BOOK BUZZ: Brando’s Legacy Lives on in Tetiaroa, French Polynesia.

First the actor, then the island, now the book and soon the hotel.  “Waltzing with Brando”is the true story of a young Los Angeles architect who found himself, quite unexpectedly, living on an unpopulated atoll in the South Pacific with his client, Marlon Brando, planning a paradise in Tahiti. With The Brando – a controversial luxury eco-resort on Tetiaroa – set to open this year, Bernard Judge’s account of his life changing experience with the legendary actor makes riveting reading as he discovers the culture of Polynesia and Tahiti in the early 70’s, before mass tourism, electrification and the automobile changed everything. The book is filled with amusing anecdotes about Brando, exposing the man, not the actor. He regales the reader with his foibles, eccentricities and ridiculous exploits with women. But it is also a fascinating narrative about Tetiaroa–Brando’s private atoll–and about living in nature without despoiling the environment. Questions are asked. Should a hotel be built? What are the consequences? It tells of how Brando and his architect came to an understanding, an appreciation for the atoll’s archeology, its ecology, and the interdependence of its marine life, sea birds and nesting turtle grounds. It is an unusual yarn of adventure, of reaching for a dream, and a compelling love story richly told and illustrated with beautiful historic photographs of the period.

Despite the controversial new development, this enchanted atoll is still home to one of Tahiti’s only protected bird sanctuaries as well a pristine marine environment. Construction of The Brando resort began with the official authorization from the Tahitian government after several years of studying the impact of construction on the environment. The Brando will feature 47 deluxe bungalow villas (each with private plunge pools), a spa, fitness center, community pool, as well as various island activities including scuba diving and archaeological tours of royal Tahitian sites.

The exclusive resort will be the only hotel on Tetiaroa, the former playground of Tahitian kings in French Polynesia’s idyllic islands. Purchased by Brando in 1965, Tetiaroa is a collection of 13 motus, or islets, encircled by a fringing coral reef offering a tranquil haven 35 miles from the island of Tahiti.The Brando is a product of the famed actor’s vision to create a project which would resonate with visitors and also foster opportunities for guests to get to know both the place and the people of French Polynesia. A fascinating preview, “Waltzing with Brando” gives us a tantalizing taste of what is to come, although perhaps not in the form he originally intended.

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