Professional Hunter Bunny Allen (1906 - 2002)

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by monish, May 18, 2010.

  1. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Professional Hunter Bunny Allen (1906 - 2002)

    Frank Maurice Allen was born on 17th of April 1906 in Upton Cum Chumley, Buckinghamshire, England. The son of Sibyl Cooper and Robert Charles Allen, he spent much of his youth hunting in Windsor Forest near his grandfather’s farm.

    [​IMG]
    Frank Maurice "Bunny" Allen

    Allen had no formal training in the field, but was a natural. His early success trapping rabbits earned him the nickname “Bunny” from a gypsy hunter named Piramas Berners, and that endearment stuck with him the rest of his life. Allen continued to hone his skills as an outdoorsman and eventually followed his two brothers to Kenya in 1927.

    Following military service during World War II, Allen established himself as a professional safari guide. He would become one of the last great gentleman hunters of Africa, leading safaris for everyone from the Prince of Wales to Mick Jagger. He led a thrilling life of abounding passion and excitement.

    It was his unquenchable sense of adventure, his taste for the fine life and, most importantly, his sensitivity to the people and the places of his time that made him a larger-than-life gentleman guide. Though Allen spent the majority of his life in Africa, he was first and foremost an Englishman.

    Mr. Allen, whose real name was Frank, turned a youthful knack for poaching royal game in Britain into a skill for hunting buffaloes, leopards and elephants with the rich and famous in Africa. He belonged to a coterie of whites in Kenya who consorted with princes, presidents, diplomats and movie stars on luxurious tented expeditions into the savanna where Champagne and mischief flowed as freely as hunters' yarns.

    [​IMG]
    Frank Maurice "Bunny" Allen

    In one interview, he recalled gazing at the face of a leopard as it began to maul him.
    ''I remember thinking to myself, 'What beautiful eyes you have,' '' Mr. Allen said in 1984. An African retainer dispatched the leopard and saved him, he said, a reminder that, while white hunters harvested the glamour, they frequently depended on black Africans. Mr. Allen once said that each of his clients was accompanied by a staff of five Africans.

    Mr. Allen lived long past Kenya's 1977 ban on hunting. He began his African career as an assistant to Bror Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, a big-game hunter of the 1920's and 1930's and lover of Isak Dinesen, author of the novel ''Out of Africa,'' who was married to Bror Blixen.

    There were rumors of a romantic association with Ava Gardner, who traveled to Kenya with other stars, including Clark Gable and Grace Kelly, to make the movie ''Mogambo'' in the early 1950's. Mr. Allen was hired to manage the 300-tent camp in southwestern Kenya for the movie's cast and crew. He was at his peak of his career.
    Earlier, he scouted the Congo River for locations for ''The African Queen,'' starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

    Mr. Allen always denied having an affair with the flier and author Beryl Markham. ''I kissed her in the mornings and I kissed her good night, but never in the middle of the day,'' he was quoted as saying. In the secret code of Kenya's licentious ''Happy Valley'' set of aristocrats and settlers, kissing someone in the middle of the day was said to mean romance.

    Otherwise, he did nothing to dispute his reputation as a Lothario. On a hunting safari, he once said ''emotions are stirred which spill over into the evening. Affairs are inevitable.''

    But he insisted on discretion. His son David said: ''One piece of advice Bunny did give me was: no matter who you go to bed with, don't tell anyone. If the woman wants to talk about it, that's up to her. It's her reputation.''

    Claiming to be a descendent of gypsies, Mr. Allen arrived in Kenya from Britain in 1927 looking for work as an apprentice hunter and set up his own safari companies, hunting with Philip Percival, the model for the character Pop in Ernest Hemingway's ''Green Hills of Africa.''

