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David Vee and Ronnie Biggs in Rio as the last curtain falls.
He actually looked like William Burroughs fragile older brother'.

Rio 2000
We just met Ronnie Biggs & his son Michael, and what a gas, a highlight, the thrill of Rio. What did we expect? A photo yes; an autographed t-shirt, big deal. No. No! No!! This man has style, charm, panache. Sure he had a stroke 6 months ago, but he can walk, shake hands and is extremely lucid. Unfortunately though, he cannot talk (only mumble a few words).

He's on the mend however, 'twas actually his second stroke having had one 2 years earlier. Let's hope he will be eloquent soon. His son was charming; told us stories, gave us a beers, a real entertainer. Here we were in the house of a living legend, -- 'The one that got away' -- and it was tasting truly special.

Let's back up a bit. We'd been in Rio just over a week and it was Carnival 2000. Party, Party, Party-time; Copacabana Beach, The Sambodromo, Christ the Redeemer, soccer at Maracana Stadium. 'Twas all a happenin'; the energy of the city was pumping and YingYing and I were having a goooood span.

We'd telephoned earlier in the week to arrange the meeting. Michael had told us about Ronnies state of health but said a get together could still transpire. Ergo, 5 days later here we were in Santa Teresa, one of Rio's most historic, bohemian and beautiful neighbourhoods chatting with Michael Biggs and learning a few tales about Ronnie. But where was Ron?

We spent a good hour listening to Michael parley as other guests/fans arrived. We heard some great stories about his Dad as well as a few tales about himself. You see Ron had been allowed to stay in Brazil all this time due to the fact that he has a Brazilian son (Michael). 25 years ago the Brit cops had Ron locked up in a Rio gaol ready for the flight back to England, when he learnt -- from another inmate -- about his self made ticket to freedom.

YingYing, I and the other 4 guests ascertained and became attached; 'tis true we were already the converted. Although YingYing had not heard much about him and I had read mostly about him in my youth.

Biggsy junior talked whist Ronnie apparently was getting prepared. Michael showed us an uncompleted movie being made by a musician -- ex Skyhook, Bob Starkie. It was intriguing, informative and showed Ron in his charming laid back bon-vivant style. There was footage of him in Rio and London and details of how he was lucky to escape, twice.

I knew of his recording and video clip with the Sex Pistols, but what I didn't know, is that he was only paid $1,000 for his efforts of singing lead vocals. Yet the song sold 7 million copies. On the movie footage Malcolm McLaren jokingly said, "Ronnie, if you want the money, you'll have to come back to get it." Yeah hup.

I was a mild fan before today, but now I'm yearning for more. He had his 70th birthday in August 1999; invited more than 100 friends from all over the planet to help him celebrate. Ronnies backyard swimming pool waxed replete with English beer and cases of champagne. Old pals, current affiliates and new beaus helped him celebrate night and day for 1 week. Unfortunately it seemed 'twas all too much for Ron, soon after he had his second stroke and was now in rehabilitation.

Then finally, after about 45 mins Ron made his entrance. He was thin, nothing like his photos or film. He actually looked like William Burroughs fragile older brother. He could still walk allright and shook all our hands as he entered. We're all in awe of this frail main. Allowing for his physical condition, the verve in his eyes was amazing. He managed to mumble a few hellos but none of us were sure what to expect next. He seemed a shadow of his past glory days. Ron sat down and Michael resumed his tales.

It was amazing in his house. Forget Carnival -- this got me high. The anticipation, the aura, ambience; his energy not withered at all by age. This guy was a star. A legend, a natural and his son was not far behind. Michael, protagonist of a children's vocal group at age 6 'Turma do Balao Magico' - Magic Balloon Gang. Who had numerous platinum discs and toured all around Brazil, bringing home some big fat cheques. Which came in handy as Sir Ron has never been allowed to work in Brazil. (It's part of his non extradition deal.)

We observed Ronnie and Michael. Questions were asked and photos and films were shown. This man still had presence. Although in the early stages of recovery this gaunt chap bled our emotions without hardly uttering a word. I genuinely fell for this father and son routine.

We heard about his time in Australia; how he had to leave his wife behind; how he managed to stay in Brazil due to having a son. About his 70th birthday. How his autobiography "Odd Man Out" took 1 year to write. We were all on his side. After 2 scintillating hours it was time to leave.

Photos were taken & signed T-shirts were provided (for $30 each). He shook our hands twice as we left; firm and resolute. I wondered why this man would want people to come to his house. Does he need the money? Is it his appetite for fame? Therapy? What I saw in his eyes was a "lust for life", a lust for good times. This man loves people, loves fame. He wants to keep on keeping on. I for one hope he can. And his strength, when he clasped me round my back and squeezed -- as our photo was taken -- gave me a rush and a high shiver that declared he would. Go Ronnie Go -- The man destined to be "The one that got Away"

Of course that will need amending now. 'The one who got away until medical expenses got so high he had to surrender'. Not quite the stuff of legend now, but for time there, Ron was a god.
He's back in blighty now, banged up in the hospital wing. Visiting time will never be the same again. BIGGS update June 4th. Ronnie is in the prison hospital and suspected of having a third stroke. He can hardly speak and his son Michael has been in to see him.
David and yingying

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