Home' Christchurch Mail : October 11th 2012 Contents 6 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, OCTOBER 11, 2012
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By ANNA PRICE
NUKE BUNKER: Dave Bolam-Smith in
the bunker of Hotel Internacional de
Cuba with memorabilia of the
infamous Bay of Pigs incidents when
the two big powers, the United States
and Russia, teetered on the brink of
nuclear war in 1962.
GLORY DAYS: The celebrated Hotel Internacional de Cuba where legends such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, the
Mafia and Winston Churchill stayed. Christchurch man Dave Bolam-Smith slept in the suite reserved for Sinatra.
ON EDGE: Part of Cuba's reminder of
the nuclear-teetering Bay of Pigs
brinkmanship. Dave Bolam-Smith
mulled many memorable moments
on his two weeks in Cuba.
OLD SCHOOL: The historic and the
nostalgic jostle for attention in the
lobby in the Hotel Internacional de
A RARE glimpse into the Cuban
mindset in the lead-up to the 1962
Bay of Pigs nuclear showdown
added to the allure of the Carib-
bean island nation for Christ-
church man David Bolam-Smith
during a memorable two weeks.
Notwithstanding shades of
1950s high rollers in elaborate
casinos, or bearded revolutionar-
ies chomping on their stogies, his
descent into a war bunker from
the garden of his hotel was unfor-
Being ex-army, I was incred-
ibly interested in the Bay of Pigs.
I imagine I was very privileged to
be escorted down there.''
He was led into the garden of
the Hotel Internacional de Cuba
where he stayed, and to a door to
a labyrinth of tunnels.
It was a vivid reminder of the
tense times when Russia was
shipping missiles and military
supplies to Cuba, but the big
powers under presidents Kennedy
and Khruschev cut a secret deal.
Kennedy offered to withdraw
American missiles from Turkey in
return for Russia removing mis-
siles from Cuba. It gave
Khruschev an opportunity to back
down without losing face.
We lived through the Cuban
missile crisis. It was probably a
time we will never forget, living
on edge for two or three weeks,
only hours from nuclear war,'' Mr
I wanted to go to Cuba at this
time before the Americans went
back, because there are signs of
the stand-off thawing. I wanted to
get there and see Cuba as it is.''
He and his wife Junko were
greeted with open arms.
A huge'' Sinatra fan, he found
in the hotel's historic wing a heri-
tage plaque on the door of room
214 -- Frank Sinatra's room.
I thought it would be really
coolifIcouldstayinhisroom. . .
I asked the manager could a Kiwi
from other side of the world stay
there? He said . . . he would look
When I checked in on my
return he popped his head out the
door and said: You're booked into
I guess I was pretty lucky. It
was a super king -- just a very
average large bed. It was just to
be in the room with the history of
it all, just lying there wondering
what went on in the room next
door with the men from the Mafia
coming back from concerts --
imagine the parties.''
The big balcony outside could
have entertained heaps, the
plush, dark red velvet chairs
. . .Churchill,
Sinatra, and the Mafia had all
stayed at this hotel. It was mis-
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