    Like other safari hunters, whose way of life was resented by Kenya's first generation of African leaders as a colonial relic, Mr. Allen had his share of brushes with buffaloes and lions. He liked to tell the story of a lion breaking his nose only to chip its claws in the process. Bunny Allen, the last of a generation of professional hunters in East Africa who prided themselves on having as sharp an eye for their clients' wives as for their four-legged quarry, died peacefully at his home in 2002 at the age of 96 on the Indian Ocean island of Lamu . He is survived by his second wife, Jeri; a daughter, Lavinia; another son, Anton; and six grandchildren.

    [​IMG]
    A Gypsy in Africa by Frank Maurice "Bunny" Allen

    Bunny Allen, 95, Hunter; Found Fame in East Africa - Obituary; Biography - NYTimes.com
    by Alan Cowell
    published February 16, 2002


    Bunny Allen, the last of a generation of professional hunters in East Africa who prided themselves on having as sharp an eye for their clients' wives as for their four-legged quarry, died at his home on the Indian Ocean island of Lamu last month, his family said.

    He was 95.

    Mr. Allen, whose real name was Frank, turned a youthful knack for poaching royal game in Britain into a skill for hunting buffaloes, leopards and elephants with the rich and famous in Africa. He belonged to a coterie of whites in Kenya who consorted with princes, presidents, diplomats and movie stars on luxurious tented expeditions into the savanna where Champagne and mischief flowed as freely as hunters' yarns.

    In one interview, he recalled gazing at the face of a leopard as it began to maul him.

    ''I remember thinking to myself, 'What beautiful eyes you have,' '' Mr. Allen said in 1984. An African retainer dispatched the leopard and saved him, he said, a reminder that, while white hunters harvested the glamour, they frequently depended on black Africans. Mr. Allen once said that each of his clients was accompanied by a staff of five Africans.

    Mr. Allen lived long past Kenya's 1977 ban on hunting. He began his African career as an assistant to Bror Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, a big-game hunter of the 1920's and 1930's and lover of Isak Dinesen, author of the novel ''Out of Africa,'' who was married to Bror Blixen.

    There were rumors of a romantic association with Ava Gardner, who traveled to Kenya with other stars, including Clark Gable and Grace Kelly, to make the movie ''Mogambo'' in the early 1950's. Mr. Allen was hired to manage the 300-tent camp in southwestern Kenya for the movie's cast and crew.

    ''I think it was the peak of his career,'' his son David said in a telephone interview from Nairobi, Kenya. ''It was his biggest camp under canvas, with over 1,000 people.''

    Earlier, he scouted the Congo River for locations for ''The African Queen,'' starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

    Mr. Allen always denied having an affair with the flier and author Beryl Markham. ''I kissed her in the mornings and I kissed her good night, but never in the middle of the day,'' he was quoted as saying. In the secret code of Kenya's licentious ''Happy Valley'' set of aristocrats and settlers, kissing someone in the middle of the day was said to mean romance.

    Otherwise, he did nothing to dispute his reputation as a Lothario. On a hunting safari, he once said ''emotions are stirred which spill over into the evening. Affairs are inevitable.''

    But he insisted on discretion. His son David said: ''One piece of advice Bunny did give me was: no matter who you go to bed with, don't tell anyone. If the woman wants to talk about it, that's up to her. It's her reputation.''

    Claiming to be a descendent of gypsies, Mr. Allen arrived in Kenya from Britain in 1927 looking for work as an apprentice hunter and set up his own safari companies, hunting with Philip Percival, the model for the character Pop in Ernest Hemingway's ''Green Hills of Africa.''

    Like other safari hunters, whose way of life was resented by Kenya's first generation of African leaders as a colonial relic, Mr. Allen had his share of brushes with buffaloes and lions. He liked to tell the story of a lion breaking his nose only to chip its claws in the process.

    But he died peacefully, his son David said. He is survived by his second wife, Jeri; a daughter, Lavinia; another son, Anton; and six grandchildren.


    Monish
     
  2. TOM

    TOM AH Elite

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    His books ("wheel of life" and another title) are pretty decent reads. Some talk of his romantic endeavors with clients wives / girlfriends and some hunting. Interesting fellow for sure.
     
