"The bastard spawn of unhinged neoliberalism and grinning hippy capitalists. Ayn Rand on a mid-length."
The glamorous Australian billionaire Justin Hemmes, a man who gives women a muscular reaction in their nether parts despite looking like a benevolent old sea turtle, has peeled seventeen million dollars from his billfold to buy a Byron Bay beach shack built in 1962 that last sold for a little under three mill in 2012.
Hemmes, who is fifty, is the driver of his family’s pub, hotel and restaurant fortunes, gobbling up failing venues, giving ‘en a lick of paint and a swish of cool, and turning ‘em into the hottest joints in town.
The sale of the two-bedder at 20 Childe Street, Belongil Beach has set a beachfront record for the gorgeous little sandspit that drew headlines one year ago when a Great White nearly stole the world’s most-loved broadcaster from his fans.
Do you remember? Jed Smith, the rowdy and insolent half of Ain’t That Swell whose writing is part Hemingway, part Mao Zedong and which is a highlight on the Stab website, was surfing four-for brown water tubes when the shark hit.
Smith said the White “smashed a fish near me and did a triple spinning pike flip”. Shortly after, he issued a public service announcement about the encounter, warning surfers of the danger of sharks, all gassed up and feisty as hell as they feed on livestock washed into the ocean.
Belongil ain’t a stranger to hits from Whites.
Four years ago, a Byron surfer had to be airlifted to hozzy after being bitten on the thigh by a juvie White.
A pal described the scene as, “a lot of thrashing and splashing. He started screaming, we didn’t realise until we paddled back to the beach that there was a big chunk taken out of his leg. There was a lot of blood, a lot of bleeding. When I heard the screams he was making in the water and then I saw a chunk of his board floating off, that’s when I realised it was pretty bad. He was conscious but … his eyes were drifting around a bit, he seemed a bit dizzy. He was saying his breathing was labouring … overall I think he was alright, he was just in a bit of shock.”
If you’re wondering, the Hemmes joint is on 20,000 square feet and apart from the two rooms for sexing, has one shitter and a single carport.
Shortly before his disappearance, the writer Longtom , who lives in nearby Lennox Head, penned his best work for BeachGrit with a stinging take on Byron Bay and surrounds.
If New York City is the spiritual and actual home of VAL-lit, inspired, perhaps by Bill Finnegan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, then Byron Bay is it’s Mt Everest, Valhalla and Nirvana. The apex of the peak for the lifestyle obsessed VAL.
Six am and the carparks are packed.
Range Rover, Audis, idle in the carparks, the scent of diesel fumes wafts over the line-up. The serfs have had their hit, time to man and woman the cafes. Byron is Abu Dhabi with cafes and warm-water peelers instead of air-conditioned malls. Euro-babes and Brazilian studs do the coolie labour instead of South Asians.
It’s a monument to greed wearing a spiritual cloak. A glittering dream metastasized into a malignant nightmare. The bastard spawn of unhinged neoliberalism and grinning hippy capitalists running riot in an orgy of aimless consumption in the spiritual supermarket. Ayn Rand on a mid-length.
Glory days. Sorely missed.