Guilhem and I went away to cover a weekend organized by some offspring of Gengis Khan, nine mates our age with nine-digit numbers on their bank accounts. Not far from Budapest, lost deep in the Hungarian countryside, on the heights of a hill, stands a strange baroque manor, the scene of massive debauchery and decadence.
Friday, first symptoms
Our arrival on site is strained. We obviously are not welcome. We shouldn’t even be here since no outside person is allowed in, but we’ve been invited to join this confidential event by Patrick1, who runs an escort agency. So here we are, two dropouts among luxury cars, bodyguards and a busy, but noiseless personnel. Tension is palpable. As far as Patrick is concerned, this is all big fun. He is happy to see us and things seem to be working out swell. We let him lead the way and follow — seems like the wisest thing to do.
In an isolated room, our nine mercenaries are having a blowout. It is strictly forbidden to talk to them, or even come across them; they are here incognito and no one knows anything about them, except they flew in with a private jet and forked out loads of cash to have a blast. We sneak before them and carry on our visit. The manor is a labyrinth in a setting from another time, that extends its wealth and abundance from corner to nook, from hunting trophies to stuffed African animals.
What Patrick and his Hungarian stooges masterminded is a leisure weekend for billionaires. On the menu: journey through Budapest with great pomp, under the custody and protection of the local police, French cuisine, relaxation, skeet shooting, parties, and girls. Our group clearly didn’t show up to play cards, but rather to smack some popsi3. Girls are at their disposal, coming from Hungary and the surrounding countries; they are porn actresses or escorts, and for now they are waiting in a private section of the manor: apples and oranges don’t mingle in Billionaire-land, even thousands of miles from home.
Patrick continues his grand tour, and introduces us to almost everybody; he’s like a kid. Walking from room to room, we end up before a green curtain. Behind it stretches the main salon, where most of the partying will take place. A belly dancer winds under the quiet scrutiny of the stuffed animals that adorn the place; a giraffe pricking up from the wall almost seems to be enjoying her little ballet. Hello Babylon! I missed you so! Backstage, the girls patiently wait around a table that is going to be our HQ for the weekend. We pop in to say hi and carry on our tour downstairs. We are then heading for the indoor pool — Patrick wants us to meet someone.
The smell of chlorine barely has the time to reach our nostrils before I notice L., the real one, one of the most beautiful actresses in Europe, getting closer to me with de poise of a woman who’s not wet behind the ears. There she is, finally. In flesh. She’s so beautiful I’m paralyzed. I jabber through some lousy small talk in a wobbly English. She notices my discomfort, she plays with it, and I wish I could fly away from all this, flee from porn and sex, and become a child again, all alone. Images are clogging up my head, images from that movie she earns her career to, where she introduces us to Buda in pleasant company — impish smiles and eyes in the castle battlements. She’s the one standing right in front of me — the scenery changed, but the POV didn’t. The scene passes before my eyes and I am dumb, petrified, sick with shyness, and frankly out of my depth. Five minutes flow by, and we already move on. I start breathing again. Next to me, Guilhem is about to unsheathe.
Call to order
There will be nine girls tonight, neat ratio — porn stars, coarse chicks, cruel beauties, and a lightly disturbing overdose of silicone. That’s when Guilhem chooses to come into effect. Flash. Security personnel, hand on the lens, last action hero. We freeze. Furtive, clean, and obvious pressure has fallen upon a hipster. We are tense, hungry, and scared — way too many parameters in to little time. We just learned the hard way that no one here is eager to appear on the front page of People magazine, and we should better play it shrewdly if we don’t want to end up on the first plane to Paris with the Russian mob by way of cabin crew. A lively welcome, you might say. We drift away from the drama, just to take breath and lie low.
We head towards the hidden areas: the kitchen, the cellar, the French cook and his team. The manor has seen others, Roman orgies and sex parties, beneath the landlord’s licentious eye — some old rascal slowly swaggering from room to room, with a glass in his hand and a big smile on his face. We will later be told he’s a bastard of the purest kind, but for now we just assess, chat, enjoy the good food and taste the boss’ wine.