  3. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Tom,

    You bet a very flamboyant gentleman Hunter . His books are interesting reads and his love for his .450/400 Westley Richards and numerous of his women friends.

    Monish
     
  4. Skyline

    Skyline AH Fanatic

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    Personally I thought the book was just barely tolerable. The term "legend in his own mind" would seem to fit and the womanizing aspect to the book was over the top and didn't add to the book, instead it detracts from the book. I had trouble finishing the book because it just didn't do it for me. There are way better reads out there. I am glad I read someone else's copy and didn't spend my money on it or I would have really been disappointed.
     
  5. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Kelly,

    Was it ??? The guy did have a celebrity status amongst his peers at that time I believe , handling all the worlds elite clientele , ought to be a self styled Legend , my guess.

    Monish
     
  6. Skyline

    Skyline AH Fanatic

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    Each to their own Monish. I don't care for his style. The market has been flooded with books by PH's these days because of the big market for 'Africana', but that does not mean all of them are a great read. Some are very good, some are mediocre and some just aren't that great. For me this one fell into the "just aren't that great" category.
     
  7. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Bunny Allen, Eva Gardner & Clark Gable during the film shooting of "MOGAMBO"

    [​IMG]

    Monish
     
  8. Showbart

    Showbart New Member

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    Bunny's Westley Richards double rifle was a 450 NE, not a 450/400.
     
  9. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    He had one 450/400 NE 3 one forth inches box lock too in 24 inch barrel by Westley Richards & a 450 NE in a side lock .
     
  10. Showbart

    Showbart New Member

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    Don't know the source of your info, but I'd wager his son has it right. No he didn't have a 450/400, by any maker. He used a 470 Rigby box lock for years and his favorite was the WR, in 450, and it was a boxlock, with detachable drop locks. The family sold this a few years back.
     
  11. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Show Bart,

    My maternal Uncle had hunted with Bunny in the 50s, I have his African safari diary which he use to maintain , in it he has mentioned about one of the Bunny's rifles being a 450/400 by WR , may be he had the error of judgment about the caliber, since the most authentic information can only be with his son .

    Thanks for the info.

    Monish
     
  12. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    The Last of the Great White Hunters

    The Last of the Great White Hunters
    by Don Meredith

    Bunny Allen remembers Beryl Markham, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, Tabe and the charging Elephants and a close encounter with a Leopard.

    It's a hot hour's walk along the waterfront from my Kenyan home to the village of Shella on the northeast corner of the island of Lamu. But the rewards are a cooling swim from a beach of fine silvery sand, a cold Tusker on the terrace at Peponi Hotel and a visit with Bunny and Jeri Allen at their Arab-Swahili house on the seafront.

    Second gun to Denys Finch Hatton on the 1928 Prince of Wales safari and reputedly one of aviator-author Beryl Markham's legion of lovers, Bunny hunted with Bror Blixen as well as Finch Hatton, J.A. Hunter and Philip Percival, the doyen of African safari guides immortalized as Pop in Ernest Hemingway's "The Green Hills of Africa." When this legendary foursome went on that great safari in the sky, Bunny became the premier professional hunter in East Africa. The last of a tough, gentlemanly breed.

    At 92 Bunny is a handsome old dog with dark bedroom eyes and a high, intelligent forehead. He wears a single golden hoop in his left ear, his magnificent nose has been broken three times, most recently by a pouncing leopard, and the ring finger of his left hand is missing. "Torn off in a Land Rover door on Nanyuki High Street," he says, waving the vanished digit. "Don't miss it a bit. All it ever did was get in my way. When it went, sliced right through, I caught the gold ring in my right hand but the finger dropped into a ditch. An Indian grocer found it and gave it to me a week later. Deep blue it was ... and useless as ever."

