunately Goldsboro had to leave us in Bangkok to get back to a Bah Mitzvah performance in New Jersey so it was down to “Pippi”, Sir Jack, George Hamilton and myself. By now we had sadly figured that Hollingsworth was on the ‘Opium Trail’ so we headed to an old hang out of Hamilton’s from his pre suntan days. We arrived in Ubon Ratchithani, a small town on the Mekong River near the Cambodian border at 11pm on day four. By now the gin was almost gone and Sir Jack, being an Aussie was calling for a cold lager and a rest. We came across a small bar on the edge of town, parked the Land Rover and entered. Sir Jack ordered Singhas all round and we adjourned to a table by the door. A jukebox was playing an obscure Patti Page ballad from the fifties, the lights were dim and mixed assortment of about thirty people either danced drunkenly to the jukebox or sat silently looking at the plastic Buddha water feature on the southern wall. Then we spotted her. A blonde in a white satin Chong San sitting alone at the bar. She sipped on a Singapore Sling and appeared to be crying. Although there were other foreigners in the bar they were all either back packers looking for some cheap thrills or left overs from the Colonial days that had fallen into hard times. This blonde was different. She was all class.
She looked familiar but many blondes had passed through my life so I brushed it aside and ventured back into the balmy night. As we left “Pippi” caught a glimpse of red behind a ramshackle outhouse adjacent to the bar. As my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized that the red flash was my precious MV Augusta. The search was reaching its conclusion.
Almost in the same instant the face of the blonde sitting at the bar streamed back into my life. It was Princess Grace of Monaco. But it couldn’t be. She had died the year before in a flaming car wreck on the winding Monaco hills. I must be wrong.
We burst back into the bar to find the blonde gone and a bartender unwilling to admit she had been there. After some out of character violence from Sir Jack, the bartender nodded towards a door next to the Buddha water feature. I burst through the door and there was Grace, kneeling by a makeshift bed wiping the brow of a delirious man screaming incoherently. It was Hollingsworth.
Looking nothing like the man who, a few days earlier had been frolicking on the beach at Phuket with our jet set friends, Hollingsworth was in a sorry state. He was obviously under what they call “Monkey Grip”. Four days of opium and cheap Thai rum had sent the once debonair champion to the depths of despair. Grace explained that he had been caught by Thai police the previous day in a joss house “scoring” more opium but had escaped on the big MV. She had brought him to this haven to dry out and hatch a plan to escape Thailand.
Grace explained that after their first meeting all of those years ago in the pool house at Monte Carlo Casino they had been involved in a clandestine affair. Eventually she faked her own death and escaped to a small mountain hideaway in the Thai hinterland to be with Hollingsworth. He had used the ruse of attending my New Year soiree to enter Thailand without drawing attention to his true intent. Unfortunately the pressure of the subterfuge was too much for Hollingsworth and he had fallen into his old ways. The monkey was again on his back.
Then, without warning the door flew open and the room filled with armed Thai police.
They knocked us out of the way and dragged the semi conscious Hollingsworth out of his makeshift bed and dragged him out into the darkness and into oblivion. I never heard from him again. Grace came back to Phuket with us and we organized a top London plastic surgeon to change her appearance so that she could blend into society anonymously. She reportedly now operates a Hooters nightclub in Tuscon, Arizona.
Our lives were never the same again. George Hamilton’s promising Hollywood career stalled after a torrid affair with Lynda Bird Johnson ended in a bondage scandal and a badly advised starring role as Evil Kneivel. Sir Jack Brabham retired from motor racing and moved back to Australia and took up pig breeding. “Pippi” Ponche-Crema died the following year when Kim Novak’s pet tiger mauled him at their Monterey Peninsular mansion. Lesley Gore never had another hit record, had a gender transfer operation and changed her name to Al. Cynthia and I split and she moved to New York and opened a Thai restaurant. I moved to Australia and continued my motor racing career, winning many more motocross championships aboard CCMs and Carabelas. I now occasionally race my classic Birdcage Maserati and live with Olivia Newton-John and have managed her career for many years.
Imagine my surprise to find that Hollingsworth has returned to mainstream life and is living in luxury in Beverly Hills. It would have been nice of him to contact me to renew our friendship but it seems that old habits grow with age. His greedy accumulation of rare motorcycle parts and his inability to finish a project reflect the selfish attitude that marked his life.
If Hollingsworth reads this there are a few outstanding matters I would like to discuss with him. His reply will make interesting reading.
Yours Sincerely…….P.J. Read
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