The girls fetched to join the group now are party girls, not escorts; they weren’t hired to chat but to set the mood right. That’s exactly what is happening behind that much-vaunted green curtain, where our group migrated after their diner to dance, with a whack load of twelve-years-of-age Macallan and barrels of Redbull. These guys are bruisers, real warriors: they drink so much your backpacker liver would turn nauseous, and this small world nicely slums in. Subtle, furtive glances suggest our new friends are just having a casual good-natured party, no orgy in view. As during the meal, the girlies don’t mix with the clanmates. Serious business is happening upstairs, away from prying eyes. The process is simple: a girl takes a boy by the hand and leads him to one of the rooms for some sex, and judging by the constant roundtrips sliding behind our backs, we reckon they are keeping busy. That peccadillo, cadenced with large doses of Kamagra (general version of Viagra without the secondary effects), goes on most of the night.
Meanwhile, we wait. We’re sitting around a table with the inverted-delta-shaped bodyguards and the rich-alpha-male organizers. The belly dancer we met earlier is there too — a girl with a smile so splendid our tongues turn into crumb collectors. On a drip of pálinka (the local brandy), we buckle down to keep watching her. The liquor puts our minds at rest, and we finally start relaxing and warming up. Nothing much to do as our leeway is lessened by their stress, plus once we’ve grasped the girl-dance-room-fuck-dance system, we know there isn’t much to it since there’s nothing we can watch happen. Time goes by, slowly, and we begin to think it might be time to head to bed. The bodyguards are falling asleep and even the girls start “working” less. Then, the totally unlikely happens.
Pipsqueak and the emotional roller coaster
L. comes in and walks straight to me. Okay, why not? I guess I’ll have to garble some more crap… But that’s when she, L., asks me if I think about her. “All the time” I answer with a strained grin. And then, she takes my hand. The signal. WTF?! Guys! What’s happening? I’m no client, we obviously have a case of mistaken identity here, right? She shanghais me “further” to “chat”. I suddenly twig the twist. No way. Impossible. I am a giant inadequate cramp, I’m shaking all over. No. Don’t tell me I’m about to…? Am I? Oh, OK… How do I… I’m not used to that kind of oh-so-very-tangible gifts… We talk about this and that, and we get closer — no, seriously guys? My heart is beating so fast it starts leaking out smoke. What am I supposed to do now? Sorry but I didn’t get the manual, I’m not like those blokes over there. But never mind: go with the flow-ho I shall. Technically, I’m 12 years old, I’m a total virgin and She, L., her, is getting too, too, too close to me for all this to be real. I must have fallen into a mirage… I hope I have… Or maybe I don’t…
We head upstairs, under the bland eyes of the dozens of dead animals nailed on the walls. I need to pinch myself mentally. Is the pálinka hitting too hard or is my dream coming alive? I don’t know anything anymore, I let myself flow, even when that billionaire walks past us and turns fast cubed screws on me. All the indicators are now in the red zone, temporal swoon, a rift breaks my head open, I’m drowning myself into the delights of this Hungarian vortex. Farewell, sweet innocence! After this parenthesis, life will never be the same again. From now on, I shall be a man.
Back with the rest of the herd, on cloud nine, I can see everybody is having a great time. How about another shot, Guilhem? Looks like the old man’s grappa has some interesting virtues. Light as a feather, a nervous laugh glued on my cortex, I’m creeping through the Magyar night, into this country I’m beginning to enjoy quite much. But the tension rises again. Don’t know if it’s the liquor taking over or if the shindig shifted our way, but the fact remains that we are now surrounded by girls. Our buddies are on the other side of the room, involved in a lively discussion of some sort. Something’s wrong. It’s too early to close the establishment, what’s going on, boss? What’s going on is that the girls are pushing up the prices — two Johns and you get into line — which isn’t to the liking of the organization that had planned the full package and doesn’t intend to change the rules of the game along the way.
The girls are not the only ones to become a pain in the ass. The boys’ group gets down to it too by dismissing the DJs, then the girls, like they would with merchandise. They treat them like cattle. Unease electrifies the air when wealth imposes respect. Now the bunch of pals is hungry. They order McDonald’s meals, even though we’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s 2AM. OK, right on, guys, but if you don’t mind, we would like to go home, now. We switch back to low-profile mode, avoid their gaze and quietly wait for our driver to come back from the final Frontier. When he does come back, he unloads the food and the guys gobble up their whim before scramming to their rooms, on their own. We end up all alone like ditched jerks. The girls leave too, and they won’t come back tomorrow, except for two chosen ones, including L.. Finally our never-sleeping cross-country driver is ready to take us home. We reach Buda in the black of night. A flashback on the evening before going to bed, one last nervous laugh, and Morpheus takes care of the rest.