    We speak of our mutual friend, retired California restaurateur George Gutekunst. In the early '80s, Gutekunst, while reading Hemingway's "Selected Letters," ran across the author's missive to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, praising Markham's "West With the Night." Intrigued by Hemingway's uncommon tribute for another's work, Gutekunst found a copy of the Markham book in his local library -- checked out but seven times since its 1942 publication -- and read it through at one sitting. A man of impeccable literary taste, Gutekunst knew he'd disinterred a masterpiece and, with the aid of author Evan Connell, initiated the book's republication by North Point Press.

    When Gutekunst came to East Africa to meet Markham and to film "A World Without Walls," a public television documentary about Markham's extraordinary life, he met "everyone" in Kenya, including the charismatic Bunny, a featured "witness" in the film. Talk of Gutekunst inevitably leads to Beryl. "Beryl Markham was a good brave girl, all guts and a heart of gold. The first person to fly solo from east to west across the Atlantic. A good, good girl," muses Bunny.

    "Good?" I ask, surprised by Bunny's choice of adjective for the notoriously seductive Markham.

    "Yes, yes, brave and good, very good. Beryl brought much pleasure to many people."

    "And you, Bunny? Did she bring you much pleasure?"

    "Me? Me? Oh, never, absolutely not. I kissed her in the morning and kissed her goodnight, but never in the middle of the day -- and the middle of the day means romance."

    Born, he claims, of Gypsy stock and raised in Windsor in the south of England on the Thames, Bunny earned his nickname as a boy skilled at snaring rabbits. He took the hunting skills learned from his Gypsy mentor, Piramus Berners, in Windsor Forest and applied them to stalking wildlife in Africa. "I shot perhaps 50 elephant doing control work. When they came in and trampled crops, killing people and destroying villages, we had to protect local Africans. I shot a few lion and some leopard -- who were always taking our cattle when I farmed on the slopes of Mount Kenya. More often I was called upon to kill Cape buffalo. They're quite the most dangerous animal in Africa -- I'm sure they take more human life than any other. Though I grew quite tired of killing, I'd shoot a buffalo today if I had the chance."

    Bunny's son David, a professional bush pilot, has taken over his father's safari business. Today, the safaris are strictly photographic, but when trophy hunting was the game, David and his brother Anton were often Bunny's back-up hunters. David, who has flown in this morning from Nairobi, now joins us under the umbrella thorns in Bunny's garden. "Once we were stalking buffalo," he says, stroking his silver beard, "when we rounded a clump of bush and five buffalo rushed out and came straight for us. Bunny stepped in front and shot the first two bulls. With the third bull on him, he fired again: Click. No shots left. Bunny dropped his rifle, grasped the animal's horns and vaulted onto his back."

    "Luckily, his horns didn't touch me." Bunny says, looking back on those years. "I must have ridden 40 or 50 yards up there."

    "Then I got him in range and fired," continues David, "praying my bullet wouldn't hit Bunny. When it slammed into the buffalo's brain, he did a somersault and Bunny disappeared under him. 'My God,' I thought, 'I've killed my father.'"

    "Not a bit of it," says Bunny, laughing. "I went under the beast's belly. Soft and warm it was in there ... lovely spot to snuggle down."

    Shooting straight is important to a professional hunter, but talking diplomatically, not necessarily straight, is equally so. "A month in the bush can bring friction between husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, mothers-in-law and sons-in-law. A good safari guide has to spread oil on the waters; he wants everyone around the fire in the evening happy and content." Bror Blixen, one-time husband of Karen Blixen, author of "Out of Africa," was renowned for his cool courage, knowledge of the bush and uncanny skill with a gun. But if Bror had a bottle of gin and a comfy chair, his safari clients could go thirsty or come to blows for all he cared. Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen's lover, went to the other extreme, providing chilled champagne served in crystal flutes. Bunny struck a happy medium. "I saw that everyone was comfortable and enjoying themselves. I was never one to take out clients for the sole purpose of piling up trophies."

    "Bunny always saw that no one went out exclusively with one hunter," David says. "It was one way of keeping clients happy. Bunny would take someone one day, I'd have someone else, Anton another. Next day, we'd swap. Bunny got mine, while I took Anton's. At safari's end no one complained they'd got the worst of it because they weren't with whomever they thought was the best hunter."

