Burton in the Sand
In 1969 Richard Burton made an unspectacular
movie called Raid on Rommel. This was filmed in
the foothills just outside of San Felipe. On June 28,
a few days before shooting began, Burton commented in
his journal, "Two more days before I go to Mexico.
Tales I hear of the place -San Felipe- are not too encouraging.
Mean temp 113. Only two restaurants. Population 800. Shark-infested
waters. Hurricane season. Only 33 beds in the whole town
for visitors, most people living in caravan trailers and
tents. No telephone. Only expert pilots can land there.
Burton had just remarried Elizabeth Taylor
a few days before. And he had also stopped drinking. He
seemed to view the San Felipe Desert as a reason to take
refuge in his renewed relationship with Elizabeth Taylor.
On July 8th he wrote in his journal, "A horrible
day. The heat in the desert was insufferable and I spent
half the day laying in the sand with my mouth agape pretending
to be unconscious while the sand, stirred up by the wind
which was blowing in exactly the wrong direction, blew
up my nose and into my mouth. However I was excited at
seeing E. so I was stoically good-natured."
Taylor's plane finally arrived and Burton
rushed back to his hotel to meet her. His journal remarks,
"Immediately everybody started making cracks about
San Felipe and what a terrible place it was and one would
have thought they had attacked Pontrhydyfen [Burton's
birthplace] -I was so defensive. Never has a man been
so chauvinistic about a shithouse. I feebly pointed out
the beauty of its beach, and lamely said the sea was wonderful.
Kate said it was too warm and was like taking a hot bath.
I lamely and bravely said that there were horses for hire.
I said it was much more cosmopolitan than Bucerias [a
town near Puerto Vallarta] which is like saying that Hell
is better than Purgatory. We went in a sullen silence
to dinner at Reuben's and it was as stickily uncomfortable
as I'd ever known it or perhaps it was just the same as
usual but I imagined it to be the worst night of the year
and that the weather gods were conspiring against me."
Well as we all know, San Felipe wasn't enough
to keep Taylor and Burton together. Or keep them off the
booze. Probably the reason why so few (re: none) movie
stars make San Felipe their retirement home.