Saturday, Eyes Wide Shut
Sitting around at the flat considering an uncertain future that should soon show up, we wait for the signal indicating our driver is in the area. In the meantime, the manor must be bustling with the preparation of tonight’s party entitled Eyes Wide Shut, the reason we’re here. The driver arrives with one of yesterday’s bodyguards, a twenty-year old walking closet; we get in without asking questions. His black pulled-down Golf GTI starts up and we cling to our seat. His driving is more than wild; we’re rushing so fast through the streets of Budapest it feels like the Monaco Grand Prix. Once we are on the highway, he pushes the sound system that bawls some Euro-dance and steps on it even harder. We are dashing toward the manor at 125 miles an hour, flashing all the way to screen out the poor boors that could hinder our race. I think about last night, and I know I wouldn’t mind clapping out after 15 flips in the gulch. That’s when the Gipsy Kings’ version of Hotel California starts echoing into the sticks. Supposing it’s death sending us a sign in an ill-negotiated curve, at least we’ll crash with style if somebody has a mind to film the scene. Against all odds, we do arrive safe and sound… And hope it will last.
Tension is still very palpable at the manor. Mister 10,000 Women (one of the organizers, an ex Hungarian “hardcore star”, the kind with his brains stuck in his pecs) doesn’t deign to give us a single glance. Friendly spirit. Patrick welcomes us again, with his perpetual grin, and takes us to the kitchen to taste the bodacious dinner prepared for tonight by a French restaurateur exiled in Budapest. Exceptional wines, perfect cooking, we are in clover; corruption does have some good sides, especially when it strikes the very sensitive cord of French gastronomy. Our pride rings out in our plates. We talk about grub and good food, we get soaked, we have a blast; we don’t care about the ladies anymore, all this counts for nothing when it comes to exploding your belly.
The weather is sweet, makes us want to eat everything that passes close to our teeth, and we’re soon done for. That’s exactly the kind of spirits we needed to slip between the walls and slide through the gazes. Upstairs, the girls are getting ready for the Eyes Wide Shut night. Eighteen girls will be joining the party — for now two of them are missing, somehow they vanished in the thickets. Guilhem takes this opportunity to go and shoot some pictures. He comes back five minutes later, tail between his legs: the organization is throwing wrenches in our gears again. This thing is hard work. Patrick reassures us: we will get what we need. So we go back to toasting and gliding, dish after dish, from delights to pleasures. Suddenly, things speed up.
Iván Bear, the other Hungarian colleague, announces that the group is now having desert. Patrick takes us to the upper floor by a hidden door and we jump from calmness to turmoil. The girls are all grooming, adjusting their lingerie, alternating shooting and pálinka to motivate — popsis to die for and juicy boobies all over the place. I sink down into a corner with my glass of Lynch-Bages and watch the girls come and go, enjoying my seclusion. I could stay there forever contemplating this graceful procession, indulging myself with an adult pleasure worthy of the Crazy Horse Saloon’s green room. There’s punci4 in the air, and I’m lovin’ it. When this small world seems all set, a sudden rush and fuss, everybody on line, ready. I catch L.’s glimpse under her hood. She waves a cute hello. I’m liquefying.
Further away, the classical orchestra is paving the way for the parade; it’s impressive how everything sticks to Kubrick’s movie. Then, one by one, the girls go down the stairs, while we snoop from above trying not to get burned (too much). Once they stand before our boozed-up stooges, they take off their capes, unveiling part of what motivated their trip here. The men applaud, the boss sets off a local dance and everybody’s happy. The organization can relax. We are in the middle of nowhere, masked porn actresses flaunt themselves for a bunch of disguised and masked mates sponsored by Visa Infinite, we are watching all this among stuffed animal — everything is normal — and we come to forget we’re supposed not to bump into those guys.
Paranoia in the manor
The girls left again, I don’t know where — I must have missed an episode. Now the guys are going upstairs; I’m sending alarm signals to Guilhem. Panic! We run into hiding where we can, which turns out to be facing a white wall… I don’t know if the threat is real, but our course of action is to come back from Buda alive, so we sneak about the best we can, we hide behind pillars, this is absolutely unconvincing but I guess the guys don’t give a damn, too busy tracking down fanny. This rotten manor is too big; we’re getting lost and cannot find the hidden door again. We’re in deep shit. We come across a guy — once again furtive but clearly conveyed pressure — and we duck. We open a random door and by some miracle it is the right one. Chop chop! Up to our secret observatory base on the terrace.