    Protecting safari clients from themselves and the wildlife was the white hunter's biggest worry. An oil man from Big Springs, Texas, and his country-club wife weren't necessarily experts in bush lore or handy with guns. If someone failed to make a clean shot and only wounded their quarry, it was Bunny, with his savvy Kipsigi gun bearers Kikunyu and Tabe, who had to track and finish it -- "though, if possible, I brought the hunter on at the last to take the final shot," he says. Trailing a wounded buffalo or lion across rough country can be risky.

    This was how Bunny's nose was so beautifully broken. "I took a young woman out for leopard. Women always wanted a leopard, while men wanted lion and elephant. This girl was a fine shot, but on this morning she only wounded the animal and completely missed her second shot. The leopard went down through a crack in some rocks and disappeared into a cave. When I went in, he was on a shelf of rock five feet above me. I was knocked flat when he pounced. He swiped a paw across my face and broke my nose. I was pinned, the leopard's muzzle snuggled into the hollow of my neck. I must say, I was frightened for a moment, but he didn't actually bite me. What I mistook for blood was only saliva. I remember his eyes, amber they were. Golden-amber. We gazed at one another, just inches apart, and I thought only of the beauty of those eyes."

    David gazes affectionately at his father. "I've never known Bunny to be frightened of anything."
    "Well, I was very lucky," says Bunny, "because suddenly the animal moved off and was gone. Only badly scratched, I was, and my nose broken. Lucky indeed."

    The 1950s were a time when African adventure yarns were part of the regular fare in neighborhood movie palaces. Bunny worked on several films, among them "King Solomon's Mines," "Mogambo" and "Nor the Moon by Night." This last film made Bunny's reputation as master of the elephant charge. "The first day Anton and I got what Hollywood wanted, a single bull to charge within 20 feet of the camera where, standing in for the hero, I shot it. The cameras were on automatic, the director and crew safely behind an outcropping of rocks."

    The director, who seemed to believe wild animals were ordered like extras from Central Casting, then asked Bunny to maneuver a herd of 35 elephants so that they would pass just yards in front of the cameras. "Just be certain they charge from right to left!" Bunny says, mimicking the man from Hollywood. "'Won't from left to right do?' I asked. My warped humor sailed right over his head. 'No,' the man said, 'better be right to left, that's where our hero's standing.'"

    Bunny and Anton moved the elephants to where they might be driven within camera range -- right to left. While Anton did the driving, Bunny, wearing the hero's hat and vest and carrying his beloved Rigby .470, stood before the cameras. "Well, the elephants started to move beautifully and correctly ... then they abruptly stopped. They'd caught our foul odor and fanned out to face us. They muttered together a few minutes, then came straight at the cameras, the crew, the director and me. Thirty-five trunks were raised. There were screams, bellows and roars, the cracking of trees. They came on and on until I shouted over my shoulder at the crew, 'Scram, you chaps!' They ran, but the cameras ground faithfully on. At 20 yards I knocked the leader down. The rest pulled up, muttered again, then an enormous old cow filled the rank and on they came."

    When I saw this movie as a boy, I thought the elephant charge was tricky camera work or animals borrowed from Barnum and Bailey's Circus that were really quite tame. Seeing a clip of this charge today, I realize how horrifying it was. While the crew, led by the director, fled in terror, Bunny was left alone. "We'd killed one elephant so that the film's hero could pose with his trophy, and now this second bull. We had no license for a third -- so I placed a shot two inches over the old cow's head. That stopped her and the elephants milled about, thinking it over." Drawn up in his garden chair, Bunny swings his head from side to side in a telling impersonation of a contemplative elephant. "At last they decided to steer clear and went back the way they'd come." Bunny laughs softly. "When Anton and I saw the film in Nairobi a few months later, I must say we were amazed how well it all turned out."

