Talk about kicking a guy while he's down. It wasn't enough that soggy, shaken Simon Le Bon, 26, and his brother Jonathan, 20, had narrowly escaped death. Suddenly, the millionaire singer was faced with the insurance problem. The problem was, there wasn't any insurance. It seems that when Le Bon and partners Paul and Michael Berrow (the brothers who manage Duran Duran) purchased the 77-foot state-of-the-art Maxi yacht last March, they decided a $40,800 annual premium was too high to pay. Are they sorry? "Of course," said a dejected Le Bon.
Twenty-four hours later the British press jumped on Le Bon's case with both feet. Headlines like "Simon Snubs Hero Who Saved Him" blared from tabloid pages. The stories claimed that Le Bon had stood up Navy Petty Officer Larry Slater, the diver who rescued him. Rubbish, countered Le Bon, who promised the two would meet "soon." And they did—last Tuesday night at the Falmouth Hotel, where Le Bon was recuperating from his ordeal.
If that wasn't enough, there was talk that Princess Diana had been quietly intimating that Duran Duran was no longer her favorite group. She doesn't even really like the band, say those in the know; she reportedly prefers Phil Collins and Dire Straits.
Le Bon's horrendous week may be over, but his headaches are just beginning. He and his partners are still overseeing salvage operations. The price tag could be enormous: There is speculation that towing and repairs could cost more than $400,000. Nevertheless, they hope to fix the boat in time for next month's perilous 27,000-mile Round-the-World Whitbread Race, which has been called "every sailor's Everest."
What caused the Fastnet mishap? It's still a mystery. The boat's designer, New Zealander Ron Holland, 38, flew in from Ireland last week to inspect the remains. He is "totally mystified," he. says, calling the accident "a freak." The crew's captain, American Skip Novak, a respected racing veteran who met Le Bon last fall at the Swan World Cup in Sardinia, hinted that the accident might have been caused by a structural flaw. "You should be able to drive that boat to hell and back and not have the keel fall off," he declared.
Le Bon has dreamed of sailing ever since a vicar took him on an outing to the Norfolk Broads as a schoolboy. As his passion for the sport has grown—he now divides his time almost equally between music and sailing—so has his parents' concern. "Ever since we realized Simon wanted to sail, we have been bracing ourselves for something like this," says his mother, Anne. Still, John Le Bon believes a man's got to do what a man's got to do. "They look upon it as a challenge," he allows of his sailing sons. "My only advice to them is to keep an eye on each other."
The elder Le Bons were home watching TV when the news came. "We got a mysterious phone call from someone who said, 'You are going to hear something on the news that there has been an accident to the Drum,' " Anne recalls. " 'It is bad news but everyone is safe.' " Then the caller hung up before the Le Bons could get his name. Anne chose to stay by the telephone, stifling the impulse to play pop-star-momma prima donna. During the wait, she took calls of support from a member of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the drier members of Duran Duran.
The wait also proved to be a nail-biter for Le Bon's new girlfriend, Manhattan-based model Yasmin Parvaneh, 20. She had happily joined her parents in Cowes, a resort town where the race began, to wish her dreamboat and his dream boat Le Bon voyage. "It was an agonizing wait that got worse when we heard that some were trapped inside the hull," reports Yasmin's mother, Patricia. "Luckily, he is a very tough young man."
Hours later the Le Bons got a we're okay call from Jonathan, while Simon handled the press. Later he telephoned home as well. "Neither knew if the other was alive," says Anne. "The hardest thing for me was knowing that both boys were in pain for each other. They are very close."
After the rescue the crew was taken to the rickety, old-fashioned resort of Falmouth, normally a tour haven for middle-aged Britishers. Le Bon, with his new spiky dark-haired look and recently acquired pudginess, seemed to go unnoticed by townspeople.
But then Falmouth had bigger problems than a thrill-seeking pop star gone awry. "It's been a miserable season," said Gill Carpenter, the assistant manager of the stately 73-room Falmouth Hotel. That changed when the rescued crew and its entourage moved in. For Le Bon, who is used to deluxe-deluxe accommodations, the hotel proved to be an unexpected bargain: a room, plus breakfast and a three-course dinner for a mere $50, including tax and tip.
The night of the rescue the ship's 24 crew members were joined by teary-eyed girlfriends—including Yasmin—and wives who had rushed to Falmouth for the reunion. After hearing the news Yasmin fled the town of Hamble so quickly for the six-hour drive to Falmouth that she didn't stop to pack extra clothes. She even had to hustle bar patrons for toothpaste. But the mood was definitely upbeat. A cheery party in the hotel bar lasted until 4 a.m. Le Bon and Yasmin clutched hands throughout the night, and he kissed her frequently, as if to reassure himself that he had indeed survived.
In all the chaos Le Bon missed a call from Boy George, but Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes got through from a recording studio in New York. "Hi, nice to know you are still alive, Simon," he told Le Bon. "When are you going to come back and finish the mixing?"
By Monday night, 30 hours after the incident, life for the roguish rocker was back to what passes for normal when you're an international celebrity. That night he came racing into the hotel bar with a copy of Vogue under one arm and Yasmin under the other. When Yasmin left for a moment to powder her nose—or perhaps search out more toothpaste—he began flipping wildly through the magazine and calling to his shipmates. "Look at my bird's tits!" Le Bon moaned, pointing to one topless layout. Upon Yasmin's return, he told her, "I'm going to draw a bra on that one." Replied Yasmin, all too modestly: "But I've got nothing to put in it."
Minutes later, with Yasmin hanging on his every word, Le Bon, wearing a skull-and-crossbones T-shirt and toying with his sailor's bandanna, traded tales of sea terror with his mates, as if he were an ancient mariner who had survived his umpteenth shipwreck.
The pop star and the model seemed to take near-disaster well. "I love dangerous things," Yasmin gushed.
"Like me," Le Bon said.
- Laura Sanderson Healy,
- Andrew Harvey,
- Jonathan Cooper.