posted Dec 8, 2011, 1:33 AM by Gilles Depardieu   [ updated Jan 15, 2013, 11:54 PM ]
Turks & Caicos
Summer 1993

The treasure of Pago Pago ‎[TF1]‎

One day, I received a phone call from TF1, the n.1 French TV channel. "Gilles, we were satisfied by your performance last year during the reality TV show Fort Boyard, do you wish to participate in another game? it will be in Bahamas...the game is named Pago-Pago"
- "yes"
- "do you have a girlfriend?, we can only hire real couples....."
- "no"
- "the casting is tomorrow afternoon in our offices, find a girlfriend by then, she needs to have a PADI license"
Not knowing any girl following the requirements in my entourage. I phoned a lot of my schoolmates, only one of them Nicolas, replied positively. - "Yes, I know a girl who might suits you"
I managed to call her the same day, she sounded enthousiastic. We agreed to meet at the casting.
The day after, I attended the casting session with around 30 "real" couples in a large meeting room at TF1 headquarters. Problem: I was alone, no sign of my "partner". Jacques Antoine, the producer, decided to start the meeting without her.
After half an hour, we heard a serie of doors open and shut noisily, and then a pretty blond girl wearing glasses entered the room, looking closely at each one of us. "I am looking for Gilles, he is my boyfriend". I stand up in a hurry, and declared: "I am here". It was the 1st time I met Aurelia.

The next step was a diving test for all candidates in the Vincennes deep pool. We both lied about the PADI, as neither of us had one. We bought a few PADI course books, and read them together at night. The following morning in Vincennes, I jumped confidently with all the bulky diving equipment in the pool... and almost drowned immediately  as I forgot to open the air tank tap. This was not in the course book... Luckily nobody noticed! Pulled down by my equipment weight, I instantly sank to a 12m depth and was able to do the parcours test, but got water in my mouth piece, so I had to surface in a hurry, feeling really dizzy. Funnily I was selected as well as my partner, but a few candidates were rejected. I still think today they mixed up the test results.

TF1 sent all the candidates to Miami, then Grand Turk the day after. I called my boss in a hurry to ask for a leave, but he recalled me I was not able to leave France, as an oversea leave needed a 2 weeks clearance. I accepted the deal, thinking nobody will notice.

In Grand Turk, we were all accomodated in a magnificent resort, each couple in a villa, the famous French actor Claude Brasseur was there as well, incognito, with a young blond boy, causing a lot of rumours among us.... 
My partner and I immediately declare our villa was open Day and Night for all candidates, at one condition: each couple had to bring a bottle of booze. This night club ambiance lasted a month. My partner found handsome wandering beachboys selling pot all around the resort, and I discovered we were not the only fake couple.... In fact, we had nothing else to do, as for a week, the technical crew decided they were not ready, guess they found the beachboys too.

Each couple had to wear a colored working suit, there were the Blue, the Red, and us, the Yellow. We had to compete against 2 teams. There will be 11 different broadcasts in total, programmed for 1994. The first challenges started after 1 week, first on the sea surface, we had to paddle and swim in the open sea or inside caves. The second week involved a serie of inland raids, carrying heavy bags in swamps...
We managed to win easily all of these tests. I was proud of my partner!
The hard part was the 3rd week, dedicated to snorkeling and diving. Our opponents were diving teachers or amateurs. We had no chance. My partner ressorted to use more and more of the beachboys substance, and we had a lot of sleepless nights as our "villa night club" started to attract people from other resorts, even the nearby Clubmed members abandonned the Clubmed disco. They usually left at dawn.... 
We were expelled at the 1st undersea challenge. I got my hands bonded and attached with a rope to a heavy metal ball around my hankle, then pushed in the water from a boat. I sank on the spot. My partner had to use a knife to untie the ropes. When she jumped into the water, she lost the knife......

The rest of the week was spent lazily in our villa. When the results were announced, the winners received 4000 Euros,and the rest including us, a 20 Euro daily expense compensation, which was better than nothing.

As I came back to my office, my colleagues explained to me that my boss had been looking for me. He even said: "Send Gilles to my office, without mask and tuba". Intrigued, as I didn't expect the show to be broadcast so quickly, I went unaware in his office. 
- "Yesterday, my daughter was watching TF1, and as I passed by, I noticed a face which reminded me someone. A stupid guy was attached by a heavy weight, helplessy drowning himself at the bottom of the sea. I know this asshole, I said to myself." I think it's you. Is it you?
- "yes"
- "do you know you can't go abroad, or even pass on tv without my authorization"
- "euhhhh....I didn't realize"
- "you didn't realize my ass..."
I knew it was time to leave............

Sailing from Dominique & Martinique to Grenadines via St Lucia & St Vincent