    Bunny's legend doesn't rest on his hunting laurels alone -- he was also a notorious man with the ladies. "Bunny cut a terrible swath among the women," says his wife, Jeri, pretty, petite and 10 years Bunny's junior. "A safari wasn't a safari unless Bunny had an affair. You could usually tell when the clients gathered around the campfire the first evening which it would be."

    Bunny blushes, glances shyly around, rustles his feet in the acacia leaves, looking more like a contemplative elephant than ever.

    "Once he took a beautiful American woman, her husband and their gorgeous 20-year-old daughter on safari," says Jeri, her sweet voice edged with fluting laughter. "The girl took a fancy to Bunny, and the first night slipped into Bunny's tent and his bed. A half-hour later, mother did the same."
    "Well, there have been stories," Bunny says. "But I always came home."

    "I cut him a lot of rope," says Jeri, "but when he'd gone far enough, I reeled him in."
    "I've an eye for beauty, I believe," says Bunny, a dedicated amateur painter. "Not just a beautiful girl, but a beautiful landscape or a beautiful animal. But a beautiful girl, certainly."

    Bunny played an integral role in the biggest safari in East African history, which moved out of Nairobi and made camp on the Kagera River, where Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda meet, to film MGM's. "Mogambo," directed by John Ford and starring Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner. It would be "a big picture -- we're big!" Sam Goldwyn had assured Bunny when they met in Hollywood. Goldwyn hired Bunny to run the safari -- which required feeding and bedding 500 people under canvas 300 miles from Nairobi, the source of all supplies. Bunny also acted as white hunter and Gable's stand-in. Bunny's longtime hunter-companion played Gable's gun bearer.

    Gardner was married to Frank Sinatra at the time, and things weren't going well in their marriage. Sinatra hung around camp with nothing to do -- he couldn't stay and he couldn't go. "A petty chap, I thought," says Bunny. "He looked so unhappy. Though I can't say I disliked him. He was quite wonderful at Christmas, crooning carols. He began with 'Noel' and all the Africans, quite spontaneously, joined in the chorus, singing mightily in their native languages. Sinatra was stunned and quite moved. He helped make it a splendid Christmas."

    Though he found Ford "a difficult old man to deal with -- a real bully," Bunny got on well with the stars, bringing Gable in on a scheme to rid the camp of troublesome lions and, of course, he found Kelly and Gardner irresistible.

    Was it true Bunny had a love affair with Gardner during the filming? For the first time all afternoon, Bunny leaves us, sliding into some deep and mysterious drawer in his memory. When he speaks, it's to himself and to someone far inside. "Ava Gardner was a lovely girl. A beautiful body, a beautiful character. I loved her. A fine, fine girl -- she will always be in my mind and in my heart. A sweet girl."

    As if on cue, the house man, Samuel Katana, who has been with Bunny and Jeri for years, brings a tray of drinks. We help ourselves while Bunny slowly comes back to the party.

    David nods as Katana leaves. "It's because of people like Katana, wonderful Africans, that life here is not only possible, but full. If my father hadn't had Kikunyu and Tabe, he could never have done what he did -- all his success was predicated on them. Some people call them 'gun bearers,' but I find that inadequate. I prefer 'hunter-companions.'"

    "I depended on them entirely," says Bunny, back from his solo voyage with Ava Gardner. "When Kikunyu went on to better things after 'Mogambo,' Tabe became my head bearer. He was a superb rider and, when I had several horses, helped me train them. He was wonderful company, ran my camps, tracked game, read the bush, was there to put in the killing shot when it was needed. A half-dozen times he saved my life by steering me around wounded buffalo in the bush. When we were separated out there, I tell you, I was lonely and uncertain. He knew everything. He was a fine man."

    When Jeri and Bunny came to Lamu, Tabe followed them to the coast and lived nearby. "He came to me one night," Bunny says, moving into private memory once more, "complaining of stomach cramp. I massaged him with lion fat -- always keep lion fat for the purpose -- and he felt a bit better. In the morning his wife came to say he was improved. A quarter hour later, as I was finishing breakfast and getting ready to go over to see him, she was back. 'Tabe died,' she said." Tears mist Bunny's eyes as he looks back on that morning. "I can tell you, we were pretty broken up around here."