What now? The girls are back in the main salon, where two barely-dressed girl DJs turn on the power. Everything is coming of well, judging by the back-and-forth from and to the rooms. The ratio doubled, so they enjoy it doubly. We are sitting at our round table. We won’t have anything to feast our eyes on since orgies are still not featured on our menu, so we continue doing ourselves some good behind that bloody green curtain that is spoiling our view. Patrick asks someone to fetch us some Hennessy XO, and the group orders another crate of Redbull; we smoke a cigar while talking about DSK, whose story just shattered our timelines, they dance to R’n’B music, we totally flutter above it all, and even Mister 10,000 Women starts to slacken, which is good news given how the formerly-ass-banging Hungarian is getting on our nerves.
Meanwhile, someone is getting on the nerves of the organization: a Romanian pimp who wormed his way in and keeps raising his girls’ prices, a rather beefy guy in green sweats. Classy. He just vanished in the thickets or behind a Hummer, for what I know, likely with the pals who took out the girls that disappeared earlier in the evening. He’s been arguing for quite some time; he is the one controlling the Romanian girls on Hungarian territory. The local team tells his to fuck off, and a nice “He’s a barbarian, let’s fuck him over!” bursts out. OK. Why not?
The mist thickens
On the performance side, the party is in full swing and the stakes are raising to know who is going to get the DJ, who didn’t necessarily come to end up on her hands and knees but well, when bills shower down, who pays the piper calls the tune. They are all bashed. One waiter sings out “House grappa! House grappa!” like a drunken clown. We accept on condition that he pours some Redbull in it, but we never get to taste that daring cocktail since the waiter is too wasted to connect his two remaining neurons. We hear some slapping in the far: one of the girls has fun smacking Mister 10,000 Women the lumberjack way; the dude pretends to be impressed before laughing like a madman. Things get a little blurry, we have more and more trouble getting the vibes right, and only pick up interferences and snatches of conversation. Some girls stumble towards us, sweat beading their foreheads because they “loved too much”, when I hear the first bars of Stromae’s “Alors On Danse” resounding in the atmosphere, a hit that crossed the borders to land in this lost domain and warm up the titans’ dance-floor one last time.
The day breaks gently and the first sunbeams bounce upon the scattered empties. The girls vanished by magic, and the last ones are outbound. The bunch that keeps playing with its masks and capes comes and relieves Guilhem from a cigarette or two; no questions, no answers, let’s keep it that way. They all go back to their rooms and we sidle into the part of the salon that was formerly hidden to us. The remains of a high alcohol-content bash blanket the floor, under the stoic eye of a hyena and a monkey. We walk through the ruins, between intact rubbers and torn apart Redbull cans. Not a single drop left. Those chaps are ogres. While we shamble around the manor, awaiting a possible driver, we find a girl lying by the pool, among fallen masks and crushed cigar butts, abandoned elements marking an orgy that didn’t degenerate that much. Those fellas are self-righteous, nothing’s sticking out.
The last survivors are about to hit the road. We bargain our last quarters for a heaven-sent chauffeur and drive off for Budapest quite late in the morning. The humming of the engine cradles our memories, that come in hazier and hazier; sleep is summoning us. We almost smash a car going the other way but keep on trusting our lucky star to bring us back to the soothing shelter of the flat.
A chimera put into orbit
Finally safe, we fall asleep. Budapest is a chimera put into orbit, far, far away from the eyes and morals of the public. Money buys fantasies, money makes dreams concrete and serves them up on a silver platter. Life with billions is made-to-measure to fit your wildest cravings, it’s like living in an amusement park only dedicated to your desires.
Hard to know, given the peripheral point of view we were restricted to, what this bunch of pals really had in mind, whether they considered the girls as elements of the scenery or as a mere service. That two-day parenthesis, away from their families and responsibilities, seems only half-assumed: they were offended by the fact that the girls didn’t have their own rooms, or that there weren’t two soaps in each bathroom… Some signs cannot be misread.
What about you, party girl? Who are you? Prostitute? Escort? Halfway? Are you one or the other, depending on the time of the day? Maybe it’s your clients’ behavior that changes your status. From Berlusconi’s bunga-bungas to the movie sets through Budapest and its orgies, what are your thoughts when you change partners?
We fly back to Paris with those pending questions in mind, even so sad to leave such opulence and facility and go back to our trivial lives, rather drab in comparison. Without money, you cannot jump aboard Porn Star Airlines. There’s nothing you can do but stand and stare… at your screen.
Photos by Guilhem
1 All names have been changed.
2 VisaCard reserved for the very rich.
3 “Ass” in Hungarian.
4 “Pussy” in Hungarian.