Over the edge in Acapulco
The La Quebrada cliff divers jump from 150ft and enter the Pacific three seconds later at 50mph. It’s spectacular but over in a flash, writes Kevin Pilley
‘YOU LIKE to party? Acapulco is the hard-partying town!” Benny masters his nerves by talking. He likes to talk and only has a mild interest in listening. His garrulity he identifies as “charisma”. He is a sort you often meet on a tour.
Benny is from Miami and we met on the pick-up bus to the famous cliff diving show. He can’t get enough of it. He has seen it eight times. With five different wives.
His latest he met online and courted via Skype. Her make-up looked more Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel. Her expression suggested a cataract operation was the dowry.
Benny is a serial divorcee and a tailor, specialises in stoles. “Benny says it’s a great show,” his new bride said. Her smile made her look like she had just eaten all the things in the world that give you terrible wind.
We cruised down L’Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán named after the president who, by building the Sun Highway from Mexico City, invented Mexico’s first tourist resort. When Cancun was just a twinkle in a Tikki hut mogul’s eye.
“Got more rubbers than any road anywhere,” said Benny, referring to the trees. The South African couple in the back of the tour bus remained resolutely Trappist.
The “stuff yourself stupid buffet breakfast” and “waffle clearance sale” signs flashed past. Bars advertised “happy hour, drunks welcome”.
Acapulco is Benny’s favourite holiday destination. “It’s dynamite. Vegas-on-sea. Reno on the ocean.”
He talked it up. The only thing our driver managed to contribute was Acapulco means “place of the big reeds. It’s got everything. Seal shows and water parks. The works.”
“Awesome shopping too,” swooned Mrs Benny, her new eyes agog at the malls.
“The weather too. Don’t forget all the great sun,” she nodded, not relaxing her grip on her husband’s cranberry crinolines.
“That’s why it’s a resort, honey. You can’t have a resort without sun,” said Benny.
He gave me a big expert smile. His expression made it known that he wasn’t letting his prostate blight his vacation. The PR continued. “Lana Turner lived here. Kissinger honeymooned here. What’s good enough for Henry is good enough for me.”
The mouth motored. “It’s got a great aquarium if fish is your thing. Golf, too, if you like dressing like a pimp.”
We passed Planet Hollywood. “Rambo was filmed here,” said Benny, apropos of culture. “Rambo 2, corrected Mrs Benny. “And The African Queen.”
WE ARRIVED AT La Mirador hotel where the famous La Quebrada cliff divers have been plunging into swirling currents from a tiny ledge since 1934. The walls of La Perla restaurant are covered with the scrawls of Sinatra and Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller who is buried in the town cemetery. The divers perform four times daily. You can watch from the terrace over an alfresco dinner.
“Enjoy,” said Benny, escorting his wife to his usual table to consummate his sixth marriage over re-fried beans.
Acapulco became famous in the 1950s when John Wayne and his coco loco cocktail cronies bought the Los Flamingos hotel, turning it into a private club.
Overcome by a predictable sense of anti-climax, I watched the divers climb the sheer cliff face 150ft up, pray at a shrine and then execute their half-pikes and double-gainers against the night sky. They are mid-air for three seconds and enter the water head-first at 50mph. The channel is 13ft deep and 7ft wide. It is billed as the “world’s first extreme sport spectacle”. Timing is crucial if you don’t want to haemorrhage.
“I wouldn’t do it myself,” said Benny, not specifying whether he meant diving or wearing Speedos. When Benny went off to the restroom the waiter told me the jobs are sinecured. The current divers are aged between 12 and 30.
After the Pacific had been ignited for the finale, one diver approached Benny. He was still dripping. But not singed.
Benny unfurled some notes. “Great show, kid. Get yourself a new towel.”
He shrugged. “His brain will be mush before he’s 20. Gives me a migraine just watching them hit the water.”
Mrs Benny nodded. Suggesting that she knew all about brain trauma.