    Late afternoon and monsoon clouds pile up across the water at Ras Kitau. A hundred yards beyond the sprawling house Bunny began building 35 years ago and has never quite finished, I climb through the village and up a low hill to a small cemetery. Here, in the shade of casurina trees, stands the headstone Bunny erected to honor his companion of so many hunts -- whom someday, one supposes, Bunny will join on this Shella hilltop for their last safari:
    Tabe Arap Tilmet
    1920-1983
    A Fine Man.

    Don Meredith is Wanderlust's Africa correspondent. He lives in Lamu, Kenya.


    Monish
     
  13. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Last of the Great White Hunters

    Last of the Great White Hunters
    by Bunny Allen

    A KISS in the middle of the day meant romance, a kiss at night meant you were just good friends - even if you were also bedmates. This was the secret code of Happy Valley, Kenya's notoriously adulterous expatriate community, according to one of the last of the Great White Hunters, Bunny Allen.

    Allen, who has died at the grand old age of 95, was the practised seducer who dared to cuckold the passionately jealous Frank Sinatra when he was married to Ava Gardner.

    'A beautiful girl, a beautiful character, a beautiful walk,' was his verdict on their liaison - wisely carried on in the middle of Africa, far away from Sinatra's gangster friends, while she was making the John Ford movie Mogambo.

    'A petty chap,' Allen called Sinatra, although Ava got on well with his wife Murielle, who was wardrobe mistress on the film.

    'Do you see what I see?' exclaimed Ava as 1,000 Samburu warriors with spears squatted down on the set in their red silk robes with no underwear.

    Murielle leapt to the rescue with kilt pins to ensure the modesty of those in the front rank.

    Allen used to say that the way to succeed with women was never to talk about your conquests - but after his fifth whisky, the rules would become blurred.

    He would give strong hints that he seduced Grace Kelly, who was also in Mogambo.

    'Grace was very pretty,' he used to say, 'but she didn't appeal to me so much. Clark Gable agreed with me. He was having an affair with Grace at the beginning of filming, and switched to Ava halfway through.'

    Ava was equally flattering about Bunny. 'He was the kind of man any girl would trust to lead her into the jungle,' she remembered.

    HIS appealing manner made him one of the most popular hunters during the heyday of shooting safaris, when real men rushed to the dark continent to slaughter its mighty animals, returning home to nail their victims' heads over their mantelpieces and spread their pelts triumphantly on the floor.

    Allen, who arrived in Africa at the age of 21, was taken out on his first professional safari by Bror Blixen, husband of Karen Blixen - the character portrayed by Meryl Streep in Out Of Africa.

    Later, Allen took the Prince of Wales on his 1928 safari, and hunted with Philip Percival, whom Ernest Hemingway immortalised as Pop in his book The Green Hills Of Africa.

    Tall, aquiline Bunny, with his gipsy genes and wandering eye, took some of the most famous American stars into the bush, sleeping under canvas with them and guarding them with a gun ever at his fingertips.

    He used to boast that he once killed a charging rhino with a Masai spear, and dispatched three more with a gun in 20 seconds.

    Once, when he ran out of ammunition just as an angry buffalo attacked, he charged the animal like a matador, swinging himself up onto its back by its horns until someone else shot it.

    Beside these challenges, the odd seduction was a welcome respite - more than that, it was expected.

    Bored young colonial wives, with their children safely packed off to boarding school back in England, turned to the neverending wife-swopping parties for amusement.

    Aristocrats hopped in and out of each others' beds, provoking wild jealousies and one notorious unsolved murder - that of Lord Erroll, as recorded in the film White Mischief.

    Hollywood was fascinated by the place, and actors such as John Wayne, Clark Gable, Stewart Granger, William Holden and Bing Crosby were dispatched to impersonate men like Bunny Allen, who were already a dying breed.

