March 12th 1998.......... It was a typical Thursday at Nick Maley's ISLAND ARTS GALLERY in Antigua as hundreds of tourists from the CELEBRITY CRUISE LINE passenger ship GALAXY and ROYAL CARIBBEAN's MONARCH OF THE SEAS filed through to have Nick sign his prints for them. "Typical" that is until Nick found himself face to face with U.S. Marine turned Senatorial candidate and radio show host, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North who, with his wife Betsy ,was cruising the Caribbean on GALAXY. Here is Nick's account...... Ergo
A meeting with Oliver North.
Over the years, making movies alongside stars like Brando, Redford and Hepburn I have rubbed shoulders with hundreds of personalities....... Usually they are "in context"....... on a movie set....... or they make an appointment to come by my house at a "quiet" time........... I usually take it in my stride. But I have to admit that I was really surprised to see Ollie North standing in the line of tourists waiting to get one of my signed prints. At first I though it must be a look-alike..... after all he didn't have that military air as he stood there grinning in shorts, shirt and hiking boots with a pack on his back. But as soon as he started speaking I realized it was definitely Ollie and I have to admit that I struggled to keep my composure as I told him about the varied artworks in the gallery.
I'm sure he's used to people stopping him with comments and introductions as he goes about his daily business, infact several did that whilst he was in the gallery and he handled it with grace and good humor, but twenty years of giving stars "space" to be themselves stopped me from acknowledging that I even recognized him. I don't think I covered it too well but Ollie and his charming wife Betsy graciously gave me the "space " to subdue my surprise.
Now I have to admit that politically I usually stand left of center field. I respect traditional, conservative values that the Republicans stand for but my unconventional life has been almost devoid of traditional structure or Conservatism. Never-the-less I remember watching Oliver North's quizzing over the Iran Contra affair and being very impressed with his decorum under fire, his forthright principles and his common sense attitude. In person, faced with his boyish enthusiasm and extraordinary good humor I found he charmed me even further. I couldn't help wondering what he was doing muddling in with GALAXY's 2000 other passengers. He explained that it was Betsy's birthday and they had an arrangement......... on her birthday they do whatever Betsy wants........... and the rest of the year they do whatever Ollie wants! (I have to say that his obvious concern for Betsy's pleasure and well being made it hard to believe that statement was absolute).
He knew about me, my art and movie work....... even the name of my first yacht (do the CIA have a file on me or something?), and his amiable, enthusiastic attitude soon overcame any embarrassment. He asked me about why I had chosen to settle in Antigua and seemed truly interested as I described our island nation's attributes. He seemed well informed about what to do in Antigua and having made a couple of purchases set off in search of a taxi tour to take him down to Nelson's Dockyard (the subject of my Rainbow Collection prints "Harbour Lights" and "Reflections of the Dockyard").
A few hours later he returned, a characteristic grin on his face, and declared "Nick!...... now I know why you chose this place...... It's beautiful!"
He really endeared himself to everyone in the shop. He bought Betsy a rare "Hibiscus" reproduction, which he had me dedicate to her, took the time to sign autographs for all my employees, then rushed off to catch the ship declaring that he would be back to take me sailing on a friends yacht. I found myself hoping that he would.
It wasn't hard to see how this larger than life personality could bounce back from personal scrutiny and political disaster to be considered by many to be a true American hero.
Island Arts of the YodaGuy
Antigua, West Indies & Sint Maarten, Netherland Antilles