Fear and loathing in Sea Point

It was the second half of 1989 – I was 17 and writing matric at the Irish Catholic School known as Herzlia High. I had wheels in the form of my dad’s hamster-wheel-driven air-cooled 1,600cc VW Kombi armed with a learner’s licence and the real business card of my much older Johannesburg cousin, whose name was also Barry Varkel. The JHB Barry Varkel was apparently a hot-shot in the rag-trade, just in case I needed a handy story when some twenty something bint asked me at In-X-Es Sea Point nightclub what I “did for a living” while I was very busy at the bar ordering my double cane, lime and lemonade dop. We were about to write prelim exams; I was already accepted into UCT for the other Jew Boy scam trade of accountancy; and fellow Herzlian Cleopatra, the Egyptian Jewess goddess, was still keeping us all on heightened adrenalin and testosterone as we loitered around the girls’ toilet before and after biology class. Life was good. The future possibilities were endless. 

There was no internet and no cell phones. If you wanted to make a phone call, you used the house phone or a ticky box. I had a Herzlia mate by the name of Madoff. We played 1st team water polo together. Yeah, us Herzlians were very good at sports like swimming, tennis and adding up. Madoff was, well let’s be perfectly honest, a delinquent. His parents were both very successful – the mom a skilled junior-school speech therapy teacher and the father a doctor of nuclear medicine. The question was how exactly they produced Madoff? Genetics is indeed a very strange thing because sometimes talented parents produce useless children. Not that Madoff was useless, as Madoff was talented in his own right, stealing being his speciality. 

Madoff particularly loved ripping off Paulo the Porra owner-operator of a corner café that was opposite Checkers in Regent Road, Sea Point. Madoff’s gig was this: he ordered his favourite Dairy Bell guava juice drink which Paulo got out of the fridge at the pace of slow-motion frames showing the two-year construction of a skyscraper. After Paulo had handed Madoff the guava juice, Madoff gave Paulo a small denomination fake banknote insisting on change in coins and, just before Paulo came back from the till with the coins in hand, Madoff told Paulo he wanted a packet of chips that was right up at the top of the corner shelves behind Paulo. Madoff then drank about two-thirds of the guava juice and poured the rest onto the counter, knowing Paulo would do his signature coin change handover like clockwork. Paulo handed Madoff the packet of chips with his left hand and, with his right hand, domino slammed the coins onto the counter, causing a tsunami of guava juice to splatter all over his air-dried ejaculate crusty t-shirt, his glasses and face. The Nazare wave then built up deep inside Paulo and, with an amazing dexterity for a 50 year old, he got hold of a metal pipe and did his Sao Joao de Madeira scissors high jump manoeuvre over the counter, chasing us down Regent Road, pipe in hand, screaming: “I’LL F**KING KILL YOU BLADDY BASTIDS!!”     

Another almost perfect but not perfect coup (because we got caught) that Madoff and I pulled off together was sending “escorts” in relay to the apartment of a mate called Moish Cohen. Moish’s parents were much older as Moish was a “laat lammetjie” (child born many years after his siblings). So there it was, a Saturday night, and Moish’s dad was already fast asleep at 9pm, after having watched re-runs of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, when the doorbell went. Old man Cohen got up, put on his gown and went to take a look. Through his front-door peephole, he saw a beautiful 6 ft blonde in a trench-coat. Thinking he had been transported onto the set of Mike Hammer, he fixed his hair, breathed on his hand to smell his own breath, and opened the door. 

“Hello, how can I help you?” asked old man Cohen.

“Are you Mr Cohen?” asked the Escort.

Old man Cohen felt a tremor deep inside his mantle. It had been years since he and old lady Mrs Cohen had done the lobster pot boil. “Where there’s life, there’s hope” he thought.

“Who’s at the door?” screamed old lady Mrs Cohen. 

“I’m sorry”, said old man Cohen to the Escort, “but I think you have the wrong apartment”, and closed the front door.

Getting back into bed, he told old lady Mrs Cohen it was simply someone who was lost. For the next three hours, beautiful women knocked at 45-minute intervals on old man Cohen’s front door. Old man Cohen thought he’d hit the Vegas showgirl jackpot. Old lady Mrs Cohen accused him of “schtupping trayff shiksa” girls and threatened divorce. 

By Monday morning the word was out; and by Monday first break, Madoff and I were in the vice principal’s office – who also happened to be our water polo coach. Madoff got cuts and suspension and I got detention for 6 months because I was a first offender and spoke my way out of a more severe punishment by saying I was generating economic activity and assisting with the mental, physical and sexual wellbeing of the elderly.

Perhaps it was at that precise moment the seeds were sown for me to become a future lawyer. 

Contributed by:
Barry Varkel, an attorney of the High Court of South Africa and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.
Author of Nigiri Law and Goy Vey


  1. Paulo and his corner Café de frutas e legumes (fruit and veg café) was an institution in Sea Point. I remember it well. You dam lucky Paulo was a high jumper and not an Olympic sprinter.


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