    Bunny's hunting tales were legendary. He would proudly talk about the scars of combat, including a bad hip - the result of being gored by a buffalo - and a nose which had been broken by a lion. 'He chipped his claws in the process,' he boasted, and hung the creature's claws around his neck as a decoration.

    At other times he said his nose had been bitten by a leopard, and sported a leopard's tooth necklace instead.

    WOMEN went weak at the knees just listening to Allen. One former nightclub dancer from America organised an allfemale expedition into the jungle to meet him, on Ava Gardner's recommendation. He charged them [pound]900 a time to show them the ropes - a lot of money in the Fifties.

    On another occasion, a party of 14 girls, woken by a roaring lion in the middle of the night, rushed to his tent in terror. Allen had to calm them down with a lecture about the true nature of the king of beasts.

    'A lion will lose interest in the hunt if he is forced to chase his prey for more than 50 yards,' he told them. 'On the other hand, he will fuss over a lioness, wooing her by licking her ears, her legs and her tail.' Many of his clients succumbed to his charms, as did the local expatriates, including the pioneering aviator Beryl Markham.

    Allen would remember with affection 'the look in her eye... and her thighs.'

    'A hunter's life is primitive stuff, and not just during the day,' he once explained. 'It's intimate, and things happen. Emotions are stirred which spill over into the evening; affairs are inevitable.'

    He also knew Joy Adamson, the Born Free authoress. 'She was fairly sexed up,' he used to say.

    Bunny travelled a long way from his origins as a gipsy boy in Kent, who learned to shoot by poaching game in the grounds of Windsor Castle in order to feed his extended family. Christened Frank, he got his nickname Bunny because he was good at snaring rabbits.

    In 1927 he arrived in Kenya with less than [pound]100 in his pocket, looking for work as an apprentice to a professional hunter.

    He honed his hunting skills with Denys Finch-Hatton (played by Robert Redford in Out Of Africa), organised buffalo hunts for Prince Aly Khan, and led the most expensive safari ever, at a cost of [pound] 10,000 a day.

    He used to say he learned about lions during World War II, when he was acting regimental sergeant major in the King's African Rifles, fighting the Italians in Somaliland.

    The soldiers' clashes would leave dead bodies to be picked at by animals in the night, giving them a taste for human blood. This led to a plague of man-eating lions, and local people asked the soldiers for help to keep them at bay.

    Allen was taught to track the animals by the warrior tribesmen whom he commanded, and succeeded in eliminating two maneaters who were sunning themselves-on a bluff after having feasted on a villager.

    He filled in his report, stating they had been out looking for Italians: 'Patrol passed without incident. No sign of the enemy.

    Ten rounds of ammunition expended. Two lions dead.' He also said the Italians sent him a note, thanking him with the words: 'Please can you pass on our hearty congratulations to those who got rid of the man-hunters.

    We can now get on with the war.' They signed it 'Twinkletoes'.

    Hunting was later outlawed in Kenya, but Allen never forgot the good old days.

    Wearing a gold ring in his left ear, he retired to a Kenyan coastal village where he would walk the beach bare-chested and bronzed, relishing the stares of women.

    He also expounded his contempt for contemporary poachers, whose bloodlust and wasteful killing far exceeded that of the white hunters.

    Allen claimed he had shot fewer than 100 elephants, while some new poachers claimed the lives of thousands. In the end, he lost his taste for killing.

    'The older I've got, the more I've hated killing anything, including snakes.

    I think they all have a job in life.'

    His son, David, a gamekeeper who lost his virginity to one of his father's married conquests, visited him last month. David, who is 70 years old, thought his father was looking weary, and knew it was the last time he would see him. 'Why don't you just take a long rest?' he said to his father.

    'We'll all catch up with you sooner or later.' Allen laughed and said: 'Where? In Heaven?'

    'Yup, in Heaven,' David said.

    'See you in Heaven, then,' his father replied.

    A week later, Bunny Allen died quietly in his sleep.


    Monish
     

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